Follow one crying eye on

The “wrong” Santa, and other tales of Yule

Another year turns… In fact, it turned a week ago but clearly my New Year’s Resolutions don’t run to increased energy for blogging.

As is usual for this dark time of year, I have well-intentioned lists a-plenty, but little energy to achieve the tasks I’ve boldly put upon them. This may not be being helped by my latest madcap idea of Time Limited Eating (TLE), having read an article in the Times (so of course it must be right) which suggested that restricting the window in which one eats and increasing the length of periods of fasting is the best way to lose those extra pounds gained over Christmas. I’ll report more on this when I’ve given it a fair trial. Bizarrely though, I have managed to cut out breakfast and evening snacking completely for 5 days in a row, with almost no ill-effects and an immediate loss of a few pounds. Time will tell.

I was spurred on to take this challenge by the awful question on New Year’s Day – How on this calorie-abundant earth can I lose the many pounds I’ve gained before squeezing myself into the costume I was fitted for before Christmas? Every year it is the same story – I lose all reason over the holiday period and honestly believe that it won’t be that hard to shed the Christmas excess come January; having eaten six times the normal quantity of food almost exclusively consisting of high fat or high sugar items instead of my usual sensible balanced diet, for 10 whole days while our house is full of people doing the same (so who am I to be left out even if I do have to cook and/or procure most of it), it will surely be simple to cut back to the normal levels in January, banishing the alcohol I only really drink in December anyway, which will automatically lead to a reduction in waistline and rapid shrinkage all round. It matters not that this has never happened. Selective memory is a wonderful thing, as is false logic and hope. Ah well, TLE – as with all good TLAs – will be a useful ally.  As I say, we’ll wait and see.

Christmas itself is already becoming a distant memory, but I have retained a few highlights seared on my grey-matter to add to the soon-to-be-muddled Chrimble memory-banks. So I record these here for future reference as much as anything.

Our decorations mostly went up just the day before our guests arrived, much to the consternation of my neighbour’s four-year-old who was apparently quite distressed that we had plonked an unadorned fir tree in our window, pestering his mother to let him come round and ‘help’ us with it, as we clearly didn’t know how to do it properly. This did, however, allow Mr J’s 10-year-old niece from America to dress the tree with me, to the loud accompaniment of ‘the Christmas CD’ (obligatory for the past 20 years at least for this part of the proceedings)  whilst her father attempted to sleep off his jet-lag in the room above. (“Why didn’t you sleep on the plane Dad? I did, and now I’m not jet-lagged at all? You should have slept!” How we laughed, well, except ‘Dad’ of course.)

We have now packed them all away (the decorations, not the guests, although we DID finally pack them onto a plane home just before New Year’s Eve) and the house has returned to its somewhat dispiriting self. 

We stuck to our usual format for festivities as far as possible this year. Despite anticipation that this would be the first time since Covid that we had all the Jillingses in one place for Yuletide, one of them chose not to come after all (a long story) so we were six. The missing brother/uncle usually carves the turkey for me – Mr J confidently and competently stepped into the breach here and all was well. However, this same missing brother/uncle has played a crucial part in the proceedings in recent years by gamely donning our rather tacky but effective Santa suit in secret and mysteriously appearing at the front door with a sack of presents to give out on Christmas morning.

This year, Son Jillings is nominated as a last-minute replacement (after a fictional secret ballot) and before even a sip of alcohol has passed his lips, poor chap, he sneaks off to pull on the red and white uniform and wig/beard/spectacles combo. Following the usual well-trodden process, he lets himself out of our back living room garden door, tiptoes carefully up the side passage, through the side gate and appears at the front window, waving past the now twinkling Christmas tree and HoHoHo-ing for all he’s worth. (We forget, I suppose, that this guy has fronted live bands and is no stranger to over-the-top stage performances, so despite the early hour (this was only midday!), he was in his element.) He knocks at the front door. We eagerly rush to open it – all of us except young niece who throws herself onto her father’s lap and sobs – “It’s the wrong Santa!” Panic ensues and the remaining Jillingses convene in the kitchen, deciding ultimately that this inferior Santa should disrobe immediately and we’ll all pretend nothing has happened. Best never discuss it again and carry on regardless.

