Hello everybody! Today, it is the final (official) day of a Golden Christmas, and we have 2021 debut author Richard Pickard here to tell us what Christmas is like in the setting of The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy. Onto the post!
Merlington, the setting for The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy, is a town completely obsessed with fish. Seventeen fishmongers line the seafront – a ridiculous number for a town as small as Merlington – and those grown-ups who don’t spend their days selling cod and plaice are out at sea catching it instead! Fish is all that anyone eats, and it’s just about the only thing that children get to study at school. . . So naturally, Christmas in Merlington is also an absurdly fishy affair.
Festive celebrations begin with the lighting of an enormous crab-pot Christmas tree. Twenty-three layers of individual cages rise up in a pyramid of rusty metal, each one stuffed full of twinkling lights and tinsel, and thick, slimy garlands of green seaweed wrap around the structure like soggy scarves. Orange rubber buoys and stripy life rings bang about in the breeze as ornaments, and at the very top, a giant sea star swathed in fairy lights illuminates the harbour in a golden haze.
Homes throughout the town are also decorated with an especially fishy flavour. Gaggles of seagulls flap frantically at each and every front door, where wreaths of multicoloured shells hang with cockles, spirals and scallops all vying for pride of place in their laurels shaped like starfish. Along the rooftops, green and blue neon lights line the guttering with a bio-luminescent glow which lights up the town as if the bottom of the ocean itself had come up to dry land.
By the time that Christmas morning arrives the streets are littered with broken shells and seaweed. The locals finally settle down beside their own trees (real ones, this time!) and tear open Wellington boots which have been stuffed with countless presents overnight. Popular gifts to exchange include sea-salted caramels, candied herring, enormous white pearls, homemade shell jewellery and colourful sticks of rock.
As you’d expect, food is an important part of a conventional Merlington Christmas. The traditional fare is an indulgent meal of baked seabass with an assortment of sides dishes. . . Braised kelp, prawns in blankets, salted samphire grass and roasted sea cucumber make for a sumptuous spread, topped off by a gravy boat filled with thick roe sauce. Many choose to save on the washing up and visit The Laughing Trout instead, where a generous all-you-can-eat buffet awaits and boasts the very finest seabass on the south coast – supplied by Harold Mole and the Mullet Over fishmonger, of course.
After such a rich and decadent day of feasting, the most popular way to recover is with the annual Boxing Day Dip. Almost every person in Merlington gathers on the seafront in their finest swimwear, ready for a dash through the December waves. Many don’t last for more than thirty seconds in the chilling water, but every shiver is worth it for that one extra boast amongst school friends or family. The swim is followed by mulled wine and hot chocolate on the shore, where a singalong of sea shanties and cold seabass sandwiches are ready and waiting for anyone who might still have the stomach left for fish. . .
As much as I would personally love to spend a Christmas Day in Merlington, this year I think I will breathe a quiet sigh of relief at the sight of my roast turkey.
Thank you so much for reading! I can’t believe blogmas is over already, but I do have a couple more exciting posts to share with you before the end of the year, and I’m already very hopeful I can organise something similar next year (depending on life stuff and health stuff, the last time I said this I minced myself and ended up having spine surgery the following year, making blogmas completely impossible, and also on whether or not anyone wants to participate!).
I hope everyone reading this has the most amazing Christmas if they celebrate, and I’d love to chat with you in the comments about Richard’s post! Have you read his book? Are you planning to? Do you think you’d enjoy a fishy Christmas?