The Snowman – Raymond Briggs

The cartoon version of The Snowman is a true Christmas tradition. Spying Briggs’ book version – and this being the season –  I had to borrow it from the library and see what the differences were.

The reader not familiar with this story is in for a wonderful, gentle journey told not with words but purely in images.  When a boy makes a snowman who magically comes to life, comical and exciting adventures are bound to happen.

A gently humorous adventure ideal for all ages, this is a fun and funny book.  The cartoon followed suit with the illustration style and the  pencil shading is still beautiful to look at today, as you can see at the end of the post.

An endearing and enduring tale which speaks – to me at least – of the shortness of life and the urgent need to enjoy the company of the people we have in the now.  This is a story that transcends cultural boundaries and can be enjoyed by anyone, not just those versed in English.

I do prefer the cartoon version still even after spending time with the book. The hunting quality of the music, especially, enhances the experience. The flying journey is also longer and more eventful in the cartoon, which I recommend to all!  If you have  a spare twenty-five minutes here it is in full HD.

Cracking Up Over Christmas

Before we go any further please apply yourself to puzzling out some of the most humorous jokes you will ever come across. Ever.  Answers will be provided at the end but don’t skip the rest of the post though, let the anticipation build and then feel the buzz drain away from you as the answers are revealed at the end:

  1. On which side to most chickens have their feathers?
  2. What goes up and wobbles?
  3. What type of dog has no tail?
  4. What is green and goes to a summer camp?
  5. What’s a Grecian Urn?

After pushing back the plates of Christmas dinner, my thoughts naturally turned to blogging and it was then that I remembered a much lamented missed opportunity from last year which was to talk about Christmas crackers and the contents therein.  As is tradition around these parts, the pulling of the cracker has been an integral part of Christmas since 1847 and features a wealth of goodies to delight even the most Scroogiest of Scrooges at Christmas.

Fainty sinister example of a cracker pulling found at
Faintly sinister example of a cracker pulling found at

Nothing beats the smell of gunpowder of a lazy Christmas Day afternoon as is attested by the thousands of crackers that go off each year.  It is the ultimate family diversion, of little consequence but always strangely enjoyable and something not to be done without.  Those who fork out lots of money for the so-called luxury crackers with prizes worth ‘winning’ miss the point, it’s the tackiness of the whole ordeal that is so beloved of households everywhere.  For those of you not familiar with this particular treat, here’s a brief and fairly passable explanation of what it all consists of. Continue reading “Cracking Up Over Christmas”

Of Nude Mice and Bacon Smells

Before I go into a customary nostalgic post as I am wont to do, let me first amuse you with my first ever entertaining search engine terms that have allowed people to find their way – somewhat strangely – to my blog.  The first one, What type of dog is that? It’s a tortoise I could just about accept but the somewhat more bizarre, proceedings of the second international workshop on nude mice, appeals to my sense of humour but did leave me wondering if that particular seeker of knowledge came away disappointed on not.


Anyway thank you for permitting me that small aside and now to move on with a Christmas post…The genesis of which came last year on a cold Christmas Eve, after returning from a frantic trip to find some elusive brown sugar.  I looked up into the clear black sky and saw the blinking lights of what I reckoned to be the last plane from Minneapolis to Portland, as I looked at it, I knew that I would write this post a year on.

I think it is the whole romanticism of travelling, getting somewhere special to enjoy this most wonderful time of year, which is all the more easier to imagine when one is where they wish to be.  I held those thoughts with me into the new year and the usual distractions life brings.  Yet the thoughts were rekindled by – oddly enough – the smell of bacon as I pottered through town looking for an excuse to have a quick pint.  In hindsight a good excuse would have been to write this post but I am not that clever so I settled for ‘my shoelace looks perilously close to coming undone so I better sit down with a pint and wait for it to loosen itself naturally’. Continue reading “Of Nude Mice and Bacon Smells”

Music To My Ears

People in the world tryin’ to make ends meet
You try to ride car, train, bus, or feet
I said you got to work hard, you want to compete
It’s like that, and that’s the way it is
HUH! – Run DMC Vs Jason Nevins


Perhaps I get more inspiration out of a pint or two than I really should do but nothing beats spending a bit of time at the pub, getting lost in a book and if anything comes to mind with that heady mix of literature and alcohol, well all the better.  The music at my local The Bold Forester encouraged me to keep the inspired feeling for this post and was a handy excuse to stay for one more pint as I wrote these notes.

The photo above is a Ste’s eye view of what I saw, complete with blurry vision of those long-range areas, just like my defective eyes!  There is something to be said for the ambiance of a reading place and my atmosphere was solely based on an eclectic and impressive choice or tunes, which only lacked something classical.

I have wanted to do a music post for ages but for some reason not gotten round to it, yet there I was hunkered in a corner, writing down various phrases on my phone – as I forgot my notebook – keeping one eye on my (naturally) precariously low battery and finally the aural magic captured me to compose.  It does make me wonder how many times the subliminal soundtrack that accompanies me as I read has inspired me to the words I use when reviewing books. Continue reading “Music To My Ears”

Winter Wanderland

Taken from
Taken from

Winter, the blustery brother of Autumn brings the sound and it’s a faint jingling of course!

