Thursday, December 18, 2008

I think it’s time to lay blogging aside until early ’09. I’m tired, frightened of how much remains to be done, scared of the dark, not good company. We’ll all feel better after the solstice – except for poor Kate, who’s got all the fuss but nothing to celebrate except the retreat of light.

Yesterday’s lapse was because I was ferrying my husband across town for an early hospital appointment. “Early” is not easy for him. Getting him somewhere early is not easy for me.

Two things were odd –

I walked across the square to get the papers at 7 a.m., much earlier than usual. It was still utterly night. I could see well to the east along London Street and there was not a glimmer in the sky. But the blackbirds in Drummond Place gardens were twittering in a distinctly matutinal way. Do they have little watches? Or were they responding to the sounds of the city bestirring itself? And, if so, do country blackbirds sleep in?

The drive to the hospital took place between 9 and 9:30, straight through central Edinburgh to the southern outskirts. There was no rush hour, just normal-to-slight city traffic. Why?

I’ve been back to St James’s Centre for more post-office-queueing, and finally weakened and bought not only Rowan 44 but also a book of their tweed patterns. An absurd extravagance, already regretted. I’d like to see the cashmere tweed yarn, though. As far as I could detect, Lewis’s didn’t have it.

Christmas knitting should be finished this evening. James and his children will arrive tomorrow – Cathy is staying behind in London for a couple of days to berate Macmillan’s for not pushing her latest book, The Slaughter Pavilion. Joan Smith picked it as one of the gems of ’08 in a column in the Sunday Times this week – but there’s not a copy to be had on the shelves of our local Waterstone’s. Nor have I ever seen one there.

(It begins with a striking event based on something which really happened in Beijing not far from where they live. Just last week Cathy learned, from a journalist who had been there, that a detail which she had invented for her book, actually happened. That’s the sort of thing, the interlacing of fiction-writing and real life, that Muriel Spark often writes about.)

Happy Darkest Day, everybody.


  1. Although the coldest part of the season lies ahead, I'm looking forward to the return of the light. A bit of quiet and nesting this time of year does seem appropriate. All the best for the holidays.

  2. It has been bitter cold here, and some days it feels like we never see the light. The Solstice is soon and at least the cold days are sunnier. Snuggling down with loved ones sounds a good answer. As my gran used to say in notes, All the Compliments of the Season.

  3. Anonymous1:17 PM

    Best wishes for 2009! Have a relaxing and fun holiday season with your family.
    Thanks for all your hard work on the blog this year, and I look forward to it in the new year.
    Lisa in Toronto

  4. Anonymous1:31 PM

    Jean, thanks for giving us so much pleasure through your blog this year. Best wishes for a Happy Christmas to you and to all you love.
    Ron in Mexico

  5. Anonymous2:07 PM

    I will miss you but I can fully understand the need to simplify things. We are only days away from the cycling back to light.

    What doesn't get done really didn't matter. (and that comes from someone who can get really possessed by the trappings...) Time with family, time for quiet, that is what matters most.

    Wishing you the best of holiday times,

    Gerrie in St Paul

  6. Dearest Jean - I was so happy to see that you blogged today - was a bit worried yesterday. I'm sad to hear - for purely selfish reasons - that you're taking a break but it's a well-deserved break. I hope you have a wonderful time with family. I agree with Gerrie - what's gets done is fine - what doesn't will not be missed - and that family being together is what's most important. The rest is all icing on the cake, so to speak.

    You'll have to be sure to let us know in '09 if you marked the Solstice in any special way (other than with great relief). I am hoping we don't have 20+ inches of snow on the ground by then, which is entirely possible according to the weather forecasts.

    Happy Christmas!

  7. Anonymous7:25 PM

    What they said. Your blog is on my "must reads." Thanks for a wonderful year. Also, thanks for letting us know you'll be taking a break; when you don't post I worry.

  8. Anonymous3:41 AM

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family Jean! And thank you for the wonderful gift of your blog. I look forward to reading it every morning when I get up, and as others before me have said, I tend to worry a bit when you miss a post. So thanks for letting us "worry warts" know you are taking a couple weeks off to enjoy your family and to wait for days that have ever increasing light.

    Kristie in BC

  9. Anonymous10:47 AM

    Because you are hours ahead of us, I am able to check for your faithful postings as early as 5AM each day. I'd forgotten you had said you would be taking a breakand continued my habit this morning. I will miss you until you return, but also appreciate the gift of not being sucked into the computer at a busy time of year. Thank you for being part of my days. I always enjoy your thoughts, but especially your delight in the English language. Happy Holidays.

  10. Anonymous12:18 PM

    Jean, you have become my morning coffee ritual, and I'll miss reading your view on life and events until you come back! I hope you have some wonderful family time--and we'll celebrate the return of the light AND Jean. All the best for 2009.

  11. Here's wishing you a pleasant and quiet break. I miss you when you make your jaunts to Strathardle and will miss you while you have some well-deserved down time. Warm holiday hugs. -- Duffy

  12. Anonymous8:02 PM

    Wishing you happy holidays with your family and friends (and lots of candles). We will celebrate the solstice by lighting every candle in our house.
    Thank you for your thoughtful, inspiring blog posts. Usually I read your entries after the news, your (almost) daily travails are heart warming and encouraging (unlike the news).
    Along with many others, I look forward to your return,
    Erin in PA

  13. Anonymous5:24 AM

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family! I will miss your blog, which I read every morning. Just remember that tomorrow is the shortest day of the year and from then on, the day are getting longer. Thank you for the joy your blog gave me this year, and Auf Wiedersehen!
    Hilde in Germany

  14. oh the return of lights. it will work wonders. i wish you a merry christmas and a prosperous new year. especially on the eye front.

    and i second all the words about yor delightful blog. i come here to learn and to foresee the future (esp. with obama).

  15. Anonymous7:44 PM

    I was looking for knitting blogs and just happened across your blog and find it delightful; thank you for sharing. This old Devonian crafter looks forward to revisiting. Laura in the Exe Valley

  16. Anonymous12:25 PM

    Dear Jean,

    Wishing you and your family a lovely time over Christmas and a healthy, happy 2009.

    Your posts are a bright spot in my day.
    Take care,

  17. Anonymous7:19 PM

    Jean, how wise you are!!
    I look forward to your return.

    Your Cathy's books are top of the charts.. (as a retired professor of Literature and Creative Writing, I feel I may say that.)
    Two of them are available on ... perfect for knitting .. the tension she creates keeps mine constant.
    With every prayer for a year full of peace, health and yarn!!

    PS. to you who read this: Cathy is Cathy Sampson .. you'll be glad to meet her.

  18. All Best Wishes for 2009. Hope you are enjoying your festivities at Strathardle.

  19. Anonymous5:25 PM

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