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Barb’s guide to surviving Christmahannukwanzadan Solstice….You’re welcome

#6: The Office Party. (here)

#5: Waiting in lines. I know you’ve met them. The friend or colleague who moans that she hasn’t  quite finished wrapping the last of her Christmas gifts and here it is practically the middle of October. Or the one who explains how she bought everyone on her list the perfect gift by ordering months in advance from carefully curated online sources. I, on the other hand, come from a long line of people who eagerly peruse helpful tips about creative gifts you can get from gas station stores after midnight on Christmas Eve. (Who wouldn’t want a tastefully matched set of car air fresheners and a triple pack of Twizzlers?) And  I wait until the last possible moment to do my holiday shopping, waiting in long lines to buy picked-over desperation gifts.

[image credit: dailycupofjojo]

And… I’ve even been known to partake of that most American of traditions, the Black Friday death run. Well not lately, of course, because for the past decade or so I’ve lived in the UK. Their reluctance to celebrate Thanksgiving—the holiday commemorating the Pilgrims’ fleeing England in search of religious freedom and right-turn-on-red—makes it difficult to schedule Black Friday for the following day.

My lack of gift-planning skills means I’m sentenced to life hours I’ll never get back whilst (you get to say whilst here in the UK) waiting in lines. As part of my list of the worst things about the holiday season and what to do about them, therefore, I offer you the following tips to while away your in-line time. You’re welcome. **

**[NOTE: please consider your location before trying any of the following suggestions. In the UK, where queuing skills are taught in the mother’s womb, any deviation will result in severe throat clearing and coughs. Severe. In the US, your fellow line-waiters might be armed with semiautomatic weapons. In Italy, sweet old ladies dressed in black might hide your body and you’ll never be heard from again.]

  1. Keep the people behind you on their toes by allowing random gaps to develop between you and the person in front of you. (Bonus activity: if you’re in the UK, step slightly to one side or another of the queue so that it’s not immediately obvious whether you’re actually in line. People behind you will break into a cold sweat at the spectre of being labeled a queue jumper. Rather than speak to you directly, they will most likely leave the line entirely, and possibly the city.)
  2. Ask the person behind you to hold your place while you go to the bathroom. Stay right where you are, but in about ten minutes turn around and thank them.
  3. Answer your phone in a loud voice, “No, you’re the one who refuses to commit. I put my whole self in. I take my whole self out. I put my whole self in and I shake it all about. I do the hokey pokey. I turn myself around. But… is that really what it’s all about?”
  4. Hold your finger until it’s almost touching the person in front of you. When they turn around, whip around and stare at the person behind you.
  5. Have the person with you grab at their heart, gasp, and fall down. Loudly ask the people around you to please pay no attention as it was the dear boy’s last wish not to be caught dead shopping here.
  6. Open a seasonal anthology on your ereader. (In Silent Night by Wendy Clarke, the short story by the same name is an excellent choice!) It might not make the line move faster, but it puts the person at the front of the line (who has apparently never purchased anything in their life and thus must be guided through every step including the shocking revelation that they actually must provide some form of working payment in order to conclude said transaction) into perspective.

[NOTE FROM BARB: Please come back over the next few days for the other reasons that the holiday season sucks. Ho Ho.]

BLURB:  Silent Night: A Christmas Story Collection by Wendy Clarke

‘Silent Night’ is a collection of thirteen Christmas stories by Wendy Clarke, a regular writer of fiction for national magazines.

All of these stories have previously been published in either ‘The People’s Friend’ or ‘Take a Break Fiction Feast’. If you like stories with emotional depth and a satisfying ending, then this collection is for you.

What Shirley Blair, Commissioning Fiction Editor for ‘The People’s Friend’, says about the author:

‘Wendy Clarke has become one of The People’s Friend’s most valued writers, offering our readers a range of themes and a level of emotional satisfaction that is rare in the short story format.’

Project Christmas: Andrew and his children are grieving. Can he make this a Christmas his late wife would have been proud of?

On My Own: Bella needs to get away from it all but her Christmas cottage by the sea holds more than a few surprises.

Silent Night: Christmas Eve, a starry night and two young men who have more in common than they realise.