Winter Wanderland

Misted breath wreathes the ice-cold silence of the night. Nothing moves except for the frosted flurries
gently blow the icy cobwebs, encouraging the raging torrent of imagination.

That pleasing crunch of virgin snow underfoot, intruding on the quiet. The footprint left behind looking phantasmal under the ice kissed glow of the street lamp.The crisp air pressing on red cheeks, wraps the pilgrim in happiness, like gifts under the tree.

Alone but happy, shivering in glacial temperatures, heading home, It’s hot work walking, windows passed are lit with tiny glittering points of joy. Offering an inviting glimpse into the magic of the season.

All is peaceful as it should be for the traveller, making his way home for Christmas.


Christmas Books – Charles Dickens

Chrissie Carol‘What was merry Christmas to Scrooge? Out upon merry Christmas! What good had it ever done to him?’ Ebenezer Scrooge is a bad-tempered skinflint who hates Christmas and all it stands for, but a ghostly visitor foretells three apparitions who will thaw Scrooge’s frozen heart. A Christmas Carol has gripped the public imagination since it was first published in 1843, and it is now as much a part of Christmas as mistletoe or plum pudding. This edition reprints the story alongside Dickens’s four other Christmas Books: The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man. All five stories show Dickens at his unpredictable best, jumbling together comedy and melodrama, genial romance and urgent social satire, in pursuit of his aim ‘to awaken some loving and forbearing thoughts, never out of season in a Christian land’.

There is nothing like a little bit of Christmas cheer in the sea of stress around the holidays and there is nothing better than some Dickens to get me in the mood, as well as the blog snowing again!.

With a mixture of satire, romance, joy and sorrow this collection of short stories hits all the right notes for this time of year and made me feel very seasonal.  Which was made even more impressive as I read this whilst dosed up with medicine in bed alternating my attention between these stories, sleep and attempting to watch all ten seasons of Stargate SG1. which I failed to do.

A Christmas Carol needs no introduction, it is wonderful story of redemption and vivid imagery.  The thing that surprises me the most is that it is so tightly written, which is something of a novelty compared the authors’ customary sprawling style.  It’s the quintessential Christmas story, its themes and timeless feel make this possibly the most flawless short story there is.

After such a timeless story,  Dickens is back to his usual long-winded self, which isn’t exactly a criticism but the flow of the first story lacks through the rest of the book which is a shame as parts of these stories could have done with a little preening.

The Chimes is by contrast a lot more bleaker for the most part but again aims towards a redemptive message.  The snapshots of life in the 1800’s reinforce the social inequalities but don’t let that put you off.  The characters are wonderfully formed and of course the chiming bells are ever-present, leaving for an ending that can be interpreted by the reader in his or her own way. Continue reading “Christmas Books – Charles Dickens”

Steason’s Greetings

After what seems like a good long while, in which I haven’t been doing much but working,  I’ve finally had time to sit down and compose some thoughts.  I was going to do a book review but the words just aren’t materialising today so you are stuck with some thoughts bungled together on my day off.  Sorry about the quality.

Found at

I started my Christmas shopping at the weekend, having already watched Die Hard 2 it felt it was the right time to start. You can’t beat a good thriller with a thin veneer of Christmas tacked on, to make it all feel somehow festive.  Anyway, after spending last year’s Yuletide season on another continent,  I expected to feel a little novelty in town this year.

Alas, it was disappointing to find that everything was still the same.  By which I mean the some shops and the usual stuff for sale in said shops, everything was as it was as if time has stood still. I like tradition, in fact a lot of things follows the same routine for me around this time of year but the shopping trips are starting to feel really tired, the same products just appear in new packages.. Continue reading “Steason’s Greetings”

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas – Agatha Christie

51zNl8kJsrLIt is Christmas Eve. The Lee family reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture, followed by a high-pitched wailing scream. Upstairs the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed.

But when Hercule Poirot, who is staying in the village with a friend for Christmas, offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems that everyone had their own reason to hate the old man…

Admittedly not the most christmassy cover in the world but this proves to be more accurate than misleading.  For this is not one of those gentle jaunts but a bloody murder mystery set around the holidays.

There is little mention of Christmas in the whole book on reflection but as any fan of soap operas will tell you Christmas is never really complete without a death or two.

There are all the classic murder mystery elements here, exotic foreigners, family feuds, manor houses, butlers, as well as a really corking plot, with lashings lots of dirty linen to be aired throughout.  Christie is for me, a bit up and down with her plots but this one is fantastic and a proper treat for the season.

I’m not much of a mystery buff admittedly but this one did keep me guessing to the end which is saying something as I think I have seen this on TV before.   I was led down completely the wrong path several times, even though enough clues are hidden in plain sight. Continue reading “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas – Agatha Christie”

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