Festive fun, Sparta, and proof, if it were needed, that felt-booted lute players are the devil’s minstrels.

A belated Happy New Year to one and all! Christmas is now but a distant memory, yet I’m reluctant to cease the treats and have turned the crisps, wine and mince pie-related revelry into a firmly established lifestyle choice. Before I embark upon a ruthless fitness plan inspired by the daily challenges of life in your average Spartan village, I thought I’d have a last longing look at all that festive fun and show you some of the things Santa brought me.

My best present was having my son home from the merchant navy, and having the family reunited for a few weeks was wonderful. I received a lovely clutch of books on Christmas morning, the perfect combination of highly-acclaimed fiction, collected letters, a modern feminist classic, and a pair of fabulous cookbooks to get my teeth into.


After spending Christmas with family up in North Yorkshire, we returned home to a week of lounging in pyjamas, reading and telly-watching punctuated only by the need to graze and to refresh beverages. Daring ourselves to break out of our reclusion on New Year’s Eve, we visited our friends, Paula, Esme, and Paula’s mum Terry, who was down for Christmas. I’m so glad we went as Paula had dusted down her old record player and we had a hoot flicking through old vinyl and playing random tunes. It was the perfect pop-up party, and with fabulous food too. Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I am no fan of the lute, or lute-players in general, but I am especially distrustful of those who prance around woodland in pointy felt booties which is in fact, all of them. And here is the proof, discovered while flicking through Paula’s box of LPs.

scary lute player

For the record (see what I did there?), I think it’s only fair to point out that Paula’s vinyl collection is not limited to the godawful piddlings of lute and recorder players in velvet hose and tapestry traffic cones atop their heads. She also has an admirable selection of Bowie and Northern soul to which she can provide an assured demonstration of the appropriate dance moves in exchange for sweets.

While I love spending lazy days with my family in front of a roaring fire, one thing that is certain to tempt me away from all that coziness is football. There’s something shocking about suddenly switching from a sleepy burrow to being in the stands under the glare of the floodlights, surrounded by tens of thousands of fans, alive with the cold and the crackling electricity of shared hopes, fears, elation and dismay in turns. I relish it, so when the opportunity to see Swansea play Tottenham cropped up, I jumped at the chance. Neither the torrential rain or freezing cold could dampen the thrill. Weirdly, I could see Graeme Souness ‘punditting’ for the telly in the fancy glass box behind me, which was entertaining if a little distracting.

After my year of not buying books (not entirely successful – oops!) I thought I’d go nuts and bring home wheelie-bins full of new purchases as soon as I could. When it came to it, I was quite restrained. After a mooch around some charity shops in Cardigan I came away with these beauties, but I’m happy to report that I’m feeling far more discerning about what books I should buy, so I think the ban has done me some good.

I’ve even had a bit of a de-clutter, purging my shelves of books I’ve read that I won’t read again, and those which I can’t imagine summoning the impetus to begin at all. So far, I’ve filled three carrier bags, which are now ready to go off to the charity shop. Well, when in Sparta….!