I wanted to write a blog post to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Whatever you’re doing, out there in the world, I hope it’s special and I hope you have someone special to share it with.
I’ve done many things at Christmas. I’ve had a BBQ on the beach, I’ve eaten crayfish from an iced bath, I’ve decorated a Christmas tree called Fritz in the depths of Southern Germany, I’ve eaten a six course meal with a load of strangers in the Lake District, I’ve been with family in an ancient cider mill in Herefordshire, and, many times, have I listened to the Queen’s speech while munching on Christmas pudding in Wales. Each year, Christmas for me is simultaneously different and familiar; made up of traditions old and new. Things change every year. The strangest things remain the same.
Some traditions remain wherever I am. There are always stockings filled with silly gifts, and they always contain a slightly squishy orange at the bottom. I am always on the phone for at least several hours, calling family and friends who live everywhere, all over the world. At some point over the Christmas meal, I always remember someone who I forgot to send a Christmas card to. My mum is ever present. Christmas is her favourite day of the year, so to imagine it without her involved is like imagining Santa without his sleigh. Christmas, for me, is my mum. I’m not sure one exists without the other.
But there are changes this year, too. This year I will be celebrating Christmas for the first time without my grandparents, a change that will feel very vivid indeed. This year is the first Christmas that I can remember being snowed in. Loss and seclusion, absence and isolation; things familiar to many at Christmas, and things I’m thinking about a lot this year. Looking around the little Welsh town I’m living in right now I can see that Christmas isn’t always a happy time for everyone; I’ve noticed the homeless person in the doorway of the supermarket, and I think about my great Aunt who is worried about leaving her house this year because of the ice. Perhaps, for the first time ever, this year feels more balanced. Joy merged with sadness; all mixed up in a Christmas pudding.
And I guess that’s probably important to remember. Laugh and smile and eat and eat and eat … but don’t be afraid to cry a bit too, if you want to. Christmas has got everything, and it’s all wrapped up there under the tree. Unwrap the good stuff, but don’t be afraid of the strangely shaped gift from great Aunty Nora that’s in there too.
I’ve got lots of gifts to be grateful for this year. Stolen won stacks of prizes, including the Branford Boase Award in the UK and the Gold Inky Award in Australia. Flyaway too has held it’s own, getting on the shortlist for the Waterstones Prize and the Costa Book Award (keep your eyes peeled for this…it gets announced in January!), and being on the longlist for the Carnegie Medal. I’ve met the most amazing readers and librarians and teachers and bookish sorts all over the world. I’ve had the privilege of working with some wonderful mentors and teaching some wonderful students, and I’ve thought lots about the world and life and all that sort of stuff. I’m now working on a third book, which is hard, but I’m told that anything worth anything is hard. Expect to see that in about a year or so.
In the meantime, stay happy and healthy and inquisitive. Enjoy your Christmas, even the pesky brussel sprouts.
Thank you so much for all your support this year.
Wishing you pudding and presents,