Welcome to the tenth day of Christmas and my guests today are writer and editor Alison Williams and author Patty Fletcher, sharing their most favourite Christmas gifts of all time.
First some festive music to get the party started….I am a huge fan of Chris Rea .. and here is his Driving Home for Christmas. You can buy his music Amazon
Sally’s Christmas memories.
Yesterday I told the first half of the story about my temping up to Christmas 1979 whilst the hotel I was working in was closed for the season. After the cheque typing experience I was more than happy to undertake an assignment with a little more of a challenge. The agency contacted me and asked me if I would accept a two week contract that had been turned down by some of their regular temps due to the nature of the work..
It was for a receptionist/secretary at a large local funeral directors. Obviously many temps felt that at this festive time of year there might be little cheer to be had in such an establishment…. To be honest I was happy to have another two weeks work and on the Monday morning I turned up suitably attired in my most sombre outfit and rang the bell. A very nice lady showed me the ropes and gave me the guided tour of the public areas, explaining that only those involved in the actual process of preparing the deceased were allowed into certain areas. That was quite comforting I can tell you.
I had little contact with the public for the first couple of days as I settled into the routine but dealt with several enquiries by phone. The firm was an old established company and the two directors were brothers if I remember rightly. Eventually after I had been properly versed on the etiquette involved I was allowed to meet the general public. Of course the majority of these people were loved ones and family of those who had entered the building by the rear entrance.
This was my first real contact with the process of dying and I was heartened by the approach by all the members of staff publicly and privately behind the scenes. It was absolutely essential at all times to show respect for the deceased and their families and I must say I did find it hard at first to be natural but also sympathetic with those that came to pay their last respects.
The other rule was to keep visiting families separate and to this end there were two waiting rooms and appointments made so that there were no log jams or queues. I would also escort the visitors out after the viewing and confirm final arrangements with them. This required a level of delicacy that was great training for me for jobs that I went onto in later years and I actually enjoyed that part of the process where I felt I could help these grieving people.
At the end of the two weeks it was Christmas Eve and since there would not be any funerals over the Christmas week all the staff gathered in the office for sherry and mince pies.
Everyone was very friendly and I had honestly enjoyed my time there. In fact they were happy too, and one of the directors asked if I would like to stay on full-time. I actually was considering this carefully during the party. I loved my job in Wales but Portsmouth was my home and I had missed my own family and friends. However, whilst pondering my future the doorbell rang and I offered to answer it.
I opened the door to find a tiny old man with a walking stick standing on the door step in the lightly falling snow. He had tears running down his face and as I ushered him in he took my hand and simply said “Can you bury my dear wife for me love”. Luckily one of the directors had come through and stepped in to take the old man through to a waiting room. I was in bits and after composing myself in the ladies I gave my apologies and said that I would not be accepting their kind offer….
But I remembered their kindness and over the years they took care of the funeral arrangements of my father first and then my mother in 2012. They will probably take care of me too when it is my time as they have maintained their excellent level of respect and service to this day 40 years later. Which just goes to prove that good customer service is important to both the living and the dead.
Day 10 (3rd January): Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. This remembers when Jesus was officially ‘named’ in the Jewish Temple. It’s celebrated by different churches on a wide number of different dates!
Today we have ten lords a leaping and in line with the previous mentioned use of the song to memorise catholic tenets during the years of persecution, this would refer to the Ten Commandments. However, it is recognised that as this song was sung by children and the penalty for practicing the Catholic faith was usually death during that time, most experts believe that it was not used for that purpose and that the 10 lords were really just leaping…because it fitted into the wording…
Time to welcome my first guest today.. writer and editor Alison Williams who will be sharing her most favourite Christmas gift…
I am a UK-based writer, editor and independent novelist. I love reading and I love to write. These are the two great passions of my life. I am a keen supporter of independent novelists. It frustrates me when a talented writer is held back or receives negative reviews because of typos or structural errors. If you have put a lot of time and effort, and indeed your heart and soul, into a book, then the last thing you want is for it to be criticised for errors that can be rectified with a professional edit of your work. You can find out more about Alison and her editing service on Alison Williams Blog
Alison shares a very memorable Christmas with Great Expectations.
Books and stories have always been a huge part of my life. As the youngest of five children, Christmas always seemed magical, and I didn’t really appreciate that my parents found the whole thing a huge headache due to lack of money. My dad was a milkman and in those days had to work on Christmas morning, so he would be home and waiting downstairs when we all got up. He used to make us wait for ages before we were allowed to go into the lounge where our presents were – one more cup of tea, one more cigarette (this was the seventies!), until we were all hopping about in frustration.
We all had (what seemed like) a huge plastic sack full of gifts and I remember being around seven and pulling out a hardback copy of ’Great Expectations’. It was a ‘proper’ book and I can still remember how excited I was that it was all mine. I can remember sitting there reading those first lines over and over, with the Christmas lights sparkling (we were only allowed to switch them on on Christmas Eve).