A Christmas Present Called Abbie: Dan plans to have the perfect Christmas on his own – until daughter Abbie turns up.

Do You Believe in Angels: Sometimes you need to have belief to hold a family together.

A Song for Christmas: Being in a pop band doesn’t make you a good candidate for a step-dad… or does it?

The Memory Purse: Mr Bhadu’s memory purse is almost full. Can Tracy provide the perfect final memory for him this Christmas?

All I Want for Christmas: What will Keith do when the present his step-daughter wants for Christmas is sold out?

Cancelling Christmas: Having always thrown the best Christmas party, Geraldine decides that this year enough is enough.

The Greatest Gift: David discovers the best gifts are not always the biggest.

Christmas Strike: When Jan goes on strike on Christmas Day, it takes a special person to put things right.

Finding Santa: Emma is scared Santa won’t find her when they’re snowed in at the airport.

Together for Christmas: Julie and Kevin have always spent Christmas with their best friends. It might be time for a change.


My Review: 4 stars out of 5 for Silent Night by Wendy Clarke

There is a time and place for everything. And if the time for warm, sentimental, occasionally humorous heartstring-tugging is Christmas, then Wendy Clarke’s new Silent Night anthology is the perfect solution.

Wendy Clarke is a writer of women’s fiction. Her work regularly appears in national women’s magazines such as The People’s Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles.
Wendy has published three collections of short stories, Room in Your Heart, The Last Rose and Silent Night and has just finished writing her second novel.
Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!

If there is a unifying theme to each of these stories, I think it’s not the stereotypical Christmas, of stockings hung by the chimney, or traditional good cheer. Instead each story asks the same question: what is the perfect present?

Often, that’s a gift that you need to give yourself. In the first story, Project Christmas, grieving widower Andrew struggles to honor his deceased wife’s love of Christmas while finding a new way to celebrate with his small children. In On My Own, Bella has spent her life sacrificing her own dreams to meet the expectations of her family and partner. Her Christmas gift to herself is a week’s refuge in an isolated cottage.

In other stories, the perfect present is permission to step away from the things you expect of yourself, such as the party everyone looks forward to except the hosts themselves in Cancelling Christmas, the traditions that no longer fit the four friends in Together for Christmas, the things your family expects of you—or never thinks to ask in Christmas Strike.

Sometimes, finding that right gift takes figuring out who you’re really getting it for and why. In The Greatest Gift, David searches for the perfect present only to realize he’s had it all along, while Mr. Bhadu in The Memory Purse knows when it’s time to pass a beloved gift along.

In several stories, looking for the right present for someone else forces people to look at themselves. Selfish, immature Dan examines what it means to be a father when he’s forced to look after his little daughter in A Christmas Present Called Abbie. In A Song for Christmas, musician Cal has the perfect gift, but doesn’t know how to give it to Hattie or her sick child. In All I Want for Christmas, new stepfather Keith knows what he’s supposed to get, but doesn’t know why—or how to handle his failure. A mother trying to cope with the breakup of her marriage and loss of their family holiday traditions is stuck with her two daughters in an airport on Christmas Eve in Finding Santa.

And then there’s my favorite, Silent Night, where two men who should never have been able to meet are given a gift out of time and place that shows them more about what they share than about what they will have to return to in the morning.

These little stories are small, human-sized glimpses into what Christmas is really about. And like any good short story, they have to be crafted more like poetry than novels, where every word has to work hard to condense a world of meaning into the tiny space available. Luckily for her readers, Wendy Clarke has just the right touch to introduce us to characters, convey their story, and most importantly, answer that question about each one’s perfect gift.

Whether you read them with milk and cookies while you’re listening for sleigh bells and reindeer hooves, or while waiting in endless lines surrounded by tired, stressed shoppers, they will help you remember what Christmas can be. And that’s a pretty perfect gift in itself!

**I received this book from the publisher or author to facilitate an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

Purchase link:

Amazon (Click on link for previews, reviews, and buy links)

Contact Links for Terry Tyler

Another form of short holiday story (although, sadly, one that rarely goes this well) is the commercial. Sometimes. Okay, probably only here:


What was your worst experience waiting in lines (or on hold, or waiting in airports, or…)?