Virginia Barton

4 December 2014: “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents…”


4 December 2014





Good, isn’t it? Well, JRR Tolkien wrote those lines in 1937 for The Lord of the Rings, so it’s not surprising they’re good. One of my grandsons set them most hauntingly to music, but I can’t share it with you because a] I don’t know how to write music on the computer, and b] it’s his intellectual property.

We havn’t had such a winter for ages, and I shan’t mind if we don’t for ages more. You can feel the hardness in those four lines and hear the deep silence.


My shame at never having read The Lord of the Rings is mitigated by the fact that I tried years ago and am now too old. Everyone tells me it’s a book for two generations down and I believe them.

However, thanks to a tip-off from a friend, I shall be giving two copies of Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas to young friends as presents. These are letters the author illustrated himself and sent to his children every year. Quirky and charming, yet also wistful when he realises his children have grown out of such delights.


original_christmas-sack-do-not-open-until-25-decAre you a last-minute shopper, relishing the Christmas buzz and rush; or do you, like me, squirrel things away during the year – and then forget where you put them or buy the same thing twice over?

I found a small piece of paper the other day which read “Calendars behind desk” and another “ BH present in linen cupboard.” The calendars were easy as we only have three desks, but the present in the linen cupboard has foxed me completely: why put something in a rather warm and dry confined space? What would BH want with rising bread or a hatching chick?

Four duplicated cards have hit the dust – I’d written, addressed and stamped them ready for posting, twice. This despite at least three careful checklists and a booklet.


Talking of calendars behind desks, at this time of year the space under BH’s desk is referred to as “Santa’s Grotto”. It is where I store the wrapped Christmas presents. Since it’s already overflowing, BH can’t actually fit his legs underneath, but has to sit sideways.

He’s a long-suffering man is BH. He gets no kick out of the festive preparations but smiles benignly when I show him what’s being wrapped up. A few books but no Little Women this year, ghoulish fantasy is all the rage. So Jo with her toasting fork must wait another year when I think I might get it for myself.


Got it! I know what’s in the linen cupboard – and can’t say because the recipient is bound to read this. Just the ticket for next time we watch Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the Alec Guinness version, ‘natch.





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