Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 2008

by Fernando Magnifico

Hallo and buongiorno to all my friends, it is I, Fernando, and I shall be your astrologer today, for the Lady Asterisk has got her hand stuck in her Hogswatch goose.

Unless you have been hiding in the basement building the machine for modelling the ebb and flow of money through this fine city (but Fernando cannot think of anyone in their right mind who would want to do that), or perhaps you are one of the unfortunates deep in the Patrician's dungeons (but then how would you be reading this, my friend?), then you will be aware that Hogswatch is upon us. In only a few more days, the Hogfather will be bringing presents to those who have been good, and bloody bones for those who have been bad. Fernando is always very good, except once when he was very tired and had the flu, but the signorina and her friend were very understanding and forgiving.

This month, the stars say, is the time for parties -- big parties, small parties, parties for many people and small intimate tete-a-tetes for two. During this month, some of the most powerful men in the city will be having the very large balls, and this requires much careful handling to prevent embarrassment. Even Lord Vetinari, who normally is not a man who has problems with anything, has taken on extra staff to plan and prepare for the Annual Patrician's Charity Ball. Fernando hears that Lord and Lady Rust's plans for their Hogswatch Ball are in complete disarray after their son has shot another butler. Not that Fernando has been counting, but that is the fourth servant this year.

Whether you are catering for the Patrician's Ball, or, how do you say it, having a knees up down the pub, this month is a molto difficile time. There is so much to be planned, so many parties to attend, enemies to be polite to, lesser enemies to snub, friends to pull out of the gutter and carry home, and so much more. At a time like this, Fernando knows that it is more important than ever to have the guidance from the stars, and so this is your guide to the parties. Happy Hogswatch and ciao bella!

The Adamant Hedgehog 21 Mar - 20 Apr

For Hoggers who are single, or those with understanding wives and husbands, the stars smile on you this month for your party is the singles party. Fernando gets the many invitations to singles parties all year round, but for those who have never been to one before, you can expect many awkward silences, much desperate attempts to impress with the machismo, the occasional cutting remark or face slapping, and, if you are very lucky, a quick and fumbling grope in the corridor with somebody who is not too unpleasant. Fernando is very sorry about this, but if you see him at one of these parties, perhaps he can "set you up", as they say, with the attractive and confident young ladies and gentlemens, since they will all be gathered around Fernando talking to him. Such is Fernando's burden, but he loves to share.

The Half-Eaten Sandwich 21 Apr - 21 May

Those born under the sign of the Half-Eaten Sandwich are known as Munchers, but also sometimes as Sandies. So what better party for you than the beach party? The stars agree and say that this is the good time to hire a cart, make up a picnic basket, and go for a day trip down to the Holy Wood beach with your friends. Watch out for sand in your drinks, ants in your food, biting flies, salt water in your eyes, and sharkses. The best thing about a beach party is that you can't go hungry, because of all the sand-witches there! Ha ha, Fernando has made the joke!

Herne the Hunted 22 May - 21 Jun

Hernians this month will find their party is the stag party. The stars say that this is the best time for you to go out to the woods, drink a lot of scumble (although even a little scumble is a lot), put on a silly hat with enormous fake deer antlers, and run around without your drawers on getting hot and sweaty. Then afterwoods, you can drink more scumble and have a barbecue with all the meats you can eat. Alas, Fernando has the bad news for the lady Hernians -- the stag party is strictly for the mens. But do not be sad, for Fernando knows that the woods near Ankh-Morpork are full of stinging nettle and poison ivy.

The Wizard's Staff and Knob 22 Jun - 22 Jul

For wizards, every night is a night for a dinner party, although for these learned gentlemens the music, good cheer and friendship is not as important as the size of the dinner. For Staffies, the stars suggest that you let your inner wizard out: this is a good time for dinner parties. But be careful, for Fernando knows that sometimes the dinner party can go wrong. Avoid all talk about religion and politics, and beware of the Wow-Wow sauce and home-made grappa. Make sure that you have with you a designated cart driver for the afterwards, because the Watch love to catch the drunk drivers at this time of year.

Bilious, God of Hangovers 23 Jul - 23 Aug

If every night is a dinner party for wizards, every night is a cocktail party for Bilians. The stars this month they say that this is an excellent month for the cocktail parties and wine-tasting parties. The cocktails, they are not bad, but Fernando prefers to drink the wine, like his blessed mamma taught him. "Fernando," she told me when I was a small boy, "a drop of vino is good for the digestion, but don't be like that good-for-nothing Bruno who gets drunk every day!" Except she said it in Brindisian, which is a much more beautiful language.

Fernando does not think much of the Ankh-Morpork wines: too much of the Quirmian merda, and the Tsortean wines are only good for the stripping of paint. For the proper wine, full of body and flavour and colour, you need wine made with la passione from the best Brindisian grapes, not the sour Quirmian rubbish. Fernando knows that your parties will be a success if you stick to the real vino from Brindisi.

The Celestial Parsnip 24 Aug - 23 Sept

For the Snippies, the stars suggest that it is the good month for the garden party. This confused Fernando at first, because the Ankh-Morpork weather is not the best at this time of year. But I have checked and double-checked my calculations, and there is no doubt that the stars say this is the month for garden parties. How can this be?

