Today’s Christmas song is ‘My Favourite Time of Year’. This Christmas song was performed by ‘The Florin Street Band’ and was written and sung by British composer Lee Haggerwood in 2010. His aim was to create a song with strong melodies that would match the classics and bring back the Christmas magic that he felt had been missing from the UK charts for decades. Haggerwood was disappointed by the yearly non-festive songs released by ‘The X-Factor’ finalists, and the protests that ensued which seemed more concerned with spiting Simon Cowell than bringing back Christmas songs.
When writing the song, he recalled his own childhood in the early 1980s. ‘My Favourite Time of Year’ revolves around a catchy, carol-like melody which weaves up and down the piano scales. The song is piano-led with instrumentation that includes many traditional Christmas elements such as orchestral chimes, choral harmonies, and string lines. Leigh Haggerwood's vision for the song included a Victorian-themed band. After several years of pitching the concept to major labels, who wouldn't compete with ‘The X Factor’, he eventually decided to fund it himself using his personal savings.
He contacted his session musician friends and employed their services to record the song at Trevor Horn’s Sarm Studios in London, England. He also hired ‘The English Chamber Choir’ to perform the choral parts, and the song was recorded over seven days in August 2010. The large ensemble of musicians was collectively named ‘The Florin Street Band’ and many of the musicians that performed on the recording also appeared in the music video.
Owing to the lack of a major record company backing, it was initially very difficult to promote the song. Mainstream radio stations were resistant to airing the record because ‘it wasn't coming from a major label’ which is often a benchmark. However, the song and video gained minor prominence through social networking sites. Its initial release on 6 December 2010 peaked at Number 14 in the ‘UK Indie Breakers’ Chart’. The song has been supported by Jamie Oliver, with whom Haggerwood started a band named ‘Scarlet Division’ in 1988. It won the ‘UK Songwriting Contest’
Because of this song not having been promoted by a big record label, it has only registered in my mind as being a super Christmas song since I started my daily singing practice. I’ve never sung it before this week but I’m so pleased that I found it to learn and sing to you.
The song title resonates with me completely, as Christmas has always been ‘my favourite time of year’ for so many reasons I have often written about. I have also written about the many kinds of people who wish that Christmas could come and go as quickly as possible as the season holds many sad memories for them.
Ever since Sheila and I have been together, I always assumed that she loved every bit of Christmas, just as much as I did. I was flabbergasted a few years ago when she replied to me along the lines that while she liked Christmas for its spiritual meaning and festive spirit that ‘Christmas means a lot of extra work for the woman than it does the man’. Sheila pointed out that no woman has as much time to ‘like Christmas’ as much as any man has! While I love my wife dearly, I was momentarily taken aback after concluding that I was in danger of taking Sheila for granted; especially where my family, as well as myself, was concerned. There was an irrational part of me that seemed to say, ‘just because I loved Christmas to the rooftops, so should everyone else!’
I was naturally aware of our differences in backgrounds and upbringing. Sheila was the oldest of two children born into a comfortable lifestyle with a barrister for a father and a solicitor for a mother. I was the firstborn of seven children to poor parents from a humble Irish background, who migrated to England with their first three children towards the end of the ‘Second World War’ for a more secure life. My father left school at the age of 12 years to work and aspired to never have more on his person than a £10 weekly wage packet (which he tipped up to my mother unopened) and the sweat of working as a miner on the coal face ten hours a day. I’d be willing to bet that Sheila’s mother never knew what her husband earned.
And yet, despite having a comfortable lifestyle bearing reared in Singapore largely, Sheila has never allowed money to control her or selfishness to determine her character and behaviour. Indeed, the very thing that initially attracted me to her was her total absence of selfishness. When I saw that in her, I knew I’d found a potential soul mate and marriage partner.
I am the oldest sibling of seven children of which I have five children, one sibling has four children and five siblings have three children each. Almost all my sibling’s children are parents themselves and when me and Sheila first got together, their usual family visits over Christmas to our house in Haworth (which we gladly welcomed and looked forward to) would invariably see dozens of family members and their children come to spread their Christmas cheer with us during the month of December. They would often be prone to turn up altogether.
While visiting us, with them having traditional Irish appetites and not being brought up to stand on ceremony in the homes of their siblings, (and with me being married to the best cook and most welcoming host in West Yorkshire), everything went off well and a good time was had by all. “Or was it?” I eventually asked myself after Sheila had expressed her views about Christmas being different for men than it is for the women who do all the work.
These sentiments being expressed by Sheila were spoken rationally and not angrily or begrudgingly. I had always known that I was the one who ‘must’ have a proper six-foot Christmas tree in our lounge and that, left to her own devices, any tree Sheila got would have been more modest in size or have even remained in the ground where it had grown from a sapling, instead of having been purchased, brought home, erected and enjoyed throughout Christmas every time I looked at it.
Initially, I was annoyed with myself for having taken Sheila for granted where the entertaining of my family’s visits were concerned. A little bit of me felt sad as soon as I started to appreciate that because we were the ones being fed and entertained and Sheila was the sole cook and bottle washer, that it was simply impossible that she could love and enjoy every little bit of ‘family Christmases’ as much as I did.
This thought led to an idea that would be the subject of another book to write in my romantic stories that are published under the umbrella category, ’Tales from Portlaw’.
As a part-joke with Sheila, after teasing her about ‘not liking Christmas as much as I did’, I wrote the book, ’The Woman Who Hated Christmas’. The story has nothing at all to do with Sheila; apart from her throwaway comment gave me the idea for another book.
Should any of you like to read this book over the Christmas break, ‘The Woman Who Hated Christmas’ can be purchased in e-mail format or hard copy from Amazon or www.smashwords.com. All profits from book sales go to charitable causes in perpetuity (over £200,000 in book-sale profits given to charitable causes between 1990 and 2002).
This offer is geared mostly towards the man of the house as you women will naturally be too tied up with cooking, ironing, washing up, cleaning, shopping and getting ready for the family’s ‘big day’ to curl up alongside the man of the house on the lounge sofa guzzling ale, and watching television. In fact, for many men, the most they’ll energise themselves with this Christmas while ‘the wife’ wraps up the presents, will be throwing peanuts into the air and catching them in his mouth with a celebratory cheer.
Oh, and besides everything else the woman of the house does throughout these twelve days of Christmas, she has to do it dressed up to the nines and looking fetching for her hubby’s eyes, should he occasion to look her way and notice she is still there somewhere in the background, keeping the show/pantomime on the road.
As a nice Christmas present to all wives and mums, you are able to read my Christmas story FREE/NO COST by accessing http://www.fordefables.co.uk/the-woman-who-hated-christmas.html.
‘The Woman Who Hated Christmas’ is but one of over a dozen romantic stories/novels that can be read free of charge by accessing my website.
Sheila and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Love and peace Bill xxx