I’ve just spent a happy morning in front of the fire chatting, eating chocolate and watching compilations of Christmas songs on TV. I am a simple man and this is all I need. This expanded to a happy afternoon doing the same.
I just spent five minutes trying to delete a surplus full stop from that sentence. One of my resolutions for next year is to keep my computer screen cleaner, as it turned out to be a small mark on the screen that lined up perfectly. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, but it always fools me.
As I said, I am a simple man.
I have my wife by my side, my firstborn nearby and the spare child checked in by some mysterious process which allowed his face to appear on a computer screen and tell me I was looking older. He is looking uglier and tubbier than last time I saw him. It is good to have all this modern technology to hurl abuse at family members who are thousands of miles away, though I’m not sure that when I first came across a “video phone” in a science fiction story that I would ever use one for this purpose.
After that I rang my sister using 19th century technology and delayed her until she had to go, because her oven was emitting smoke. Her cooker has either elected a new pope or burned her Christmas dinner. I fear it is the latter.
I’m now going to stalk a few of my regular blogging companions and see how their day is going. After that it is turkey and more TV. I also intend drinking some of the tea I have been sent as presents and rounding the day off with biscuits.
Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, have a good day tomorrow. I’ve just been speaking to Number Two Son in Toronto. He has a couple of days of employment left until his job finishes, at which point the Canadian Government will start paying him enough for food and accommodation. He’s already on the trail of another job, so the unemployment may well be short lived.
If you judge the quality of a nation from the way it treats its lower level citizens (and let’s face it a tourist with a Geography degree and job experience at the lower end of the hospitality trade isn’t a high class immigrant) then Canada is looking pretty good. I am, of course, biased, as they are looking after him well. If he looked a touch more indigenous he might not be so lucky.
Despite my use of a stamp with traditional Christmas imagery, there has been no snow here, though there was some further north, and there were no carol singers either. However, we can still have goodwill to all mankind. Even IO can manage that for one day out of 365.
In the shop we had five parcels to do, which were, fortunately, all for UK addresses. The Royal mail has suspended a number of foreign services because they have so much mail accumulated, and so many closed borders. I’m sure that a few late parcels won’t spoil Christmas, but it’s a sign of the times when the world grinds to a halt.
A dealer came to call, and told us he’d been stopped on the way by police wanting to know the purpose of his journey. Clearly, murder, rape and robbery are all on the back-burner while they chase the real criminals. Rob the shop and they won’t even knock on your door in case they infringe your civil rights. Sneak in a quick visit to your grandma and you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, unless you are one of the well-known exceptions.
First Official Air Mail Postcards
I was able to spend the rest of the morning researching the first scheduled air mail service in the world (September 1911 – London to Windsor) and Epps’s Cocoa, which was at one time the best selling brand in the UK. I would add links, but I don’t want to spoil you.
Epps’s Cocoa Nature Cards
Julia sends her regards too – though she’s rushing about worrying about Christmas being a “success”. We have each other, we have family, we have food, warmth and (somewhat dull) TV. We don’t really need anything more, but she always worries. I hope you all have a comfortable and unexciting day (we’ve already had too much excitement this year) and that next years shows a distinct upturn.
I was so full of ideas this morning that I filled two pages of my A4 notebook before I even got my trousers on. It’s maybe not the most dignified of mental pictures, but it shows the wisdom of always keeping a notebook close to hand.
Most of them will, of course, not develop much further. I could feel that from a few of them as they hit the page and scurried across the book. Some will not be good enough to develop, though a few will be merged with other ideas. Some will, I confess, be illegible by the time I have another look. My handwriting is truly, and embarrassingly, terrible.
That will still leave plenty. It’s quite likely that some will never be developed simply because I move on to other things before finishing the list from this morning. That is the life of a poem. Sometimes it soars, but it, more often it staggers or simply slumps.
Sunset over Wilford, Notts
I really must get a grip. I have some haiku to finish, because they need to be submitted tomorrow. I also need to arrange my buildings insurance (which just means remembering to pay for it) and order the Christmas food. It’s only ten days to Christmas and I am not at all prepared. I’ve ordered Julia’s main present (which probably won’t get here until after Christmas) and a supplementary present which I hope will get here before Christmas. The post is unfortunately very random. In my defence, she didn’t tell me what she wanted until last night, so it’s not entirely my fault. However, we don’t currently have a turkey. I’m not that bothered myself, I’d be happy with a tin of corned beef and a sprig of holly, but everybody else expects turkey.
