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.
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.
I took Julia to work this morning, shopped at Lidl despite what I said about them last week (it’s the lure of the bakery counter!) and came home. I did a bit of writing, replied to comments and read a few blog posts. I spoke to my sister, washed up and generally had what Julia will consider a lazy morning. It’s still better than it was, so I’m quietly pleased with myself.
I have downloaded Apache Open Office and am looking at it as a way of replacing Microsoft Office. It doesn’t have all the features of Office 365, but it doesn’t have the complexity or the cost. Refreshingly it doesn’t claim to be new and improved either. And so far it hasn’t lost any of my work. Office 365 has lost two pieces that I was working on yesterday. It’s the idiot/computer interface that’s the problem, rather than the inanimate software, but I can’t help thinking that I never had this problem with previous versions and that this isn’t Microsoft’s finest hour. I want to have my files on my computer, not squirrelled away in a cloud that I need an internet connection to access.
Yes, I know there are plenty of upsides to the system, but there are some big downsides too.
Open Office isn’t the most sophisticated of programmes, which suits me fine, but it’s nice to feel like you are in control, rather than in thrall to Microsoft.
Time for lunch now, and it’s a turkey sandwich for me. While we were clearing the freezer to make room for Christmas shopping we found a turkey crown. This does not reflect well on our standards of housekeeping, or our memories. How do you forget something like that?
We decided it was better to eat it rather than save it as we didn’t want to spoil Christmas with ropey meat that had been in the freezer too long.
We had a roast dinner last night, with potatoes, parsnips, carrots, brussels, stuffing and gravy. It was very good, and even better because it was made for me. After tea I made sandwiches from the turkey on nice brown seeded bread with mayonnaise, cucumber, redcurrant jelly and stuffing. I’m going now, my sandwich is calling…
Header picture is a still life of a bored man waiting for his wife.
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…
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)
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.
On Wednesday I was out and about when I spotted a distant turkey in a cage. This struck me as symbolic. An American icon and a cage, I thought. Then I thought: It’s a good thing I’m not political or I might ruffle a few feathers with some comments on symbols and cages.
Well, to be honest I only just thought the feathers thing but it makes me look more witty if I pretend I thought of it at the time.
Of course, now that the children have been released from their cages, it’s no longer symbolic.
I’m hoping that their release from cages will be easier than the experience of Ezra Pound after he was kept in a cage for six weeks.
I cannot, however, help wondering about an alternative history where the Native Americans didn’t share their food with the undocumented aliens also known as Pilgrims.
I’ve been browsing WordPress today, when I haven’t been shopping (twice) or visiting or engaging in discussions about my shortcomings as an organiser of Christmas Cheer. We are having two turkey crowns, one for Christmas Dinner and one for sandwiches when we have visitors on Boxing Day. This is not a sign that I like turkey, more an example of being beaten down by tradition and losing interest.
We used to plan Christmas seriously, and over the years we had all sorts of meat, but as the kids got older they wanted turkey. I think that’s when my interest in Christmas Dinner died. For a few years I did the sprouts with chestnuts or almonds or bacon, or combinations thereof, but even that died away.
We are having Bronze turkey as a nod to quality (having decided against Narragansett turkey). The latter is more expensive, less well known and, above all, harder to spell. In fact I’d never heard of it before last night.
Turkey, plain boiled sprouts and gravy made with gravy granules. Then I can get on with the rest of my life.
Next year I may try alpaca. There are places that supply exotic meat. It’s something I’m going to look at next year, as I’ve rather taken my eye off the ball this year.
This is the 50th post on the blog and I’m typing it under the handicap of having cut my finger. It isn’t a big cut but it’s right on the tip of the middle finger of my right hand and it’s painful to keep hitting the keyboard with it. I say painful but I suppose in terms of childbirth it doesn’t hurt much. However, it is irritating.
I would not have said, until this morning, that I used it for typing much. I’m still convinced that I use my index fingers for most of my typing, but once you put a plaster on the middle finger it seems to become dominant. Maybe I’m actually a three-fingered typist and have only just realised.
Anyway, apart from moaning about my cut finger and making tea the first job of the day was goose herding. They stay in the barn overnight and we bring them across the yard to their pen for the day. I’m not sure they are always grateful but it was a nice bright day today so it didn’t trouble my conscience. As you can see, it’s a team effort.
Before the days of lorries this used to be the way that all large poultry were moved.
Traditionally geese are ready for market by Michaelmas (29th September), which marked the end of harvest and the start of the new farming year. People who could afford it would have a goose for Michaelmas. and it was the traditional Christmas fowl. Approximately 20,000 geese a year were driven to Nottingham from Lincolnshire, entering the town through Goose Gate and ending up at the Goose Fair in the market place. In those days they used to apply tar to the feet of the geese to help them complete the long walk. Ours only have to walk a few yards so we don’t need to bother with tar.
This sounds impressive but set it against the estimated 250,000 turkeys that walked from Norfolk to London in 1720 it seems quite small. There were so many turkeys walking to London by the 19th Century that there were actually traffic jams of turkey flocks.
If only I’d known this before Christmas while it was still topical!