Monday, 11 December 2017

Blogging all the way - Countdown to Christmas

Blogging used to be a daily part of my routine. Between studying and, otherwise, doing very little, it was my chance to feel like I was actually doing something. And then, things changed. I got a job, then another, then another. I started seeing my friends more. I allowed myself to go out every once in a while. And, between all of that, I ran out of time to find things to say.

Of course, I still love using the blogs and try, at least one a month, to really get into adding new content. But time is so, very short and I don't want to write things that mean so little. 

Image sourced from here.

Every year, I make a special effort to write for Christmas. It's the time of year I love more than any other and, as such, it makes sense that I should try to celebrate it here. This is, however, a rather stupid thing to do: Christmas is my busiest time of year. Working in a school, there are plenty of festive events causing me to work out of hours. Socially, I see more people in December than I think I do in the other 11 months combined. And, of course, there's plenty of music to write, learn and rehearse for performance in the festive months. 

So, although I try my very best, the blogs are a little lame compared to what they once were. I therefore feel the need to say and enormous thank you to everyone who is still here, listening to my drivel. To you, I wish the happiest of Christmases. 

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Advent Collections - Countdown to Christmas

For many, December is spent giving and receiving presents, indulging in meals out or large family banquets and spending more cash than we have sense. For one month a year, it does not seem all that terrible to let loose and enjoy ourselves, no matter how indulgent. But, in all of this, it is very easy to forget just how many people do not have what we do and will not, therefore, have any Christmas to speak of.

I do not wish to report statistics about poverty in the UK: anyone with half a brain cell is aware of the rise in the use of foodbanks and the government's attempts to hide increases in child poverty by simply changing the definition. There are people living on the streets of every town and even more children who, behind closed doors, do not receive adequate nutrition.

In response to this, many individuals, families and companies make a point of giving what they can to those in need, sending donations to food banks, soup kitchens and children's charities or volunteering their time to help where necessary. And never has this been more necessary than at Christmas.

Foodbanks are overwhelmed and desperate. Many organisations are now completing an advent donation box in which something is donated - or someone donates - for all 25 days, creating a larger donation to be given in honour of the time of year. Certainly, such organisations are in serious need of whatever you can give. 

If you are unsure where to start, The Trussel Trust is a good place to start searching. Find your local foodbank by clicking here.

Friday, 8 December 2017

The Great Gift Debacle - Countdown to Christmas

If there's one thing I truly love about Christmas, it's gift-giving. At the end of all the stressful deliberation and trying to think of something worthy of handing over to your loved ones, the final realization of the perfect gift is nothing short of wonderful.

Giving presents is a consumer aspect of Christmas that many people frown upon but, for me, gift-giving at any time of year is a matter of showing a person how much you care about them by showing how well you know them and consider their needs. The process of doing this provides a saddo like me with no end of delight.

Unfortunately, the reciprocal version of this is rather less enthralling. I absolutely hate receiving presents. Hate, hate, hate. And this, sometimes, can stick a rather hefty dampener on Christmas for me.

It's such a first-world problem. "Oh, God! My life is so awful! People want to give me things!". But it's true! I hate being given things that I do not feel I deserve and, more than this, I hate the guilt of receiving a present that I know I despise.

I am awkward to buy for and I will openly admit this. I hate things that don't do anything so of course I don't want an ornament. I don't wear jewellery. Don't need cosmetics. The obvious go-tos are, for me, the kind of things that get used once, out of obligation, then hidden away. 

Then there are the gifts that do require thought: the photo-memory book; the crafty gift. All things that look lovely but simply live in drawers - already limited in space - until the once a year you remember to look at them.

When it comes to receiving presents, I am most certainly a Scrooge. It is not so much that I resent the idea of being given things but, rather, I know how difficult I am to please and would rather save everyone the aggro by simply not being put in that position.

Christmas is a time for giving. It's just a shame that we must take that quite so literally!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Sharing the Traditions - Countdown to Christmas

If there is one thing we all have at Christmas, it's tradition. Be it the conventional traditions of carol services and roast turkey, or traditions unique to us, that sense of repeated familiarity fills us all with an undeniable sense of warmth that makes us all feel that little bit more at home.

My family are rather relaxed when it comes to Christmas. Every year, we go away for the week, leaving behind extended family and Christmas schedules and opening ourselves up to a week spent doing whatever we like. But still, there are some traditions that I simply could not do without.

Image sourced from here.

At the top of the list are the Christmas films. Polar express is a firm favourite in our house and the way in which I truly know that the big day is coming. A faux-Christmas day spent with the Grandparents is another way in which I know we're getting close to the climax of the festivities. And, of course, clumsily doing a haphazard job of decorating the house is a December must. 

Tradition can be a bad thing: it inhibits change and leaves us feeling at a loose end when things don't go how we expect. And yet, tradition is, to me, one of the most wonderful things about Christmas. The ways in which people take the traditions of their families and allow them to evolve as they have children and grandchildren of their own is, I think, how Christmas manages to stay so meaningful from year to year. Things that might have become old and boring to us take on a whole new meaning when placed through the lens of the next generation or a new relationship. 

As such, no matter what the tradition may be, Christmas is a time to embrace it. This countdown to Christmas has, somehow, become part of my Christmas tradition and, I hope, it may continue for many years to come. 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Review Day Tuesday - Countdown to Christmas

The Christmasaurus - Tom Fletcher

William Trundle has one, impossible wish this Christmas: for Santa to send him a dinosaur. Little does William know that a very special dinosaur is waiting in the North Pole and might just be headed in his direction. 

The Christmasaurus, written by McFly's Tom Fletcher, is a book turned musical and is available with accompanying soundtrack starring Tom, Giovanna Fletcher, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Harry Judd and Matt Willis.

Image sourced from here.

First thing's first: I am not the target market for this book. Featuring in the 'Children's & Teenage' section of Waterstones, I am a good decade too old to be picking this off the shelf. But age-stickers have never been quite enough to stop me enjoying Christmas - or anything, for that matter. And so, the thrill I got from unwrapping the musical edition of this book was just as great, if not greater, than that one might expect of the average six year-old. 

And it most certainly did not disappoint. Though the writing style was, inevitably, a little young for me, the gist of the story was really rather beautiful. Meanwhile, the CD has made it straight from the book and onto repeat in my car. The songs are sensationally written with Don't know what it is being a firm favourite. 

My Christmas kicked off with a beautiful start in this book and soundtrack. For those of you lucky enough to have tickets to the Christmas performances, enjoy. For everyone else...

To buy The Christmasaurus, click here.