Advent song for December 16: Happy Christmas, Kate!

There was never much doubt as to whom Kate would pick for the advent calendar (not that she knew that that was what she was doing, at the time). Kate is a woman of reliably excellent tastes, as is clearly demonstrated by the number of events we’ve attended together which nobody else would have dreamed of going to. If you have – as I like to think of it – especially refined and rarefied tastes, it always helps to have a friend who shares them, so that you don’t have to go to things like Kristina från Duvemåla alone. The only tragic aspect of all of this is that I didn’t meet Kate until I was thirty, so I missed out on all those years of potential arty companionship. Still, we have made up for it since then and I look forward to many more evenings of unlikely pleasure and the quiet joy, as intense at thirty-five as it was at fifteen, of having a friend who loves the stuff you love.

Happy Christmas, Kate!

Advent song for December 15: Happy Christmas, @WantonItalics!

This is the first advent song I’ve done for someone I’ve never met. @WantonItalics, whose real name is (probably) Caitlin, is someone I only know from Twitter, but she is one of my favourite people on Twitter because she is very funny and interesting, but also incredibly kind and interested, which not everyone on Twitter is. She has given me wedding advice and congratulations, and answered questions that have otherwise gone ignored by the twittersphere, and just seems like the all-round nicest person in the world ever. She is also very pretty and a scientist, both of which win her extra points. Her husband, @TalonSword, also seems very nice, and although they look like teenagers, they have just celebrated five years of marriage, so hurray for them.

Happy Christmas, WantonItalics! I have picked one song for you even though you picked a whole album, but it is a SUPER album so anyone who hasn’t heard the whole thing should go and do so here.

Advent song for December 14: Happy Christmas, Nancy!

This is another song I’d never heard before, but I like it a lot, and I especially like the juxtaposition of the song and the video here, which is why I chose this version on YouTube. It’s also a perfect combination for Nancy, who is both a spunky punky rebel and a tremendously sweet and charming person. Also, her baby has the best hair of any baby ever. True story!

Happy Christmas, Nancy!

Advent song for December 13: Happy Christmas, Jim!

The first time I heard Tom Waits, I thought it was a joke. I’m still not sure that it isn’t, but I have come round to him in a way I never quite managed with e.g. Bob Dylan, Lou Reed or any number of other American men with unusual singing styles. I think it’s partly because it’s so much fun doing an impression of him. Also, the songs are good, and this is no exception. It’s not terrifically Christmassy, but he has made up for it in this live version by stitching a couple of verses of Silent Night onto it, so it definitely counts.

I expect you know your own mind and never need to look to other people to figure out what you think about a thing. That’s because you are very grown up and supremely well-balanced. I, on the other hand, am not very good at deciding what I think, but that’s OK because I am good at finding people whose moral and aesthetic compasses are so well-aligned with mine that I just have to find out what they think and I will usually agree. My husband is one of those people, and Jim is another. I don’t know Jim very well, but whenever I am not sure what to think about a thing, I look to Jim’s opinion to get a pointer towards my own.

Jim has a son and a daughter, which is excellent, because if you were to design the ideal dad, you might end up with Jim. Really, he should have a whole lot more children and populate all of South West England with a bunch of mini-Jims. Perhaps I will suggest this to him.

Happy Christmas, Jim!

Advent song for December 12: Happy Christmas, Wez!

Wez was my boyfriend through most of my twenties. We lived together in a ridiculously gorgeous flat in Crystal Palace and pretended to be grownups, with limited but occasional success. The Halloween party which ended with actual blood all over the floor, the New Year’s Eve dinner party where we all had to stop for a nap halfway through and the lost weekend when we invited everyone over and spent three days watching eighties movies and drinking tequila will always stand out as cherished memories for me.

But the really odd thing about my relationship with Wez is that not only do we still get on, but we never had a falling-out period at all. We just both figured out that we made better friends than girlfriend and boyfriend, and seamlessly made the transition. I don’t know if that’s because I’m really nice or he’s really nice. I suspect it’s both.

So happy Christmas, Wez, and enjoy your song, which I had never heard of before today, but which is now going on my Christmas playlist.

