Posts Tagged ‘Cherbourg the Octopus’

Regular readers will be familiar with Cherbourg, my regular travelling companion. I bought him in Prestwick Airport en route to Paris a few years ago, and he now goes everywhere with me, often in my daily life as well as when I am on holiday. If you don’t know him, here he be:



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I’m feeling a bit hoarse today, having spent a few days singing in full voice on the blog. Today’s Christmas words are not lyrics, but an excerpt from The Dark is Rising, volume 2 of Susan Cooper’s wonderful fantasy series, also called The Dark is Rising

Mary muttered, but subsided, and Will half-heartedly stuck a few paper chains together. But he kept an eye on the doorway, and when he saw his father and James appear with their arms full of old cardboard boxes, he slipped quietly after them. Nothing could keep him from the decorating of the Christmas tree.

Out of the boxes came all the familiar decorations that would turn the life of the family into a festival for twelve nights and days; the golden-haired figure for the top of the tree; the strings of jewel-coloured lights. Then there were the fragile glass Christmas tree-balls, loving preserved for years. Half-spheres whorled like red and gold-green seashells, slender glass spears, spider-webs of silvery glass threads and beads; on the dark limbs of the tree they hung and gently turned, shimmering.

There were other treasures, then. Little gold stars and circles of plaited straw; light, swinging silver paper bells. Next, a medley of decorations made by assorted Stanton children, ranging from Will’s infant pipe-cleaner reindeer to a beautiful filigree cross that Max had fashioned out of copper wire in his first year at art school. Then there were strings of tinsel to be draped across any space, and then the box was empty.

Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising (Random House, 2003), pp.116-117.

The Stantons are a really wonderful family, and their closeness is key to the plot of the book.  Christmas itself is also a major character in the book, and so this is perfect reading for this time of year.  If you have the time, the Second Worldwide The Dark is Rising Sequence Readathon started on 1 December, and you can still sign up here.


My photo, December 2014: Cherbourg didn’t think that being a Christmas decoration for the season was any reason to fall behind on his reading.

I won’t be putting up our decorations today, as I’m away for the weekend, but that will be the task for Monday and Tuesday; this quote has really put me in the mood for that particular job.

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Cherbourg and I would like to wish you all a Happy Burns Night! Note: Cherbourg is my familiar and travelling companion, in the form of an orange octopus, if you don’t already know him.

Cherbourg practicing his "Ode to the Haggis", Burns Night January 2015 (My photo).

Cherbourg practicing his “Ode to the Haggis”, Burns Night January 2015 (My photo).

My favourite Robert Burns poem is unquestionably Tam O’Shanter, an epic ghost story (with entertaining social commentary) taking place one night in the drinking establishments and on the streets of Ayr. The language is striking, funny, rich, and just generally wonderful. You can watch an animation here, with Brian Cox (actor, not physicist!) reading the poem. It was created by Spiral Productions for the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, in Alloway, near Ayr.

I’ve never made a haggis from scratch myself, and am not sure how easy it would be these days to get all the necessary ingredients, but there is a recipe in the Glasgow Cookery Book which sounds wonderful, with a vivid language and poetry (possibly the Poetry of Ew, to the more squeamish) in itself. You can read it in the photo below.

How to make haggis from scratch, the Glasgow Cookery Book, p.126 (1962 edition; my photo).

How to make haggis from scratch, the Glasgow Cookery Book, p.126 (1962 edition; my photo).

Once made, you mix it with neeps and tatties, and tuck in:

Cherbourg enjoying his haggis, neeps, and tattoos (my photo).

Cherbourg enjoying his haggis, neeps, and tatties (my photo).

It’s quite common to give the haggis its own wee dram of whisky, and to have one yourself. Sometimes you can go too far, however, with both whisky and haggis:

Cherbourg overdid both the haggis and the whisky (my photo).

Cherbourg overdid both the haggis and the whisky (my photo).

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Cherbourg is my travelling companion and my familiar of some four years standing. He’s been on most of my holidays and research trips, and when I remember to put him in my bag, he’s out and about as part of my daily life. So I could not in all good conscience leave him out of my Christmas celebrations. He is now in the company of Stained Glass Santa Claus, the Tweety Pie angel, and a perplexed-looking robin, on the Christmas tree, and appears to be taking it all in his stride. (more…)

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