Tuesday, 18 December 2007

When True Love backfires

Now here’s one of the twinkliest stars in my Box of Christmas Books. But this one’s not the children’s, it’s mine, all mine!

Because it’s for grown-ups.

Because it’s got (giggle, snigger, snort) ‘rooooooood’ bits in it (giggle, snigger, snort)!

The Twelve Days of Christmas [correspondence] by John Julius Norwich takes another look at the words of the jolly Christmas song and wonders: What if some well-meaning but misguided chap actually DID send his True Love a partridge in a pear tree for Christmas?

He might receive in return a thank-you letter along these lines:

‘My dearest darling – That partridge, in that lovely little pear tree! What an enchanting, romantic, poetic present! Bless you and thank you.

Your deeply loving Emily’

But what if he then went on to deliver, on a daily basis, amongst other items, three live and loudly squawking chicken, four raucous green calling birds, geese (laying eggs all over the door step), swans that make a bee-line for the tiny fish-pond? Or . . . worse still - and to the increasing bewilderment, frustration and, ultimately, despair of the recipient - a noisy troop of bekilted bagpipe players, and ten whiskery and rather randy old men who get up to no good with the scandalously (giggle, snigger, snort) naked dancing ladies?

Poor Emily’s life falls apart in the space of twelve short days and she has to resort to legal action. The whole thing is a hilarious, rumbustious little gem – and it hardly needs mentioning that Quentin Blake’s brilliantly anarchic illustrations provide half the cake and all the icing. (Another National Treasure, our Mr Blake, are we all agreed?)

Sold everywhere as a till-side stocking filler a decade ago, this small treasure is now out of print and commanding ridiculous prices on Amazon and eBay. Worth tracking down, though, if you possibly can. (Eyes peeled at book sales and in charity shops!)

Put it away in the Christmas Books Box after the festive season and it will amuse afresh year after year.

Sheer delight.


60goingon16 said...


If you missed it, do catch Great Lives (R4 broadcast at 4.30pm today ) via Listen Again. This is what the Beeb website had to say:
"Illustrator Quentin Blake, creator of drawings for Willy Wonka and the BFG, nominates George Cruikshank, who drew the original Fagin and Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist. Cruikshank was also a savage regency caricaturist, drunkard, bigamist, and leading light of the Temperance Movement. Vic Gatrell outlines some of the darker sides to his life, while presenter Matthew Parris attempts not to steer too moral a line."

Here's the link:

monix said...

D just beat me to it! I've just been listening to the Great Lives programme, too, and recommend it.

I love this book and all of Quentin Blake's work.