So much has happened this year, and I realised I haven't blogged since this time last year. I have been busy... I might catch up on Blogs over the holidays but have to mention the books of the second half of this year – Baizdon published Treasures of The Guildhall Art Gallery in June and the physical copy of The Normal British Christmas? at the end of August. The latter seemed early to us, only to discover that all the big stores had selected their Christmas books by the beginning of May. Promoting the book has been a huge task and a huge learning curve (lots of tales to tell) but we had a great launch in Soho (Father Christmas was a hoot) we are in lots of local shops (thanks to all), have done a series of book signings at different WHSmith stores and are donating 20% of profits to Crisis. Ok, more soon.
This was a quote from The Normal British Christmas? and certainly was what I wished for you and yours this year. I hope it was a wonderful time and that you are enjoying these days at the end of the year.
While the decorations are still up I wanted to share the story behind the book and the fun I had researching it. The Normal British Christmas? is about how those of us that celebrate Christmas all do the same things very differently (very differently in some cases) and how we don't expect that. If you've ever shared someone else's Christmas you'll know how easy it is to get everything very 'wrong'. I know we would expect Christmas to be different if we were celebrating with a family from another country and I fully appreciate that someone from another culture has different festivals from mine that they celebrate, but I thought those of us that celebrate Christmas, well we're all doing the same stuff - shopping, decorations, Christmas trees, stockings, presents, turkey, crackers, eating more food than humanly seems possible and playing Monopoly. Ok, I did appreciate that maybe not everyone wants to play Monopoly and watch The Sound of Music on Boxing day but basically my understanding was that, for the most of us, all of you that did Christmas did it like me. This thinking tripped me up when I spent my first Christmas with my now-but-not-then husband and his family. (You can read the intro in the 'look inside' feature on Amazon here if you want to know what happened.)
The research I've done over the last few years has been tremendous fun and I feel privileged to have had a peek at what happens in everyone's homes at Christmas - a time that I realised that, because we're all spending time with our own friends and family, we don't see what anyone else does. Hence so easy to assume we all do the the same. I found my research conversations often started the same way as people told me, 'We have the traditional Christmas', or 'Just the usual stuff' or (my favourite) 'All normal for us'. Then I'd say, so tell me about your day and they'd start:
None of the above seemed normal to me, all very much Not Normal in fact! (Although I half wished I'd thought of the disappearing stockings idea when my son was small and would wake up at 5am wanting to open his).
Along with the funny and rather outrageous (although not to them) family traditions, people shared lots of the very poignant and quite wonderful things they do as well (which made me both laugh and cry). I ended up with 2.5k quotes which I divided into 21 festive sections and then edited down to the final 573 quotes. My original idea had been to write the book myself, about what people did - but when it came down to it I realised that using everyone's quotes meant not only the Christmas traditions of the British public would be shared but their voices too and I found this enhanced the collection. It has become a book about what people do and how they express it.
For 2015 it is an Ebook and we are planning a printed version for 2016. I knew from the research that people liked talking about their Christmas - even the shyest people become voluble and just smile and smile while they recount their Christmas times - but I wasn't sure whether people would like reading about everyone else's Christmas. Early signs are good, it seems like they do. I hope you do.
The Normal British Christmas? is available to buy or to give as a gift on Amazon here and on iBooks too. And if you would like to tell me of any of your family traditions or how you do your Christmas please do, I'd love to hear them. There's space in the 2016 edition for a few more entries...
Packing up the Christmas decorations – took a last look at the gorgeous beaded ones my Mum has made us over the years – this year we got the snowman. I think the Christmas pudding is still my favourite – it came complete with beaded holly!
We all love Maison Bertaux in our house, at any time of the year, but especially at Christmas, so an important part of our family Christmas is going to visit Michelle’s Soho patisserie on the 24th and collecting the mince pies before going home to The Donkey*. (*The Donkey is the irreverent, but decidedly affectionate, term for the nativity parade through the Blackheath that is followed by Carols outside of All Saints Church on the heath). Hooray – no rain. And, no I didn’t eat all those pies in the picture!