At the moment my only proper preparations for Christmas are two tubes of cheese footballs I bought several months ago, a Christmas pudding and a packet of stuffing. As preparations go, it’s not impressive.
Sunset over Wilford, Notts
These area few sunset photos I took last week. I’m not sure they were successful, looking at them in this size, but at least they are new.
Number One Son cooked sausages for brunch and Julia cooked in the evening – gammon, bread sauce, roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, brocolli and stir-fried red cabbage with apple, for those of you who like to know these things (and future researchers looking into the diet of 21st century Britain). We snacked on a few nuts, ate some Turkish Delight and I’m thinking of serving coffee and cake when I finish this post.
This evening I’ve written part of the post I keep promising about the Gibraltar £20 coin, but kept getting diverted by other things. I’m good at finding diversions.
That, apart from reading, playing Candy Crush, watching TV and pondering eternal questions like “Why am I so lazy?” has been my day.
In keeping with my theme of laziness I am now going to make the coffee, eat the cake and watch TV. Tomorrow I may well be a bit more active and open the cheese I bought for Christmas. So far, as we try to limit our over-eating, we haven’t actually had any cheese.
On Saturday I will return to work. I’m hoping that many regular customers will come to see us clutching money they have been given for Christmas.
I toyed with the idea of not posting today, but it’s a difficult habit to break. The only drawback to posting on Christmas Day is that people might think I’m a miserable, anti-social misanthrope with no friends, but if you’ve read the blog before you’ll know that’s a fair description.
We’ve had a reasonable Christmas. There was a minor panic yesterday when I realised that I had mis-calculated the cooking times. We have had a fresh turkey crown for so many years that, having bought a frozen one this year, I’d completely forgotten about thawing times. Buying a frozen crown made it easier to buy everything in advance but it did mean I should have started thawing the crown several hours before I actually thought of it.
I dropped Julia off at the shops and the way to work and she rang soon after to tell me that she had been able to buy a fresh turkey crown.
Today, after a late start and a bacon sandwich, we opened presents, ate chocolate and watched TV before I started on the lunch.
This was turkey, stuffing, redcurrant jelly, pigs in blankets, Hasselback potatoes (done with goose fat), roast potatoes (ditto), roast carrots and parsnips (with cumin), stir-fried sprouts with chestnuts, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. The potatoes, when cooked with goose fat, were better than with olive oil, and made a good centre-piece for the meal.
After a number of successful quizzes on the net we are now watching TV again and eating Turkish Delight. It’s one of the things that defines Christmas, the only time we have Turkish Delight.
Tomorrow we will have another of those defining moments – the only time of the year we have turkey sandwiches.
Our casual Christmas was slightly disturbed by Number Two Son ringing to wish us a Happy Christmas. He is currently the facilities supervisor in a budget Toronto hotel, and spent the night dealing with rambling junkies before returning home to microwave a leftover McMuffin. Travel, as they say, certainly broadens the mind.
Finally, the report on last night’s Brussels Sprouts in batter. After a pleasant interlude consuming the nutty-tasting knobby greens, I can confirm that nothing untoward happened and I remained socially acceptable at all times. Apart from the fact that they are breeding less sulphrous sprouts these days, it appears that their famous capacity for inducing wind occurs mostly when they are over-boiled.
Recycled photos again I’m afraid – I didn’t think of photos until I was looking at an empty gravy-stained plate…
It’s finally here (which is more than you can say about the promised article on the Gibraltar £20 coin), and in just over three hours it will be Christmas. It seems like a lot of effort goes into just one day.
It also seems like a lot of guilt goes into it, as we are emotionally blackmailed into giving money to the homeless, foreign children and donkeys. Now, I have great sympathy for the homeless, and for foreign children who are needlessly blind, or in need of fresh water, but I don’t appreciate the tactics of the charities in swamping the Christmas TV screens with these adverts.
As for the donkeys, I may sound heartless but compared to a child I don’t really see the suffering in the same league. I also think that on charity quiz shows the celebrities should be prohibited from raising money for animal charities, but that’s a personal view and as the RSPCA raised £81 million from legacies last year it seems there are plenty of people who are happy to give.
It’s an interesting document, the RSPCA report, though I notice that , once again, it fails to call for the prosecution of people who deliberately breed faults into dogs in the name of breed standards. Another personal point there. I must be careful not to rant.