But then Fernando remembered what the difference between a garden party and a picnic is. If you have invited people called Fred and Sally, and asked them to bring a plate, it is probably the picnic. But if you have had your servants hand-deliver the invitation written on paper with gold edges to people called Lord and Lady Panjandrum, then it is probably a garden party. For those of you who are having the garden party, you can afford to have it at your summer residence in the Tsort islands. For the rest of you, Fernando recommends that you have the thick coats and warm hats, or better still, you have your picnic indoors.

The Small Boring Group of Faint Stars 24 Sept - 23 Oct

Not for Boring'uns is the wild party lifestyle. It is difficult to be the party animal when a small sherry, a couple of cheese biscuits and bed by 9 o'clock are what you consider to be an exciting night. But the stars understand and they suggest that your party for this month is a quilting party. If the sharp needles and scissors are too worrying, Fernando suggests that you supply the snacks and leave the dangerous implements to others.

Androgyna Majestis 24 Oct - 22 Nov

For Andies, the stars are saying that this is the good time for the coming-out party. If you are the young lady of the certain age, this is the good month for you to be presented to society. The Ankh-Morpork young gentlemens don't normally have the coming-out party. Fernando is not sure why this is so -- perhaps the young mens are never ready to be presented to polite society?

For the other young mens, the ones who perhaps have the "wide stance", as they say, Fernando can say do not worry my friends, the stars are with you this month. This is a very good month for your very own coming-out party too.

The Spoons, a.k.a. the Greater and Lesser Spoons, 23 Nov - 21 Dec

This month the stars say your party is the costume party, or "fancy dress" as they say. You can let everyone dress in whatever wild costumes they choose, but the stars suggest that a themed party will be better, although nobody is sure how the wizards will react to a party full of civilians dressed the same as them. Beware though, Fernando knows that you should avoid the toga party, for he has much experience in such matters. Fernando has an uncle Giovanni, not the shoemaker, the other uncle Giovanni, on Fernando's papa's side. For this uncle Giovanni, every party is the toga party. He is always dressed like the old Latinium patron, in a toga with a laurel wreath, and then drinks very much of the vino and climbs on the table and shouts "Food fight" (only in Brindisian, you understand) and throws the food at the bride and groom. It is molto embarressment, and we would like to not invite him, but what can we do? He is family.

Hoki the Jokester 22 Dec - 20 Jan

As a Hokian, your birthday is coming up, and the stars say that this is a good time for a Birthday Party. Fernando knows that it would be, of course. It would be silly to have your birthday celebration at a different time of the year, unless you are royalty or a race horse. So Fernando wishes you a molto happy birthday, and the stars say that this year, unlike last, there will be no fights over what our Val said to grandmamma.

Unfortunately, the stars say nothing about embarrassing relatives falling drunk into the punch bowl. Fernando knows you are on your own with that.

The Rather Large Gazunda 21 Jan - 18 Feb

Fernando knows that some things are timeless and can be enjoyed by anyone no matter what their age, like Fernando's dearest mamma's melanzana parmigiana, or lying on the soft grass under the shade of a fine old tree on a hot summer's day. Other things are not so universal, and for Gazundians, your party for this month is one of the others, for your party is the pyjama party. So if you are the 15 year old girl, this is a good month to invite your best friends over and talk about boys and Fernando, and play the Truth or Dare game. And if you are the 45 year old man, Fernando understands that Wednesday night is Pyjama Party night at the Pink Pussycat Club. For the rest of you, Fernando is afraid that the stars are not on your side this month.

Lesser Umbrage 19 Feb - 20 Mar

Umbragians, your preferred party for this month is the surprise party, although Fernando is saddened that by telling you this, it will no longer be a surprise for you. But surprise parties are not just for receiving, they are also for giving, and the stars say that this month you should give surprise parties for your friends and family. Why wait until their birthday or anniversary? There is nothing more surprising than a birthday party six months before the guest of honour's birthday, except perhaps for a cake with Fernando in it.

We Three Hags, Ane Hogswatche Carol


We three Hags Lancrastian are
Straddling brooms, we travel afar
Hearth and privy, pub and smithy
Casting our spells bizarre

Stars of Lancre, stern in black
Dames in regal pointy hats
Hubwards breezing, nethers freezing
Witches three who've got the knack

Born a Fool, yet destined to reign
Never cruel though sometimes a pain
King well-meaning -- New Age-leaning
Sensible, in the main

Star of Lancre, staunch and meek
Castle sanitation geek
Bells a-clinking, forward-thinking
Modernise your farm techniques

Frank but senseless, soppy am I
Wrinkled gowns and head in the sky
Sweet tomfool'ry, occult jewellery
"Wet as a hen," they sigh

Star of Lancre, star-crossed Queen
Star of herbal research scene
Keen defender, nappy-mender
Keeping Ynci's armour clean

Scumble mine, 'tis boozy perfume
Breath like fire can clear a big room
Girlish in spirit, bawling lyrics
Bawdy and rude -- boom-boom!

Star of Lancre, super-Gran
Head of matriarchal clan
Crude and chummy, Greebo's Mummy
Who can fix things? Nanny can!

Hogswatch parties? Sausages fat?
Ha! I can't be having with that!
Bees I'll borrow near and far, so
I can patrol my patch

Stars of Lancre, wyrd and wise
We've no need to advertise
Maiden, mother, and the... other
Guarding all 'neath Lancre's skies

-- Alice

For the original lyrics to the carol We Three Kings, go to: