Christmas again and how am I doing? It has galloped towards me over the last few days. I like a balance between being prepared (so as not to be too frantic) and having things to do (so as to have what frances calls "a bit of Tizz"). This year there has been too much work and procrastination and not enough preparation so I am skating towards it in a slithery out of control rush, consoling myself that on Christmas Day it is just the two of us this year so I can save the major planning for a houseful at New Year. But here is the list of things to do:
Cake - made but not iced although this morning I doused it once again with brandy. The kitchen smells intensely alcoholic. I have also been faffing around today trying to find my favourite recipe for marzipan. For years I thought I hated marzipan but eventually discovered that what I hate is shop bought, over sweet for me marzipan. The home made stuff I adore. So that is another job, but one well worth doing.
Puddings - made, wrapped in foil, sitting in the pantry on the cold slab.
Cards - halfway there. Writing cards is one of my least favourite jobs but getting cards with no message in is always such a disappointment. The answer is to give myself enough time to write a few sentences to the people I don't see very often rather than leave it so late that the whole job has to be done in one resentful rush. I had a couple of years when I was by myself when I sent no cards at all but over the last few years I have come back round to sending them again. This is helped by the fact that Ian is one of those rare men who writes his own.
Tree - well, yes, not yet.
Decorating the house - ditto. We live in such a beautiful place that it is impossible to make the inside look more lovely than the outside although I sometimes dream of being the sort of person who crafts swags of ivy and holly and loops them from the beams. We do have cyclamen on the windowsills and a little lime tree brought in from the greenhouse, laden with limes (the best G&T ever has your own lime in it!).
Presents - I have bought some in a glorious bout of internet shopping and have the usual tricky people still to buy for. This year, extraordinarily, the list of tricky people does not include my father. I think this is the first time I have been able to say this in all my adult life. Even more extraordinarily, the reason he is not on the list is because he asked for the Philip Pullman trilogy, having apparently heard something about it on Radio 4. My dad has become a keen reader in his seventies which I still find surprising after a lifetime of doing not contemplating. You could have given me seventy guesses as to a book he might like and I would not have come up with the Philip Pullman but I loved them and I hope he will too. Tomorrow I will go into Chester which is a lovely city with many small shops crammed into the medieval buildings, as well as all the usual chains. I shall try really hard to support the small shops and to resist my usual urge to supplement everything I have already bought in a last minute sense that it all looks a bit mean.
I can't say I feel Christmassy at all yet. I am more excited by the yards and yards of bare rooted plants that have arrived to make more native hedging in the field: hawthorn and blacktorn, hazel and briar rose. It is all leaning against the stone wall of the utility under the yew tree for shelter just waiting to go into the trenches in the field.
What will make me feel like Christmas is the planning and buying of food which excites me every time. You can probably tell from the list in this blog that the things I have done are to do with food and the things that I haven't are not! Roll on stuffings!