I am not a Christmas person but now December is here I am a willing participant in the bit I do like – the social gatherings. My ideal Christmas consists of escaping somewhere hot and far away with my husband and kids and luckily that’s just what we have planned this year.
Today’s silly season blog guest is the exact opposite to me. He lives for Christmas and positively rejoices when the adverts start in October. Ben Blackman was the first unpublished author to visit the Literary Sofa and his previous post on writing narrative non-fiction was THE most viewed guest post EVER on day of publication – New York Times bestselling authors included! I have met the real life Ben a few times. In fact we had lunch yesterday. At any time of year, whether in a hipster café in Soho (yes, they let us in) or on a virtual Literary Sofa, Ben is always bright and sparkly. It’s lovely to have him back.
The Christmassy Sofa – does that work as a title? It’s meant to be a bit like ‘literary.’ I think you’re beginning to realise the literariness of this, the latest in a rich history of ‘Ben’ articles on the ever-wonderful Literary Sofa. [It’s been two, Ben] Not only am I delighted to have been asked back but keen ‘Ben’ and Sofa fans alike will be aware that I am the only writer to have his very own section here. So far I have followed a ‘keep a low profile’ strategy to ensure Isabel doesn’t remember she once added it as a joke. [He never shuts up about it] By now I am pretty sure she fully recognises and respects ‘what I bring’ to the sofa so would be a fool to delete me [don’t think I haven’t been tempted].
More fool her, actually, for asking me back to cover a Christmas slot [you’ve just called me a fool twice – hope you’re not planning on a third visit]. Apparently she will be off sunning herself somewhere by the time this article goes live [no, still here and watching you] so I am in charge. I was toying with using my time here to educate you all on the correct use of the apostrophe – a subject I know Isabel holds close to her heart – me being a respected scholar specialising in its proper use. (I was going to put an apostrophe in that last its but worried you might not get the joke.)
But alas this subject will have to wait for another time. My brief was ‘The Festive Season – uncensored.’ [Light editing of grammar and punctuation excepted]
Having debated censorship at school several times (when the debating subject wasn’t: euthanasia, blood sports, or animal testing – special memories) I know how important it is I embrace my free press.
First and foremost – let me be the first to wish you all a VERY Happy Festive Season. I bloody love Christmas (there you go, censor THAT)! [Bit tame by Sofa standards] Calm down now, we’ve all had a mulled wine but there’s no need to swear, is there?
I think you’re probably meant to love Christmas less as you get older but I crank it up a notch every year. It probably hasn’t helped matters meeting, and then marrying, one of THE most Christmas-happy ladies – my wife and I met many years ago AT a Christmas Party but that’s another story and I am sure even if Isabel doesn’t seek to censor this article, Mrs B would! I first set eyes on my wife, ‘singing’ (she was blessed with a VERY loud ‘singing’ voice) karaoke. Holding a glass ‘half-full’ of wine (the other half on the floor), ‘Summer lovin, had me a blast…SUMMER LOVIN HAPPENED SO FAST’. Eighteen months later we moved into our first house together and the first Christmas was substantial to say the least. As there were only two of us I do remember questioning whether the second trolley we required at Asda was a bit much.
There are elements of it I do question. Lots of people ‘know’ me through online mediums [itching to change that… maybe I’ll just dig out my hoop earrings] such as Twitter and my own blog (like the Literary Sofa, but more literary. If you think you’re up to that level of high-brow, please do visit Red Trouser Days.) Online I am able to present a far funnier, outgoing, all round good-eggness-of-a-guy type persona than I am able to keep up in real life. Mrs B might note that every now and then I have the odd moan.
OK, I moan a lot. For example, about the insane festive lighting Mrs B insists we adorn our house with (internal and against my wishes, an ever-growing abundance of external). The reindeer is a subject I still don’t feel comfortable talking about in a public forum. Then there’s the ‘The Annual Christmas Tree Argument’ – we actually call it that. Our five-year-old daughter looks forward to it, our ten-month-old baby has those joys to come. We actually changed the car we drove back in 2005, following a particularly vocal journey (two motorways included) with a 12 foot tree strapped to the top of our 8 foot car roof. Not to mention the 9 foot ceiling we encountered back home.
Adding the two kids to the mix has meant I love the Festive Season even more. I write this on 29 November and I am trying with all my might not to listen to my Top 10 Christmas Songs Eva, [I think he’s hoping you’ll listen to his songs, bless him]
Christmas for me is so much about books. I’m such a slow reader that my Christmas books usually last me all year. I’m embarrassed to tell you that since February, I’ve only read one book. To be fair, we did have a baby on 31 January so we’ve been a bit busy. This is why Christmas means so much to me. Yeah, I moan all the time but I love my life, realise how bloody lucky I am to have such a wonderful and healthy family and to do the things I love day-in and day-out. I enjoy the fact that at Christmas a few other people join in this appreciation and we all take a bit of time out of the madness that is modern Britain to celebrate our lives.
