For reasons which I won’t dwell on, I’ve enjoyed escaping into Ladybird Land this year as never before.
Every December since I started tweeting about Ladybird books, I’ve offered the nation a Ladybird Advent Calendar on Twitter. In true Ladybird spirit, this is not an elaborate venture. In fact, it is the Twitter equivalent of something cobbled together from loo-roll tubes and sticky-back plastic. It merely consists of me tweeting a pretty, wintery Ladybird illustration each morning and pretending.
But I look forward to doing it each year and spend an inordinate amount of time in November planning it. My mother rather dryly asked me why it takes any time at all, since I seem to tweet the same pictures each year. This was the sort of dagger to the heart that only a mother can deliver. I then replied to her at some length (the sort of length that only a wounded daughter can achieve) expounding the ways in which my picture selection has evolved over the years to encompass the work of the Ladybird artists, the quest I embark on throughout the year to source new images from the hands of favourite artists, the fresh ways in which I interpret familiar oeuvre.
But she is right, of course. I spend a long time on it because I enjoy hiding in Ladybird Land at all times, but particularly when snow lies sparkling on the ground and the Wise Robin hops around me, companionably.
But Christmas is a time for tradition, for old favourites, for the comfortable and familiar. Growing up in the 1970s, the advent calendars I remember were simple affairs. Each day your anticipation was rewarded by a little picture of a festive squirrel or of a sprig of holly. We never once had chocolate in our advent calendars – but at least we were given different ones each time. I’ve since heard of parents who inisted on ironing shut the windows of the calendar and reusing the same one each year.
One year – just once – the tradition was broken and I was given an advent candle instead.
As fate would have it, this turned out to be a very bad year to break with the household advent calendar tradition. It must have been 1973 and that winter was dominated by industrial action, power-rationing and blackouts. One by one we used up all the candles in the house.
And then they came for my advent candle.
They burnt my advent candle over two nights.
Now it’s not that I’ve nursed a grudge over the intervening 45-ish years. Oh no.
But if my mother isn’t nice about my Twitter advent calendar this year, the tragedy of my advent candle just may get brought up in the conversation. Once or twice.