Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle.

BBC Radio Drama

Written by Neil Gaiman

Adapted by Katie Homs

Directed and Produced by Allegra McILroy

A twisted fairy tale part Snow White, part Sleeping Beauty with women at the forefront of the tale. Sleeping Beauty is awoken by a kiss from the Soldier Queen- the prince is redundant and the dwarfs aren’t to be taken seriously. On her awakening we find that Sleeping Beauty put a counter-spell on the old woman, ensuring that she can never sleep.

A brilliant BBC radio dramatization narrated by Dame Penelope Wilton with Neil Gaiman himself as The Home Secretary.

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a raw, disturbing and harrowing read. I had to keep reminding myself that this was set in my lifetime, Thatcher’s eighties, not the nineteen thirties depression era. A cross between This Is England is (2006 British drama film written and directed by Shane Meadows) and ‘Animals’ by Emma Jane Unsworth. A narrative of excess and poverty; poor parenting; sexual exploitation; resilience and survival. Shuggie went without basic life essentials- love, food and warmth, due to Agnes’s narcissism fuelled by her alcoholism. Not enjoyable, but a hard-hitting eye opener.

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British Football’s Greatest Grounds: One Hundred Must-See Football Venues by Mike Bayly.

British Football’s Greatest Grounds: One Hundred Must-See Football Venues

British Football’s Greatest Grounds: One Hundred Must-See Football Venues by Mike Bayly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I quite like a bit of football and I like the football grounds even more. Heard a review of this book on Talk Sport radio. Informative, accessible and with fabulous photographs I was entertained for a couple of days reading about these footie grounds and learning the social history behind them and their teams. I knew that lots of factories had teams that made the leagues, but I didn’t know that lots of the division teams originated as church teams. If you love football you will love this. It’s a book to dip in and out of throughout the season. Best of all for me, a local team was number one.

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New Year.

“I hope that in the year to come, you make mistakes. Glorious, amazing mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

Neil Gamain, Neil Gaiman’s Journal

The Christmas Cafe by Amanda Prowse.

The Christmas Café (No Greater Strength, #2)

The Christmas Café by Amanda Prowse

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You have to read at least one Christmas novel in December. This year for me it was The Christmas Cafe by Amanda Prowse. It was great to travel from Australia to Edinburgh- hot Christmas/ cold Christmas and get embroiled in Bea’s return to the country she grew up in and met the love of her life in. I also love a cafe and there were two very different ones here. I liked it.

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Grave Stones by Priscilla Masters.

Grave Stones by Priscilla Masters

Grave Stones by Priscilla Masters

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The last few days I have been caught up in the goings on in Leek, Queen of the Moorlands. A farmer was murdered, the wife might, or might not have met a grisly end, a daughter is quite frankly totally unlikeable! In fact few of the characters are very likeable. Farmland versus suburbia. Cleverly plotted and an easy read, a cosy-type crime that kept me amused for a while.

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Carols from Kings 2020

The Christmas Eve Carol Service from Kings College Cambridge was a bit different for 2020. There was no congregation and recorded in advance it was beautiful nonetheless.

Click on the link below for the poignant In the Bleak Mid-Winter, music by Gustav Holst and arranged by Mack Wilberg, especially apt for this 2020 winter.

The Journey of the Magi by T.S. Elliot.

I love this poem. The nitty, gritty of the journey to see Mary and Joseph’s baby. The feeling of ‘I could be somewhere else other than on this damn journey’:

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.