Christmas rarely lives up to our hopes or expectations, and this year it's likely that it's been further from our wishes than ever. Christmas Day itself is usually quiet for me, but in other years I've had get-togethers with friends and colleagues to remember, and family celebrations to look forward to. In fact, there was a danger that the so-called 'festive' season would not be Christmassy at all.
My recipe for avoiding cabin fever and the seasonal blues is to share a few days with Mr. Charles Dickens. The author seems to be everywhere at this time of year. I watched The Man Who Invented Christmas on Christmas Eve. The film shows Dickens struggling with what it calls 'writer's block'. In his case, he was suffering from too many ideas rather than no ideas, but nothing seemed quite right–something I've found myself troubled with this year. I seem to have to write every chapter four times before I can move on in the direction I want. Dickens' problem resolved itself, as has mine, and in real life he was certainly prolific enough.
I can't say I'm a big fan of A Christmas Carol, but Dickens wrote many other Christmas tales, such as 'The Chimes' and 'The Haunted Man'. He also specialised in other ghost stories, including 'The Signalman'. His less seasonal works are also popular at this time of year.
Television has various versions of Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, in particular. Or there's the wonderful mash-up of his characters in the BBC Series, Dickensian, to stream. What a shame the BBC didn't make another. There were whole novels and characters barely touched. I've had fun thinking up my own combinations. You could easily take Little Nell's wanderings in the industrial heartlands into the path of characters from Hard Times, or Nicholas Nickleby's theatre folk could have joined up with Sleary's Circus.
Fans will already have read all the novels, but there's a wealth of other works too. Take a look at the Dickens Journal Online at which has all the periodicals they appeared in.
Of course, some readers find Dickens as palatable as overcooked brussels sprouts. If that's the case, you can still escape your own four walls by downloading some of the hundreds of free and discounted books–my own included–in the Smashwords End of Year Sale, which runs until 1st January 2021.Visit
However you spend the end of 2020, I wish you health and peace. As Tiny Tim says: "God bless us, every one."