Admittedly the Christmas decorations are now looking more than a bit bedraggled, I haven’t turned on the lights for a day or two, and the tree is more obstacle than ornament; but superstitiously I persevere until twelfth night and thus tomorrow marks the official end of Christmas.

 However, in the mean time the new year has blown in. Already I have had to shake out the cobwebs, metaphorical rather than physical, because this gothic lair would lose its charm without a liberal sprinkling of cobwebs, and restore life to some sense of normality following the indulgence and indolence of the last few weeks. New year always comes as a shock. All those important tasks that I have promised to do after Christmas, fondly imagining them at the bottom of a very large pile; have now risen to the top and have large red urgent flags waving next to them.

 Fondly saying, well at least the nights have started drawing out is scant compensation standing morning after morning in darkness and driving rain at the station, ready to pay those new inflated fares with a purse still empty from Christmas. At least it isn’t snowing, and least it isn’t icy. Scant compensation.

 Still, at least with this return to normality, we get the chance to return to the positives and well as the negatives of that normal life. Family pressures removed it is time to return to reading and writing. At last, away from the constant demands to organise others, I can finally find space to organise myself again.

 At least I found time to enjoy immensely the BBC's production of Great Expectations, probably the one jewel I found in British broadcasting’s Christmas output; and I also received a box set of the first series of Danish televisions thriller The Killing, which I missed last year and am thoroughly enjoying catching up on.

 I promised myself a year of reading Charlotte Turner Smith this year. I have actually been trying to build up a collection over Christmas, with little success. Did you know that even second hand copies of Celestina are going for £20 on the internet? £20! That would probably have fed and housed Charlotte’s poor family for a month or more, and on my post Christmas budget it becomes a luxury rather than a necessity. Still, we shall persevere with this too,

 In the meantime I picked up and finished Ashton Priory, which actually turned out better, and more thought provoking than I expected after the first volume. More on that probably later, although, in the meantime, I did enjoy reading in the final chapter this morning the following declaration by a clergyman.

 “Be comforted, Sir, and disengage your views from the present scene of things. All is yet right – is best. Your daughter, suffering, dying by the consequences of her own mistakes and your severity, (humanly so to speak,) is more advantaged than if she had still reclined in the fond bosom of ease and kind indulgence. It is thus we are permitted to act under the influence of depraved nature, and, by our corrupt passions, throw misery and confusion over the moral scene, but it would not be so allowed, were it not certain that the whole should terminate in a future glorious state of order, harmony and beauty.”

 Thus the father, who has disowned and rejected his daughter, is comforted at her funeral, his actions justified and his guilt assuaged. The power of religion, or at least of its servant’s powers of interpretation is remarkable.

 So happy new year.

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