24th December – Helen Arney, Darren Hayman and Helen Atkinson

We’ve made it to the last day. Today we have 2 songs, information pills a video and a short story.

Firstly, over to my good friend Helen Arney to introduce her song. – Darren

Never Built A Snowman – Helen Arney & Paul Richards, with Martin Randle

Last October I spent 3 days in a shed in Cambridge with drummer/playwright Paul Richards and musician/producer/all-round good egg Martin Randle, recording “It’s Going To Be An Awkward Christmas, darling”. Paul and I wanted it to be the kind of album that could soak up any excess Christmas cheer, and tell a few of the stories you don’t normally hear in lifts and departments stores around this time. It’s less “Driving Home for Christmas” and more “Christmas Dinner Microwave Meal For One”, not so much “Mistletoe & Wine” as “Traditional Family Christmas Argument”.

We recruited a few friends and family, including comedians Terry Saunders and Tom McDonnell, and my super-talented sister Kat Arney. She plays harp on this track, along with Martin on various magical synths and Paul on percussion.  The rest of the album is over on helenarney.bandcamp.com if you want to listen.

This track is about animachionophobia – a seasonal, yet crippling, fear of snowmen.

Helen Arney & Paul Richards – Never Built A Snowman

Despite the fact this isn’t a new song specially recorded for the Haworth project, Darren has very kindly popped it into his advent calendar on the Christmas Eve. If you like it, there’s a home-brewed animated video…

I hope it’s just in time to freak everyone out if there’s a white Christmas tomorrow.Watch out, he’s behind you!

More bla bla bla about Helen is here: helenarney.com – Helen Arney

This is me, my dog and a life size lego model of my dog….

It’s my advent calendar, I can do 2 songs can’t I? After a six track ep and curating 50 plus seasonal songs however I was unsure what to write. Being the last song I thought about things ending. It seems, sometimes, that Christmas is all anticipation and aftermath. In fact the aftermath seems to over lap with the pre-amble. Adverts for the January Sales collide with campaigns for last minute presents. Here’s a song about the relentlessness of time. – Darren

Darren Hayman – January Sales

Thanks for taking the time to listen and participate with mine and Tom’s Christmas project, the plan is currently to just leave it up here; a free archive of songs and stories. The very last thing on the 2011 Darren Hayman / Fika Recordings Christmas Advent is a short story by Helen Atkinson.

You Look Like Christmas by Helen Atkinson

Laura finished decorating the tree and took a step back to admire her handiwork. It was a mess but it was her mess, a lopsided mush of tinsel, all of the blue baubles clustered at the top and the silver at the bottom. She had been too enthusiastic again. The star didn’t really fit but she’d jabbed it onto the top of the tree, causing a flurry of pine needles to fall onto the laminate below. Christmas was her thing and she knew that she wasn’t ready to break the tradition just yet.

It had been one of the things that Dave had liked best about her, her love of Christmas, her annual thrash through the flat with tinsel and glitter. The tiny nativity set she’d had since she was a kid, and the bells she’d made from polystyrene egg boxes at primary school and had kept safe ever since. They’d only been together for a few weeks that first Christmas, and he’d been working so hard that she’d hardly seen him in the run up. When he’d walked into her little flat a few days before Christmas Eve, he’d laughed at the glitter on the floor and the enthusiastic mess of tinsel and holly and cheap home made decorations. Then he’d snapped the thread holding the sprig of mistletoe to the paper lampshade, grabbed it and walked over to her.

‘You look like Christmas,’ he’d said and she couldn’t say anything because she still felt her stomach churn when she realized that they were really together.

The national anthem started up from the TV – a squelch of half hearted brass that drew her attention back to the room. Just gone three. He’d be here soon. She hoisted herself to her feet, feeling her knees click in that way that they’d only started doing this year. Moved to the kitchen, opened the oven and basted the tiny duckling with marsala from the pan. Perfect for two. Their first Christmas together she’d done the whole thing – turkey, stuffing, mini-chipolatas from M&S. He’d had a few mouthfuls, then said he was sorry and pushed his plate away.

The doorbell rang. He was here. She arranged her face in the mirror above the fireplace, carefully ironing out any wrinkle of sadness or disappointment, curving her lips into a smile that almost looked natural, before opening the door.

‘Hello darling, Happy Christmas.’ His breath, as he kissed her, smelt of smoked salmon and brandy butter and champagne.  She closed her nostrils and breathed through her mouth. His arms were around her shoulders and she laced her fingers around his back, clinging on for as long as she dared.

He laughed as he looked behind her at the Christmas tree.

‘I thought you said that you weren’t going to bother this year?’

‘Well, I wasn’t but, you know me, it’s not Christmas until the decorations are up. And I had a bit of spare time.’

A bit of spare time, she thought. Six or seven hours of spare time. It doesn’t take a long time to prepare a small duck.

‘It’s great to see you Laura. It’s great to be here.’

‘Do you want a drink?’

‘Just a cup of tea for now, love. I’ve had one glass already.’

Her head tipped up.

‘But surely that doesn’t matter now. You’re not going to be driving any more tonight.’ She tried to flatten her intonation at the end of the sentence, not letting it lift into a question.

He sighed, dropped his eyes down, raised them again.

‘Lesley’s parents are coming round tomorrow early. We’re taking the boys down to the steam railway. Christmas treat.’

She said nothing.

‘But I can stay for a good few hours yet. Don’t have to be back till late. We can still have nice afternoon. It’s great to see you Laura. It’s great to be here.’

The duck was perfectly cooked. They ate in the semi-darkness of Christmas afternoon, the table lit by red and gold candles. Both spoke in soft, kind voices, careful not to spoil the day. Later they both stretched themselves out on her tiny sofa. She fed him After Eights and they watched Holiday Inn on Channel Four and she hummed along with Bing Crosby whilst he dozed quietly, his head on her shoulder. She fidgeted him awake when the film ended and they had sex and played cards. She watched him relax and tried not to trick him into drinking too much wine so that he’d have to stay.

When he left, shortly after midnight, making a lame Cinderella joke that they’d both laughed at too hard, she poured herself a large sherry in a brandy glass and sat on the floor next to the Christmas tree. One end of tinsel was sticking out from the mess of decorations and she wound it round her little finger, pulling it tight against the joint so that the fleshly pad swelled and turned white and red. She looked up at her Christmas tree. The star didn’t really fit but she’d jabbed it on the top, causing a flurry of pine needles to fall. She didn’t know why she bothered any more, but this was her thing. And she knew that she wasn’t ready to break the tradition just yet.