A Vicarage Christmas

When I was a child, living in a Victorian vicarage, we did Christmas in our own way.  Over the next couple of days I shall describe to you some of our family traditions.

For our mother, Christmas was the most important time of year. Preparations began in the autumn, with the making of Christmas puddings and mincemeat; suet being scattered like long snowflakes into the bowl, unimaginable amounts of dried fruit and (sadly) mixed peel being added, and everyone having a stir to make the magic come alive. My mother had a set of stupendous cooking-bowls; a range positively Victorian designed to cope with a much larger family than ours, even though we had relatives coming.

For us children, Christmas began with Grandma and Grandpa. They came a week or two before, usually before we’d even finished school; and we’d rush back to see whether they’d arrived yet. Mysterious bags of presents would be unloaded and stowed in secret wardrobe compartments (a world that smelled of mothballs and was peopled by old-style coats and hats) and then the grandparents would creak downstairs for a cup of tea in the lounge. There would be some time with us and then some very dull conversation – our cue to go and play.

After that, Christmas continued when my aunt and uncle came.  My Aunt, my mother and Grandma would hold complex conferences in the kitchen, surveying the contents of the larder and embarking on further preparations. Our part was limited to laying tables and wiping up, a chore which I hated.

One year – it was the infamous winter of 1963 – Dad shovelled a mound of snow for me to make a snowman. But it froze, and stayed frozen for so long that I never did get to make that snowman. I remember going out and periodically trying a spade in the side of what felt like rock. But that was before May was old enough to make snowmen. Usually Dad would donate a hat and an old college scarf; and Mum would find a long, pointed carrot. We were not encouraged to have snowball fights, but instead to throw them at the wall. I can still see the powdery marks they made.

Christmas was a long time coming, and even when the day came, the presents were a long time coming, too. We children had stockings – actually pillowcases – hung up after we’d gone to sleep, with strict instructions not to wake the grown-ups in the morning. Then after breakfast we all went to church; after which our Dad had finished for the day (I remember at one stage he used to do a 4 pm service on Christmas Day but eventually decided it wasn’t worth it). Glasses of sherry were doled out (ginger beer for us) and the kitchen became a hellish region of steam and activity. We laid the table and made sure there were enough chairs, bringing into service the horrible stacking wood-and-metal chairs which belonged to the parish and which I hated, and placing acres of mats in the centre, for the casserole dishes containing potatoes, parsnips, sprouts, gravy, bread sauce and later, custard and cream. Then there was nothing to do but wait.

I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas

Lately I’ve been watching once more the excellent Channel 4 drama series Black Mirror.  Conceived by Charlie Brooker (he of the Weekly Wipe) it’s a series of dramas set in an unspecified future and dealing with the effects of imagined technological advances on society.  (Warning: spoiler alert coming.)  In one, a woman wakes up to find people outside her house all filming her on their phones.  Someone tries to run her over, then a woman comes along and pretends to be helping her.  It’s not clear why they’re being pursued but the places they go to seem to resonate with her in some way although she can’t recall them.  In the final scene she is tied to a chair and forced to watch a film of herself and her partner killing a child: turns out the scenario she has just been through is her daily punishment.  Every night her memory is wiped and every morning it starts again.

Crime and retributive justice are also the theme of the best episode ever, White Christmas.  I’ve already blogged about this one here and if you haven’t seen it it’s well worth watching.


A third episode is somewhat prescient, telling the story of an abducted princess and a demand for the Prime Minister to have sex with a pig live on youtube before the kidnappers will release her.  In the end they release her early and no-one notices as everyone’s indoors watching the event on youtube.  It turns out to be an ‘art event’: in the end the PM’s popularity (unlike the current one’s) rises to an all-time high but his wife will no longer have sex with him (I’m not sure about Samantha on this one.)

There’s a sort of black theme to things at the moment.  I’m already heartily sick of Black Friday and it’s only been going a couple of years: as if there wasn’t enough rampant consumerism around at Christmas, they have to bring in another grab-fest.  Advent traditionally is supposed to be a period of fasting to prepare for the feast of Christmas but by the time you’ve done the round of office parties, children’s parties and parties for just about every group or society you’re involved in, you can barely face the prospect of Christmas Day itself.

Well, at least I’m managing to stay off Facebook!

Kirk out


Tempus Wotsit

How the tempus doth fugit!  Already it’s been four days since my last entry (bless, me father for I have sinned; it’s been four days since my last confession) and I don’t know where the weekend has gone.  Actually now that I think about it I do: it was because Holly was visiting and I spent most of the time with her.  We went shopping and then to my favourite cafe in town, the Deli in Silver Arcade.  If you haven’t been there yet, you must – it’s a lovely setting and they do proper teas as well as a range of soft drinks, plus they sell local beers, wines and cheeses.


And here’s a picture of Silver Arcade.  It’s such a beautiful place, and so sad that more of the units aren’t rented out.


Now, to all my new readers and followers, welcome.  I’m glad to have you aboard especially those who have joined via the insecure writers forum.  It’s good to share insecurities as we spend so much time trying to big ourselves up and sell our work.  I have some interesting followers now: check out Ula’s site:


and Benham’s, which shows how to make something I had on holiday in Southwold, namely vegetarian ‘fish’ and chips using haloumi:


It’s great to have followers.  I’ve got more than Jesus now – at least, more than when he was alive.


Happy Monday

Kirk out

The Wrong Sort of Snow

WordPress has gone all weird again.  I got a lovely load of comments on yesterday’s post, mainly from other writers who are every bit as insecure as I am, being supportive, commiserating and also loving the snow.  I like the snow too although it seems a tad inappropriate at the moment, what with the weather being so mild.  Obviously it’s nice that the weather is mild rather than freezing but it does make one worry about global warming.

