Things I don’t like about Christmas

In part 2 of my festive special, I look at the madness this time of year seems to inspire in one and all, and some of the things I don’t like.

They say as you get older, Christmas – much like birthdays – don’t mean the same as before. It’s just another way to mark the passing of time – another year gone, and what have you done with your life? I love Christmas, but I must admit, in the past couple of years, I have felt a slight panic with it. Part of that is why I try to make the most of this time of year.

Burnt Christmas cake – a symbol of times to come?

I try not to be a negative person, but I try to be relatively realistic about things. And that includes not turning a blind eye to the problems I have with Christmas:

The Dreaded Christmas Shop

I always remember coming back from uni and going to the big Morrisons in Malton (since the Co-op in Pickering, where we lived, in the days of pre-Lidl, was insufficient for the task at hand) and being horrified. We, like the rest of the county it seemed, would decide to do the big shop on the 23rd or even Christmas Eve in a whirlwind of panic. The shops are shut on Christmas Day! What if we run out of milk, bread, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, alcohol, lemonade, toilet roll, foil, etc., etc. The supermarket bosses must be sitting up in their offices rubbing their hands together. I swear to you now, every single person – and their woe-betide partner in crime – had one of the big trolleys (you know which I mean, the really deep ones that you have to climb into to get stuff out of at the checkout, legs flailing in the air, in danger of kicking little old ladies) and it was packed to overflowing with every piece of inconsequential unnecessary mass-produced rubbish, all because the shop would be shut for one day and Auntie Sandra would do her nut if you don’t have her gin and slimline tonic.

I used to have borderline panic attacks when stood in the middle of the pigs in blankets. Something very wild comes over people at this time of year and more fool you if you stand in their way.

Since I am now chief shopper in our household and have been for two years now, I have a lot of first hand experience in the world of the supermarket. Since the first day on the advent calendar was opened, the furious panic of Christmas has set in. There are twice as many shoppers on the Morrisons floor, the shelves are running out of bread, and cream, and they long since sold out of mixed fruit. Everywhere is a riot of colour and bargains and must-have items. It makes you sick.

As we are doing Christmas this year, I might go down one of two routes: buy as much as I can from proper independent shops, the butcher’s and the greengrocer’s (my chicken is already on order with our local butcher), or else, if I run out of time (likely), go to the Lidl and buy in bulk/freeze in advance.

Forgetting something?

I am a sufferer of chronic guilt. It courses through my veins in place of blood. I’m guilty of so many things – not keeping my house clean, not cutting my grass enough, not pursuing my dreams, not succeeding at work. This time of year is the worst. It must be down to the lack of sunlight, the hours kept inside in the dark, with only my own thoughts for company. The social battle of present-giving is a main player here. Did I spend enough on person x? Oh no! So-and-so posted me a Christmas card, who I’ve only spoken to once in July, and now I have to find a spare one for them. Should I attend this village lights switch on? Nope, too late. What about choir singing? Nope, can’t get back in time from work.

One Christmas, when we had moved to the farm and I still lived at home, Mum was begrudgingly prepping for the big dinner when she realised a critical error – we’d run out of plain flour for the Yorkshires. This is a catastrophe. So Dad, Bilbo and I got wrapped up and we marched down to Grandad’s house to raid his cupboards for a pack of flour two years past its sell-by date.

There was nothing wrong with those puddings!

Moral of the story is – check your cupboards, and get a grip. It’s only one day, as I’m repeatedly told.

Seasonal Inertia

The days are short and dark, the nights are long and darker still, it’s cold out and it keeps trying to snow. Already we’ve had two gos at snow in the past two weeks, which is more than we’ve had in a long while. I’m driving to and from work in darkness and it’s really no fun. Then when I get home all I want to do is curl up and go to bed – the last thing I want to do is mess about with chores, cooking tea, and I even don’t have energy to do any writing (probably why I’m doing this in the morning).

The lack of sunlight has a lot to do with low mood. I feel so unproductive in winter. Christmas cards have yet to be written, presents – the few that I’ve bought – aren’t anywhere near to being wrapped. It’s tiring, and I totally get why people jet off in search of summer sun.


It’s the most wonderful time of year – it’s Christmas!

