Whether you have a cool yule or something else around this time of year, when here in the northern hemisphere the cycles of life spin slowly and the sun bounces along just below the horizon during the shortening nights, I wish you a happy re-invigoration!

I think of it as a time for looking back, which is increasingly easier to do now that I have so much more back to over-look! LitCaff has run for another year around, and will, I hope, go on throughout 2014…at Merienda bar/cafe in Treasury Court, Carlisle, 3rd Wednesday of the month. 7.00pm….

It’s also a time for looking forward.

In the immediate post 2013 world we have a celebration of Norman Nicholson’s centenary, on January 8th at the Wordsworth Bookshop, St Andrew’s Churchyard, Penrith. The event is free, but please do book a place. You can find the bookshop online, or ringOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA . Mary Robinson, whose poetry collection The Art of Gardening was published by Flambard in 2010, will partner me in talking about Norman and what his poetry has meant to us. I’ll have some snippets from an interview I recorded with Norman back in the nineteen seventies, including readings of several poems made for me at the same time. There will be the usual excellent Wordsworth Bookshop refreshments, followed by short readings from Mary and myself.

Further on into the year there is the exciting prospect of a Literary Festival for Carlisle, scheduled for early in September. Those of you who have talked to me will know that I am keen to see a Writers Day as part of this, and I’m hoping that we will be able to turn the northern part of the city centre into a Writers Quarter for the day, bringing in writers groups, and groups of writers, to perform, run workshops, sell their wares, and anything else (legal) they can think of.

Offers of help to run, stage, or host such events will be most welcome!

On a less ambitious note, Facets of Fiction, the cycles of writers workshops I run out here at Curthwaite will be offering a Tuesday evening beginners group, starting January 21st (fortnightly thereafter for 5 sessions, 7.00pm-9.00pm £40). I’ll keep the group small, so if you are interested please get in touch soon……

We’ll look at some of the basics of fiction writing: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, Narrative Voices, Locations in Time & Place, Characters & Dialogue, and the potentials, and limitations, of having to tell a story one word at a time!

In the meantime here are 10 Christmas flash fictions – max 100 words – all entitled ‘The Gift’. They were written for the Facets of Fiction Christmas Dinner…held last Friday at the Royal Oak pub in Curthwaite. Submitted anonymously, we tried (mostly without success) to guess who had written which. Carol Ross was the winner, with 6 correct assignations!


Christmas Flashes

The Gift #1


Jim was a determined son of a bitch, she said. I knew that. He had always admired that chap with the parrot.


No, not him – the other one. The one with a parrot on his shoulder.


Ted never had no parrot.

Course he did, before he saw the light. The parrot had to go. ‘Jesus Christ’ it said, every time the priest came to visit.

Ted had nothing to do with it. Jim wanted the wooden leg too. I gave it him. How was I to know he’d cut his own off to get it to fit!’

The Gift #2


It’s our first Christmas together. We’ve got a real tree and, under the tree, a heap of presents. There’s one gift I’m especially proud of. I even remembered to sneak a look in Rachel’s drawers to find out her size before going to Ann Summers. I’m bursting with anticipation as she peels back the gold wrappings.

Oh,” says Rachel and she’s holding up a pair of pink fluffy bed socks.

I can feel all the colour drain from my face. I say, in choking voice: “Er, what dress size would you say Great Aunt Doris takes?”

The Gift #3

She said, ‘Whatever you give me will be special, because you chose it, darling, but if you really need suggestions, how about… something as merry as a Christmas bell or Santa’s ho, ho, ho, romantic as mistletoe over a candlelit hearth. Gift wrap the wide-eyed delight of a child’s first glimpse of snow or tie a bright ribbon around a magical sleigh ride, through a pine scented forest, under a velvet sky pierced by stars and shot through with a comet whose fiery path tells the universe, I love you!’
On Christmas Eve, he was found, quietly sobbing, in Debenhams.

