Merry Belated Christmas!

focks
Me on Christmas morning… do you like my focks?

Once again I find myself bestowing festive greetings upon my followers a full five days after the big event, but better late than never! I hope you all had a simply marvellous time and that Father Christmas brought you lots of lovely, wonderful things ♥

Once again I threw myself upon the mercy of my boyfriend’s family as my own abandoned me for some winter sun. I have been promised that next year things will be different as my mum has put her foot down and demanded a Christmas at home next year (a likely story!).

As is to be expected, I was yet again spoiled rotten, Mark’s mum even going so far as to cook me a delicious nut roast for my Christmas dinner… It was absolutely delicious, and I believe I will be eating the leftovers from now until forever. Thank you so much, Wheeler family!

Some of the beautiful gifts I received:

  • Vaara perfume from Penhaligon’s from Mark’s incredibly naughty mum
  • Some fantastic cookbooks from my parents (including Deliciously Ella Every Day by Ella Woodward)
  • Some money from my nan, which I have used to buy some more perfume from the Body Shop, a new pair of pyjamas, and some new make-up from Kat Von D.
  • A trip down memory lane from my sister in the form of The Great Animal Search (Georgia and I loved this book when we were little, and then my dad accidentally left it behind in a Floridian pizza hut somewhere)
  • A 6-month renewal of my Mr B’s Reading subscription
  • A skull-shaped tea infuser from Mark’s sister
  • A ton of tea from T2

And, the best thing, from my boyfriend who likes to spoil me rotten…

MY DREAM TEA SET ♥

iggy-and-loulou-teaset

I am not kidding you, I took the above photograph back in July for posterity, back when owning this incredible designer teaset by Iggy and Loulou from T2 was but a distant dream. I literally believed that I was photographing art. If it were possible to take my brain and transform it into a tea set, this would be it. Black and white porcelain with rustic etchings of anchors, birds, 18th century dancing figures… the teapot lid even has a skull on top.

iggy-and-loulou-teapot

You see this picture here? Unlike the previous image, these photos were taken from inside my own home. That’s right. Thanks to Mark, I am now the proud owner of this incredible tea set! I can’t believe it! What do I do with it? I don’t even know. It’s too beautiful to use. I’ve had to put it away in a box to stop Edgar from smashing it into a million pieces. It needs its own cabinet! It needs to be on display for the whole world to see! Oh my goodness, I’m so excited.

Thank you so, so much, my darling! I love you so, so much and thank you to everyone else for all your thoughtful, wonderful gifts ♥

Tomorrow marks the very end of the rubbish year that has been 2016. As yet my plans are a bit up in the air but, if you guys are going out to celebrate, remember to stay safe as always and I hope that you have a very, very Happy New Year!

Here’s to a more positive and productive 2017. Cheers!

S.E. Berrow

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Christmas Music: S.E. Berrow Edition

As I explained at length last year, I absolutely love Christmas. The cold weather, the Christmas lights, putting up my tree a month early, wrapping up presents, watching tat on the tele, being overly critical of supermarket Christmas adverts (Sainsbury’s, this is what you produce after last year’s triumph? Hang your heads in shame) and of course, all the yummy food.

There is however one aspect of Christmas that I absolutely cannot stand, and that is the hideously repetitive Christmas music that plays on all the radios and TV adverts.

I’m certain I’m not alone in this. It’s the same songs every single year: Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’, Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’ (Do you really, Wizzard? I mean, really think about it for a second… Do you?), East 17’s ‘Stay Now’, The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale Of New York’… Yes, that’s right, I hold the rather unpopular opinion that I would quite happily never listen to ‘Fairytale Of New York’ by the Pogues ever again. Widely regarded by my friends and family as the Greatest Christmas Song ever written, I personally think they only love it because they get to say a really offensive word halfway through that they’d be horrified to use in real life. Don’t bother arguing with me, Said-Friends; you know it to be true!

‘Fairytale Of New York’ aside, it is not the Christmas songs themselves that wind me up. Objectively, ‘All I Want For Christmas’ is a cracking pop song, the lyrics of ‘Christmas Wrapping’ by the Waitresses are hilariously relatable, Jona Lewie’s ‘Stop The Cavalry’ continues to be painfully relevant after the politically turbulent year we’ve just had, and Nat King Cole’s ‘The Christmas Song’ prompts amazingly nostalgic memories from my childhood. No, what really irritates me is that the radio DJs and retail marketing departments refuse to acknowledge any Christmas songs released post-1995, and no, wistful indie-rock covers by a softly-spoken female vocalists for the latest John Lewis advert definitely do not count. If an artist does release an original Christmas song (e.g. the excellent ‘One More Sleep’ by Leona Lewis from 2013), it’s promoted for a single season and then never heard again…

However, as you may have gathered if you’ve followed my blog for a while, I love music, and I’m used to my favoured genres and artists not being played on the radio and on shop floors. So what does one do when they wish to escape the inane dirge but still get into the Christmas spirit? Why, listen to something else of course!

