Advent Song for December 23: I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

Wouldn’t that be a nice way to spend the year? I love this song and it gets ranked above Slade because the video is so much fun, with its brass band and collection of small children (who must, I suppose, be in their fifties now) with only the very faintest idea what they’re doing there.

There is a prize if you guess tomorrow’s song! In the meantime, enjoy this news about a stick library for dogs. It’s literally as good as that sounds.

Advent Song for December 20: Stay Another Day

YES I KNOW IT’S A SAD SONG but it makes me happy, because it was Christmas number one in 1994, the year I went away to university, and it reminds me of sitting in my student halls kitchen at Essex watching it on a teeny TV which you had to change channels on by turning a dial and waiting for the snow to mostly disappear (this is how the radio in my bedroom still works). The first year of university, if you are lucky enough to go, is a magical time: you are living independently but with a massive professional support network hidden just out of sight; in my day you had – unthinkably – a student grant (just); you’re only expected to attend about nine hours of lectures and seminars each week (is this still true? I have no idea) and the rest of the time is yours, to stretch your wings, join political societies, drink £1.20 pints of Foster’s at 4pm and fall in and out of love at least half a dozen times.

I address you from my sofa, where I am waiting for a man to finish fixing the dishwasher so that I can open the windows and waft away the strong smell of drains that he has created (via the dishwasher’s workings; not personally) and in some ways my life is more prosaic now than it was then, but it’s also a lot more satisfying and less turbulent, and there are children and dogs involved (not mine, but nearby, which means all the fun and none of the responsibility) and all the people who were important then are still important now, plus there are some really awesome new ones, so really 2019 is better than 1994 I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO and one excellent illustration of that fact is that for the first time this year renewable energy sources have overtaken gas as the UK’s largest power supplier, as the proportion of our energy generated by fossil fuels fell to an all-time low. Good.

Advent Song for December 19: Merry Christmas Everybody

I think I was in my early teens when I heard this song in a shop during December and thought: hey, that terrible Christmas song from the olden days is actually really great! And I was right, it is. Only Do They Know It’s Christmas? gets more people involuntarily rocking out, and that is banned this year because it’s not happy, although if you need to listen to it anyway don’t worry; I got your back.

You know who else has got your back? The children of Aberdeenshire, who will be tomorrow’s lifesavers after being taught first aid using teddy bears. This is a rare example of a news story that is both positive-impact-in-the-world good and OMIGOD CUUUUUTE good. Happy Thursday!

Advent Song for December 18: Coventry Carol (and some Wham!)

I don’t know if this is intrinsically cheerful – the verse about killing babies, at least, probably isn’t – but it’s such a beautiful, haunting carol that I always get a tingle up my spine when I hear it. This version is by the Westminster Cathedral Choir, but there are lots of recordings, from the sublime (this) to the ridiculous (this).

I have a good link, rather than a piece of good news, for you today: this 4K restoration of the Last Christmas video is so crystal-clear that there’s a sort of cognitive dissonance going on, because this was evidently only recorded last week. I know I said no George Michael (sorry Lucy), but this is too good to skip.

Advent Song for December 17: Wonderful Christmastime

First off, I need you to let me know if the sound is OK in the video I’ve chosen, because I’ve left my headphones at home so I can’t listen to it. But even the video of this song makes me happy because it’s a perfect illustration of the enduring guileless charm of Sir Thumbsaloft and co. He literally is this cheerful! Imagine that! No wonder he’s still going strong, the only material difference between 1960s Paul and 2010s Paul the purple hair-dye and the transposition of some of the big hits down a key or two so that he can still hit the high notes. Let’s all age like Paul McCartney.

In further agreeably eccentric English news, you will absolutely want to click through and look at the pictures in this story about three penguins visiting the residents of a Lincoln care home.

Advent Song for December 16: Carol of the Birds

This is another song I never would have heard if it hadn’t been for 2012’s Christmas Songs from Around the World. I loved it the first time around, and I love it even more now that I’ve visited Australia (though not at Christmas; something I would like to rectify one day). There are lots of awesome things about Australia, but the most awesome of all – I use the word in both its original and more usual sense – is the wildlife, and, neatly, I can pair this beautiful carol with the good news that a solar-powered sound system, installed on Broughton Island, New South Wales and playing recordings of birdsong, has successfully lured breeding sea birds there to nest, including a petrel until recently thought to be extinct. And that’s pretty awesome too.