I give to two charities monthly One is for children overseas and one for children in this country. I’ve been thinking of transferring the former donation to the homeless in this country, but after seeing the adverts I’ve decided to leave it. I may transfer the second one, as I’ve had words with the charity over the years about their tactics in trying to bully me to give more. It shows the power, and wisdom, of the TV adverts, where one has stopped me withdrawing support, and the other, which doesn’t advertise, might lose out. On the other hand, as it’s the charity and not the kids that have upset me, I may leave that too.
I’m in better financial shape than I have been for the last few years, so I may just have to give more, as I’m beginning to think about the homeless and the Salvation Army. Their adverts at Christmas always make me feel that way and General Booth came from Nottingham so I should support the local man.
And that, via a circuitous route, takes us back to the beginning of the post. It looks like the adverts, irritating, and cynical as they may be, do serve a purpose.
I will now wish those of you who celebrate Christmas good wishes for the holiday. Those of you who don’t celebrate Christmas can have my good wishes too. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, imagine me eating a large lunch, with turkey and Hasselback potatoes, and snoozing in front of a feast of variable quality TV.
It’s three sleeps until Christmas, and about 80 sleeps until I embarrass myself in front of the Numismatic Society of Nottingham with a dull, boring and badly presented talk. I can feel the iron hand of doom closing around my throat…
I will not be able to look my fellow members in the eye and people will point at me in the street like one of the sad figures from a Bateman cartoon – The Man Who Couldn’t Use Powerpoint.
In the end, I suppose it won’t be too bad, but I am a bit apprehensive.
Meanwhile, having airily stated “Christmas is in the bag. There are a few things left, but the essentials are in place and we are ready to go.” just a few days ago, I came face to face with reality.
A late listing of things we needed for Christmas, which was supposed to be a few veg and bits and pieces, ended up filling a page on my pad, and filled a trolley (though just a small one).
Murder was contemplated on more than one occasion, though I also smiled a lot, gave way a lot and quipped “It’ll soon be over!” more than once.
It’s amazing how many people come out just before Christmas who seem never to have seen a shop before. They dawdle, they gawp and they get in my way. They have uncontrolled children, slack jaws and, often, resentful partners in tow. Zombies have more life behind the eyes, more spatial awareness, and more charm than many of these shuffling, gangway-blocking lost souls.
Today’s poem is dedicated to those shoppers trapped unwillingly in a vortex of Christmas shopping. It’s quite long but you can get the gist from the first part before scrolling down to the last line.
Yes, I do have a cavalier attitude to classic poetry, but life is too short to be serious about poems. This is particularly true where the poet has, as my father-in-law used to tell me, a name that is an anagram of “toilets”.
I’ve returned to Julia’s reindeer pictures for a bit of Christmas cheer.
Christmas is in the bag. There are a few things left, but the essentials are in place and we are ready to go. I’m beyond worrying about the quality of the turkey – all I want is a stress-free Christmas and now we have the essentials there is no stress. It won’t be the best turkey we’ve ever had, but it’s in the freezer and Christmas dinner is guaranteed. It might be badly cooked, or burned, but it will be a traditional turkey disaster, and I will have done my job.
At one time I used to shop for a siege, but the shops will be open on Boxing Day so there really is no need to stock up. I may put some bread in the freezer, but that’s the limit of my extra buying.
Cards are delivered or in the post and a few small gifts for my co-workers are in place.
It is now 9.00 and Julia has just come back from seeing a neighbour. I am going to serve the evening meal now and bask in the smug satisfaction of knowing that if Christmas were to be moved forward, I am ready.
And as I write that I realise I haven’t bought the cheese…
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Edward Lear Stamps (1988)
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The pictures are minisheets of stamps – an extra way of making collectors buy more. They are buses, the Royal Family, Industrial Archaeology and Edward Lear. If we have room we just stick them on envelopes complete. Yesterdays’s collection is today’s postage, just as yesterday’s news is today’s chip wrapper.
Today’s poem is a cheery number that repeats that thought, though more elegantly, and with much more Latin than is usual in one of my posts.
Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam
The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long. –Horace
They are not long, the weeping and the laughter, Love and desire and hate: I think they have no portion in us after We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses: Out of a misty dream Our path emerges for a while, then closes Within a dream.
After several abortive attempts at writing today’s post I decided it wasn’t depression or politics, or even the crush of ideas and bitterness that was preventing me writing – it was trying to use the netbook on my knee while I sat by the fire.
Just after 10.30 I stepped through to the dining room with the intention of sitting down and sorting myself out.
