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In the interests of Christmas spirit , I invite anyone around here to pop along to here and create a fabulous festive jumper or cardie for someone you love. Hours of fun.

My boys have broken up from school, the sitting room carpet has been cleaned and there are presents piling up under the tree. My firstborn has even expressed an interest in attending Midnight Mass!

Roll on Christmas. It’s going to be lovely.


It’s taken me three years to persuade him but yesterday I finally got my dad to accompany me to the big Borders bookshop so I could buy his Christmas present. He crept in with his “I don’t belong in these big city places” look on his face, picked up a book (the new Bernard Cornwell) and said “that’ll do”.

I pointed out that my brother was coming to join us in a litle while and coaxed dad round to the Livestock section. After 20 minutes of rummaging he was looking longingly at two books about horse behaviour (his baby stallion is giving him grief) but saying “they’re too dear” (Yorkshire for expensive). I took them anyway and directed him further into fiction. Eventually he relaxed and started rooting around the shelves checking out a couple of authors and then, to my huge surprise, started a conversation with a woman and recommended some books to her.

At this point we were joined by my brother, who hadn’t been there before either. He dived into the children’s department to look at books for his little boy and I sent dad upstairs to find historical non-fiction – he was on the lookout for a George MacDonald Fraser (the Flashman writer) book called The Steel Bonnets. After a short argument with my brother in board books (I was pointing to my favourite Ahlberg titles, such as Peepo and Each Peach, Pear, Plum; he said they weren’t manly enough) we joined dad upstairs and then he and Jim really got into their stride. They both love historical fiction and non-fiction, usually with a war element, and books were flying back and forth between them: “Here, you should read this,” and “You’ll like this one.” I came across Dancing Into Battle, a book about the social history of the Napoleonic Wars which includes a portrait of Juana Smith, the real life heroine of Georgette Heyer’s The Spanish Bride, plus, on a separate table, The Happy Hooker – not what you first think but a book of crochet patterns. I restrained myself, and made notes so my husband could put them in my Christmas stocking.

We moved on, piles of books under our arms, to Starbucks. This is so far from our normal family encounters – usually these consist of mum making tea and dad saying “come and help me muck out the horses” – that I felt by now as if I was in a dream. And Dad paid! However he was so overwhelmed by the menu board that he refused to order and left me and Jim to work out what ‘a white coffee’ was in Starbucks speak. He was also somewhat appalled that Starbucks don’t do teaspoons, but by this point I was suspecting he was playing up the yokel side of his nature for family entertainment.

Shortly after this Jim headed off back to work, having paid for most of the pile we accummulated. Dad spent a while longer looking at a guitar book – I was hovering by his side saying “you could just buy it, it’s only a tenner” and him replying “no, I’ll just read it now” – before he noticed the sky was darkening at which point he sprang into action saying “I’ve got to see to my ‘osses before it gets dark.”

All in all, a very successful afternoon. I think I may hold my birthday party there.