This weekend has been one for hibernating, partly because of the weather which has been cold, and grey, and utterly wintery, but partly also because Emma has been working/on-call which dictates that we can’t venture very far. So I decided to blitz the jobs early, and on Friday evening made a start on cleaning the house, and then on Saturday morning cleaned out the bunnies and the chickens. As it turned out, I’m glad I did for by the time I headed into town to do the veg shopping the grey mizzle had come down.

Saturday afternoon was definitely hibernating weather and I tucked myself up with my book: Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children’s Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper by Charles Butler. I actually bought this book when it came out back in 2006 but struggled then to read it’s selection of discursive essays on four of my most-favourite authors. Yesterday I was romping through its pages, and today, I have been doing the same.

I paused from my reading only in the afternoon to luxuriate in one of my annual pre-Christmas traditions: the making of the Christmas cake. Stir-up Sunday should actually be next Sunday being the one closest to my Mum’s birthday but we will be otherwise busy next weekend so I brought it forward. In the Shepherd household, it was always a family thing. My Dad would line and grease the cake tin with baking parchment and newspaper and make its little newspaper hat already for the four hours in the oven, and my brother and I would help my Mum get the ingredients all ready and ready to add into the BIG mixing bowl. And we’d listen to Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker whilst we did so.

In the new-Shepherd household we seem to have a different tradition, one that we observed today.


I set my LP of The Nutcracker playing on the record player and prepped and made the Christmas cake whilst Emma snoozed into the afternoon, and then I returned to reading in the armchair whilst the delicious aroma of Christmas wafted out of the kitchen as the cake cooked…