The weather is cold, the news grim... but we've been counting our blessings, from new Sherlock to British sporting brilliance.
The mood of the Advent period should be one of anticipation and reflection, so often, we forget to find genuine enjoyment and comfort in it as we scurry, grim-faced, to beat the Christmas deadlines.
Even the most cursory scan of the news headlines brings anything but merriment and seasonal good cheer: bitter Brexit rows, banking anxiety, football scandals, European election results, rising fuel prices, a Brussels sprout-eating moth, traffic cones, train strikes, the Dogs Trust reporting nearly 4,000 unwanted dogs last month alone and, worst by far, the unceasing torment of the Syrians.
There is good news if you search for it; there is plenty at which to stand and stare, if only we would allow time to look. We’ve put nine of the reasons into the video above – but here is our full list of 17 things to put a spring in your step this week.
Country Life’s reasons to be cheerful
1. More young people have been glued to Planet Earth II than The X-Factor
2. Reports of the death of the real book have been greatly exaggerated—book buying is easily the most enjoyable form of Christmas shopping
3. Save Britain’s Heritage’s hard work on Wentworth Woodhouse has been rewarded by the Chancellor stepping in
4. The National Gallery has a superb Caravaggio exhibition and a Michelangelo one to look forward to in February
5. The BBC is starting a new series of Sherlock in January, and also planning a new series of Poldark and a documentary on the making of The Nutcracker
6. Hilary Mantel may finish the final part of her ‘Wolf Hall’ trilogy next year
7. The Royal Mail’s 50th-anniversary Christmas stamps are pretty enough to encourage the sending of real cards
8. Exam board Pearson has both saved the Art History A level and, therefore, the cultural education of a new generation
9. Lucy Kirkwood, creator of Chimerica, has written a brilliant new play, The Children (page 94), and Rufus Sewell stars in Art at the Old Vic this month
10. English sparkling wine is genuinely challenging Champagne—even Taittinger has bought land here
11. Mulled wine tastes better in freezing weather and deserted moorlands sparkle 12 Britain finally has a world-number-one tennis player in Andy Murray
13. National Hunt racing has a new hero: Thistlecrack, trained by Somerset dairy farmer Colin Tizzard, is favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup
14. It’s just 18 days until Christmas
15. Cirl buntings have bounced back from the brink of extinction
16. Everyone gets a role in the Nativity nowadays, even if they’re only a blade of grass or the third lobster
17. Country Life will be 120 years old in January