Help! I need somebody

musical santa

It’s around this time of year (after Halloween and Guy Fawkes are out of the way) when I usually start to plan my musical advent calendar*. I list possible songs, and listen to them over and over and decide what will go where and, especially, what will go last, because while I can get away with having some filler at the beginning of the month, the last few songs, and the Christmas Eve song most of all, obviously have to be killers. I watch different versions of videos and listen to different recordings and all in all, put in a large amount of effort in order to do justice to the year’s theme.

And here, reader, is where I have come unstuck! I can’t think of a theme for advent 2015. These are the themes we have already had:

  • 2008: My favourite Christmas songs (I hadn’t decided, at that point, that this would be a Thing.)
  • 2009: More of my favourite Christmas songs (Clearly I had decided it would be a Thing, but I still wasn’t planning ahead.)
  • 2010: Christmas number ones (This was the year I realised I needed a theme.)
  • 2011: I asked my Facebook and Twitter friends to pick the songs, then wrote about the people, rather than the music.
  • 2012: Christmas songs from around the world (My secret favourite.)
  • 2013: Twenty-four different versions of White Christmas (My other secret favourite.)
  • 2014: Sad Christmas (Although that was quite awesome too.)

…and here are the themes I have considered and rejected for 2015 so far:

  • My favourite Christmas carols
  • A Country and Western Christmas
  • Crooners at Christmas
  • Twenty four Christmas songs by the same artist (There are only a few people this could be, and none of them is exciting enough to pull off a whole advent unaccompanied.)

The years I liked best were the years when I had to do some research, and ended up listening to songs I’d never heard before. So I would like another theme that I will have to work at a little bit. Please send me your suggestions, here, via Twitter or Facebook or email, or even in real life. Whoever provides me with a winner will get a special prize and my undying affection.

*I am aware that I haven’t written anything since the last advent calendar, but that will All Change in 2016, for sure!

Happy songs

I listened to Sleigh Ride this morning, because even though it’s not Christmas I was cold and tired and it is a song that never doesn’t cheer me up. It is also the most crazily complicated song in the world – if you are a musician, pick up your instrument of choice and try busking along with it and you’ll see what I mean:

But Dan says it’s too early to listen to Christmas music,  so I turned it off and listened to some show tunes instead, and found myself shivering with glee at the lyrics to Thoroughly Modern Millie. I can’t decide whether my favourite is

Men say it’s criminal/What women’ll do

What they’re forgetting/Is this is nineteen twenty two!


What we think is chic, unique and quite adorable

They think is odd and Sodom and Gomorrable

Both are pretty perfect. What song lyrics make you happy?

Advent song for December 24: and the winner is…

OK, there isn’t a winner, I just couldn’t resist the headline. As I said before, I didn’t really have a plan as to which song went where on the advent calendar this year, but I did promise myself that if anyone voted for my personal favourite, they’d get the Christmas Eve slot. So I was delighted when Donna plumped for Mistletoe and Wine, because Donna is completely lovely and utterly deserving of the final place.

Donna and I used to work together, in the first proper job I ever had. Well, second, if you count four months doing 20 hours a week in Streatham Under Fives Centre, which I’m not sure I do. This job was in a bookshop, and in the late nineties and early two thousands Donna and I had the most fun anyone has ever had at work, because she is the sweetest, silliest, most genuine, forthright and hilarious person in the world, and spending eight hours a day in her company was sheer out-and-out delight.

When good things happened to Donna she would fill the room with beams of joy so intense they felt tangible. When bad things happened to Donna she would cry, then find a way to feel better about them, usually with the accompaniment of a lot of laughter. If I was in a bad mood, I would sit and glower silently. If Donna was in a bad mood, she’d announce it, explain it and within a few minutes we’d have talked around it from every angle and both be feeling better.

Everyone should have a Donna, especially if they are occasionally inclined to unhealthy levels of cynicism and negativity. Donna was so open and so engaged that I couldn’t sustain my sneering teenage posture, and had no choice but to become nicer, and for that I will always be grateful to her.

Happy Christmas, Donna! And happy Christmas to everyone who has read any of this year’s advent calendar. It’s been a lot of fun to do, and I’m only sorry that there wasn’t room for all the songs people nominated. But, you know, there’s always room for Cliff.

Green Grow the Rushes

I’ve had this song in my head for a week. We used to sing it around the campfire at the Russian church camps I went to as a teenager, and I loved the words, which are a mixture of obvious Christian references (“ten for the ten commandments”) and lines so obscure that nobody has ever worked out what they mean (“two, two, the lilywhite boys, clothèd all in green ho ho”).

It’s also terrific fun to sing, and can last the full length of a shower or even quite a hefty round of washing up. This video gives you the guitar chords for added activity value.

NB: he has some of the words wrong. In addition to the lilywhite boys, who in his version are “all dressed up” in green ho ho (much less poetic), he seems to sing “five for the simples at your door”, which is charming but incorrect. It’s symbols. Here are the complete lyrics, should you want to sing along (this is just the last verse, but you can extrapolate):

I’ll sing you twelve ho

Green grow the rushes ho

What is your twelve ho?

Twelve for the twelve apostles

Eleven for the eleven that went to heaven

And ten for the ten commandments

Nine for the nine bright shiners

And eight for the April rainers

Seven for the seven stars in the sky

And six for the six proud walkers

Five for the symbols at your door

And four for the gospel makers

Three, three, the rivals

Two, two, the lilywhite boys, clothèd all in green ho ho

One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so