Merry festivus everyone. I hope the season brought you everything you desired. Personally, I can't complain. My main presents from Mrs Cheeseford were the Palin diaries volume 2 and Seasonal Suicide Notes by Roger Lewis (the latter of which has just provoked several laughter-fuelled coughing fits in the bath - his footnoted ruminations on the size and purpose of Billie Piper's mouth were particularly joyous) , with the rest of my gift haul being perishable. And that's the way I like it. A couple of years ago, I picked up on Mrs Cheeseford's cogitations on the value of owning a strimmer and bought her one. It has never left its box. Since then, I've bought her port, sherry and confectionery, because I know they will be received with delight and used with joy, and not stuffed in the under-stairs cupboard.
When I was a trade press hack, I became incredibly blase about books. If there was anything that took my fancy, I could probably find a copy under a colleague's desk and swap them one of equivalent value from my pile. Failing that, I could ring a publicist and scrounge one, in return for a commitment to write a diary paragraph on one of their lesser-known wards. I stopped giving books as presents because friends and family knew I'd got them free. Now that I'm forced to pay for literature once again, there are always a couple of titles in the autumn schedules that I know I'll need. I could buy them myself, but I prefer dropping heavy hints from October onwards ("Have you seen the discounts on books in Asda? Disgraceful. Michael Palin's diaries are half-price. £10! Madness.").
I should perhaps mention another book that I received just before Christmas: a copy of 65: My Life So Far by Jonathan King. I'm in the process of writing a review that will hopefully appear in The Oldie. If it doesn't make it over the editor's boredom threshold, I'll post it here. The book itself is overlong, and worth reading with a very sceptical eye, but it's rarely less than interesting. Madame Arcati's already reviewed it at length and had to deal with a shitstorm for not condemning the book and its author utterly. The orthodox view seems to be that "A convicted nonce should not be allowed to write his memoirs. End of." What about unconvicted nonces? Did anyone organise burnings of Stone Alone back in the day or even murmur slight disapproval when Bill Wyman popped up on The One Show recently? I'm really interested in the relative values at work here. In airplay terms, there's a D-notice on Gary Glitter's records, but DJs have no qualms about playing tracks from convicted murderer Phil Spector's Christmas album. Leslie Grantham must be very grateful that he only killed a man, instead of touching up the doomed cabbie's daughter.