I'm still in Shetland, the wind is still blowing (which is okay because we have a wind turbine which dumps excess energy into heated towel rails so the less appealing it is outside the hotter the bathroom gets, and eventually the whole house - because, boy, do those towel rails heat up) and the rain is driving horizontally across the landscape. Perversely this is the weather I miss most when I'm not here. Good weather in Shetland is beautiful, but even the city looks good in the sun, whereas is takes proper countryside to still appeal on a day like this.
However much I might like the view from the window (with the comfort of that towel rail at my back) I'm not entirely inclined to go out in it (no seriously wet weather boots for a start) so I'm making bread and leafing through a few books, including Kate Young's 'The Little Library Christmas' which is an absolute treat.
The Little Library books are great, and if I don't really need another Christmas cookbook (I have 2, and always go to my mothers anyway - she has no intention of giving up the apron just yet) I've always got space for a book about books and food, and the thoughts of Kate Young who is an author who feels like a friend when you read her. Someone who can suggest the most luxurious hot chocolate recipe, recommend a handful of good books to you, and if a whole book sounds like to much effort to concentrate on then reading a chapter of a book like this is more than enough to keep me happy.
I've long been an advocate of starting Christmas preparations early, October is the perfect time for making cakes and mincemeat (there's a recipe in here that sounds good, and that can be used more quickly than the Fiona Cairns recipe I normally favour. Maybe this will be the year to try something different?), for perhaps buying a few new decorations, choosing cards, making lists. This Christmas might be different for a lot of us, but that seems like all the more reason to plan to me.
If another lock down, or something that feels very like it, is looming then we will need things to look forward to, ways to look after ourselves, and ways to care for others. Something else I warm to about this book is that it covers quiet nights in alone. Both the hardest and easiest thing about most of this year for me has been how much time I've spent alone. I don't dislike it, but I'm very aware of the effect it has on me; it's very easy to stop considering other people or their points of view when you don't have a lot of contact outside your own very small bubble.
That in itself is another reason to enjoy a companionable sort of book like this - the recipes look good, there's some pickled sprouts and a chutney I especially want to try, and if a good proportion have appeared in the other Little Library books there are more than enough new ones to make this worth having just for the food. But again, it's the book talk, and someone who understands the importance and magic of a Christmas tree that really calls to me. It's the sort of book that reminds us we never really have to be alone if we don't want to be, and that there's much worse company to be found than that in the pages of a favourite book.
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