I was given a copy of Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas by my uncle. Having been given The Hobbit, which I hated, the previous year, I wasn’t too thrilled with yet another Tolkien book. (In my defence, I was far too young to appreciate the Hobbit. I did come back to it years later and liked it a lot more). It therefore took me a while to read the letters, but when I did, I loved them. I loved the imaginary Father Christmas world, the little stories of mishaps and the humour. I dipped into the book several times at odd moments over the years and it is one that I have very fond memories of. To me, it feels like a part of my childhood.
Over the past few months, various events both good and less good have given me cause to think some fairly existential thoughts. The meaning of life, the meaning of my life, the reasons behind what I do and what it is all “for”, in the grander scheme of things. The Father Christmas letters were sent year after year, but as letters, could be read at any time – or, as happened, collected together and appreciated as a book. Books can be kept and dipped into, shared and enjoyed over many years. They are very personal things. Not only do they draw us into worlds partly formed by our own experiences and imaginings, they can evoke a particular time or person. Tolkien always reminds me of the uncle that first gave me his books. The Father Christmas letters remind me of childhood. Any book by A N Wilson reminds me of Oxford and, well, early boyfriends!
Books are written by hand. Artisans make items with their hands. Just as a book can evoke a time, place or emotion, so a specially-made, individual piece of work can do the same. The idea that one of my dragons, or a bud vase or a bottle stopper has been bought as a gift for someone else to enjoy gives me a huge amount of pleasure. It is lovely to think that these items might go on to remind them, however briefly, of a moment or a person. My existential thinkings led me to the conclusion that, if I can work glass and make items that bring others pleasure, then that is a wonderful thing. What better reason is there for life than to make others smile and give them happy memories?
And on that note, and with apologies for the dark photo, this backgammon set is destined this Christmas for someone who I hope will like it. May it, combined with a small tot of good whisky and some company, give him many a good moment to remember!