What I have been doing with the festive season, apart from the obvious (writing Christmas cards, shooting rats…) is getting on top of a crisis handknitted by Oxford University Press, who required me to proofread and index my book for them by December 17th. The book in question, all 627 pp of it, turned up, with this requirement, in the first week of December. I can’t hazard a guess at how long it has taken, but the answer is, all the waking hours not positively occupied by something else, since the first week of December. Hence neglecting the Blog. The index is well over the 3,000 headword mark, and is developing its own momentum, indeed, its own sort of appeal based on sheer weirdness — a page printed out from within the letter A includes Artemisia, the Arval Brethren, Astrology, the Inca Atahualpa, Attila the Hun, St Augustine, Augustus the Strong, and Jane Austen. Even I am becoming amazed by this book, and I wrote the damn thing. Meanwhile in another part of my life, edits on some fiction have also come to haunt my desk: the list of words the copyeditor has asked me to look at has, to an even greater extent, developed a mad poetry all its own — here is the list for C. Chimney stack cruise missile, colourwash, carry-on (noun), café, clifftop, Cockneyisms, camembert, collarbones, the City, carpark, cherry-picker, crowstep gables, chimney-liner, Cup-a-Soup, crewel-work, camper van, car-enamel, chimney-sweep, chat room, cross-legged, cheekbones, cul-de-sac, check-up, churchgoer, cold-cures, cashflow, childminder, comeback, cotoneaster, compost heaps, churchyard, Cats’ Protection League, campanula, crow’s feet. Well, dearies: what the heck do you think I have been writing about?