Last day


of Christmas, and also a day for reflection and revelation before the routines of normal life kick in. Many of us are back at work and in the swing of those routines already, but there’s still time to:

1. Listen to the spirituals from Michael Tippett’s A child of our time.

2. Donate to one of the many charities that need help: Shelter, Crisis, Refuaid, Girls not Brides, Age UK etc.

3. Take a bag of stuff to the charity shop and come back to mull that last bottle of wine.

Shopping lists

Whilst nothing can match Cup of Jo’s annual gift guides, here’s my thoughts on some pressies that would be welcome round the family:


Jo Malone soaps that look like macaroons


Sali Hughes’ latest book about the biggest make up developments out there


A gripping history of scientific research, propaganda, paranoia and political infighting that I couldn’t put down on holiday recently

Spicy gingerbread biscuits


A history of 60s London, with a foreword from Pritchett in 1985, lamenting that the city’s “almost Venetian” low waterline was about to disappear for ever


Felt oysters, because


A book about the recent developments in medical knowledge (spoiler: exercise will not kill you, nor will vigorous singing) that came out this year from a Royal Society of Literature prize-winner


Messiaen’s organ music for that post-Christmas blissed out state


Illustrated cards from freelance artists like Flora Walcott or The Printed Peanut


Chocolate, obviously.


PJs for snuggling.

An urban childhood

The two younger Bodens were sitting at the large, very much littered table, while Felicity lay stretched out on a comfortable sofa near the glowing fire. The light in the high, well-proportioned room was growing dim, though it was barely three o’clock. Beyond the window was a view of Old Church Street, Chelsea, dismal on the wet, misty December afternoon, in spite of the pleasant frontages of the eighteenth-century house’s opposite.

Swiss School, ME Allan. A London childhood means that scenes like this are catnip to me – they’re my equivalent of the wanderer turning the corner to see a beloved hill or mountain.