December 23rd, 2009


St Agnes, a month early

The sky is leaden, the field on the other side of my hedge thick with frost. I've just watched a fox loping across and Keats' poem came into my head:

St. Agnes' Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem’d taking flight for heaven, without a death,
Past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.

Plenty more verses but this one seems so appropriate.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without – Dickens

I finished my bedtime book, the very strange Love by Elizabeth von Arnim and moved on to my top Christmas nostalgia read, Christmas at Nettleford by Malcolm Saville. I keep picking up books and casting them aside in disgust so I decided to get stuck straight in to what I’d already decided was to be this year’s Christmas hide-in: a re-read of Our Mutual Friend.

No sooner had I started it than Carl Davis’s haunting music for the 1976 BBC series came into my head. Unfortunately, I can’t find anywhere on the web where you can listen to it, so I’m stuck on the first few bars. The next BBC version was in 1998, starring the rather lovely Paul McGann and Steven Mackintosh and with great character roles for Kenneth Cranham and Timothy Spall.

What a wonderful book it is: dense with metaphor; coruscating in its attacks on society. Silas Wegg and the other grotesques seem typically 'Dickensian' but the women characters are so much more interesting than in earlier books. Dickens had come a long way from child-wife Dora to the creation of Bella Wilfer.