Winter has arrived. In Birnam we’re frost-bound and wearing a light coat of snow. These conditions may persist for some time. The one drawback to this otherwise lovely place is that we’re down by the river at the bottom of a cleft between two hills, behind one of which the sun vanishes for two months, from St Andrew’s night to Burns’ night.
Lack of light in mid-winter is energy-sapping. Mood-sapping too, if one isn’t careful. Plenty of outings are de rigueur. A month in the Caribbean would be better still. But first there’s Christmas, that strange, conflicted time of year that brings all the anticipation and excitement and pleasure of family togetherness and giving, yet also all the anxiety attendant on getting it right for everyone and the feeling that one is already running on empty with the darkest months still to come.
So I’m conserving my energy and signing off now till the New Year. But not without saying a heartfelt ‘Thank you’ to everyone who has been reading, commenting and emailing over the last 12 months. When I first posted, by chance, on a Friday morning I had no idea what a good ending to the week I had engineered for myself. Over the last five years I’ve come to love the extra frisson of the inbox ping on a Friday morning. It’s sometimes surprising and always gratifying. It leaves me with a warm feeling of connections made and something shared. So, again, thank you all.
Now one final word. We had our Edinburgh International Book Festival board Christmas lunch yesterday (eight women, four men – Nicola Sturgeon, please take note). It’s an exceptionally nice and interesting group of people and we always have a very convivial time. It’s become a tradition that during the meal we take it in turn to name our favourite book of the year. So just in case you’re still needing inspiration for Christmas presents, here’s the list:
The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton
H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
Whoops, John Lanchester
Days of Abandoment, Elena Ferrante
Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari
I Put A Spell On You, John Burnside
In The Approaches, Nicola Barker
The Rest Just Follows, Glenn Paterson
The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber
Nightgames, Anna Krien
Any Other Mouth, Annaliese Mackintosh
The Land Agent, J David Simons
Leaving Berlin, Joseph Kanon
Us, David Nicholls
The Old Ways, Robert Macfarlane
To which I must add one more: Keeping Mum, by the Dark Angels collective. Although it’s had no publicity at all (we suspect that those who might have given it a fair wind made the assumption that because it was written by 15 people it couldn’t be any good – and how wrong they are), we’ve had fantastic feedback from most people who’ve read it. Trust me – I wouldn’t be trying to flog you a turkey at Christmas.
See you in 2015.