12 Days of Clink Street Christmas - a Festive #GuestPost by Joe Treasure, author of The Book of Air

I have another fantastic 12 Days of Clink Street Christmas treat for you today; Joe Treasure has very kindly written a guest post about his favourite elements of Christmas. First though, here's the description for his latest novel, The Book of Air,

Retreating from an airborne virus with a uniquely unsettling symptom, property developer Jason escapes London for his country estate, where he is forced to negotiate a new way of living with an assortment of fellow survivors.  
Far in the future, an isolated community of descendants continue to farm this same estate. Among their most treasured possessions are a few books, including a copy of Jane Eyre, from which they have constructed their hierarchies, rituals and beliefs. When 15-year-old Agnes begins to record the events of her life, she has no idea what consequences will follow. Locked away for her transgressions, she escapes to the urban ruins and a kind of freedom, but must decide where her future lies.
These two stories interweave, illuminating each other in unexpected ways and offering long vistas of loss, regeneration and wonder.
The Book of Air is a story of survival, the shaping of memory and the enduring impulse to find meaning in a turbulent world.

Doesn't that sound intriguing? The Book of Air is published by Clink Street Publishing and can be purchased here.

Many thanks to Joe for writing this fantastic guest post, and to Clink Street Publishing and Rachel Gilbey for inviting me to take part in the 12 Days of Clink Street Christmas.

Cribs, Crafts and Good Company
by Joe Treasure

I remember as a small child making a stable out of a cardboard box. It had crudely cut windows, a sloping roof held in place with Sellotape and a big yellow star glued to the top. Various sets of nativity figures would come out of storage when Christmas approached and we liked creating places to put them. I was the sixth of nine children so family traditions were well established by the time I came along. 
For the largest set of figures, my father had made a structure about eighteen inches high. It had a thatched roof that stood on wooden pillars so it was open on all four sides. He always took playful activities seriously and, besides, he was a carpenter so he’d made a good job of it. It stood in our front garden with the ox and the ass and Mary and Joseph inside, and an empty crib with the straw waiting. Joseph held a lantern with an electric light attached to a hidden cable, so the whole interior glowed at night. We wouldn’t see Jesus or the shepherds until we came home from midnight mass at one in the morning, yawning and rubbing our eyes, and it was always a small miracle. 
As for the kings, we’d have to wait another twelve days for them. My mother had grown up in Ireland taking her Catholicism for granted, but my father was an English convert who had educated himself out of Catholic Truth Society pamphlets and he knew what was right. The Magi came on the 6th of January – the Feast of Epiphany. No one else bothered about this detail. The huge nativity scene in our church included the kings in all their painted finery by Christmas Eve. Our neighbours had taken their decorations down and probably begun breaking their New Year resolutions before our kings showed up.
This didn’t apply to the nativity play, which we used to perform in front of a captive audience of friends and relatives and maybe a couple of nuns. This was another of my father’s initiatives. I always played one of the kings, along with the two brothers above and below me in age. The bigger roles, Mary, Joseph and the angel who appears to the shepherds, had been claimed by the older ones before I was capable of raising an objection. There were no lines to learn. We all acted out our parts in silence while my father read the story from Luke’s Gospel in his best public-speaking voice, but we got to dress up. 
In our family, doing something – anything – was always considered better than doing nothing. And Christmas was definitely a time for doing things. Pocket money was limited and there were a lot of people to buy presents for, so we had to be creative. We’d form temporary alliances to buy or make things for the others, pooling our ideas and resources. 
Life in our family wasn’t peaceful. We bickered and fought. If there was nothing to fall out about personally, something else would be found. All the major political issues of the day were hammered out around our kitchen table. Voices were raised, tears were shed, doors were slammed. My mother had a rule that on Christmas Day at least there would no fighting. That rule was never broken. 
She had an apparently tireless capacity for taking care of people and an exceptionally inclusive notion of family life. We lived in a huge, dilapidated house that my father was constantly fixing up. Anyone was welcome for a meal or to stay overnight at a moment’s notice. At Christmas, the older ones would bring friends home from university, unexpected guests would show up and space would be made for everyone. We always puzzled over what to buy my mother as a present. The only time I remember getting it exactly right was when a few of us clubbed together to buy her a visitors’ book. It stayed on the hall table for years and she always asked people to sign their names and write something in it. 
I no longer go to church, not even at Christmas. My wife was raised with very different customs, which she has also left behind. We’ve spent Christmas in a lot of different places, on different continents and in different climates. But we still value it as a time when disagreements are put aside, people connect in whatever way suits them, and the business of the working life can be suspended in favour of other activities. Last year our son and daughter-in-law came to stay and we devoted a couple of days to various craft projects that we’d never think of doing at another time, including making a year’s supply of birthday cards. 
And we even display our own eccentric multi-faith nativity scene, put together from favourite ornaments gathered over the years, in which an infant Jesus in a pram pushed by an Edwardian nanny is watched over by a variety of benign deities and a cluster of wooden angels. 

You can enjoy the other festive treats from Clink Street by following the #12DaysofClinkStreet hashtag on Twitter. The calendar below shows the 12 Days posts of the past, present and yet to come!

About the Author 

Joe Treasure currently lives in South West London with his wife Leni Wildflower. As an English teacher in Wales, he ran an innovative drama programme, before following Leni across the pond to Los Angeles, an experience that inspired his critically acclaimed debut novel The Male Gaze (published by Picador). His second novel Besotted (also published by Picador) also met with rave reviews.