Last year’s Agency Advent Calender proved so popular we have decided to treat you to another festive dose of author entertainment!
In the lead up to Christmas 2014 we will publish a series of festive posts written by the authors at The Madeleine Milburn Agency.
These posts will include either: a short story imagining Christmas with a popular (or unpopular!) literary character, or a description of books and authors that had the most impact on them and inspired their writing careers.
So do watch this space in the lead up to Christmas for some delightful, inspirational and amusing festive tales from our wonderfully talented authors.SOHO, 4AM (Quercus, 2013) and SUMMER LIES BLEEDING (Quercus, 2014) Nuala Casey continues to be inspired by London and the voices of the city.
Christmas Day with Mrs Dalloway
Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the presents herself. And so it is that I find myself walking through the streets of London on Christmas Eve with my old friend Clarissa.
‘How long has it been?’ she asks as the great neon swell of Piccadilly Circus comes into view. ‘It must be twenty years or more now.’
And as we stand on the kerb waiting to cross I remember a fifteen-year-old girl lying on the grass with a book in her hands. Moments later she would embark on a journey into a world of colour and light, of dream-like sentences and half-formed images weaving in and out like a lighthouse beacon in the mist, one minute clear, the next impenetrable and out of the mist a story would emerge, the story of Clarissa Dalloway and the past she could never leave behind.
I take Clarissa’s hand as we step out into the road and navigate the early evening traffic. The street is a blur of fading colour. Yellow headlights twinkle in the gloaming and, up ahead, holograms of trussed-up shop windows flutter against the darkening sky.
We stop outside Hatchards and peer at the displays of bestsellers propped up in the mullioned window.
‘I wonder’ says Clarissa. ‘Do people still read books with all this technology?’
She points to a young woman inside the shop, shoulders hunched over a smartphone as she frantically texts, oblivious to the treasures all around her.
‘Poor girl,’ whispers Clarissa, her face pressed to the window. ‘She reminds me of my daughter Elizabeth, always in such a rush to do things, racing from one meeting to another; she would never stop to notice what was right in front of her, the magic, the beauty of life. Until it was too late.’
I see an old sorrow building in Clarissa; a grief magnified at this time of year and I want to distract her, to help her as she has helped me every time our paths have crossed.
‘Come on,’ I say, taking her arm and leading her away from the window and the books and the girl. ‘ Let’s go next door and be whimsical and silly.’
She smiles as we walk towards Fortnum and Mason and behold its Christmas window. Mechanical swans glide through rivers of white tissue and a silver tree glistens with sparkling lights.
‘Oh I do love this time of year,’ Clarissa sighs as we make our way through the swing doors. ‘All the world seems so contained, so still; like a long, deep sleep.
And with that she hurries off and I watch as she flits from counter to counter; a butterfly hovering yet never settling on a flower, and I wonder what she is looking for. Then she stops and I see her pick something up. She smiles as she catches my eye and walks towards me.
‘Here,’ she says, pressing her treasure into my hands.
I open my palm and see a slim silver fountain pen that sparkles in the light.