Tag Archives: Santa

The Problem with Postcodes

I’ve remembered why I gave up the Postcode Tour last time.

There are just too many postcodes and not enough time to write about them. They ended up taking over last time and they are doing the same again.

I have made a decision – I am only going to use the postcodes from Mondays, or Mondays and Tuesdays if Monday doesn’t produce enough. That way I preserve the random element of the tour but avoid submerging the blog in constant  UK trivia.

Today I have ten postcodes, though one is a duplicate of one from last week – WN7. You can have too much of a good thing so I’m going to leave Wigan out this week. That still leaves me with nine, and that’s still a lot to fit in. However, as my plan calls for 3.5 extra posts a week this may be useful.

I’ve just been looking at the number of postcode areas – I think it came to 121 but I kept losing count. Then there are the ones for overseas territories and the special code – XM4 5HQ. That’s the one specially reserved for Santa, and it gets 800,000 letters per year.

Seems nice and whimsical doesn’t it? All cuddly and touchy-feely. And then you realise that 800,000 letters, even if they are Second Class, need £488,000 worth of stamps. It is pure commercial genius!

British children also send about 100,000 letters a year to Santa in Finland – another £135,000 at International Standard rate for a 10 gram letter. I will say no more, lest the words “Bah! Humbug!” are heard, once more, throughout the land.

This is an interesting article on the Santa Industry if you have time to read it. Uplifting in parts, depressing in others, and proving once again that modern British kids need a lesson in old-fashioned manners.

Just to show I know how to get into the festive spirit (it is October after all and the shops are filling with Christmas crap) this is a picture of me as Santa from several years ago, I scared two of the eleven children who visited, so be careful who you show it to.


Possibly the worst Santa in the World

The Captains and the Kings depart

I was going to title this post The tumult and the shouting dies but the post was’t quite right and when I wiped it out by accident (yet again!) I couldn’t be bothered to retrieve it.
That’s how it came to be rewritten with a grander title. It’s not quite as accurate, because we had plenty of tumult and shouting, but a distinct shortage of Captains and Kings. As the memory fades a little I’m feeling distinctly more upbeat about it. It wasn’t all singing and sandwiches (though I admit that they did form a large part of the proceedings), we also had dancing and two different slideshows from Julia.
It took her several weeks to perfect the slideshows – I will never get Chariots of Fire and The Magnificent Seven out of my head. At one time I was hearing them so often I was waking up humming them.
I missed some of the events because I was confined to the kitchen after forgetting to put the snacks in the oven. That’s also why there aren’t many photographs.
Fortunately I was on hand when Santa called and gave out the memory boxes Dave and Jayne had made. They’ve been beavering away in Dave’s shed making the boxes and putting individual names on them.
There were a few tears towards the end. There was also a certain amount of unsuitable competitiveness from one of the teams in the Christmas Quiz. I’m not saying which one, but my constant viewing of quiz shows seems to have paid off…
At the time it was all a little sad, but as I write a couple of days later it seems a lot more upbeat. With parents and group members and various other people (in person or by email) we’ve had a lot of positive feedback. We couldn’t have done it without the group, so can’t take all the credit, but it does make you feel better.
I can’t think of a tidy way to end  the post, but in real life we did the washing up.


In which the day improves

This is the promised Part II, in which the day improves. The morning wasn’t too good but the day improved as it went on. The group has baked mince tarts and iced the cake, so the party food is underway.  Our fully-qualified and licensed Santa Substitute has collected the suit and is going to practice tonight (he has already grown his beard at the sides ready for the Big Day). I can’t post a photo of Santa yet as it will spoil the surprise.

I managed to get a few Fieldfare photos, but with only one skittish individual as a subject it proved difficult. The bird was intent on eating hawthorn berries and when it was in the tree it was either moving or partially obscured by branches. When it was on the ground it spent most of the time in various hunched positions eyeing up berries. I did get a shot of a Yellowhammer, but it was small and blurred. It’s only the second one I’ve seen this winter, which is a bit annoying when you think they were regular visitors to the allotment during the summer.

