Christmas Stocktake

The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things….”

Ishbel has booked her train ticket and we have set a date and for the annual neighbourhood Christmas party, so there’s absolutely no getting out of it now. Christmas is coming to Ruthven.

What with the rather reduced travel and entertaining over intermittent periods of semi-lockdown this year I have been pottering away at a number of things typically left more to the last minute, which had been giving me a warm glow of organisation. However, on closer inspection, this may be a bit of an illusion. It seems that the minute I “got ahead of myself” I decided to add a few bells and whistles to a traditional project, thus rendering it much more time consuming, and here I am, in the back end of November, with an array of things not quite finished and a few not started, just like always.

On the catering front, whilst I have gone into mincemeat overdrive and no mistake, (by the way I have now uploaded the recipe in case anyone else is in the mood, it’s really very simple), the Christmas cake has yet to be started. Indeed, we have yet to order any dried fruit (mincemeat making having depleted the stores), so the usual bakery binge drinking will be needed to get the thing adequately sozzled for consumption. We also have NO PUDDING, having eaten the last (exceptionally mature) one in the stores at the belated New Year celebrations! This is Keith’s bailiwick, and therefore cannot possibly commence until the last tulip is in. (Keith is unable to reorder his lists willy nilly to address impending crises and can only stick to his original plan, but dig faster. I can only hope the good weather lasts). Keith was throwing random questions about the optimal weight for a ham around the other night (I had nothing useful to contribute I fear, so just nodded vaguely) so hopefully pork product sourcing is in hand. I remember vividly the first year we left it a bit late and the usual supplier could not provide the desired porcine limb. The sofa shook with rage and there was copious stomping, tutting and vigorous door closing. A supplier in Wales was then cast into eternal darkness never to receive a further order. This curtailing of our sourcing options (a Fountain boycott is for life – the Italian restaurant in Blackheath, which irritated Keith by over enthusiastically trying to give him a free meal voucher when we were moving in and staggering up and down the drive with boxes, saw no custom for the 20 years we lived there) has led to intermittent shortages which, in recent times, ended with a mad trip to Perthshire, during which we realised the sat nav in the mini was the work of the devil, but on the plus side delivered a bonus ox tongue. Lyra’s stocking, however, is safe. The birthday dog biscuit recipe delivered so much dough that half of it was frozen for future use.

Every year I do an advent calendar for the kids with a quiz and a few goodies in daily envelopes. In the past these were supplied dangling on a little string of Christmas clothes pegs (from our favourite shop that sells everything in Kelso). This year, I decided to add one for Dad, now he’s living in a nursing home. It was still early November and I was feeling super organised…. I cast around for ideas and so began an epic range of fabric advent calendars. I kicked off with a simple Christmas tree one, but this proved only to accommodate a single daily chocolate so will be gifted to a more restrained friend. This led to the hanging tower of tiny socks (mum kindly producing the socks during her enforced convalescence) which we have ear marked as a joint gift for Dad. After losing my sock knitter to her own projects, I doubled down. Next up was the giant pyramid of sheep (featuring the library curtain). Matching the checks was well night impossible so, once the fluffy sheep fabric was used up, I made a virtue of necessity, and moved on to the last of the back bedroom curtains (mercifully plain). For the first I stole the cake tin lids from the kitchen and copied the designs on them for a forest friends job. I was so taken with the tin designs a partridge in a pear tree was added to the range, featuring the return of the cake tin fox. This was becoming rather an addiction. Some cushion backing fabric acquired from Mum’s attic was then hauled out and I have now almost finished the third of a series of Christmas wreathes. This is it – NO MORE! The quizzes have been drawn up and all that remains is to fill the pockets and jog to the post office.

The illusion of advanced Christmas Jumperage, alas, is unravelling by the minute. Whilst Keith’s epic construction is well advanced, indeed mostly sewn up, I have still to decide (a) how many buttons it needs and (b) how the hell to knit the collar. These are the perils of going “off pattern”. I have no doubt we will get there, but all this faffing around and innovating has meant that I have yet to finish Ishbel’s (which is knitted and sewn up but needs some minor titivation) or even to commence Lachlan’s (or Monkey’s). As Lachlan regularly points out that he is my most long standing and committed hand knit wearer, I do rather need to get my sh1t together on that front.

Thanks to mum’s convalescence, soap levels are high, but the demise of the printer means there’s a fair bit of labelling and wrapping to do. Whilst the summer lavender and roasting petals are dried and packed in jars, the TV room floor is strewn with all sorts of other dried flowers and herbs for wreaths, festive arrangements and pot pourri. As soon as the knee high scraps of felt, beads and ribbon escaped from the festival of advent calendars are swept up, I shall therefore be moving the crispy vegetation up to the garret to make a completely new mess with those…. I suspect that the supplies purchased optimistically in early November for the making of other gifts, currently lying untouched in a heap of plastic bags, may yet be held over for birthdays and the toilet role tubes I have been squirrelling away for crackers may just be recycled. Still you never know!

So at T-35 there remains quite a way to go, and the usual last minute rush is definitely on the cards. I shall refrain from producing a Gant Chart, but in the spirit of progress, will add dried fruit and condensed milk to the blackboard list on the fridge which we all studiously ignore.

Stay tuned for progress reports

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