Having recovered from this Christmas Present’s bout of almost-killer-flu, here’s a very bad-tempered post listing what I could quite do without for Christmas Future. It’s my ten-point Christmas Room 101 to be borne in mind for 2012 and beyond:
- Flu in the run-up to, or over, Christmas: Note to self: 2012 diary now has reminder for flu-jab from October, plus extra vitamins all year. Flu hurled any enthusiasm I had for the Yuletide preparations to the winds – and I do not intend to suffer it at that time again.
- Homemade Presents and Cards: One year when the children were small, we all made cards and gifts – photo frames, mirror, P.E. bag; this was a fun activity then. Not, however, one I wish to repeat in the 21st century. It’s been hard enough this year to scribble out the ready-made cards I bought – a lacklustre and laborious process while aching, wretched and shivering. Simply by asking our nearest and dearest what they wanted this year meant that my feverish drag round Romford was at least made reasonably focussed for a change. And not one person asked for “something homemade”. They know me well.
- Homemade Christmas Food: In the past, I have each year sworn by Delia Smith’s or Nanette Newman’s Christmas books and cooked my own pudding, cake, petit fours and Heaven knows what else. I did not do this too often, finding that anything I made could easily be made better by Sainsbury’s or Marks & Spencer and, by the time the ingredients were bought, more cheaply, too. Peeling spuds is about as homespun as I’ll get in future; ready-prepared roasties are over-rated in my view. I am, it’s true, normally delighted to receive homemade Christmas gifts, particularly of food. It’s just that I can’t be arsed myself.
- Hours of Wrapping: Every year for years I’ve been buying those strings of foil ribbon in giant packs so that I can curl the string when gifts are wrapped up like a parcel. This has brought joy to me for many years. It also takes hours and hours to do when you have lots of presents to wrap. It’s also something I started to do circa 1970. It’s time to move on and stick to the minimalist wrapping look I’ve seen achieved very well by other gift-givers. My curly foil ribbons now seem so last century. And less wrapping would mean more time for writing or, at very least, reading.
- Buying Extra of Anything, In Case People Drop Round: The main culprit here, of course, is the humble mince-pie. Anyone who has come over our threshold has given us nothing less than dudgeonous looks when asked the innocent and caring question “Anyone for a mince pie?” The Lie is: We always buy at least a couple of boxes – since I stopped making them myself – because people might drop round. Truth is: not many people drop round. Of those who do, not many actually like the things and/or they’ve usually had their fill of their own before dropping in on us. Witness our grown-up children this year. The last thing they want to do while here is eat yet another sodding mince pie. Stollen and Christmas cake was hard to get rid of this year, too. Everyone’s so calorie-conscious now and it looks as though we’ll be joining that mob next year, if we are to avoid all these leftovers. Fitness: a 2012 aim I need to cultivate.
- Ditto Chocolates: No point buying. Someone will give us a tin/box, or several. Same goes for: biscuits; savouries; cake. There will always be enough and, if we run out, I have come to realise that the world won’t come to an end. This is not true, though of sugar, milk, coffee and tea-bags which in future I’ll panic-buy in large sizes. In case John and Sandie next-door have run out.
- Carol Singing: I really would not miss the two or three boys singing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” off-key, giggling and half-hearted, with their hands held out that we usually find at the front door, adorable though they may be. Often timed to coincide with the householders being midway through a delicate mass-catering operation, or stepping out of the bath. I of bitter and beflued heart now wish to hear a proper carolling performance on behalf of some charity, preferably while shopping and by the Sally Army with brass band and drums (where were they, this year?), or not at all.
- Christmas Crackers: Last year’s box was completely untouched. None of us ever feels much joy about reading the jokes of Christmases past or wearing the hats. Some years, though, I must admit to feeling a small surge of excitement when my cracker breaks to reveal a small pen or mini-notebook, or something else similarly useful. Nail-clippers are the holy grail of crackers and they usually work. As I write on 30 December, Christmas and Boxing Day meals forgotten about, last year’s bumper cracker-box remains untouched. Our sons gave us a small box of mini-crackers and we opened those instead. Now, they were useful – each one contained a little wooden decoration for the tree which I will faithfully use again. We were running low on little wooden decorations.
- Keeping the Decorations Up Until Twelfth Night: Not next year, not ever. I have a new rule that they will be taken down by midnight on New Year’s Eve. They either get in the way (Christmas Tree) of Husband’s television viewing, or simply start looking like last year’s party’s sad leftover tat if you leave them up till 6th January. There is nothing to say that it’s bad luck to take them down before twelfth night. It’s simply been traditional, since Victorian times, to remove them by then. Down they come.
- Cheap Christmas Lights/Decorations: All right, all right, I know we get what we pay for. But, before I apparently start dissing them, our local pound shop, ‘Aladdin’s Cave’, does a very good job in providing cheap, er, everything to its customers. And lights bought there are no more liable to ping, pop, blow and refuse to work after two days as I suspect are many from any other similar emporium. Husband swears that next year we will have “more LED (that’s light emitting diode)” – yes, he does explain that each time he mentions them – lights than the other sort because you might pay more but they last forever. He says. That’s that, then. Off to Harrods for lights next November.
Christmas 2012 and Christmases future, then, will be: fit and healthy (at least flu-less); ready-made; ready-prepared; lower calorie/carbs/fat; time-saving; sensibly-stocked; brightly lit; cracker-less and decorated for a short time only. My Christmas Wish List, however, would always include seeing our family and friends. And, without a doubt, my annual Christmas Eve viewing of The Muppets’ Christmas Carol, which contains one of Michael Caine’s most stirring performances. It never fails to get even this particular Scroogette in the mood. Bah, flu bug!
Do you agree? Yes, I couldn’t even begin to list the lousy television offerings – barring Muppets’ Christmas Carol – we had this and Christmases Past, without swooning onto my sick-bed again. Are there any other traditional things about your Christmas that you would happily consign to a festive Room 101? Or is it just me being a misery since the flu-bug bit? No, don’t answer that last one…