And finally, after worrying that the guinea fowl had been absent all morning, they finally appeared, waddled across the yard and started to eat all the food under the bird feeders. I suppose it saves waste, but I’m not sure the Chaffinches were happy. A word of warning to the guinea fowl though, if people consider you good to eat it might be a good idea not to eat too much in the run up to Christmas.


Guinea fowl on the prowl

Another day, another party…

It’s not every day get to see a Christmas tree cake with a chocolate spanner but it was the Christmas Party For Men in Sheds on Friday and Julia had a special cake made for them.

Unfortunately, nobody had told them that the party was being doubled up with lunch for a tree-planting session and they turned up to find themselves tasked with setting up tables for twenty five. Frankly, I was surprised by the language.

I was also surprised by the table cloths, which explains why we couldn’t find them for the curry on Thursday.

Julia and I had been invited to the party as guests (me because I’m old and crochety and fit the Men in Sheds demographic, Julia because she’s the pin-up girl for the over-85’s).

However, at the curry lunch I’d been asked to do the cooking. Either there was a lack of planning or a cunning scheme to get the cooking done on the cheap. It could be either, because it’s not the first time I’ve fallen for it.

The “cooking” wasn’t onerous, though it did have to be trekked across the yard instead of served up in the centre. I just had to warm the pies and peas. Then warm the fruit pies. Then walk them across the yard.  Then raid the cafe stock to produce beans on toast for a vegetarian, because nobody had thought we might have a vegetarian come for lunch.

Lack of planning again…

Anyway, despite unpromising beginnings it turned out to be quite a good meal. The food was good and the vegetarian was a jolly young woman who was quite happy chatting to a bunch of elderly men.

Fortunately I like pie and peas and I love sitting round a table  complaining about young people and modern life, though the joke of the day (asking me if it was a busy time of year – ho, ho, ho) did start to wear a bit thin. Yes, I carry a bit of extra weight, and yes I have a whiteish beard but aconstant barrage of Santa jokes would challenge even the good humour of the fat man himself.



Party, party!

It’s 3pm, the clutter is cleared, the games are over and Elvis is singing about a Blue Christmas. That’s the first party over – buffet for eighteen for the group plus carers and four generations of the Rose family. Tomorrow it’s staff and various people who have helped us during the year – sausage and mash for eighteen. This, I suppose, is the start of the countdown to Christmas.

We’ve cooked for forty and fifty before, which stretches the kitchen capacity and calls for an ingenious use of space and tables to fit everyone in. Eighteen, in comparison, is just a walk in the park – just scale up a normal meal and chuck a few tables up in a line. We used paper plates. I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad in ecological terms – it’s a waste of paper but it saves on hot water for washing up. However, it’s a lot easier to chuck paper plates away than it is to get stuck with the washing up.


Father Christmas came to call and was a lot more cheerful than the grumpy Santa they had on Saturday. He also seems to have put his arm round a lot more ladies than the Saturday Santa. Maybe he’s on to something…

Looking back

It was a crisp December day today, which was good because a wet, grey day would have taken a lot of the fun out of it. We had a change of gear today with the Christmas Event and though Santa and Elf worked in harmony we still managed to scare two children. I tried to  make one happier about the situation by taking my wig and beard off to show him there was just a normal man underneath it all but this just made things worse.

Either I have a face that scares children or, as Tim put it: “To him it just looks like you peeled your face off.”

Sometimes you just can’t win. On the other hand when you examine the picture there is definitely a touch of Dan Aykroyd and Trading Places in my eyes,

What was particularly good about the day was that we saw quite a few new people and were able to talk about the farm. That’s always good because, as we found at the conference last year, when you talk to other people you realise what progress you have made. To be honest, although I’m there most days it’s a case of not seeing the wood for the trees. This is ironic when you see what I do when I look out of the window (i’ll post a picture tomorrow).