The Gift #4

He wasn’t really expecting it, but he was certainly grateful.
It was going to make all the difference you see; change him and change his future. It might even make him a better person; more thoughtful, courageous, compassionate and forgiving. He smiled inwardly at the thought. Of course it could also magnify his arrogance, selfishness and ruthlessness.
Only time would tell, but surely being given someone else’s heart had to make a difference.

The Gift #5

Red25 reached for the selector to change his celebration backdrop. Planet Festivali was in permanent party mode. He’d lived Mexican Day of the Dead and Diwali already that week. He chose Rio Carnival and the Samba music began. Nothing he couldn’t have.
He saw that Klaus1 was yet again celebrating Christmas. They needed to up his adjustment meds. He was one of the first colonisers, and hooked on Christmas.
‘This is for you,’ Klaus1 voiced on the communication panel. A box materialised on Red25’s screen. It flipped open.
‘But it’s empty!’
‘Precisely,’ Klaus1 voiced, ‘it’s a gift.’

The Gift #6

Trevor hated Christmas. Prior to the lightning strike up Helvellyn hed been a jolly festive sort. But the lightnings curse had drawn back the veil on the thoughts of others. Their smiles and happy exclamations belied their plans to exchange his gifts or sell them online. He just couldnt face it anymore.

One year he had given vouchers or cash instead, but been overwhelmed by how many believed him thoughtless, that he hadnt cared enough to buy presents.

Some would call his ability to read minds a gift. He wished he could sell it on eBay.

The Gift #7

We planned for the gift for months; bought wrappings to adorn it, talked and dreamed of nothing else.
But when it arrived, prompt and unexpected all at once, it was a shock to us.
We dispatched it to our home, fussed around this precious gift that had come at Christmas, when the snow hung icicles from our windows and closed our exits.
But, eighteen years on the gift left us. He left us. He waved goodbye with bright eyes and dreams of wedded bliss.
He rang us today. ‘It’s a girl,’ he said.
‘It’s a gift, treasure it,’ I replied.

The Gift #8

9:03- How long left till home? Xxx
9:05- 45 mins-ish. Bored now. Xxx
9:10- Ran out of distractions? Xxx
9:12- Yep, book’s finished and my iPod’s dead. Xxx
9:15- Home soon though, must be looking forwards to seeing your parents! Xxx
9:18- Yeah, shame I’m not going to see you as well. Xxx
9:21- I’ll miss you, keep hearing knocks on the door and thinking it’ll be you. Xxx
9:25- I’ll do the same when I get home. Xxx
9:27- Oh, and again. I should get it but I know I’ll be disappointed. Xxx
9:28- You won’t be… Xxx

The Gift #9

Firelight reddened the curls at Janey’s neck. Phill propped his head on one hand and stared across her naked shoulder into the flames. Behind the glass they danced soundlessly among oblongs of glowing wood, regular as Roman stones.
‌And then what? He asked.
‌Janey spoke in the same quiet murmur, as if she were telling the story to the flames.
‌She kissed him.
‌Phil could feel the heat on his face, but his naked back, which was turned towards the shadows, was cold.
‌And what did he do?
‌She twisted her head around to look at him.
‌He became himself.

The Gift #10

In return, you promised you’d immortalise me. Who could resist that? The down side; the name wasn’t too appealing, nor the code of behaviour attached – I don’t think the carpenter was wild about arrangements either. No doubt he hoped to carry on his name.

Pregnancy and labour without the fun of reproduction… and being homeless as well… Still, the heavenly hosts gave the whole shebang a real party atmosphere. And all those visitors! No wonder the cattle lowed.

Every birth is a miracle; in the end it was a gift to be mother to your son. You should have warned me about Pontius Pilate, though.

Authors were Zoe Kelly(#8), BHDandMe(#9), Hazel Stewart(#10), Carol Ross(#1), Marilyn Messenger(#3), Hugh Thompson(#2), Christine Howe(#5), Suzanne Henderson(#7), Janet Eland(#4) and Alison Twigg#(6)