Advent Song for December 8: Let It Snow

And Sunday is always for crooners, and there’s none more croony than Dean Martin. Excuse the lateness and brevity of this post; we were first-night-of-the-holidays drinking last night (whisky for the boys and prosecco for the girls, true story, so I’ll have to hand in my sisterhood card in just for this week) with OVERLY HOSPITABLE friends in Glasgow. Isn’t Glasgow the best place? I might like it even more than I like Manchester. That’s not my good news story, though; and the doggy ballgown at a bargainous £40K that I’ve spent quite a lot of this morning thinking about isn’t it either. Instead it’s this news that an initial trial has indicated that a new drug could potentially reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s on the brain. That really would be good news, wouldn’t it?

Advent song for December 7: Mary’s Boy Child

As you will know if you have been following my advent calendar since it started ELEVEN YEARS ago, I like to reserve Saturday for party songs, and there are none more party than Boney M’s 1978 disco classic. Did you further know (I did, but had forgotten until today) that Bobby Farrell didn’t sing any of this, but danced and mimed along to Frank Farian singing? Apparently you could get away with that in 1978, though not for long, as Black Box and Milli Vanilli were subsequently to demonstrate.

I have a third fact for you, which is that Bobby Farrell died on 30 December 2010 in St Petersburg, the same city where Ra-Ra-Rasputin died on the same date a mere ninety-four years earlier? I know, SPOOKY.

Talking of Boy Children, today’s good news story was pointed out to me yesterday evening by my auntie Jane as we waited to cross the road at Cambridge Circus, and we all collectively ahhhh-ed in the street, so I thought I’d share it with you too, in case you missed it.

Advent song for December 6: Little Saint Nick

You may think this is late in the day, but I haven’t even opened day five on my actual advent calendar yet, so I’m doing pretty well to get it up (just) before dusk (if you’re in London or the south of England).

I sometimes think the Beach Boys are my favourite band of all. They just make a sound like nobody else, don’t they? And this video is a dream – a film of a live performance, synced perfectly with the actual album audio, because nobody actually wants to listen to a live performance. Do watch out for the dancers  suddenly appearing at about 1:30.

In even better news, did you know that a boom in battery storage is giving the UK a fighting chance of meeting the net zero emissions target? Well, you do now.

Advent song for December 5: Gaudete

Today I’m starting with the good news, because it’s the most important bit: last night I went on an outing with my “Acting For Beginners” class to see Little Miss Burden at the Bunker Theatre on Southwark Street, which we mainly chose because it’s conveniently located, the tickets were affordable and they could seat us all. But I’m so glad we picked it because it’s one of the most thrilling, hilarious, heartbreaking and beautiful pieces of theatre I can remember seeing: gorgeously written, produced and performed and just an all-round treat. It runs until December 21 and if you are in London between now and then YOU HAVE TO GO.

Rejoice, rejoice, as Steeleye Span would say. I went to see them about five years ago and they are still dazzling, but although there are live performances of their a capella Christmas classic available on YouTube, nothing quite matches the icy perfection of the original 1972 recording.

Advent Song for December 4: Merry Christmas Everyone

Shakin’ Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone is like the ur-Christmas chart hit. It’s from the eighties, like all the best music; it features bells and electronica; the video is cheesy and set in the snow; someone is dressed as an elf; it features Father Christmas, children, Shakey in a Christmas jumper, a snowball fight, a sleigh ride and, at 3:19, a key change. There’s also a beautiful moment at 3:44 where Shakey sings “children playing, having fun” whilst standing behind two children who are very evidently doing neither.

Merry Christmas Everyone is the song Cliff would have made if he hadn’t insisted on making Christmas all about Jesus. It’s a jaunty slice of electronic rock’n’roll perfection and it should be on every Christmas compilation, including this one.

Meanwhile, I’m delighted to introduce you to Kathleen Saville and Olive Woodward, both 89, who are paving the way for Shona and me, who plan, as they have done, to move into the same care home after being friends for seventy-eight years.

Advent Song for December 3: Skating

I have four separate ways to cheer you up today, depending on how much time you have. If you have 25 minutes, you can watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, right here and now. If you only have two minutes, you can listen to the Vince Guaraldi Trio perform Skating from the same film; if you have thirty seconds you can read this story (on Dezeen, which is one of the most interesting and thoughtful sites about design that I know) about Prada being the first luxury brand to take out a loan whose repayment terms are directly linked to sustainability targets; and if you only have five seconds you can just read the headline and skip the story itself. I do recommend the first one, though, and you might as well click below anyway, now you’re here.

Advent Song for December 2: One More Sleep

This modern-day, less unsettling version of the Last Christmas video where lots of young beautiful people go to the countryside together to throw snowballs, is a little bit annoying, but the song is a gorgeous one and I’ve always loved the sound of Leona Lewis’s voice. A good thing about this year’s theme is that it gives me free rein to include a mixture of modern pop, jazz/crooner standards and carols, so that is what I’ve done, although I think this is probably the newest song on the list.

Talking of modern pop, and women with great voices, today’s bit of good news that you might have missed is Sia sneaking into a supermarket in LA last week and paying for strangers’ shopping by pretending to be a lottery winner called “CiCi” who wanted to share her good fortune. This is both inspired and inspiring. If you could just make one person’s day better, even, why wouldn’t you?

Advent 2019: Good news, it’s Christmas!

I nearly didn’t do an advent calendar this year, partly because none of the ideas I had quite grabbed me, and partly because what with a General Election exactly halfway through advent, the planet being on fire and the overwhelming shitshow that is both the global and national political scene, I wasn’t sure I could keep up the requisite amount of seasonal cheer.

But then I realised, well, that’s the point, isn’t it? A moment of brightness in the dark. A chance to remember that not everything is awful. So this year’s calendar will feature a daily dose of good news, as well as a Christmas song that makes me happy. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that all Christmas songs would make me happy, but some make me wistful and others make me irritated and nothing that falls into either category gets a look-in this year. I am also not including anything by anyone whose death I am still sad about, so there’s no George Michael (sorry Lucy), David Bowie or Kirsty McColl this year, but we are allowed Bing Crosby and, of course, because it is literally the happiest Christmas song of all, Andy Williams with his completely joyous and uplifting version of Sleigh Ride.

As Adam Hills says on The Last Leg every time something awful happens, the trick to avoid sinking into despair is to look for the people who are helping. Today’s good news is a month old, but you might have missed it: a research team in Sweden have found a way to store solar energy for up to ten years, making the prospect of heating homes in winter via solar power a viable one.

Advent song for Christmas Eve: December Song

As I explained twenty-four days ago, Cliff hasn’t had a Christmas hit in the last decade so we couldn’t squeeze him in, but the other patron saint of Christmas, George Michael, did have a belated follow-up to Last Christmas in 2008 (and again the next year, because that can happen now), with this beautiful and wistful song. I’m still a bit cross that he’s not here, but if he can’t be then praise baby Jesus that at least we can still listen to him.

Note: if you’ve already been Whamageddoned then you should obviously listen to Last Christmas immediately after this. If you’re still playing, you can stay within the rules by listening to my brother’s version instead.

Merry Georgemas!

Advent song for December 23: One More Sleep

It’s sort of fitting that I forgot to publish this yesterday because now there really is one more sleep to go. And lucky you, you get to enjoy it at 6.45am because lucky me, I forgot to switch off my alarm even though I absolutely don’t have to go to work today, or (currently) ever again.

This is the almost-winner because if you’ve been playing close attention you’ll have noticed that all of the songs we’ve had until now are yet to become nailed-on stone-cold Christmas classics…except for this one, which just is.