A rather nasty bout of sciatica has kept me from gigs for the last couple of weeks, and the imminent arrival of Christmas, coupled with our imminent departure to Brazil, has kept me too busy to blog. So, in the immortal words of Valerie Singleton – here’s one I prepared earlier. This first saw the light of day in a letter to some friends a couple of years ago and I offer it here as my only December posting this year.
Mrs Voltarol and I were busily engaged in some bloated post-Christmas couch-potatoing last January, when it suddenly occurred to me that there was a simple answer to the annual problem of severe yuletide distension. Well, yes. I know we don't have to eat all that stuff, but the trouble is that (A) I'm naturally greedy, and (B) Christmas is the one occasion when you are actually expected to pig out.
The same thing happens every year. At some point - around the end of August, normally - one or the other of us will come home and make an announcement along the lines of "Do you know, I've just seen Christmas cards on sale in W. H. Smiths?" or "I see Tesco's are doing a nice line in Yule logs.", and before you can say 'cholesterol' we are discussing what we will have to eat and drink this year. "Oh!" says Mrs V, "You must make another of your Christmas pork pies!" (a statement that does rather indicate a certain cultural versatility for a nice Jewish girl, I think you'll agree).
The next few months are regularly punctuated with conversational non-sequiturs. In the middle of a discussion about when to order our next batch of heating oil, I might announce "I think we should have a goose again this year". (At which point, predictably, Mrs V will take the first possible opportunity to catch me unawares.) Or perhaps she will suddenly interrupt her perusal of the day’s post to announce that she intends to try a different Christmas cake recipe this year, and that, oh, we really ought to bake two stöllen loaves this time so that we can use one of them to make our celebrated deluxe trifle. (That's the one with the home-made coffee blancmange, fresh fruit set in an apple-juice jelly, a generous slug of brandy in the base and a heap of whipped Greek yoghurt on top...).
The first bottle of 'cooking' brandy appears in the kitchen around about the end of November. This is specifically intended for use in the manufacture of Christmas pudding, Christmas pudding ice-cream, Christmas cake, the feeding of the Christmas cake and, of course, pâté. That's the theory anyway. In practice I'm not quite sure about what happens. I mean, theoretically we used four bottles this year on the cake alone. In this house, the term 'cake stand' refers to ones deportment after 'feeding' the Christmas cake. A person returning from the kitchen after dealing with this chore, who is seen to be a bit rubbery round the knees, is said to be 'doing a cake stand'.
Then, of course, there's the booze proper: a suitable selection of wines to accompany each course of each meal for three days, some other bottles of wine to keep you going between times when you don't actually fancy a more substantial drink, substantial drink - Armagnac, Malt Whisky and Calvados, additional drink to cater for visitors with other preferences - Scotch, Vodka, Gin, Sherry, appropriate mixers, some bottles of cider, a few beers, a few lagers and a can or two of 'draught' Guinness. (Oops! Nearly forgot the Port.) All of these are assembled and stashed in the spare room.
By December 24th we experience the onset of "Christmas 'fridge". The first symptoms of this dreadful complaint are easy to spot. You open the door of the refrigerator and something falls out. You attempt to replace it but for some reason only explicable by means of the more esoteric reaches of quantum physics it will no longer fit into the space from whence it came. You then remove the entire contents of the 'fridge and start from scratch, this time to discover that the internal dimensions of the container have mysteriously shrunk yet again, and you now have two bottles of milk, a carton of cream and a bowl of cold potatoes left over from yesterday's meal that can no longer be accommodated. So you go back to square one. By the time you have finally succeeded in cramming all the stuff back in, the 'fridge temperature has risen by about fifteen degrees. The next time you look inside it appears that the little man that lives in there and turns the light off when you shut the door has been stricken with severe incontinence. But I digress.
So what with the goose and the trifle and the cake and the pudding and the paté and the stöllen and a nice ham and a decent piece of beef and the pork pie and a brace of pheasant and all the ingredients for a cassoulet with the left-over goose and the home-made petit-fours and the crystallised fruit and the bowls of nuts and satsumas and the Bendick's Bittermints and the piece of stilton and the lump of Mr's Appelby's Cheshire and the truckle of matured farm-house cheddar and the fromage de chevre and the fromage frais and the Greek yoghurt and the single cream and the double cream and the clotted cream and the plain chocolate Bath Olivers and the brandy butter and all the booze, not to mention a number of suspiciously bottle-shaped packages lurking under the Christmas tree, you suddenly realise that you're going to be very hard pressed to dispose of all the food and drink within the alloted time span unless an unexpected guest turns up for Christmas, such as, say, Oxfam.
So where did I start all this? Oh Yes. The simple idea. Instead of having Christmas annually, why not have twelve smaller Christmases evenly distributed through the year, and divide up the specific treats equally between them. Well, it's a thought.