Christmas with Dickens

Since I had completed my 2019 reading pile already, I found myself turning to Dickens’ Christmas Stories. The first one was about The Christmas Tree and I didn’t get on with it so well; it described the tree in a time that I felt too distant from, describing features that were alien to me, which should be the case with any Dickens’ story, but the couple of novels I’ve read so far, I’ve enjoyed those, even if I haven’t understood what is is being described.

Next up in the book of Christmas Stories was The Poor Relation’s Story which I did enjoy, so much so that I read it a second time the next day, out loud, and recorded it too (you see/hear it below). I resonated with the character of story for a few quirky reasons. One of those included what was perhaps one of the lessons in the tale, a mantra; “I am nobody’s enemy but my own”. Indeed, surely I’m not anyone’s enemy, and I have no enemies as such, except perhaps people, or types of people, that I try to avoid, and in this I am an enemy to myself – far too often, as I have come to realise, I am doing battles within my head with imaginary people (something I may well blog more about at some point), and imaginary situations.

The Poor Relation’s Story ends with the relation explaining that the so-called Castle that he lived in, (which wasn’t actually a castle as such) was a Castle in the Air. This is curious to me because I seemed to be chasing “castles in the air” earlier this year around the time that I climbed Snowdon for the first time.

At that time I had been picking cards from my Lenormand deck and a couple of days before I had picked the number 19 card which features a “high tower”, and the next day I picked 22, “A road in the open reveals the best way…” I’d already decided on my trip out prior to these cards but they seemed to be relevant and certainly favourable.

I’d also begun that month by reading a section from my set of Arthur Mee’s Encyclopedias, to keep me on track with finishing Volume 7 by the end of the year. A topic at that time was about Heraldry and included a number of pages featuring illustrations of crests, badges, coats of arms, and the array of objects that feature on them.

Then came the climb up Snowdon. At the top is the visitor’s centre where I took a breather and downed my small flask of coffee. Ahead of me on the wall was a small plaque that features a tower and by now I was seeing things coming together, in some weird way.

As I looked around further, pondering other things, I couldn’t help but notice the extra skinny Royal Mail post box conveniently located for postcard-purchasing tourists to send word to friends and family about where they were. It too appeared to be a tower, something I have not considered before about such postboxes.

On my way down the mountain I spotted a badge that had come astray from someone’s clothing or gear. I picked it up and immediately thought it depicted a castle or a turret. With further consideration though I suppose it could represent someone cheering.

I still have that badge sitting on my desk.

Back in my childhood I had a fondness for castles. I liked it when we holidayed in Wales (before we moved here) and got to visit castles there. When I finally got my own house I happened to be reading at the time a book called Castles in the Air written by the owner of Gwydir Castle Judy Corbett about the project of purchasing the run-down building and renovating it; it seemed to be quite fitting for me to be reading it just as I was moving into my own neglected “castle” at the time (a cottage with damp walls and leaking roof).

I have ridden past Gwydir a few times, and camped near there a couple of times on my trips to Scotland; still retaining a fondness for Castles in the Air.

A resident peacock at Gwydir Castle – Photo: me

Google now informs me a:

castle in the air (plural castles in the air) (idiomatic) A desire, idea, or plan that is unlikely to ever be realized; a visionary project or scheme; a daydream, an idle fancy, a near impossibility

I’m still none-the-wiser what all this means. Here is that Dickens story:


  1. That peacock photo is classic, well done.

    Love your voice. From my position, the sound is a bit tinny, as if contained within a sea container. I think your rendition and execution deserve a proper recording environment. That reminds me, I need to write that story for your oratory presentation… One about winter, death and the promise of spring perhaps?

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