A Victorian Christmas at Dingley Dell & A Christmas Carol

Dingley Dell XmasFor many people, Simon Callow has become the face and voice of Charles Dickens for our time. I first saw him play Dickens in an episode from season one of Doctor Who, where he gave a public reading of A Christmas Carol, interrupted by extra-terrestrial ghosts. Callow has also given readings, as Dickens did, and performed in theatrical adaptations of the story.

The Guardian, in another manifestation of Yuletide Spirit (see their Nutcracker), offers a reading by Callow of the Christmas episode from Pickwick Papers. I’m ashamed to say that, tasty as it is episode-by-episode, I’ve never managed to work through the entire novel. A new resolution, possibly. Here’s the podcast:

Simon Callow reads the Christmas episode from Pickwick Papers.

And here’s Alastair Sim’s 1951 take on Scrooge, one of my favourite versions of A Christmas Carol.

Book Review: Mrs Scrooge

Mrs Scrooge FB

Scrooge doornail-dead, his widow, Mrs Scrooge, lived by herself in London Town.

This will be a short review because it’s a short book, though stuffed full of tasty bits like an excellent Christmas pudding. Carol Ann Duffy is our poet laureate, who has well and truly broken the mould of this venerable institution, “the first woman, the first Scot, and the first openly LGBT person to hold the position.”

In Mrs Scrooge, Duffy takes that unseen heroine – who knew Scrooge had a wife that could put up with his penny-pinching ways? – and gives her A Christmas Carol of her own. Mind you, Mrs Scrooge can pinch a penny till it screams for mercy, but she cares for the planet and campaigns against consumerist excess. She also has a cat – I don’t imagine Mr Scrooge would have seen the point of feeding a cat unless it paid for itself in dead mice.

This curious melange of Dickens’ novella and current ecological concerns means that the Fezziwigs, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim are all part of of the story, along with feminism and the patchwork of villages buried under the concrete of Heathrow Airport. It’s held together by Duffy’s poetry, Mrs Scrooge’s surprising love for Ebenezer Scrooge, and Posy Simmonds’ illustrations.

A lovely, heartwarming story, with the same belief in human goodness as A Christmas Carol.