It was one of the Bancroft Classics, an abridged version, a series of classics for children. One of my sisters had ‘Jane Eyre’ which I inherited later, and which began my love of the Brontës.
It was a long time until I read the unabridged version of ‘Great Expectations’, but that first copy did mark the beginning of a real love of reading and literature and an admiration of how books and writing and creativity can shine a light on the world and society and people. I’ve read a lot of Dickens, but not enough, and I’m always struck by his ability to show the truth about society. Writers have a huge role to play – and we could do with a few more like him at the moment.
I did a quick search online to see if I could find a copy and was so pleased to see it:
There was a list of all the books in the collection on the back:
I spent many a dreary afternoon reading the list of titles and dreaming about reading them all – I was a rather odd child! I’m pleased to say that at nearly fifty, I have got round to most of them.
I thought that Alison might enjoy my virtual Christmas gift… the trailer for the 2013 version of Great Expectations.. I did see and it was very good.
The carol today is the wonderful In the Bleak Midwinter sung by Choir of Kings College Cambridge courtesy of drwestbury
“In the Bleak Midwinter” is a Christmas carol based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti. The poem was published, under the title “A Christmas Carol”, in the January 1872 issue of Scribner’s Monthly. The poem first appeared set to music in The English Hymnal in 1906 with a setting by Gustav Holst. Harold Darke’s anthem setting of 1911 is more complex and was named the best Christmas carol in a poll of some of the world’s leading choirmasters and choral experts in 2008.
My next guest is author Patty Fletcher…who with her Seeing Eye guide dog.. King Campbell has delighted readers with their partnership. Patty works with other sight impaired writers and is a very supportive blogger to all of us.
Patty shares a little bit about herself.
I’m a 49-year-old single mother with a beautiful daughter, of whom I am very proud. I have a great son-in-law and five beautiful grandchildren. Three girls, and two boys. I hope to be able to write more about them later on.
I own and handle a Black Labrador from The Seeing Eye™ named Campbell Lee—a.k.a. Bubba Lee or King Campbell, to give just a couple of his nicknames. Read more about Patty Fletcher
Patty shares her most special Christmas moment.
I loved typing because it enabled me to write stories and share them with my sighted friends.
I leapt around with joy when I opened that typewriter and after dinner, I sat it up and typed my first story. While I’m sure it was filled with unseemly blunders, I’ll never forget my joy when mom hung it on the fridge for all to read.
She always knew that one day I would write books.
She didn’t live to see my first one published, but I like to think she’d have been proud.
Patty is always very busy and I hope that she will enjoy one of my favourite songs from the film working 9 to 5 with Dolly Parton….
One of the reviews for Bubba’s Tails
Wow! I loved reading this! What an amazing story about an incredible journey. This is about a journey from The Seeing Eye, Inc. in New Jersey to Kingsport Tennessee, but is also about the journey of a loving owner, and her special canine companion. I loved reading the story through King Campbell’s point of view, and how he is talking to the next litter of pups about to train as Seeing Eye Dogs. This is something the has always fascinated me and was the first time I was really allowed a look at some of what goes into training these special dogs. The book is made all the more exciting because the author and her dog Campbell went through this journey years ago. Such a creative way to share their story, and I can’t wait to read more of King Campbell’s Bubba Tails!
Patty has also recently featured in two anthologies.
December Awethology Light https://www.books2read.com/u/3yPZvB
A Treasure Chest of Children’s Tales https://www.books2read.com/u/bzaAML
We have always enjoyed Stollen or Christstollen for Christmas with its soft centre of marzipan and luckily we can obtain here at this time of year. Stollen in various forms has been made since the 14th Century in Germany.
The original recipe for Stollen however was very much more austere originally as they were made very simply with just water and flour. This was because during Advent butter and milk were not permitted to be consumed. It was not until about 1650 that the then Pope was petitioned to allow Stollen bakers to add these more flavoursome ingredients to make the bread more palatable.
Eventually over the centuries the dried fruit, nuts and candied peel have been added along with wonderful spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and mace. There are also versions that include brandy or rum and of course the melt in the mouth marzipan that runs along the centre of the loaf.
Legend says that the Stollen in its typical shape with the white layer of icing sugar symbolized the Christ Child wrapped in diapers.
Dry Martini – Shaken not Stirred
We often kick off a with Dry Martinis – and since there is a lot of sugar around over the holidays it is wonderful to have some slightly less sweet to clear the palate. However some people get very creative with the recipes and here is a link to 10 Festive Martinis
If you would like to make the authentic James Bond Martini….. the lads will show you how.
For ours you just need the following per martini…and the real martini glasses do add a little class to the beverage…
- 1 1/2 oz vodka
- 3/4 oz dry vermouth
Shake vodka and vermouth together with several ice cubes in a shaker. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with an olive or a twist of lemon peel and serve.
I hope you have enjoyed today’s get together and if you have a special Christmas memory please share in the comments…we would love to hear it. Thanks Sally