It didn’t happen -there were comments to read and reply to and sandwiches to make for tomorrow. Finally there was washing up. Yes, washing up seemed preferable to sitting down and blogging.
I now have around 20 minutes to post and keep to my target of daily posting. I’m now limited by the time, and by the fact that I am slowly getting colder. Eventually, based on past experience, I will get so cold that I stop thinking. This is’t a bad thing because since the election I’ve mainly been thinking that everything is a complete mess. I have had to discard several posts because they were a bit too serious, and probably a bit too libellous. It’s one thing saying something to Julia, or shouting it at the TV, but once you write it down you have to prove it.
We had Hasselback potatoes again today. I was a little more relaxed with the cutting, and it did not go as well as the first lot. This is often the way with the second in a series. I tried the stir fried sprouts again too, this time with added chestnuts. I’m intending to have it at Christmas. We have settled on turkey for Christmas this year (as we have done for about the last fifteen years). We will also have roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, stuffing, bread sauce, redcurrant jelly and Yorkshire puddings.
I just noticed it’s gone midnight…
I know Yorkshire puddings aren’t traditional but Julia likes them so they are traditional for us. Personally, I’d rather have beef, pork or gammon. If anyone had suggested a nut roast I’d probably have gone for that. Even a goose. They are greasy but traditional.
It was the kids who got us back onto turkey – we’d been having beef or pork for years but they started to ask for turkey because all their friends had turkey. Now it’s become a habit. It’s not so bad now that you can buy a small crown roast – enough for a meal and a few sandwiches. Much better than the days of turkey curry, turkey stir fry and, finally, turkey soup.
I’ve started the Christmas shopping list and tomorrow I start the shopping. I’ll probably also start moaning about Christmas tomorrow.
Strictly speaking, our Christmas starts when I buy the cheese footballs. This is normally when they first appear in the Shops in Autumn, as it can be touch and go nearer to the day. I’m surprised, on looking for links, that I only seem to have mentioned them twice over the years as they are an important part of Christmas.
First the cheese footballs, then the ancient Santa card I bought Julia for our first Christmas. (I’ve also bought her one every year since, in case you are wondering), then the shopping.
The two pictures from the archives sum up the full horror of the forced jollity of Christmas, and the silent fury of a man who, having realised that he has wasted his life on trivia, will never break the bank at Monte Carlo, win a Nobel prize or, in all probability, look down and see his feet again.
Time, I think, in my tour of British poets, to turn to Dylan Thomas. I’m sure you know the one I’m thinking of. I am, after all, a man of habit and small learning.
I’m going to give you a rest from my general tales of doctors and disasters, though I will mention that it was very quiet in the shop today. That was because, unlike most retail outlets, we don’t have a Christmas rush. Collectors tend to wait until after Christmas and then come to us to spend their Chritmas money. Today, like most men (because 95% of coin collectors are men) they were being dragged round town by their wives (because 95% of women are far too keen of Christmas).
For proof of that last point I offer Julia as evidence. I went to work this morning. She went to a Christmas Craft Fair in our local park, took pictures of reindeer (and their painted backdrop), then went to the gym, returned home and put the Christmas tree up. I’ve managed to cut us down to a small artificial tree over the years, but still can’t persuade her that 24th is early enough to put it up.
Reindeer at Woodthorpe Park
Reindeer at Woodthorpe Park
Masks at Woodthorpe Park
We also had three sales on eBay – yes, we have 1,400+ items on eBay and we sold three. And we couldn’t fulfill one of the orders because the customer added an impossible request by email. We had four more plus a telephone order during the day but it’s hardly a sparkling performance.
After work I picked Julia up and we went for tea and toasted teacakes, did some shopping and one of us read the newspaper while the other one looked at Christmas jumpers. As I read (you surely didn’t expect me to be looking at the red, white and green sparkly monstrosities, did you) I found this story.
I agree that the banana is, as pointed out, a symbol of many things, including (which they didn’t mention) the problems of cloning and monoculture.
If you want your very own copy of this artwork, I’m doing a pre-Christmas special offer of just £1,000, giving you a saving of £90,000 on the price of an original. And for that I’ll even come round to any address on mainland Britain and install it for you.
Or, as part of my newly developed franchise idea, send me £500 and I’ll send you a hand of bananas and a roll of gaffer tape.
I don’t know if I’ll make any sales, but I thought it was worth mentioning in case any of you were looking for an emergency present idea.