Sunday, 30 November 2008

The What is Myrrh Anyway? Advent Calendar

As I'm sure you already know, the period of four weeks leading up to Christmas is called Advent and in many households the days left until Christmas are counted down with the aid of an Advent calendar. But how did such a tradition come about?

Well, What is Myrrh Anyway? has all the answers, along with facts about Christmas turkey, Twelfth Night, mince pies and cracker pulling.

And during the month of December, the What is Myrrh Anyway? blog will have an alternative Advent calendar. Rather than opening a door every day to reveal a chocolate, if you log on each day you'll find a new Christmas-related post or festive fact.

So add this blog to your list of favourites and I'll see you tomorrow...
PS - If you're yet to get your Advent calendar for this year you could try this one from Thornton's, or this online version.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Ealing 135 Group Christmas Fair

Apologies for the late notice on this one, but I shall be appearing at the Ealing 135 Group Christmas Fair this evening.

The event is being held in the Victoria Hall at Ealing Town Hall, Uxbridge Road, London, and runs from 8.00pm - 10.00pm.

As well as me, selling and signing copies of What is Myrrh Anyway?, my brand new book which answers all your questions about the festive season, you will also find a fabulous and unusual range of gifts and products, mostly hand-made. There's jewellery, hand-made baby clothes, toys, bags, ceramics, photo albums, home produce and loads more.

Mince pies and mulled wine will be available and there will also be a raffle, with all proceeds going to charity.

Entry is £1.00.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A month today...

... it's Christmas Day! A day to spend eating too much, drinking too much and watching the not-so-special Christmas specials on the telly.

A regular fixture of the BBC Christmas Day schedule for the last few years now has been the revitalised Doctor Who, and 2008 is no exception. On Christmas Day, after the turkey and Christmas pud has settled, we can all look forward to the intriguingly titled 'The Next Doctor'. And here's a preview:

But while we're all watching Doctor Who on the telly, what's the Doctor himself going to be up to?

Monday, 24 November 2008

Christmas Eve

One calendar month from today is Christmas Eve! But how much do you know about that particular date in the calendar?

For example, why is fish traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve?
Why do children hang up stockings for Father Christmas at that time, when Saint Nicholas' Day is 6 December?
What's a Dumb Cake, and what's it for?
And did you know that you shouldn't actually put up your Christmas tree and other decorations until Christmas Eve?

The answers to all these questions - and more - can be found in What is Myrrh Anyway? available now from all better bookshops, and online at

Christmas crackers

Meet the Christmas-obsessed man who's got a thing for animatronic Santas.

12 Days of Christmas Sale have started their own 12 Days of Christmas Sale a little early. If you're looking for some festive bargains for loved ones (or yourself) this year, then click here.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Polar Rescue

Take on the role of an avenging ninja penguin type character in...


Games at - Polar Rescue
Polar Rescue

Try to get to the end and defeat the ice giant.

Play this free game now!!

Elf Yourself

I'll have you know that I take my disco elf-dancing very seriously.

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Yule Blog

In his efforts to keep up with the ever increasing demands of the modern, information age, Father Christmas is now online, at the Santa Claus Blog.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

In honour of this morning's half an hour of snow flurries over West London.

What does myrrh have to do with an alien monster anyway?

Today - Sunday 23 November 1963 - is the 45th anniversary of the first ever airing of the first ever episode of Doctor Who!

And yesterday I took part in Doctor Who Day at Ealing Library, selling and signing copies of my Doctor Who Decide Your Destiny book The Horror of Howling Hill.
You may be wondering what this has to do with What is Myrrh Anyway? Well, I also had copies of my new Christmas book on sale and a few canny individuals picked one up at a special event price, and got it signed too!
Author Nick Griffiths was also there to talk about his book Dalek I Loved You but we were both upstaged by the presence of Dalek Kaan himself!

JG ready and eager to sign!

I had a close encounter with the Gold Dalek from the Cult of Skaro myself. The alien menace approached my table announcing, 'I detect books about the Doctor. The Doctor is the enemy of the Daleks.' And then started trashing my stock with its sink plunger. However, as soon as I turned my digital imaging recorder (my camera) on the monster, it was instantly subdued, screeching, 'Cheeeese!'

Close encounters of a Dalek kind.

(In a rather more surreal moment, later on in the day, I found myself enjoying a hot chocolate in the company of the Doctor's nemesis.)

So, all that remains is for me to say a big THANK YOU to Linda, Jane, Joyce and Christine of Ealing Library for having me along and making me feel so welcome, and of course to Dalek Kaan.


Friday, 21 November 2008

The ideal Christmas gift

Struggling to think of a suitable gift for the armchair genius in your home? Then why not have them testing the little grey cells on Christmas Day with a copy of the ever-popular Match Wits with the Kids?

And then, for the festively-minded there's What is Myrrh Anyway? which answers all the questions you've ever wanted to ask about the Christmas season, and some you haven't.

For the science fiction and fantasy fan in your family, why not try the Pax Britannia steampunk-action-adventure novels Unnatural History and Leviathan Rising?

