Generosity unwrapped

 WITH inflation reaching its highest level for six years and snow disrupting public transport in some parts of the country, there have been financial and practical obstacles to overcome in the annual challenge of shopping for Christmas presents and food.

For some, the hardship has proved too much and hundreds of families have turned to The Salvation Army for help with food hampers and gifts for their children. The generosity of others has made an impact for good at this time of the year.

I was determined that the lives of the children I’d lost would have a purpose

THE big announcement did not happen. Zoë and her husband, Andy, had hoped to give their family the good news on Christmas Eve. She was pregnant. But before they could surprise the family, a scan showed them that their baby had died.

It was not the couple’s first loss. It would not be their last. Zoë and Andy even went on to suffer further loss at Christmastime, but also to celebrate the birth of their eldest daughter.

Zoë’s experience has given her insight into what other people may be feeling at this time of year.

Ciao, that's what I call music

WITH some of them in the UK and others in Italy, Carly Paoli’s family have been a passport to a varied musical education. The singer received formal training at Tring Park School for the Performing Arts and the Royal Northern College of Music in the UK. But she also learnt her art by singing in Italian piazzas.

Wander and wonder go together

VISITORS wanting to discover Amsterdam’s lesser-known tourist spots will uncover a couple of gems just a stone’s throw from the city centre’s flower market – two large churches within a hundred metres of each other. They are the Old Lutheran Church and its neighbour, the Krijtberg, a Roman Catholic church.

Captivity brought creativity

TERRY WAITE knows more about suffering and solitude than most. In 1987, while working as a special envoy for the Church of England, he travelled to Lebanon to secure the release of four hostages. But negotiations didn’t go according to plan. When he arrived in Beirut, Terry was abducted by the militant group Hezbollah. He was blindfolded, beaten and locked in a cell for a total of 1,763 days. For the first four years of his captivity, he was placed in solitary confinement.

More than wishful thinking

THE Christmas anthem ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’ by Wizzard is heard in stores up and down the country at this time of year. Appropriately enough, it begins with the sound of a cash register ringing up another sale as money is thrown into the drawer. It could be argued that those opening few moments echo what has become the real sound of Christmas.

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What are we hoping for?

THE birthday card greeting from my brother said it all: ‘Blessed are those who expect nothing for they shall not be disap­pointed.’ The envelope was empty and I was disappointed. Not even a second-hand post­al order! We of the baby boomer generation are a demanding lot.

Last September, Sir Vince Cable said he was concerned about ‘inequality and the massive unfairness particularly between generations’.

Influential beyond words

‘HE gave us our modern language,’ says Melvyn Bragg. When we meet in the offices of his TV production company in London, the broadcaster and author mentions Shakespeare, but the playwright is not the man he is talking about as the genius who reinvented English.

‘There are more than thirteen hundred references in Shakespeare to his work,’ he says. ‘The truth is, the Bibles that Shakespeare was reading or hearing may have been called the Matthew Bible or the Geneva Bible, but they were all William Tyndale.’