Here are just a few of my favourite alternative Christmas jams:

 

1. ‘We Three Kings’ – Abney Park (Through Your Eyes On Christmas Eve, 2012)

I am aware of the irony of presenting a traditional Christmas song to be first on my list after harping on about a lack of originality in Christmas music for several paragraphs, however Abney Park’s trademark steampunk sound unleashed on this particularly dark and morbid hymn is what makes this song stand out. “Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom; sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in a stone-cold tomb”.

 

2. Candy Cane Children – The White Stripes (Merry Christmas From The White Stripes, 2002)

I have fond memories of being rather obsessed with this song around Christmas 2005; I’d only just ‘discovered’ the White Stripes that November. It’s a stripped-back slightly morbid number that vaguely references seasonal depression and/or school shootings… I think! The title is a reference to die-hard fans of the White Stripes, known as Candy Cane Children, and the lyric “Nobody knows how to talk to children” was also the title of a pulled documentary. I really love the dark tones of the lyrics and, as always with White Stripes songs, the guitar riff is damned catchy and hits you right in the gut.

 

3. ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ – Melora Creager (Egg Nog Edition, 2013)

egg-nog-edition

Sadly I cannot find a streamable version of this song anywhere for you to listen to, or indeed any evidence on the internet that this ever existed at all… but it definitely does, because I own a copy! Like ‘We Three Kings’ (and along with the ‘Carol of the Bells’), ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ is one of my favourite Christmas carols, so to hear my favourite musician of all time give such a beautiful, minimalist rendition accompanied by both acoustic and electric cello is quite something. Melora Creager is the founder, lead singer and cellist in the pioneering chamber rock outfit, Rasputina.

 

4. Gothic Christmas – Within Temptation (Mother Earth Tour DVD easter egg, 2003)

Within Temptation’s ‘Gothic Christmas’ is what happens when a symphonic metal band puts their mind to writing an original Christmas song. Objectively speaking, this song’s production is pretty terrible, Sharon Del Adel’s usually strong, delicate voice sounds strained, and the music lacks Within Temptation’s usual orchestral punch. The lyrics however poke brilliant fun at the band’s own genre, and I love it: “Santa’s going to grunt in Latin and slay a dragon or two. Rudolph, he will change his name, ‘cause Rudolph just sounds really lame. Now we’ll call him Ragnagord, our evil reindeer overlord. His nose it shall be red no more, it will be blackened to the core!”

 

5. Jingle Hell – Christopher Lee (A Heavy Metal Christmas Too, 2013)

This one is more of a novelty song than anything. Christopher Lee, he of the operatic bass voice, is a little-known huge fan of the symphonic metal genre. Lee actually released his first metal album, Charlamagne: By The Sword And The Cross at the ripe old age of 88, because nothing keeps an ex-Nazi hunter down. From that point onward, he released metal-renditions of Christmas carols every year up until his death in June 2015. ‘Jingle Hell’ was his second offering, and you can hear him talk about it here.

What a legend.

 

6. ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ – The Darkness (2003)

Unlike other songs featured on my list, this song by early 00s glam-rock band The Darkness does actually very occasionally get some airtime. Released in 2003, X Factor was having a year off for reasons I cannot remember, so we actually had a genuine race to reach the Christmas no. 1 spot for the first time in God knows how long. Unfortunately this track lost out to a cover of Tears For Fears’ ‘Mad World’ by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews (a beautiful song, but hella depressing to listen to at Christmas and not exactly what I would call festive). Despite reaching the same point in the charts as The Pogues and Mariah Carey, The Darkness’ genuinely joyful and celebratory offering hardly ever gets played on the radio, and is usually relegated to Christmas compilation CDs.

 

7. ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’ – Dean Martin (A Winter Romance, 1959)

Christmas With Nat And Dean (1990) soundtracked my childhood Christmases. This song is my favourite off of that album (and frequently named as my absolute favourite ever Christmas song), and it just reminds me of being all warm and cosy and sheltered in front of the fire and unwrapping all the beautiful gifts that my mummy and daddy had got for me that year, surrounded by family, toys and good food.

 

8. This Ain’t New Jersey – Smith & Burrows (Funny Looking Angels, 2011)

The most recent addition to my list of favourite Christmas songs, ’This Ain’t New Jersey’ is a simply beautiful ballad sung by Tom Smith (Editors) about a couple having a huge trivial fight over the use of the American name ’Santa Claus’ instead of the English ‘Father Christmas’. The protagonist of the song expresses disillusionment with the Christmas period pretty much in line with this blog post (“Those same old songs every single year, we drink, we sing and forget the things we need to hear”), only to eventually get snowed in with his partner in the pub on Christmas Eve. When the fight fizzles out the next day, he is able to set aside the stress and commercialism of the period and remembers to say that he loves his partner very much after all. I love the song’s relatability, melancholy and honesty, and the fact it still manages to have a happy ending. Just beautiful.

