‘Twas the night before a Christmas Carol Elf

Around about this time of year I have a rummage through my bookshelves looking for certain tomes. The first a tiny, little hardback book by Carol Ann Duffy. Illustrated by the gorgeous Rob Ryan, this reimagining of The Night Before Christmas rather wonderfully reminds me of the magical nostalgia of the quiet, reverent stillness of Christmas Eve as a child. The calm night air, the jumpy, squirmy stomach flutters of excitement and (one very memorable year) my utter conviction that I had awoken to the sound of hooves and sleigh bells on the roof.

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Duffy creates the most vivid, wintery scenes with similes about “owls with eyes just like planets” and metaphorical “snow that softly duveted the cars”. Poetry is such a wonderfully succinct art, encapsulating in such few words a whole mindscape of imagination or a lifetime of love.

As a matter of tradition, I also always dig out Dickens’ classic Christmas tale of redemption, forgiveness and goodwill. My beaten and battered copy of ‘A Christmas Carol’ has some delicate and detailed old watercoloured illustrations that showcase the miserly, wrinkled and sour visage of Scrooge contrasted with the plump, rosy cheeks of Nephew Fred and the terrifying crooked fingers and devilish grin of the Ghost of Christmas Future. I first of all read the Dickens classic and then, rubbing my hands in glee and setting out tea and choccies to enjoy, I pop in the Muppets’ version and sing along with all the high pitched songs and laugh my head off at Rizzo the Rat.

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And finally, we come to ‘Elf’. Yes, it’s a film. Yes, it’s not great literature. But sod it. I love it.

Merry Christmas to All.

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“We read to know that we are not alone” – William Nicholson

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I like to think of myself as a brave person, and certainly other people seem to think so.  I’ve done my fair share of traveling; lived in a variety of countries; went back to uni at a ‘mature(er)’ age to retrain as teacher and in many little and large ways totally changed the course of my life on whim, multiple times.  When I recount these tales to people I meet – with more than a dash of downward, blushing looks and humble bragging – the inevitable response is usually “Oh that’s SO brave of you!  I could NEVER do that”.

I’ve heard it so many times and in so many ways that I’m finding more and more that it’s the response I crave and expect.  The truth is that I’m just simply not brave. Every change I have made, for good and bad, has utterly terrified me.  I’m the epitome of ‘fake it til you make it’.   I’m a cautious over-thinker who plans meticulously and lives somewhat vicariously through the world of literature.

As a teacher I constantly encourage my students to take risks, break the paradigm and avoid the cliche.  As a person, I’m afraid I fall foul of the cardinal sin of doing (or not doing) these every day.  So, this is my risk.  I’m hoping to just dive right in and show that my appreciation for literature will fuel and inspire my own creativity rather than keeping me trapped in an ever decreasing circle of self-doubt.

And hopefully, I can spread some of the love and joy that my favorite books have brought to me as well.

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