This week, I’ve been settling down to read the latest anthology in the series of classic Christmas crime short stories published by the British Library. One of those quiet publishing successes of recent years, the British Library has been delving into its archives to bring out of print crime stories back into circulation. Christmas has turned out to be a particularly rich furrow.

Following on from previous collections Silent Nights, Crimson Snow and The Christmas Card Crime, comes this year’s A Surprise For Christmas. Featuring unearthed tales from Margery Allingham, GK Chesterton and Ngaio Marsh, the title story by Cyril Hare is about how a Christmas celebration reveals a world war two death to be something more sinister. If you’re short of something to read this year, these are a great festive read: the sharp contrast of grisly goings on and festive gatherings working well in heightening the drama.

Surprises for Christmas can cut both ways. Back in the real world, last Saturday saw Boris Johnson reveal the rise of a new virulent variant of coronavirus, and the cancelling of Christmas plans for millions of people. Not for the first time in this crisis, the best rule of thumb as to what happens next is to listen to what Boris is saying and assume absolutely the opposite will occur. So when he was talking three days before about how cancelling Christmas would be ‘inhuman’, you knew it was only a matter of time before he would do exactly that.

This is another episode to add to the already lengthy list of topics for the post-pandemic inquiry to look at: the Department of Health has known about the variant since early October; by early November it accounted for 30% of the infections in London. The fatal decision to put the capital into tier 2 following the November lockdown – one the Treasury fought tooth and nail for – looks particularly egregious.

We’ve been fortunate so far that our region has been spared the worst of the pandemic. But this new strain is now on our doorstep, with Berkshire and Portsmouth already in tier 4. And given the footage of trains packed with people leaving London on Saturday night, it won’t be that long before the new variant is rising here as well. Tier 4 or a new national lockdown looks likely in the new year. I feel for everyone who is having curtailed celebrations this year. Life, though, as John Lennon once sang, is what happens when you’re making other plans. This is a year to be thankful for what you do have, to count your blessings, and to raise a glass before the bleak midwinter begins. Happy Christmas to you all.