Friday, 27 November 2009

The X-mas Factor

Four weeks today is Christmas Day, so it's time to wheel out those favourite Christmas songs of yesteryear, like this one from 2008...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The countdown to Christmas starts here!

Yes, it's the 25 November which means it's only a month until Christmas!

But - you may be wondering - why do we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity on 25 December? And why do we bring evergreens inside our homes? And what have robins and reindeer really got to do with turkey and mince pies after all?

What is Myrrh Anyway? contains the answers to these and many other Christmas-related questions, so why not pick up a copy today and have the festive season explained once and for all?

Monday, 23 November 2009

All I want for Christmas is... swine flu? No thanks!

Debrett's, the etiquette experts, have issued advice on how to avoid catching swine flu this Christmas.

Debrett's etiquette advisor, Jo Bryant, said: 'It's medically proven that a peck on the cheek is much more hygienic than a handshake. People carry billions of germs on their hands so 'cheek-to-cheek' kissing, French-style, is a healthier greeting by far".

The 9-Step Guide

1) BE CONSIDERATE If you're feeling unwell at the Christmas do, just stand back and observe or, better still, make your apologies and go home rather than risk spreading the lurgy.

2) THE CANDIDATE Make sure you pick a willing target and that you won't make them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable by asking for a kiss.

3) THE REQUEST If you want to give someone a Christmas kiss under the mistletoe, it's polite and well-mannered to ask first.

4) THE DECISION Decide in advance, are you going to proffer one kiss or two? Be cautious with strangers - two kisses may seem over the top, even in festive environment.

5) KEEP YOUR DISTANCE Don't get too close before or during the kiss and avoid invading the other person's space.

6) HANDS OFF It's acceptable to touch the other person's shoulders or upper arms, but don't be a sleaze with wandering hands….

7) RIGHT CHEEK FIRST It is customary to kiss the other person's right cheek first (that's the one to your left!). Deflect any "meet-in-the-middle" embarrassment with humour or a friendly apology.

8) CHEEK-TO-CHEEK Unless you know a person intimately, a social 'kiss' is actually the briefest touch of your cheek against the other person's. Because there is so little contact, there is a minimal transfer of germs - that's why a kiss is the healthier alternative to a hand shake.

9) THANK the other person and wish them a merry Christmas.

The 9 Don'ts

1) Don't go to the Christmas do if you think you have flu.

2) Don't proffer unwanted kisses at the office party, mistletoe or not.

3) Don't reject a kiss under the mistletoe - a festive peck is all part of Christmas fun.

4) Don't leave a saliva trace - remember it's cheek-to-cheek.

5) Don't kiss on the lips - reserve this for private romantic moments.

6) Don't kiss anyone if you, or they, have a mouthful of food or drink.

7) Don't kiss the air.

8) Don't make sound effects.

9) Keep away from the mistletoe if you've had too much to drink - your social skills will be impaired & you don't want any of those morning-after regrets.

So, some words of wisdom to ponder there. After all, the last thing you want for Christmas this year is swine flu, otherwise you might just end up looking like this guy.

Santa with swine flu a.k.a. the Hogfather, from Terry Pratchett's Discworld

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Meet Angus

He was built in the western Maine town of Bethel ten years ago, and when this photo was taken he was the tallest snowman in the world.

Angus, King of the Mountain, stood 113 feet, 7 inches tall. He weighed 9,000,000 lbs, was made up of 200,000 cubic feet of snow, had 4 ft. wreathes for eyes, his carrot nose was made from 6 ft. of chicken wire & muslin, 6 automobile tires formed his mouth, with another 3 skidder tires for his buttons, he had a 20 ft. fleece hat, a 120 ft. fleece scarf and two 10 ft. trees for arms.

The photo above was taken on 19 February 1999. Angus didn't melt until 10 June 1999.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Christmas in the Trenches

At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918, the guns fell silent...

For many serving in the trenches during the First World War, Christmas was spent in the trenches as well. On Christmas Day 1914 a legendary football match is supposed to have taken place in the middle of No-Man's-Land between the Allies and the Germans, but no one knows what the final score was as no one bothered to keep count.

The legend became immortalised in the video for Paul McCartney's Pipes Of Peace.

In truth, some said the Germans won 3-2, but whatever the facts of the matter, the truce gradually came to an end in the same way it had begun - by mutual consent. It never happened again.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Ultimate Christmas Quiz at the UCS Beyond Words Festival 2009

Well I survived the What is Myrrh Anyway? Ultimate Christmas Quiz experience at the UCS Beyond Words Festival and sold a few more books, which is always nice. It just remains for me to thank Martin Hitchcock and his able assistants Sophia, Katie, Hal and Ian, for all their help and for making me feel so welcome, and Najma of Icon Books for arranging the session.

Did you snow?

Everyone loves a white Christmas but when was the last one you remember? I remember there was a great one down our way back in the Seventies some time.

Did you know...?
For it to officially be a white Christmas - at least according to bookmakers - just one snowflake has to land on the roof of the London Weather Centre within the 24 hours of the 25 December.

However, did you also know...?
Statistically, Britain is just as likely to have a white Easter as it is a white Christmas!

Monday, 9 November 2009

What is Myrrh Anyway? The Ultimate Christmas Quiz

Just a reminder that tomorrow, Tuesday 10 November, I shall be appearing at the Beyond Words Festival, at University College School from 2.30-3.45pm. I shall be talking briefly about the how I came to write What is Myrrh Anyway? and will then be hosting a fun - but challenging - Christmas quiz, as well as signing copies of my books. It's not too late to reserve your ticket for this event, just ring the UCS Box Office on 020 7433 2219, or you could try turning up on the day.

Might see you there.

Friday, 6 November 2009

What is Myrrh Anyway? at Ealing's leading Art and Craft fair

Just a reminder that I will be at St James' Art and Craft Fair tomorrow - Saturday 7 November - between 10.00am and 4.00pm, selling - and of course signing! - copies of What is Myrrh Anyway? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas.

I also have a limited number of copies of the brand new American edition of the book Christmas Miscellany available, as well as some of my latest Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebook Stormslayer.

Admission is free, so if you're in the area, why not pop along and say "Hello"?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Father Christmas Needs a Wee!

Pity poor Santa. Every year, for one night only, he visits millions upon millions of homes and feels obliged to partake of the goodies left out for him by expectant children the world over - the mince pies, the slices of Christmas cake, the glasses of sherry, eggnog, liqueurs...

But in his busy schedule when does he ever get a chance to visit the little elves' room? Father Christmas Needs a Wee, by Nicholas Allan, takes this precise problem a the premise for this charming picture book published by Red Fox, and which you can read more about here, or purchase here.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Want a 'crafty' way to give gifts this Christmas?

If so, then you can get your own Reindeer Gift Bag Craft Kit here.