I am probably not alone in this ritual: to read the greatest novel of Christmas at the beginning of the holidays and to savour the very last word on Christmas Eve.
To finish the last page before the great day itself is a point of honour - this book that first entered my life as a schoolboy, a reading list compiled by a teacher to broaden my horizons.
But I didn’t get around to reading it until I was at secondary school. The book waited until I was ready to go on its journey, the opening scenes of snow and Christmas soon seen through a transfer of strangeness so that the very world around me, and my place in it, seemed capable of anything
a strange horseman
riding out of the cover
to carry me away
into a melancholy forest
and never, despite everything,
to really return.