Thursday, December 19, 2019

Murder at Christmas and Vin Chaud

I’m specifically mentioning ‘Murder at Christmas’, which is the latest in Profile books now annual series of crime anthologies, but what I really thinking about here is a good comfort read. For me that would almost certainly be a Georgette Heyer, but it might be something like ‘The Dark Is Rising’ or indeed some Classic Crime.

I bought ‘Murder at Christmas’ because I couldn’t resist the cover, or the names on it. It’s a decent collection, and anyone who likes a bit of golden age crime will enjoy it. I do think the British Library anthologies do this just a little bit better - one or two of the stories in here were a bit patchy, but I’ve read all of those already and there are definite gems in this too, and it was easy, comfortable, reading.

I’m really enjoying not working this Christmas, it’s been really good for me physically and mentally. I’m not bone weary, aching, covered in cuts and bruises, stressed, or especially tearful. Nobody has made me particularly angry or frustrated - and if they did I could walk away with impunity, which feels amazing. It’s still a difficult time of year. 

Yesterday I bought a new address book, partly because addresses are spread through note books, old diaries, scraps of paper, and years old messages on social media that take forever to track down. Partly because people move and my old address book was a mess of crossed out names. Mostly though because every time I look through that old book now I see a list of people who have died and it’s depressing. 

Inevitably, despite all the glitter and sparkle of the season, and sometimes because of it, there’s a lot of emotion and a lot of memories to deal with. There’s also a good bit of what might of beens and the stress of needing to keep up a festive front. It’s not an easy time, and I feel like this is the point that it really hits home. By this time next week it’ll all be over anyway, and we can start looking forward to new beginnings. 

I keep reading things that say Mulled wine is now distinctly passé whilst trying to sell me on a new cocktail, but I’m having non of it. I’m all for mulling beer, cider, stout, spiced spirit concoctions, hot vermouth - all of it, as innovative or traditional as you like (now I’m not working in wine I’ve even relaxed my views on the pre made stuff) but what’s not to love about a warm, gently spicy, drink.

I really like this Vin Chaud recipe from Ambrose Heath’s ‘Good Drinks’ because it should be easy to scale up or down and it’s simple. I’d recommend using any bottle that labels itself Good Ordinary Claret, an Eastern European Pinot Noir if you know it’s decent, a basic Beaujolais, or a Cabernet Sauvignon/merlot heavy blend from the Languedoc. 

“Sweeten a bottle of Claret or Burgundy to your taste, and heat it up slowly in a pan with a stick of Cinnamon. As soon as it approaches boiling point (for on no account must it actually boil), take it off the fire, remove the Cinnamon stick, and serve the hot wine in glasses in the bottom of which there is already a slice of lemon.”


  1. Can relate on the address book front. Having resolved and failed a couple of times decided this was THE year.
    To compound matters was then told that address books are somewhat passé however got a really nice new address book online and was a pleasure to get all addresses and postcodes in one place. It helped avoid that bittersweet roll call when doing the cards and also appreciate the new names added Anyway enjoy a stress free Christmas and all the best for a good new year Amanda

  2. Had exactly the same problem, they’ve suddenly disappeared. I eventually found a moleskine one that’s basically just an indexed book - which is a really useful thing to have for all sorts of reasons. I really don’t like being over dependent on digital everything. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and new year too.

  3. Wishing you good Christmas and New Year greetings, enjoy the lack of stress!