So at the moment I am working on a very old story.  This is one of the oldest stories in my repertoire as it was originally a chapter of a novel; the first novel I ever finished.  The first one I wrote was when I was eight; however it only ran to half a page and then stopped: I’ve been trying to get back to that novel for fifty years.  But the first I ever finished was called Seven Days and was the story of a woman stuck in a nuclear bunker.  It was written during the Cold War years and it’s not immediately obvious where she is; even at the end it’s not clear whether she is really in a bunker or whether it’s all in her mind and she is, say, in a mental hospital.  Anyway, the chapter which became a story explains how she got where she is.  It’s set in the future – though only about 50 years or so – at a time when thoughts can be extracted from the mind and studied.  She works for a peace project which is attempting to defuse a very complex and highly aggressive thought which, if unleashed, could prove very destructive.

The story is called A Saturday Afternoon in the Museum of Thought and it needs a lot of work to get it up to scratch.  I’ve been at it all morning and now I’m taking a break.

So: WordPress is being all different again, which means it’s reorganised itself and now I don’t know where to find anything.  Why do things have to keep doing that?  My email has changed as well – you keep having to relearn things when you’ve only just learnt them.  It’s not fair.

In my day, things didn’t keep changing every five minutes.

Kirk out

PS if you’re not in the UK and wondering why I put ‘the wrong sort of snow’ as a title, it refers to a remark (unfortunately wrongly) attributed to British Rail explaining why the trains weren’t running.


Am I an Insecure Writer?

Am I?  Hell, yes!  How am I an insecure writer?  Let me count the ways:

I am insecure financially.  Every month is a struggle, every trip to the shops a juggle.  (See what I did there?  I can make art out of anything!)

I am insecure in my talent.  Do I have any talent, or am I just kidding myself?  Sometimes I feel I’m shot through with holes like a paper doyley.

I am insecure whenever I send anything off.  Is it any good?  What will people think when they read it?  Will it even get read?

I am insecure when the work comes back – or more likely, doesn’t come back.  Often there’s just an empty silence.  You throw out a message in a bottle and it gets washed up or else it drowns.  What it doesn’t do is get to the person you want to send it to.  So here I am on my desert island losing my bottles.

Ho ho.

I am insecure whenever I publish something.  I am terrified of bad reviews and nasty comments and even constructive criticism can feel like a cannon-ball blasting a hole in my gut.

So that’s quite a good array of insecurities.  Fortunately for me, today is insecure writers’ day.  It has been brought to my attention that there is a blog for people like me (which, let’s face it, is probably just about every writer – I imagine even JK Rowling has bad days.)  I once saw Stephen Fry deal with stage fright by making a joke of all his fears, which included tripping over, vomiting all over the audience, forgetting the English language and saying something completely inappropriate.  Any performer worth their salt is terrified before they go on stage.  Last summer I was on my way to a poetry performance when I ran into a friend.  God, she said.  You look like you’re on your way to be executed.

Which was exactly how I felt.  Why do I put myself through this? I was thinking.  And the reason is the same for me as it is for any other artist (performer, writer) – because I must.  A part of my nature demands it.

There’s a comedy series on Channel 4 (yes, I do watch other channels occasionally) called The Mimic.  It’s about a guy who works in a supermarket but is an excellent mimic and dreams of one day having his own TV show.  A friend of his gets him an interview on TV – his big break – and when the big moment comes, he’s hiding in the toilets.  And that, when it comes down to it, is a far worse nightmare than any of the others; that when your big moment comes, you’ll be hiding in the toilets.  As  T S Eliot put it, ‘I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat and snicker.  And in short, I was afraid.’

So that’s me being an insecure writer.  But you gotta go out there and do it because, like they say, in the end it’s not the things you do that you regret; it’s the things you don’t do.  So I fall flat on my face – so what?  I can get up and make a joke and start again.

Although vomiting on the audience is I guess harder to deal with…

Anyway, here’s the support group:


Kirk out


Oh, for Fxxx’s Sake!

Am I becoming a grumpy old git?  No, tell me honestly because I just don’t know.  I decided to watch some of the Davis cup coverage since Andy Murray had been playing so well, and I had to turn it off again.  Why?  Because of the bloody crowds.  I couldn’t stand the noise.  They were like a football crowd, for god’s sake, bellowing and chanting and blowing horns and yelling and jumping up and down – between every effing point!  I could not stand it.  I tried turning the volume down but then I couldn’t hear the commentary or the ball and you need to hear the ball to follow the game properly.  I put the subtitles on but they were too bloody small!  In my day you didn’t have to put your glasses on to read things.  In my day they made everything big enough. In my day nobody jumped up and down and yelled – or at least they had the decency to wait until the end of a game – but these lot were baying and chanting the whole effing time, even between a first and second serve.  It must have been very trying for the players to wait for quiet all the time.  Yes, I get the excitement – I feel it too – but there’s no sense of climax if you’re at top volume all the time.  It’s just ridiculous.  I’m not snobbish about football – I mean, I don’t like it and I don’t understand it, but I can see it’s appropriate to chant and shout because it doesn’t distract the players.  But this is tennis, for god’s sake!  Show some restraint!

It reminds me a little of the audience of ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.’  Perhaps they were the same people: they bay and shout and cheer at the slightest opportunity.  They are totally hyper when the show starts and if Mornington Crescent is announced they practically explode.  They even like the hackneyed conversations between Hamish and Dougal who, in my opinion, ought to have had their tea and been put out to grass years ago.  They’re just NOT FUNNY any more!

I must go now as my Sainsbury’s order is here.  I shall practically explode with excitement if this carries on…

Kirk out