 

I hope that you enjoyed this post and that you feel enlightened and inspired to seek out other alternative tracks to listen to this Christmas!

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me…

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 20.47.07A very Merry belated Christmas to you all! I hope you had a simply marvellous time, ate lots of food, drank lots of yummy wine/brandy/liqueurs and gave and received lots of wonderful gifts! Considering that I banned Christmas amongst my friends and family this year (everyone except my boyfriend) due to my being house-poor and unable to afford presents for so many people, I was rather spoiled in return. I really hope things will be different next year so that I can say thank you to everyone for your kindness and generosity over this festive period! Especially to Mark’s family who took me in for the second year in a row on Christmas Day, cooked me turkey and consoled me in the annual absence of my parents, who prefer to spend Christmas in the Caribbean rather than back at home (I can’t think for the life of me imagine why…).

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 21.26.54
My colouring so far of Geillis Duncan from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander

Amongst the gifts I did receive, there was a decided theme going on… BOOKS! I received so many books and book-related things that I am just in book-lovers Heaven right now! From my boyfriend alone, I received:

  • Outlander: Season One (Collector’s Edition) on Blu-Ray DVD (based on one of my favourite book series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon)
  • Hardback edition of The Art of Tim Burton
  • Hardback edition of The Napkin Art of Tim Burton
  • Fallout 4 Vault Dwellers Survival Guide (Collector’s Edition)
  • A skull-shaped USB hub
  • Guylian chocolates
  • Chocolate coins

Best of all, he also bought me a Reading Year from Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights!!! I am so excited about this gift, I cannot tell you… You’ll just have to read all about it for yourself here! I simply cannot wait for my first book to arrive… ahhhhhhh! ♥

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… I love you, Sweetiepie! I’m so grateful to have you in my life x

Snowmen love Erin Nicole Photography
Photo by Erin Nicole Photography

I also received some delicious East India Trading Company teas, some lovely gothic jewellery, an Outlander colouring book, colouring pencils, chocolate, socks, a new outfit (black of course), an old-fashioned globe and stag-design coat-hook for my study, Waterstone’s vouchers, more chocolate and monies.

So as I said… spoiled. Totally and utterly spoiled.

Tomorrow is the final day of 2015 and I plan to spend it chillaxing with my cats and all my lovely new books. If you guys are going out to celebrate, remember to stay safe and have a very Happy New Year!

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

Christmassy Calamities

ReindeerContrary to the vast majority of my friends and family (K.F. Goodacre being a major exception), I actually bloody love Christmas. I love the decorations, the cold weather, the food, the lights, the films, the TV, not having to work… Though it may only be 22 November, I’ve been suckered in by the commercialism of it all. In fact I felt so gosh darned Christmassy on Saturday – probably because they switched on the Christmas lights in my local high street and set up Santa’s Grotto with real life reindeer (pictured) – I actually gave in and put up my Christmas tree… in November. It even has a present beneath it already! I also dressed up Jack Skellington in his Sandy Claws outfit, and stuck snowflakes on my window.

Christmas TreeToo early, I hear you say. Well tough! Since doing so I’ve begun to feel really excited about the Christmas holidays and I feel all warm and bubbly inside. I feel like it’s what’s going to get me through the remainder of a quite frankly exhausting year. I have lots to look forward to: Nightwish, going away with my boyfriend, spending time with his family on Christmas Day (mine shall be abandoning me for a Caribbean Cruise)… Due to the fact I’m house-poor at the moment I’ve warned everyone that I’m only going to be buying my boyfriend presents this year, but I’m really looking forward to giving him those!

Mog's Christmas CalamityI even popped into Sainsburys and bought myself a copy of Mog’s Christmas Calamity by Judith Kerr, specially written for Sainsburys in partnership with Harper Collins Childrens Books, the profits of which will go towards Save The Children and improving child literacy across the UK.

I used to read a lot of Mog’s adventures when I was young, and I was so excited when I learned of this initiative. Reading and cats – two of my favourite things! And all for a good cause.

You can watch the short film version of the advert (which you may or may not have seen on the tele) narrated by Emma Thompson below. It’s absolutely wonderful and easily my favourite Christmas advert so far this year! I’m just sad they ran out of Mog toys, because I would have bought one of those too.

Speaking of cats and good causes, do you need any wrapping paper? Are you planning on sending out any Christmas cards? If so, please consider purchasing some from the Cats Protection Christmas Shop here. Every penny goes back into helping the cats make it through the winter and New Year.

Cats Protection Christmas Shop

Hope you all had a lovely weekend, and that the week ahead of you is a pleasant one.

Take care,

S.E. Berrow