And if you're looking for stocking fillers for the kids, you could do a lot worse than get them a few gamebooks - The Horror of Howling Hill, Howl of the Werewolf, Bloodbones, Curse of the Mummy, Spellbreaker - which will keep them occupied while you're getting Christmas dinner on the go. Or even Go, Go Crazy For Those Bones, for the younger GoGo's fan.

Doctor Who Day at Ealing Library

Just to remind you... I will be at Ealing Central Library tomorrow, Saturday 22 November, taking part in their Doctor Who Day, selling and signing copies of my Doctor Who Decide Your Destiny book The Horror of Howling Hill.

(Did you know, over 100,000 Doctor Who Decide Your Destiny titles have been sold so far?)

I will also have copies of my new Christmas book What is Myrrh Anyway? available to buy.

You'll be able to meet a Dalek at 10.00am-12.00pm and 2.00pm-4.00pm, and also at 2.00pm author Nick Griffiths will be talking about his book Dalek I Loved You. There will be games, quizzes, and competitions to take part in as well.

So maybe I'll see you there...

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Christmas Comes Early: Example #4 - My Frist Christmas Cards

I received my first Christmas cards of 2008 through the post yesterday. And here they are...

The message inside this one reads, 'Season's Greetings made easier. Best wishes from Royal Mail.'

And this one is from Help the Aged, 'Wishing you a very Happy Christmas full of joy and hope'.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Acton Christmas Fair

Just to let you know, I will be taking part in the Acton Christmas Fair, on Saturday 6 December, from 11.00am until 6.00pm, selling and signing copies of my book, What is Myrrh Anyway?

If you happen to be in West London for the day (or don't live too far away) why not pop over to Acton Town Hall and say 'Hi!' or 'Merry Christmas!' or whatever else takes your fancy?

As well as a personal appearance by yours truly, as you browse the many market stalls, looking to make a start on your Christmas shopping with the all the arts, crafts and one-off quirky Christmas gifts (as well as more traditional holiday treats) that are on offer, you will be entertained by various choirs, carol singers, bands and buskers.
So why not come along? Maybe I'll see you there.

A Gaelic Silent Night - Enya style

The New Age Irish songtress doing her thing, this time singing Oíche Chiúin, or rather Silent Night in Gaelic.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Christmas Shopping? Forget the Credit Crunch!

If, miraculously, you find yourself not too badly hit by the credit crunch, or you have been hit but would rather just forget about it with the aid of a little retail therapy, then why not go abroad to do your Christmas shopping this year? are offering a host of European destinations to help get you in the festive mood with a little early Christmas shopping, so if this sounds like your sort of thing click here, to visit the Expedia site.

Friday, 7 November 2008

St James Church Ealing, Christmas Craft Fair

If you live in the vicinity of West Ealing, London, then why not pop along to the Christmas Crafts Fair being held at St James Church?

There you will find a wide range of original art, crafts and specialist goods from local artists - everything from candles and ceramics to greetings cards and jewellery.

To find out more, click this link.

Looking for some Christmas music?

During the writing of What is Myrrh Anyway? I listened to quite a lot of Christmas music, to help put me in the mood to write a Christmas book during March and April. As a result, I have a few recommendations for anyone looking for some suitable festive music come this December.

If you fancy going back to the roots of Christmas music, try a Medieval Christmas by The Orlando Consort, or the up-lifting Christus Natus Est, An Early English Christmas, by The Sixteen

For a more secular Christmas, as might have been enjoyed in the Tudor age and beyond, look out for An English Folk Christmas.

And then of course there's the more traditional Carols from Clare or Carols from King's.

Have you got yours yet?

Just like the perfect Christmas stocking, What is Myrrh Anyway? contains all manner of delightful surprises and delicious morsels of information. It demystifies the origins of Christmas and uncovers the truth behind such familiar festive traditions as carol-singing and cards.

If you've ever wondered how to cook the perfect roast turkey, what mince pies should really taste like, or why you are forced to endure the cross-dressing antics of a traditional pantomime every year, then simply open this Christmas cracker of a book and discover the answers to all those questions you've been too afraid - or embarrassed - to ask.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

A Mummers' Play

I don’t know about you, but for me, the definitive dramatisation of the Robin Hood story is Robin of Sherwood, created by Richard Carpenter in the 1980s. In one of the episodes from the second series, entitled Lord of the Trees, Robin and his merry men act out part of a mummer’s play, in order to capture a band of dangerous mercenaries. (They can’t simply kill them because it’s the Time of the Blessing, an annual forest tradition during which no blood can be shed, or the pagan fertility ritual will fail.)

Some years ago now, I wrote a play about the origins of Christmas (funnily enough) for the school I was working in at the time. For one scene I wanted a simple mummers’ play. I returned to Robin of Sherwood for inspiration and have to admit that I used Richard Carpenter’s creation from the Lord of the Trees episode. However, in the TV story, the play isn’t actually completed, so I had to write the end of it in the same style as the rest.