Advent song for December 11 – Happy Christmas, Uncle Paul!

Uncle Paul was not specific in his nomination. He wanted a Muppets Christmas song, but he didn’t say which one. So I’ve gone for this one because it makes me laugh out loud and because I think Paul will like it.

Everyone should have an uncle Paul. All small children need a grown-up who tickles them and teases them and tells them jokes and picks them up and throws them in the air so that they feel MOSTLY safe, but not COMPLETELY safe. When you are small you think that adults are invulnerable, and I still secretly think that about Paul even though life has dealt him a difficult hand over the last couple of years. Anyone who, when they’re having a hard time, can still tell jokes and share laughs and be warm and open and giving towards all of their friends and family, gets applause and admiration from me.

Thank you and happy Christmas, Uncle Paul, to you and yours xxx

Advent song for December 10: Happy Christmas, Ursula!

A number of people nominated this song, but Ursula got in first, which is handy because there are so many good things about Ursula that the only problem is knowing where to start. Or it would have been, except when I got in last night I saw a Facebook update from Ursula saying that she’s been offered a job she was after, so this is now a Happy New Job post as well as a Happy Christmas post.

Ursula is one of those rare people who is completely capable and sensible – you’d definitely put her in charge of things, if you needed someone to be in charge of things – but also very funny and lovely at the same time, and perfectly able to be silly when the occasion demands it (as, for example, in the photo of her family of six posing very solemnly for the camera, each – including the baby – wearing a false moustache).

Ursula and her family and especially her gorgeous children make me happy, and so does this song, so they’re a good match. Happy Christmas and happy new job, Usch!

Advent song for December 9: Happy Christmas, (another) Matthew!

This is a proper Christmas pop song. Chosen by Matthew, who says:

I Believe In Father Christmas: makes me smile because I remember Greg Lake being asked what it meant to him and answering “never having to write another song”.

Which is a wise, witty and pragmatic reponse worthy of Matthew himself, who is all of those things. I worked with Matthew years and years ago, before I knew how to do – well, just about anything. I never fully penetrated the mysteries of what he does for a living, but he did teach me, extra-curricularly, to be interested in cooking and photography, so for that I will always be grateful to him. In particular, I remember salivating as he described in exquisite detail the Christmas dinners he used to cook for what sounded like dozens of people at once. I am making Christmas dinner for the first time ever this year, and although I am only catering for four people, I shall endeavour to do it in the spirit of Matthew.

Happy Christmas, Matthew!

Advent song for December 8: Happy Christmas, Alex!

I never used to like Bruce Springsteen. Actually, to tell you the truth, until I was about thirteen I thought he and Sylvester Stallone were the same person, and once I found out they weren’t I still thought they were both kind of intimidating and mainly for boys.

These days I am more or less indifferent to Sylvester Stallone, but I have discovered a late-burgeoning love for The Boss. So much so that I might even go and see him when he comes to the UK next year, and if he does I hope I will see Alex there. Alex and I have known each other since we were teenagers and shared some times that, now I think about them, were pretty special and formative. I don’t see her very often these days but it’s always loads of fun when I do, and then I remember how sweet and funny she is and I wonder why I don’t see her more often.

So happy Christmas, Alex, and I hope to see more of you in 2012. We’ll make a date for Springsteen, shall we?

Advent song for December 7: Happy Christmas, Matthew

I have always said (what do you mean, you’ve never noticed?) that it’s easy to be funny and mean, and much harder to be funny and nice. Matthew manages to be all three, which is even cleverer, and whilst I have sometimes been reduced to tears of laughter by his beautifully elegant put-downs (always aimed at the most deserving of targets), it’s also abundantly clear that he is a dazzlingly nice man, whose warmth, wit and generosity of spirit make him one of the best people you could ever hope to bump into in the pub.

I demand that you follow him on Twitter immediately. It is his perfect medium, and also the place where you get to find out about the music he likes, which – since he is a musician – is another treat.

Happy Christmas, Matthew! This tune is one of my earliest memories, although I never knew its name before today, so thank you for that too.