Thursday, November 29, 2007

Book Report/Fill My Stocking, 2005

Warm and charming are the two adjectives that come to mind as I write about Fill My Stocking. This little book by Alan Titchmarsh feels so personal, as if he simply wanted to share all the little things about Christmas he cherishes. He is unabashedly sentimental, in the very best way. This is a collection of old familiar carols and lesser known ones; Christmas plays (pantomimes) which he and his friends perform; seasonal excerpts from some of my favorite writings, A Child's Christmas in Wales, The Diary of a Provincial Lady, and The Diary of a Nobody; poems and short stories and essays; and the passage from St. Luke's Gospel, the King James version, of course. He even alternates his introductions to the chapters between red and green color type. It was great to see all the words to The Twelve Days of Christmas written down so I could sing them aloud and not get mixed up. (and yes, I really did sing, to the wonderment of my dogs)

There is a passage from Mollie Panter-Downes, the New Yorker correspondent in London during the Second World War:

Parents have taken advantage of the lull in the Blitz to smuggle children up from the country for a brisk scurry through the toy bazaars, thereby brightening the lives of all the Santas, who had been drooping in their red flannelette and false whiskers among the childless acres of dolls and electric trains.

There is a hilarious story from a church bulletin telling a countryman's impression of going to The Messiah at the local town hall.

A lot o' wimmen stood up after that and all of 'em looked as if they were ... well... gettin' on a bit. Some of 'em must a bin 64 if they was a day. They sang, "Unto us a child is born" and the chaps sang back, "Wonderful" an' I thought, "Wonderful, it's a bloomin' miracle."

The two pieces I loved the most were A Shepherd by Heywood Broun, which tells the story of one of the shepherds who stayed with the sheep instead of going down to the manger, and Carols in the Royal Mews by Alan Titchmarsh about the time he and his family were invited by one of the Queen's coachmen to the ceremony of singing carols to the horses and giving presents to children of the Royal Household. No one really took much notice of:

a small, grey-haired lady in a headscarf patterned with horses, a green loden coat with cape, black trousers and black boots. She wore knitted Fair Isle gloves of cream and blue, and carried a black, patent leather handbag over her right arm.

This book did indeed "fill my stocking" with all I love about Christmas. It made me laugh out loud and smile quietly. It brought a lump to my throat. And it made me sigh with deep joy and peace.


  1. I have my copy out to dip into over the coming weeks too. And the Real Fire book. :-) Christmas is a comin'!

  2. I am going to have to find a copy of that book, sounds wonderful !

  3. This sounds like an absolute joy to read. Thanks for the fabulous review, Nan.

  4. I love Alan Titchmarsh - he's a genuinely warm person.

  5. Mmmm, sounds like a delicious book, to dip into at this time of year.


  6. This sounds like a heartwarming book for the season that I MUST get my hands on! This time of year I always go back and re-read the "Winter" chapters of my beloved Gladys Taber books, and I'm glad you've shared another Christmas book for me to devour. Do you have any other uplifting, particulary "wintry" favorites, perhaps some set in New England? :)

  7. I first "met" Alan Titchmarsh on the Groundforce show on BBC America. He and his crew would go to someone's home and make a surprise garden, at the request of a family member. You could feel his kindness and joy in life come right through the screen. I've read one fiction book by him (twice) called Animal Instincts, and a nonfiction memoir called Trowel and Error. They were both great, and I plan on reading another memoir by him during the Celebrate The Author challenge. This is a great book for "dipping" as Cath says or for reading straight through.

    Alison, last year I wrote about one of my favorite books for this time of year, here:

    It is set in New England and I'm quite sure you will love it. Sadly, this will be the first year I will read it without Madeleine L'Engle in the world.

  8. I would love to have been in the audience with your dogs as you sang. I probably would have sang along. Then your dogs would definitely have been howling. :)

  9. Lisa, I wonder what they would have thought!


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