Presented here are my efforts, combined with those of Richard Carpenter, of course. If you’ve thought about putting on your own mummers’ play this year, why not use this one? Just let me know how you get on!

A Mummers’ Play
By Richard Carpenter and Jonathan Green

Cast of Characters

Saint George’s MOTHER
A mysterious DOCTOR

Enter the Mummers.

In comes I, Saint George is my name.
With my great sword, I mean to win this game.
If I could meet the Saracen Knight here,
I’d fight him and bit him, and stick my sword in his ear.

Then in comes I, the Saracen Knight.
I come from the farthest lands to fight.
I’ve come to fight Saint George the Bold,
And if his blood runs hot, I’ll make it cold.

Battle to battle, to you I call,
To see who on this ground shall fall.

Battle to battle, to thee I pray,
To see who on this ground shall lay.

They fight. Saint George is slain.

O Doctor, Doctor! Where can a doctor be,
To cure my son who lies like a fallen tree?

In comes I, a doctor good,
And with his hand shall stop the scarlet blood.

How will you cure him? With potions and pills?

With this bag I can cure all ills –
The itch, stitch, palsy and gout –
Pains within and pains without.

The Doctor shakes his bag over Saint George’s body.

Rise up!

Saint George gets up.

Once I was dead and now I am alive!
Blessed be the Doctor, who did me revive!

What’s this? I thought I struck you dead!
I chopped and I lopped, and I hit you on the head.

Once I was dead but now I’m all right,
And now I’ll slay you, the Saracen Knight!

I have shed your blood before,
And now I’ll have to spill some more.
Battle to battle, to you I call,
To see who on this ground shall fall.

Battle to battle, to thee I pray,
To see who on this ground shall lay.

They fight again. The Saracen Knight is slain.
Behold! The Saracen Knight lies dead,
The ground now with his blood turned red.
Remember me, Saint George is my name!
With my great sword, I have won this game.
He will not fight another day.
And so now ends our Mummers’ play.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Lapland comes to England!

Have you ever thought that you would love to visit Lapland, the spiritual home of Father Christmas, at Christmas time, but couldn't afford the time or the expense? Well now you can experience the wonder and magic of Christmas in Lapland - in the UK!

Lapland UK is a new and exciting Lapland inspired Christmas experience for the whole family to enjoy. Your Lapland UK adventure begins when a special invitation bearing the wax seal of Father Christmas drops through your letterbox. Every child receives their own personalised letter from Father Christmas asking them to come and help the Elves in his toy factory this Christmas.

You will be astonished to find yourself in a snowy, arctic landscape. The sights and sounds of mystical Lapland will surround you, from Elves busily working in the toy factory to Father Christmas's reindeer. The climax to your day will, of course be your personal audience with Father Christmas, who you will meet in his snowy woodland home.

If you would like to know more about Lapland UK click this link.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Country Living Christmas Fair 2008

If you live in London but fancy a taste of country living this Christmas, then why not pop along to the Country Living Christmas Fair 2008, being held from 12–16 November at the Business Design Centre in Islington?

It's the perfect place to do all of your Christmas shopping under one roof. You’ll find everything you need for the perfect Christmas, from hand-crafted decorations to traditional toys, the latest fashion, limited-edition jewellery and a mouthwatering array of festive food and drink.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

So, what is myrrh?

Well, if you don't know already, then you really need to buy the book. But just to tantalize further, here are seven fascinating facts about the stuff.

  1. Myrrh keeps wounds free from infection and speeds the healing process.

  2. Myrrh is not actually a plant but rather a plant product, and one of the oldest such products still in active use today.

  3. One ancient myth relates how Myrrha, the daughter of the king of Cyprus, developed an unnatural fixation on her father, and was banished to the barren deserts of Arabia. There the gods transformed her into a myrrh tree exuding tears sweet with repentance.

  4. Myrrh was called mor by the ancient Hebrews.

  5. Myrrh appears eleven times in the Bible, and not just in the Nativity story.

  6. Myrrh is recommended for various medical conditions, including leprosy, syphilitic ulcers, sores, sore throats, wounds, bad breath, weak gums, bleeding gums, and even loose teeth.

  7. The Chinese feel that myrrh actually helps the body collect and get rid of the congealed blood of bruises. According to Chinese medicine, the herb’s ability to get the blood moving is its main boon to health.

Good King Wenceslas

A whimsical and wistful rendition of an old classic by the incomparable Loreena McKinnett.

You can purchase Five Songs for the Season here.

Day of the Dead

There are only 54 shopping days left 'til Christmas and that means that in Mexico it's time to celebrate the Day of the Dead.

The celebration occurs on the 1st and 2nd of November, in connection with the Catholic holy days of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day which take place on those days. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts.

Scholars have traced the origins of the modern holiday to indigenous observances dating back thousands of years, and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl ("The Lady of the Dead").

Did you know...?

Every year more than 400 million people celebrate Christmas around the world, making the festival one of the biggest religious and commercial festivities in the world!