As the American poet John Greenleaf Whittier almost wrote, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen/ the saddest are these, ‘It’s time to go back to work after the Christmas holidays”. And how right he would have been.
I hope you all had splendid Christmases, filled with bunting and frolic, assuming that’s still legal where you live. We flew down south to stay with my parents in their lovely old house, a former canalside pub in Northamptonshire (the first shock was finding it got light around eight, instead of nine as it does here in Wick—I’d forgotten about daylight). And en route we even got to see The Hobbit, which was a fun Christmas present to ourselves.
The only problem was the flight. You see, we had to fly down to Edinburgh, stay overnight, then fly on to Birmingham next day. Now, even on a good day I’m not a great flier—I’m the only person I know who demands a sick bag before setting foot in a lift—you think I’m joking—but this was pretty special, as we had to cross the jet stream, which was hovering just north of Edinburgh, waiting for me like the playground bully. And alas the plane from Wick is one of those balsa wood toy planes with rubber bands powering the propellers—not what you’d call robust.
In short, I got shaken around like a martini for 10-15 minutes. I almost blacked out, sweating, pins and needles in my hands and feet as all my blood retreated to somewhere round my ears. I wasn’t sick, but that’s only because my seat pocket didn’t have a bag in it and the only substitute I could find was one of those child-safe plastic bags with holes in the bottom—well, you can see my reasoning here. I spent the rest of the evening on the hotel bed impersonating a beached giant squid.
Well. It passed eventually, thanks to some splendid anti-nausea migraine medicine which I’ve decided to use as a substitute for sugar in my tea in future, and I was able to have a vertical family Christmas. There’s a song by Neil Young about his home town which has the line, “all my changes were there”, which is how I feel about my parents’ house, which is full of ghosts and memories. Every time I go back I feel like a medium overwhelmed by ghostly voices clamouring for attention, and they’re all me.
I didn’t take my knitting with me, partly because it’s too bulky to lug about easily now, and as heavy as a wet sheep. So I haven’t made a lot of progress, but I still finished the back and have made a start on the front. The fiddly pattern and the steek up the front slows me down a little—one row on the front (210 stitches, ie) takes about 20 minutes, as opposed to about 15 on a regular gansey. I’ve used the red wool from the Filey gansey as stitch holders, so I’ll have to be careful when I take them out or I’ll get pink stripes!
Thanks to everyone who downloaded my books last year—there were 4,350 downloads from Amazon between them, which is rather gratifying. (And a special thank you to everyone who took the trouble to post a review too—you’ve no idea how much difference they make.) I plan to release two more books this year: the sequel to Wraiths of Elfael around Easter, and my non-fantasy Victorian murder mystery, The Cuckoo’s Nest, in August (make a note in your diaries). Both stories are essentially complete, barring revisions, and my plan for 2013 is to write the third part of the Elfael trilogy. After that, who knows?
So there we are. All that remains is for us to wish you a happy New Year—close your eyes, make a wish, quick—we don’t know what it has in store, but hopefully it’ll be fun finding out…