Merry Christmas, Nell Peters!
Nell: Stressful. Expensive. Chaotic.
If you could have a relationship with a literary festive character who would it be and why?
Nell: The Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life was based on a short story, The Greatest Gift, by Philip Van Doren Stern. I would like to befriend Clarence Odbody, dob 1653, who was George Bailey’s guardian angel and learn more about him – when he’s not too busy showing George the error of his ways, of course. The year Clarence was born, the Taj Mahal was completed, Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England, and New Amsterdam (later New York City) was established. What was Clarence’s life like then as a clockmaker? Where did he live; what did he do apart from make clocks; did he have a family; how did he die? And why did it take him two hundred plus years to earn his wings?
If you had to exist for a week in a Christmas story … which one would it be?
Dead or alive literary Christmas lunch: who would you invite, and what would you serve?
Nell: I suppose all the takeaways would be closed? In that case, I’d grit my teeth and serve what the family have on Christmas Day – turkey, gammon, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes and parsnips, Brussels, carrots, cinnamon swede, broccoli and all the usual sauces etc. I always buy at least one Christmas pudding, but generally we tend not to have that on the day, opting for something lighter – perhaps just mince pies with brandy butter and/or cream. To share this repast, I’d randomly invite P D James, Jean Jacques Rousseau (I wrote a thesis on him – complete nutter, so may provide the cabaret), Agatha Christie (I may have asked her last time), Karl Marx, Peter James, and any Accent author who will risk my cooking. Oh, and my friend Allison Pearson, as we are terminally bad at getting together.
Nell: Silent Fright.
What do you dislike the most about Christmas?
Nell: Where to start? I was in Tesco last Sunday (20th September) with a son, looking for BBQ coals – but the aisle where we expected to find that sort of thing was stacked high with chocolate Santas, those huge tins of sweeties that only seem to appear for Christmas, and other festive-type confectionaries. That’s a full three months before the great day! Though I don’t have a religious bone in my body, I really loathe the drawn-out commercialisation of what is essentially a spiritual celebration. As our four sons have grown up and found partners/had their own children we have evolved into a huge family. Typically from Christmas Eve onwards we have a house full of people for several days (knew we should have downsized when they all left!) Our anniversary is 23/12 (regularly forgotten!) and the youngest boy’s birthday 24/12, so it’s one whammy after another.
More than anything, I find Christmas to be a sad time. Despite my whinging, I do love having everyone around, but that happens at other times during the year as well – it’s mostly at Christmas, which is an emotive time anyway, that I really miss those who are no longer with us. And at Christmas, in a once-a-year attack of social conscience, I am also mindful of all the lonely people, the abused, the homeless and have-nots for whom the celebrations of others must inevitably reinforce awareness of their plight.
Nell: My favourite word for Christmas doesn’t change from the rest of the year: WINE (plenty of it, but not mulled.)
Nell Peters was in the Christmas chair. Published by Accent Press.