It’s really such an important thing so, do enjoy your festive season wherever you are, whoever you’re with and whatever you’re doing this year [even if you don’t do Christmas]. Merry Christmas!
Thank you, Ben for this heartwarming piece – you almost won me over for a minute! Ben has told me he will personally reply to any fan mail in the form of comments. Well, he hasn’t really but I think it’s the least he can do.
There will be two more BIG posts before I disappear: 2014 – My Year in Books on Monday 8 December and Hot Picks 2015 on Friday 12 December. Come back soon!
What can I say? Another triumph of a post. I liked the subtle interplay of theme and motif between you, with an ever-present authorial voice and believable characterisation. The ‘Ben’ tab really is in a class of its own.
Can I just get some kind of ‘REPLIED’ stamp to save me the bother of talking to all these fans? Hi Isabel, what a good name you have, maybe everybody could be called Isabel, it would make life so much easier, not having to try to remember all those other rubbish names. I thank you for your comments and respect the fact you both have names I can easily adapt to a Christmas Theme: Isa(deck the halls with)bel(s and holly).
So glad you enjoyed it and took the time to offer a considered literary analysis. Just be glad you didn’t see the unexpurgated version. Never seen so many commas in all my life!
The commas are fine, it’s the brackets and commas together that really makes it hard work.
Isabel Costello – was that a ‘hipster cafe’? Oh, I really didn’t know
how cool I was being! I’m guessing they respected the fact I was being SO cool, I went ultimate UN-hipster (which is the NEW hipster) and wore a suit.
OF COURSE IT WASN’T.
Oh Ben, could I please meet you the next time I find myself in England? But I’ll have to warn you that I’m American so I won’t be able to keep up with your wit. And does it count that I’m not named Isabel but really wish I were?
Great post all around, the both of you.
I don’t think this is actually one of Isabel’s competition posts but, if it was you would certainly win Kristen. Firstly for showing some respect, at last and, of course, secondly for also having a highly adaptable Christmas name, KristMAS(in). I know Isabel won’t agree with my excessive use of commas in this reply but, hey, she’s just going to have to deal with it.
We will be sure to meet next time you are in England. Isabel owes me a sandwich and power juice so, we can go halves.
Ah, I didn’t even think about my name – yes, I’m IN now, aren’t I?! What do I win, Isabel?
Your prize is an all expenses paid (apart from your flight) trip to London in Spring 2015. Including luxury accommodation and fine dining. Booze. Books. Bens. No, wait – there is only one Ben!
Wow, how could I pass up this opportunity?!
I need a lie down after that. What on earth did you put in 2 trolleys? Was this the Christmas you bought the reindeer? Do you not want to talk about the reindeer because it was injured in a trolley collision?
You bought a new car to get a bigger Christmas tree? Why didn’t you get the reindeer to help you drag it? Oh wait, because the reindeer had a hip replacement after the trolley collision.
It’s all beginning to make sense. Christmas sort of does make sense once everyone’s round the table and the food starts to emerge and christmas crackers start to pop… and yes, I guess it makes me feel lucky too having a family with members that start singing at random (will we ever find out who killed cock robin?) Anyway, great post… and Merry Christmas X
What did we put in 2 trolleys? What didn’t we, more like it?! ALL the food, a LOT of Pringles, maybe the odd bottle of wine. What happened at Christmas 2002, stays at Christmas 2002. Or was it 2003? Who knows but it was a good year!
The reindeer was a 2012 addition, I think. I’ll post a picture once he’s up and running. What can you do?
I don’t want to talk about the car situation. It’s too soon. What do half Spanish / half Welsh people eat at Christmas. That sounds like a joke but was a serious question (and I didn’t even add a Colombian in to the mix).
When I’m with my Welsh / British family we have Turkey and all the trimmings (you didn’t see that coming did you?) – when I’m with my Spanish family it’s usually on 6th January to celebrate the coming of the Kings and we have a massive paella cooked outside in my uncle’s garden (paella – Spain – you did NOT see that coming, right?) and Colombian Christmas? Well, I’ve never had Christmas there yet, sadly, but I’ve had Christmas WITH Colombians in the States and we had Turkey, I think, or maybe pork… but the main difference is we ate it on Christmas eve which is when Colombians have their main celebration!
‘Massive paella cooked outside in my uncle’s garden.’ I WANT TO BE YOU SO MUCH! This sounds so amazing. So if I was you, every Christmas, this would be my itinerary:
Christmas Eve – with the Colombians.
Christmas Day – with the Welshies.
Boxing Day – rest day.
Then Easy Jet it over to Uncle Benetiz for sun, sea and a week of Paella.
Where do I apply for adoption to your family?
Can we all come?
I just like Christmas for the books. Nothing else really, just the books 😉
That sounds like a pretty good reason to me. I found when I had kids nobody gave me Christmas presents any more. Now the whole family has lapsed into a state of complete indifference – it’s a great time to go away!
I find Christmas a difficult time but it does create the space for reading which I love.