If this is your first visit to the website, rest assured
you haven't missed much - this is only the second newsletter,
and you can find the first
in the archive. If you've already visited and have come
back for more - I'm glad you liked it enough to do so.
If you haven't had a go at the competition this month,
you might want to take a look at it. There are six new questions
- not too taxing, as all the answers are right here on the
site, and I've even told you where to look for the answer.
It's an embarrassingly transparent way of getting you to
view other pages, and it would work better if I were offering
a million-pound prize, but the best you can hope for is
a signed first edition of one of my books. It's better than
a slap in the face with a wet haddock, for all that.
And for those of you who are bemused by the 'Things' -
see the bottom of this page - I will explain.
'Things' existed a very long time ago; they were two-dimensional,
and could only be viewed from the side - head-on, they were
invisible. They had a tendency to walk in one direction
only, from right to left as we look at them. Very, very
occasionally, they faced the other way. And they lived in
an area bounded by two hills in the distance, co-existing
with two-dimensional people who wore skimpy animal skins
and could only be seen from behind. None of this has anything
whatever to do with my severely limited abilities as a cartoonist.
It's ten days before Boxing Day as I write, and I have
sent out my Christmas cards and put up the decorations,
far and away my personal best for this event. Boxing Day,
if you are not acquainted with it, is the 26th of December
and is so called because it was the day that the poor boxes
were opened in the churches. Thus, the tip traditionally
given to those who serve us during the year - refuse collectors,
postmen and women, newspaper boys and girls, etc. - is called
a Christmas box. Or, to be more accurate, it was called
a Christmas box; the name has virtually died out (I doubt
if many young people have heard of it) and the tradition
itself is dying out. When it is observed, it is (rather
more usefully) given about a week before Christmas, rather
than the day after.
But to get back to my glorious achievement - I think the
secret lies in the Internet. I am not a natural shopper
- to me, shop till you drop sounds like some form of cruel
and unusual punishment. But when I discovered that you could
buy virtually anything online, and that not only did you
escape the crowds and the queues and the overworked and
undertrained shop assistants, but that you could find all
sorts of unusual presents that it would take Sherlock Holmes
to find in a real shop - that was it. I do my Christmas
shopping early from the comfort of my own computer, and
thus I am considerably better disposed towards doing the
rest of it that little bit earlier than I once did.
But it's only the shopping part I don't care for. I admit
it; I hold my hands up to it, guv, you have got me bang
to rights. I like Christmas. I like giving presents, and
receiving them. I like the idea of brightening up the dead
of winter with fairy lights and streamers. I like Christmas
trees and holly. I like the annual cards from people I haven't
seen for years; it might be the only way in which we keep
in touch, but the fact that we do is important, I think.
It has no religious significance for me, but mid-winter
hooleys were well established before they were given their
religious overtones, so I feel quite entitled to celebrate.
I suspect I like Christmas more than I would if I had to
produce the Christmas dinner - cooking is yet another thing
that I do badly, or rather, don't do at all if I can help
it (if you live in London, of course, you can even order
your dinner online), but since I don't have to do the cooking,
that's all right.
And yes, I like It's a Wonderful Life, and singing Christmas
carols and playing silly games (except Monopoly); I am tickled
to death if it snows on Christmas Day; I am a sucker for
Christmas songs being played on the radio, the Christmas
episodes of TV series, mystery novels and stories set over
Christmas (I've written two Christmas novels myself) and
I have collected a number of film and TV versions of A Christmas
Carol, the only Dickens book that has ever appealed to me.
In my opinion the best is undoubtedly Scrooge with Alistair
Sim and George Cole, if you're interested.
But I am also very, very glad when it's all over and everything
gets back to normal. So, if you're reading this when the
tinsel has all come down, and the squashed mistletoe berries
have all been hoovered up, then I hope your Christmas was
all that you wanted it to be, and that nothing has happened
in the world since I wrote this letter to add to the tragedies
of recent months.
And if you're reading it before the event, then I wish
you the very merriest of Christmases and a very happy and
peaceful New Year.