On returning to the living room, we cheerily suggest Daughter J might like to explore the pile of presents under the tree and she begins to hand them out to a slightly nervous (and in places tear-stained) familial circle. Into which circle Son J, safely back in his Christmas jumper, boldly strides and announces “Have I missed anything? I was in the bathroom – that was the longest poo I’ve ever had!” – as the room dissolves in laughter, to massive adult relief and equally large cheered-upness from our junior member. No idea what we’ll do about Santa next year. 

There was also something of a palaver with an elf. The elf (of ‘elf on the shelf’ fame in previous years) emerged blushing from the tree decorations box, to horrified gasps from niece Jillings. ‘You can’t touch him,’ she screamed. Now, I was all at sea with this one and the other elderly J’s were variously trying to sleep or sensibly busying themselves well clear of the decoration rituals. Having no real clue as to what I could do next, and with the beady eyes of said elf boring right into mine, I grasped desperately for inspiration. I recalled that we would normally move the elf each evening so that he appeared on a different shelf or ledge each new morning over the Christmas period, or at least when there was a young person in residence who cared about such antics. So, I decided to lift him out of the decorations box and carry him carefully and ceremoniously up the stairs, ensuring that he did not ‘wake.’ Poor elf – must have got confused during his long sleep but we’d better put him somewhere dark where he could continue his slumbers. I found an obscure first floor understair cupboard (one of our finest house-design ideas, in fact) and lay him gently within.

The next day I remembered to move him before niece J was awake, and plonked him on a ledge above the hallway. At some point on Christmas Eve, he mysteriously migrated to a pewter tankard  atop the dresser overlooking our dining table and was joined in the adjacent tankard by a pink-clad female elf who had apparently flown all the way from the United States of Amelfica to be with us. Or more accurately, had been gift-wrapped to disguise her as one of the presents from American relatives and stowed away in Dad’s suitcase for the journey, thus avoiding awkward immigration procedures and forbidden pre-Christmas Eve appearances.

Once Christmas Eve had passed, we saw no more of this pink elf. She had apparently flown back to the North Pole, to return at Thanksgiving next year. This is all terribly important, and we were lucky to get away with our own sleeping elf. Niece J was ok about him because she rationalised that there had been no small children in our house since her previous visit for him to watch over. Clearly when she was last here over Christmas, aged only 7, she was less entrenched in such ridiculous stories (bah humbug, I hear you hurl at me) and didn’t register that the elf was still hanging around well past Christmas Eve – he probably wanted to make the most of the plentiful alcohol and mince pies on offer after dark, and of course we don’t do Thanksgiving over here. Now I’ve studied the story in detail, I will either forget it by next year (well, that’s more than likely) or the new Middle School-attending niece will pooh-pooh the whole rigmarole and deem us mad. 

Other highlights?

  • The making of a perfect roux sauce – tho’ I say it myself – using oat milk for the first time. I began to announce that this sauce was therefore vegan, when I realised that it would only be so if I hadn’t first melted a large cube of butter and finally added half a basinful of cheddar cheese to it. And in any case, it was now holding together various different fish chunks and several boiled eggs in my now traditional Christmas Eve fish pie – so why was that even relevant?
  •  The last-minute decoration of my Christmas cake by Daughter and Niece. In previous years, this has resulted in somewhat hit and miss affairs, but this time it was beautiful. We always use the same old Santa figures, but this time I’d found some festive sprinkles in Waitrose and presented these to the decorating team, expecting them to liberally and randomly ‘sprinkle’ them over the top. In fact, they created pretty little holly sprigs – clearly what they were designed for once I had thought about it – which was charming. Leaving the icing so late also had the benefit that it had not hardened into a carapace requiring pickaxes by the end of cake consumption time.
  • Daughter J’s cat arrived with her on Christmas Eve and stayed for a few days after she had disappeared for a well-earned New Year holiday with her friends. He has a very fancy litter tray which automatically sifts and removes any deposits (and counts them – a source of fascination, if not obsession, for his kitty-sitters), but he decided this was making life too easy for us, and challenged us to clear up a couple of alternatively-located offerings just to show us who was boss.

So now we are back to reality, an empty and still decaying house, but with the addition of a bird-table which is proving a massive distraction as it is perfectly positioned for viewing from my office window. 

Other than that, we are left to ponder a) should we eat the chocolate that our son left behind, or own up and send it to him and b) why is there a walnut and a long cardboard tube on every bed?






One thought on “The “wrong” Santa, and other tales of Yule”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow one crying eye on