Friday 25 December 2020




Wishing you every happiness on this day of days!


Original art by Lesley Fotherby for Jeffrey Archer's The Son of God

Thursday 24 December 2020



Before Charles Dickens wrote his much-adored masterpiece, A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas (1843), he had composed 'A Christmas Carol' in verse and included it The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, otherwise known as The Pickwick Papers (1836).

In Chapter XXVII of that book – titled 'A good-humored chapter' – the Pickwickians visit Dingley Dell and spend the Christmas holiday with Mr Wardle and his family. During the ensuing jovialities, their host – "a  merry old gentleman" – sings 'A Christmas Carol' in praise of the season in, the author reports, a good, round, sturdy voice".

In 1890, many years after Dickens had written those verses and had gone on to use the phrase 'A Christmas Carol' as a title for his story about the reformation of the miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, publishers Marcus Ward & Co. Ltd., extracted Mr Wardle's song from its context within the setting of the Dingley Dell celebrations and issued it as a slim book in its own right, with illustrations by the Irish painter, Frank Bindley.

Here it is: one Dickens' rare poems, but significant in that it was written in celebration of that time of the year of which the author was such a passionate advocate...



Friday 4 December 2020


I recently came across this beautiful piece of (Norman Rockwellian) art by James Gurney for the National Geographic...


This painting perfectly captures my emotions whenever I see a pile of those alluring sunshine-yellow-bordered magazines in a second-hand bookshop! I can never resist having a rummage – if only to see whether they might just happen to have a copy of the August 1963 issue with its glorious multi-page article on Walt Disney!

Every issue is a tantalising passport to the amazing and beautiful... And I'm also reminded of that scene in It's A Wonderful Life (a film the dialogue of which I now know almost by heart!) where the young George Bailey is working as a soda-jerk in Mr Gower's drugstore...

Young George: Make up your mind yet?
Young Mary: I'll take chocolate.
Young George: With coconuts?
Young Mary: I don't like coconuts.
Young George: Don't like coconuts? Say brainless, don't you know where coconuts come from? [George pulls out a copy of The National Geographic Magazine] Look-it here, from Tahiti, the Fiji Islands, Coral Sea.
Young Mary: A new magazine! I never saw it.
Young George: 'Course you never. This is just for explorers. It just so happens I've been nominated for membership in The National Geographic Society. I'm going out exploring some day, just you watch. And I might even have a harem, and maybe even one or two wives.
In the movie, George Bailey never becomes the great explorer he dreamed of being and neither have I, but we still have The National Geographic Magazine and – whether we're cozily-ensconced with a copy by our fireside or, as in Gurney's painting, sitting in a cluttered attic that we ought to clearing! – it is ever-ready to carry us off to far-away places and show us what a wonderful, glorious, mysterious, precious world we share...