‘You better watch out
You better not cry’
I stir apples and quinces in the saucepan, speculate briefly on what that ferocious spirit at the bottom of the slim bottle actually is—grappa?—then tip it in anyway. It will evaporate, surely, leaving behind it the sense of something, a hint, a rumour. Perhaps you know that passage in Kipling’s—highly selective—autobiography, where he refers to the process of cutting away a story draft’s extraneous material: ‘a tale from which pieces have been raked out is like a fire that has been poked. One does not know that the operation has been performed, but everyone feels the effect.’ It was that same Mr Kipling who wrote the script for the first royal Christmas broadcast in 1932, which was listened to by some twenty million people Apparently, the idea had been mooted by John—not yet Lord—Reith as early as 1923, the year in which he became Director-General of the BBC.
‘Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town’
‘Pout’? I get the sense that the word is used less often these days. ‘A protrusion of the lips, especially as an expression of petulance or sulkiness, or to make oneself sexually attractive; a pouting expression or mood’, the Oxford English Dictionary says, with quoted examples going back to the late sixteenth century. Could that be all that’s needed to make oneself sexually attractive? Who knew it was that easy?
The Librarian is doing complicated things with fairy lights, wrapping paper and other accessories. I conclude that Christmas is bearing down on us—fast.
‘He’s making a list
And checking it twice.’
Now that’s a properly checked checklist. People everywhere are surely compiling lists at the moment, though the roll of those whom history will damn as fools, dupes or villains is currently writing itself.
The Christmas present headings—both giving and receiving—have been sensibly whittled down to books, food and drink. Some people read, most people drink, everyone eats. Simple, a problem solved. As easy as pouting, you might say.
 Rudyard Kipling, Something of Myself, edited by Robert Hampson (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987), 156.
 Andrew Lycett, Rudyard Kipling (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1999), 571; Martin Pugh. ‘We Danced All Night’: A Social History of Britain Between the Wars (London: Bodley Head 2008), 371.