Advent Song for December 15: It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

This is just a lovely warm hug of a song. And Perry Como = Christmas anyway, because they used his recording of Magic Moments in a Quality Street advert and Quality Street are the main type of Christmas chocolate, or at least they were until Nestlé bought them. Let’s not talk about the world of chocolate mergers and acquisitions; it’s liable to make me riled, which is the opposite of what this advent calendar is for. Did you know Magic Moments is a Burt Bacharach/Hal David number? I didn’t, and I’m still not quite sure I believe it, but it is apparently so.

Did you go to a Christmas party this weekend? I didn’t; I spent Friday night watching The Apprentice with the dog and Saturday night watching the Strictly final with my family (and the dog). (Karim was robbed.) But if you are a partygoing sort of person you will know that Christmas party outfits are the kind you buy and then wear at best three times before stuffing them back into the cupboard for next year, which is why it is excellent news that the Stockholm branch of H&M is trialling a clothes rental service this Christmas, so you pay a subscription, borrow what you need and then give it back so the next person can do the same, thus saving money, waste and another little bit of the planet. It would be Stockholm, wouldn’t it? Shall we all move to Scandinavia?

Advent Song for December 14: Step Into Christmas

I said yesterday that I don’t listen to much music, which is true but it means that when I have a few days of listening to something obsessively, which I do do, it always ends up as that year’s top song on my Spotify history. The only song to have topped the list in multiple years is ABBA’s My Love, My Life, which I snobbishly lost interest in slightly after it featured in Mamma Mia 2 (which I haven’t seen) but it is an incredible song and you should listen to it today if you don’t know it.

This year that slot is occupied by Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road which I listened to over and over again after it was used to dazzling effect in the opening credits sequence for Rocketman, the part-biopic, part-musical-fantasy version of Elton’s life which came out earlier this year. I should admit that I was also a bit obsessed with the film; an obsession which petered out a little after I read his autobiography (also this year; the Elton John publicity machine has excelled itself promoting his goodbye tour which yes, I am also going to) and discovered his actual life was quite a lot funnier and more interesting than the movie (but you should still see the movie).

Anyway this isn’t one of my absolute favourite Christmas singles, although the interlude at 1:57 is glorious, but I do love the video, so today you must watch as well as listen, please. (Nothing in particular happens; it’s just Elton doing Elton.)

Today’s good news should serve as a reminder, among other things, that everything going to shit here doesn’t mean everything going to shit everywhere. In Mexico, some of the poorest families in the state of Tabasco are starting to move into flood-resistant 3D-printed houses which can be built for $4000 in 48 hours. Back when I thought I might be interested in academic research in the future of housing on a planet with reducing resources and an increasing population, I don’t think I’d have ever imagined this as a possibility. (In the event, I got a job in a bookshop instead.)

Advent song for December 13: I get knocked down, but I get up again

…but maybe not just yet. I am amazed and inspired by the people who, mere hours after the worst possible election outcome, are already planning and campaigning for what’s next. I will get back up again, but as of today I’m officially ignoring the real world and retreating into two weeks of friends, family and food, ready to face 2020 with a new vision (see what I did there) and resolution (and again).

And music, of course. Most of the year I don’t really listen to music, because I can’t do that and something else at the same time and there’s almost always something else to be doing. (It’s why I like film scores and soundtracks so much, because you can listen to them and watch a film at the same time.) But at Christmas I am all about the music. This morning my brother Will sent the siblings a Spotify link to an album of the carols we used to listen to when we were small, and I have shut out the worst of today by being transported back to the nineteen eighties (which has happened in more ways than one, I suppose). So I’m going to swap today’s planned song with one I had earmarked for next week and bring you back in time with me to 1982 and the original (Peter Auty, not Aled Jones) version of Walking In The Air. It’s not exactly happy, given how The Snowman ends, but it makes ME happy, so it still counts.

Advent Song for December 11: Winter Wonderland

I’ve got two versions of this song for you today, because the Bing Crosby below is the perky, lilting version we all know but there’s a gorgeous version by Doris Day, with an equally gorgeous video, which only doesn’t win out because it’s a little too slow to be truly uplifting. So take your pick.

I’ve also got two pieces of good news for you! The first is that despite a cold, three nights of eating and drinking, Scottish-style, followed by an evening out with internet weirdos last night, I am feeling almost as jaunty as Bing today, for reasons which remain unclear but I’m taking advantage of it by getting a lot of work done (except for just now).

The second, probably of more value in the long term, is that 2019 is set to see the biggest ever reduction in coal consumption.