The usual sights and smells of Christmas have been filling the house for the last few days; branches from the twisted willow in the garden make an excellent ad-hoc Christmas tree that fascinates the small cat. Holly and fir decorate the tops of pictures and the piano; glass baubles rest safely away from cats paws in a bowl and glitter in the candlelight.
And a flurry of increasingly random text messages fly amongst the family members as the military operation gets under way…
“Have you got a spare dining table?” No. “Don’t worry I think we have some wood somewhere.” Are you going to make one?
I make my favourite spiced red cabbage for dinner and Scandinavian biscuits for presents, inhaling the smell of ground cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and black pepper. Letting seasonal radio programming wash over my head as I stir, sift, measure, stir some more, roll and bake and remember all the times I’ve done this before. Recipes taken from my favourite cookbook.
“Who’s doing the carrots?” I thought we’d decided against carrots on the grounds of there being too much food already. “We need carrots.”
And I need to wrap presents; those handmade and those not. Stamping the plain brown paper with a Christmas design, snipping and folding, and employing ingenious methods of wrapping fantastical creatures. Listening to carols until I reach the annual tipping point when, covered in bits of sellotape with my hair falling over my face and my knees hurting from kneeling, I go and take a ginger wine and mince pie break.
“Have you made the teen a stocking?” What, my own daughter, the child that I have raised? Yes, yes I have made her a stocking. “Good didn’t want to duplicate.” What about mine?
I wish you all a very merry, and slightly deranged because frankly its not Christmas without some insanity, Christmas.
“Gilded apples and walnuts hung in clusters as if they grew there, and a hundred little white, blue, and even red, candles were fastened to its twigs…And up at its very top was set a large gold tinsel star. It was splendid, I tell you, splendid beyond all words!” Hans Christian Anderson, The Fir Tree.