And it is cold outside (and in) I’ve been delivered from the warm comfort of my mother’s house to a cold comfort flat. The heat is coming on slowly but in the meantime I’ve eaten far too much chocolate in a probably misguided effort to warm up, and some very good carrot and whisky soup (which my mum sent me home with, I love my mum) which actually has warmed me up.
My brief Christmas break is all but over – I’m back at work in the morning (and none too enthusiastic about it) so I have a few brief carefree hours left in which to curse the freeview box for breaking down (though blessing the fact that my very old second hand television works well enough without it to let me see ‘upstairs downstairs’ later) and play with my new books. One of the things I struggle over with Christmas is that from a retail point of view it dominates the year, one way or another it’s been on my mind since august and has left room for little else since the beginning of November. Now it’s the 26th of December and it’s all over – not a slow wind down to match the slow wind up, but an abrupt finish which no matter how many years I spend in this business I’ve never managed to get used to – perhaps it’s why I love new year so much; it feels like a second chance to enjoy friends and family, but with all the pressure taken off.
Care of my lovely mother I have a stack of Trollope’s and Wharton’s to read – all very exciting, but the book that really absorbed me yesterday, and seems entirely appropriate to match against BBC 2’s day of war films is ‘PUNCH Goes to War 1939 – 1945’. I’ve wanted this ever since I first saw it a month or two ago. I was a great fan of Punch from when I discovered it sometime in the 1980’s until it folded in the early 90’s (the briefly resurrected magazine was not the same thing). I spent happy hours on rainy days looking through bound albums from the 1880’s at my father’s (searching for jokes I understood) and fascinating hours looking through similar albums in university libraries. ‘The Best of Punch Cartoons’ cheered me up whilst I was recuperating from surgery a couple of years ago and ‘Punch Goes to War’ saw me through a family Christmas – what more can I say!
Actually the family Christmas was a pleasure; Punch wasn’t an escape - more a fascinating distraction. It’s true that a picture paints a thousand words and there are so many pictures here; for me with my love of so much fiction from this period this feels like an indispensible book. There are single cartoons that could stand as whole chapters of ‘Henrietta’s War’, or ‘Mrs Miniver’ not to mention the provincial lady’s adventures (there’s a piece by E M Delefield in here as well, but I read it with the combination of a frightful cold and too much Champagne in my system so didn’t really take it in.)
So far my favourite shows a young lady waiting on the quayside as a fleet comes into harbour – a dockhand is telling her “ ’Ere comes the Liberty men, miss.” To which she replies “Thanks, but I’m waiting for the ones from the ‘Undaunted’”. Any way I look at it this is a book of treasures (so glad my many hints weren’t ignored) which I’m very pleased to have and anticipate much further enjoyment from.