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‘Tisn’t the season to be jolly!

With the arrival of October comes the excitement of a dark evening, the thrill of a chilly morning and the feverish contemplation of approaching … Yuletide!

Full disclosure, I truly don’t mind a dark evening and I have clothing (layers! – layers are the trick) to deal with those shivery mornings, but I truly can’t bring myself to contemplate the dreaded C word just yet. 

More than one Facebook friend will soon need to be ‘hidden’ as the holly and glitter descend from their attics and taunt me from my phone-screen. I reckon I have only been spared full-on fairy lights, holly swags and reindeer models thus far this year because witchy-pumpkin-ey  baubles seem to be having a moment and pre-Hallowe-en is clogging up the posts instead. Some of this is quite inventive and even, dare I admit, occasionally aesthetically pleasing, although of course the attraction is often buried pretty deep in swathes of tat. This depends on the artistic skill of the home-owner and I’m not going to diss someone’s genuine creative eye just because I cannot share their excitement for endless media-driven seasonal prettifying. But…

…whilst I hope I am broadminded and generous enough to accept other people’s preferences – I’m also selfish enough to want to keep their Noelitude at arm’s length for as long as possible.  And at least until December! Pretty please.

One friend has already sent out invitations for a low-key early December dinner, using a combination of code and a small trigger warning to get me to reply. Haha she knows me so well. I have graciously accepted on the basis that this will just be an overdue catch-up with friends at a time of year when it can get tricky to find a table. And I believe that whilst I may prefer to keep Winterval Holibobs at bay, others hate the darkening and coldifying so much that they need a few tangible festive bookings to spur them through the next few weeks. It takes all sorts.

This year, as with many before, it is also the personal build up which can be problematic. Now that my family is so small, the ridiculous present-buying saga has quietened to a manageable level. I generally refuse to buy gifts until December comes around, but by this time in the year when my offspring were small, I would have received multiple requests for ‘ideas’ from one side of the family (the very word ‘ideas’ could induce full-on headbanging gloom at the very mention, which would inevitably also include a request for full details of what on earth the requests from my children actually were, and which shops might conceivably stock them before the odds-on certainty of them selling out in mid-November) and be told by the other side of the family that they had already purchased most of the gifts regardless. Indeed, when my mother-in-law died completely unexpectedly in the middle of November a few years ago, there was already an almost full clutch of pressies neatly laid out on the bed in her spare room.

So, it is not the gifting pressure any more, and neither is it really the planning around guests and entertainment as we will be doing exactly the same as we have done in the past few years (Covid excepted) and I could probably manage this in my sleep (and most certainly in the fog of a brandy-butter and pudding-wine-induced trance – for which there may be a precedent in the not-so-distant-past).

BUT… I had really thought we would have a bright new kitchen and eating space for our familial festivities this year, and once again it is not to be. Once again, I will add our tired and ever-fading decorations to the yet-more-tired and even scruffier downstairs of Jillings Towers and power up the failing oven to cook, at enormous decibels (because the stupid fan mechanism is terminally knackered) for hours on end, a similarly enormous free-range super-duper Waitrose bird. And with daughter J and His Feline Highness N still in residence in our guest room (where they are truly very welcome to be), there is the knotty question of where to put everyone else this time as the previously ‘little girl’ American niece is rapidly approaching an age when she may not wish to squash up with her Dad of a nighttime. Fortunately, the other brother-in-law seems resigned to pitch his fishing-overnight-camping chair anywhere. Maybe we’ll have to somehow persuade him that, with the possibility of record global warming Santa-time temperatures, the garden would be his best spot this year. Seems harsh – and is maybe why he decided at the last minute not to come at all last year. Hmm.

Along with all the festive forebodings, I have been wrestling with my wanderlust and making the sensible but disappointing decision not to jet off anywhere in what remains of 2023. I have to resign myself to failure over my ‘visit at least one new country each year’ objective (or was it originally ‘at least two’? I think it was.) In my current state of melancholy, my visit to Madeira earlier this year definitely doesn’t count – it is just a further-away bit of Portugal where I have been before, and my Italian choir tour this summer may have been amazing but I even went to Italy when I was eleven (Show off!) so that’s not a new country either.

BA tempted me with a Sale and the lure of achieving one of their shiny lounge passes if I travelled far enough, but if I’m to pay for the even shinier new kitchen next year it will have to be ‘instead of’ rather than ‘as well as’.  (Until someone invites me somewhere marvellous, that is…)

I’ve even turned down my new Choir’s Spanish tour next April! Once again, it was a country I have visited before (huh!) and as a newbie I would have to share a room. Ahem, I think we know where I stand on room-sharing already. So, “No”.

However, going against all the foregoing humbuggery, last week I could be found making my own Christmas Puddings.  Years ago, when I worked four days a week and had two sprogs to wrangle, I somehow found time to do this but have failed to do so for a long while now. For some reason, I suddenly decided it was time to try this again and added the ingredients to my shopping list as I set off for my monthly mega-visit.

I set aside a whole day  in my busy lady-of-leisure schedule for this feat of domesticity and marvelled at what a superwoman I must have been to achieve this back in the day. I can only assume that the ‘spare’ time I managed to create in order to achieve this task back then, including as it does a huge amount of fiddly chopping and awkward stirring before a full eight hours of steaming, was possible because there was no Facebook, no Twitter/X, no work emails or breaking news on my phone – and there might possibly have been a trade-off for some peace and quiet. Of course, it would have served as a diversion from worrying about the availability of particular Star Wars figures or Pokémon toys – and in those days there was no silly blog to finish!





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