Hopefully some of those people will be reading this, so it might be a good time to apologise for talking too much, or for discussing care farming whilst dressed as Santa.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


We made the penguins from beads – only sold one but thought they were worth a picture anyway,

Skittles and paperchains

One of the things about working on a care farm is that there is always plenty of variety.

We now have access to a set of skittles. One of the group is a regular player in the local leagues and he’s training us up for a game at the Christmas party.

I’m not sure it’s going to be a great game. I managed a complete miss, which ended up in the raised vegetable bed that formed the back of the “alley”. We’d been warned about that by the farmer’s mum so we had to cover it up quickly!

I also managed to put several balls straight between the skittles without even making one shiver. That’s one of the differences between skittles and ten pin bowling, apart from the lack of shared shoes and heating – the spacing between pins is wider than a ball.

If I say I was about average you’ll get some idea of the standard. Fortunately we do it for fun.


In the afternoon we turned our attention to making paper chains.


On Saturday they will be used to decorate Santa’s trailer. I’m not really looking forward to it, as I may have mentioned before. Small children, four hours overheating in false facial hair and a bumpy trailer ride – what could possibly go wrong?

Finally, courtesy of a £5 hat from TESCO , I have an elf to help me. I’m not sure which of us has the better deal. He gets to use his own beard but at least I’m spared the humiliation of knitted comedy ears.


Soup and Santa Claus

Warning: Several animals were killed in the making of this post – sorry if it upsets you but farmers don’t keep pets, as we tell all our visitors.

It was an eventful end to the week, with 35 wanting soup and a variety of other things taking place, including a double-booking that slipped through the system and another college visit.

I’m going to concentrate on the soup, because the rest aren’t so easy to photograph.

Here’s picture number one, consisting of a mass of bones in a pot with a few veg (known as mirepoix when making stock). We had the bones of several pigs available after sending some off for slaughter last week and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. First we roasted the bones for the additional flavour, then set the whole mixture to bubble away for hours. How long? Well, from when it was ready till it was time to go home. Sorry, I really will start to do proper recipes soon.

With three pots of bones steaming away the place was, to be honest,  starting to look like Jeffrey Dahmer’s hobby room. I’m not sure if the addition of the vegetables made it look better or worse.


                                                                                                                                                The “before” and “after” of the stock

Three pots of bones produced nine pints of stock. It lost a bit of flavour as I had to dilute it to make 20 pints of soup. First add barley to the liquid and cook for 15 minutes to half an hour – recipe suggestions varied so I just cooked it till it tasted half cooked. Then I softened onions and celery and added them plus 24 diced potatoes, a packet of frozen vegetables (carrots, peas, cauliflower, brocolli, onion) more diced carrot and swede. A bit later I added the cut up turkey left over from the turkey tasting event at the weekend then right at the end of cooking I added chopped kale.  If you’re going to reheat it leave things with a little bite to them so they don’t get overly soft. This isn’t a great picture because it shows the soup before it was properly re-heated so there’s a bit of fat on top. That’s something else that needs improving before I start doing more recipes.

I’m not particularly proud of the packet of frozen veg or the ready to use carrot and swede but I had plenty to do without spending all morning chopping veg. In my defence I would like to point out that I used our own free-range pork and turkey and picked the rosemary, thyme and bay leaves from the garden.


You may spot a small red dot on top of the soup. That’s because I’ve had complaints about seasoning in the past. Each of the three pots got two tsp of sea salt, two of ground black pepper, a six inch sprig of rosemary, four big springs of thyme, a couple of bay leaves, a finely diced red chilli with a few seeds left in and a piece of fresh ginger about the size of the top joint of my thumb.

It had a good rich taste of stock and herbs and a bit of an afterburn. I’d say it was a satisfactory warm soup for use after a morning disturbing game birds.

Two of the pots contain enough for ten portions or so and the bigger one should do a bit more. In the end there were fewer than 35 wanting soup, but we still got through 27 portions with no complaint.

Meanwhile, to ensure the contents of the blog match the title, here’s a picture of me trying out my costume for the Christmas Event at the weekend.


I’m not big on the concept of jollity but sometimes you just have to go with the flow.