Twelve Days of Christmas (Correspondence) by John Julius Norwich (illustrated by Quentin Blake) Atlantic Books 2010. First published by Doubleday in 1998.
These are not quite the Twelve days of Christmas that you might recall from long ago. We have here an old rhyme with a new twist from John Julius Norwich, which has been brilliantly interpreted by Quentin Blake’s drawings. There is indeed a partridge, pear tree, hens, geese, swans and so on but these days a girl (Emily) is not so impressed by such gifts from her swain (Edward). Emily’s mother and the neighbours are generally not too keen either (noise and mess being a prime consideration).
Here are a couple of extracts from Emily’s letters, written in response to an increasingly strange tally of Christmas gifts. It all begins promisingly enough:
My dearest darling – That partridge, in that
lovely little pear tree! What an enchanting,
romantic, poetic present! Bless you and thank you.
Your deeply loving Emily
But Emily’s mood gradually change as more and more birds appear
(the five gold rings offering only a brief hiatus from the feathery flow):
Dear Edward – Whatever I expected to find
when I opened the front door this morning,
it certainly wasn’t six socking great geese laying
eggs all over the doorstep. Frankly, I rather hoped
you had stopped sending me birds – we have no
room for them and they have already ruined
the croquet lawn. I know you meant well, but –
Let’s call a halt, shall we?
As usual, I shall not a breathe a word about the ending. I shall merely suggest that Edward’s example in the are of gift purchasing is not one to be followed with impunity.