Comfort reading

The idea of comfort reading when it’s cold and snowy outside brings to mind two of my childhood favourites – that I still go back to now and again – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome.

Eventually I found a way to weave my own winter story with Christmas at Winterbourne. Narnia gets a reference in it (as it does in a few of my books).

Last year, when my publisher invited their authors to submit stories for a Christmas-themed anthology, I decided it was time to see what had happened to my characters in the intervening four years since publication.

“Winterbourne Revisited” was the result. The main focus for the story was the child who was born on Boxing Day. Teri is looking forward to her fourth birthday and all she wants for Christmas is…snow. Lots of it…just like at the time of her birth, when Winterbourne House was snowbound. As in the original story, I managed to include some Christmas Cracker jokes. This is an excerpt from the family’s Christmas Eve dinner with just Teri, her parents, and Clare, their guest from Australia.

Teri had followed her mother into the room and climbed onto the chair next to Clare. She immediately picked up her cracker and said, “Pull.”

Clare obliged with a smile, then offered her own to the girl. Teri was clearly well versed in cracker etiquette and pulled it before diving in to explore what had come out of her own. Wil and Gaby shared theirs with each other.

“Eat your soup before it gets cold.” Gaby’s instruction was aimed at her daughter but Clare picked up her spoon obediently. She’d only managed two mouthfuls when Teri plucked at her sleeve and held out her cracker joke.

“You want me to read this. Okay. Hm. I think it’s been written especially for you, little one. What do they sing at a snowman’s birthday party?” Clare looked around the table. “Any guesses?”

Blank looks all round.

“Must be something to do with cold or freezing,” Wil offered.

“You’re getting warm, or maybe I should say, cold.” Clare smiled. “Freeze a jolly good fellow.”

Teri looked puzzled, although her parents had laughed. “What does it mean?”

Clare sang the words for her, but the girl still looked puzzled. “Who’s he? It’s my birthday on Boxing Day. I want lots of snow and a snow horse.”

“I know, sweetheart.” Clare looked to Wil for help.

Wil shrugged. “How about this one, then? What kind of bird can write?”

“Oh, I know that one.” Gaby said quickly. “A penguin!”

Teri was distracted with the toy that had fallen out of her cracker. Clare wondered if her either of her parents had x-ray vision when they’d distributed the Christmas crackers at each place setting. The girl was playing with a small plastic horse.

So, if you’re looking for some Christmas-related comfort reading, how about giving this one a go.

Winterbourne Revisited – published 15 November 2021: Affinity Rainbow Publications Amazon UK / Amazon US / Bella Books / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Celebrating Christmas Crackers


I love Christmas Crackers. One of the reasons I set my current novel, Christmas at Winterbourne, at this time of year was so that I could share some really, truly, awful cracker jokes with readers.

Some examples – not all used in the story (answers at the end of the blog):

  1. What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
  2. Who hides in the bakery at Christmas?
  3. What did the beaver say to the Christmas tree?
  4. Why is it getting harder to buy Advent calendars?
  5. What do you get if you cross a bell with a skunk?

I could go on, but I won’t.


It may seem like a peculiar tradition to people in other countries—pulling apart a roll of decorated cardboard—to reveal a paper hat, a fairly useless toy or trinket, and a terrible joke which you can share with everyone at the table.

But to me, a Christmas meal feels incomplete without it. My sister obviously shares the same ‘cracker’ gene. I dedicated this book to her because as noted in the Acknowledgments, “she is responsible for providing the tale of a misguided attempt to smuggle Christmas crackers into Amsterdam.”

So, I hope you’ll join in the festivities at Winterbourne House and pull a cracker or two with the staff and the guests…a lot can happen in four days!



  1. Frostbite!
  2. A mince spy!
  3. Nice gnawing you!
  4. Because their days are numbered!
  5. Jingle Smells!

(Note: The answers have exclamation marks because if you know the answer or announce it to the other people who can’t get it – you yell it out with glee!)

Buying options for Christmas at WinterbourneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK /Barnes & Noble /Bella Books / Smashwords /Apple iTunes