The thing with Christmas present? It tends to be haunted by the spectres of Christmas past and Christmas future.
Sometimes that’s a warm and cosy feeling, overflowing with rosy-cheeked expectation. Other times it’s just a dread-filled pit of despair with tinsel on it.
So, perhaps it's time to go with the gloom in order to better appreciate the glitter?
MR James - wandering in a haunted hinterland
Montague. Rhodes. James. What a name. Turn of the twentieth century mediaeval scholar. Provost of King’s College, Cambridge.
I like to think of his leading men as Brit versions of Indiana Jones. Slightly awkward, lone academics in lonelier locales intent on ‘looting’ some historic hotspot.
And, instead of Nazis they’re pursued by ancient forces beyond their academic comprehension - all the more harrowing for their just out of sight - was-that-a-man-or-a-bin-liner? - presence. No gun-toting, whip-wielding antics will help here, I’m afraid.
Watch Michael - original Paddington narrator - Hordern in Oh Whistle & I’ll Come to You (1968). Or listen to King of Horror Christopher Lee tell tales by the fire on Christmas Eve just as MR James himself did...
Inside No. 9 - cherry-picking = a recipe for delectable disaster
In fact MR James’s brand of macabre-meets-the-mundane has inspired writing duo Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith of Inside No. 9 fame.
A masterly mix of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, comedy, horror, history and more, Inside No. 9 harks back to TV-past.
And it’s this wealth of storytelling techniques, from the Twilight Zone to Shakespeare, which make every episode distinct.
Speaking about their inspiration Shearsmith told one interviewer:
December Reflections - inspiration for dark times
When you’re out of sorts Christmas revelry can drag you down faster than Jacob Marley’s manacles. December seems to magnify everything: loneliness, loss, love, lust (if office parties are anything to go by), long-held resentments… . It can be a bumpy ride to say the least.
Which is why turning all that Quality Street jollity on its head and doing December a different way can be no less than soul-soothing.
Although I firmly believe we need a bit of light and glitter in the darkest days of the year, it should be a time to retreat and regroup too.
One way is to use some of December’s much needed down-time to reflect on the good stuff that came your way in the last year and get inspired about the year to come.
Which is why I’d recommend Susannah Conway’s December Reflections Instagram challenge:
Sex & the City - the twisted fairytale of New York
If Christmas doesn’t get you then there’s always singledom:
Says an older-single-lady, before accidently plunging to her death.
Yep, this is Sex & the City, the show maligned for its self-obsessed, shoe-obsessed, sex-obsessed superficiality.
In truth I did turn to SATC for some trusty old style sustenance. But boy are those NY tales of dating and relationships dark and twisted - packing, not so much a punch, as the relentless grind of a cold, hard stiletto heel.
As New Yorker writer Emily Nussbaum says:
Carrie Bradshaw begins the show all sassy and dressed-to-please-herself but winds up admitting that when it comes to love with the elusive Mr Big:
And eventually as Nussbaum says:
And so I couldn't help but wonder: Could I make dating any better?
Feud - how the macabre helped two movie stars make a comeback
While many women are trapped in the romance fairytale, many more are realising a girl’s best friend is probably her, well, friends.
Whether you were the most beautiful woman in the world or one of the greatest actresses of Hollywood’s golden age, actual age made Davis and Crawford hasbeens. Enter: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? A tale of two of twisted sisters, and yes, Hollywood hasbeens.
So is Feud fact or fiction?
I think this is what legendary magazine editor Diana Vreeland called ‘faction’.