It’s that time of year again, where any stock phrase summons up jingle bells and a melody. Or else Noddy Holder bursts out of your subconscious screaming down your lughole. But it’s fine, because it’s Christmas!

As a child, I loved Christmas. Absolutely loved it. Even despite deciding, on a trip to Lapland at about 7 years old, that Father Christmas no longer existed because the “real” Father Christmas would have known I had no brothers or sisters to play Twister with. Not only that, but I was very suspicious of Mrs Christmas. More like Mrs Santa’s Sister if you ask me.

I love the whole winter set up. Mince pies, mulled wine. I cope a lot better in cold weather than hot weather. When we go up to the farm I wear a pair of leggings under jeans with my waterproofs on top, and then a vest, t-shirt, jumper, hoodie and fleece-lined jacket. I might look like the Michelin man but I’m warm enough – especially when I get chopping fodder beet. I always think you can put more clothes on when it’s cold but when it’s hot, you get to a point when you can’t take more off.

I put the tree up at the weekend and have finally got round to decorating it.

The first lot of lights now don’t work so we have improvised. I also seem to have lost another box of decorations – this is the problem with moving before Christmas!

I’m not sure where December has come from, really. I’m still convinced it’s NaNoWriMo and I have plenty of time yet. I still have loads of presents to get and Christmas cards to write, not to mention the Christmas dinner to prepare for – we’re hosting this year! I’m quite sure I can just stick HeartXmas on the radio and get by. I’m not sure where this uncharacteristic optimism has come from. I must be mellowing in my old age.

Things I love about Christmas

Present – for me?? One from last year’s.

How Christmas feels

Christmas cheer has to be up there – and by cheer I just mean that magical atmosphere that come December seems to infect the world. I love walking round town when all the Christmas lights are on, driving past doors with wreaths hanging, catching the odd song on the radio. The sight of Brussels sprouts in the supermarket greengrocer’s is enough to fill anyone’s heart with joy. (I also just had to google how to properly write Brussels sprout – who knew the third s is obligatory? And I pretend to be a home vegetable grower, shame on me!)

I do think this time of year does something to people. For some people, it imbibes them with an inescapable hysteria married with stress, panic and too much to do in too little time. That will probably be me come 23rd December when I’ve finished work and realise I have so much yet to do. But for others, they seem to light up from within with a beautiful rosy glow that is quite simply wonderful. I would like to think that’s me up until 22nd, but we’ll see.

I’m hoping to make a pair of wreaths this year. I’ve bought two frames of differing sizes and have watched Youtube videos in the hope of conquering my dream to become a homemade queen. Pfft. Anyway, if you see me loitering around the countryside with a pair of secateurs, just walk on by.

The sound of Christmas

One of my favourite things about Christmas is music. Every year I gather my selection of specific Christmas/wintry CDs and have them on permanent rotation in the car. Except this year I got Taylor Swift’s Reputation so I’ve been listening to that on an eternal loop because I’m pretty digging it. But my essential Christmas listening has had an update this year, with my favourite singer of all time, Tarja Turunen, releasing a Christmas CD (!!!).

Tarja – From Spirits and Ghosts

Here is the list for 2018:

  • Katherine Jenkins – This is Christmas
  • Michael Buble – Christmas
  • Tarja – From Spirits and Ghosts (A Score for a Dark Christmas)
  • Nightwish – Oceanborn
  • AFI – Decemberunderground

Special mention must also be given to Florence and the Machine’s Ceremonials, which always reminds me of this time of year, plus the deliciously wicked A Grim Christmas by Dark Sarah, a standalone song from a new artist I discovered this year.

Now I know there are some random choices in there, and Michael Buble stands a mile out. But Nightwish covered Walking in the Air, and Sacrament of Wilderness has to be the wintriest, snowiest song ever. And how can you have Christmas without a song called Love Like Winter?

I love me a good carol, and both Tarja and Katy J cover one of my favourite traditional hymns, O Come O Come Emmanuel. Tarja’s version of We Three Kings is sublime.

In terms of pop Christmas – you can’t beat a good bit of Shakin’ Stevens!


I love Christmas food. I went to Harrogate the other weekend with my girlies and we went to Costa and all four of us had the pigs in blanket panini. Oh my God, it was quite out of this world. The perfect union of savoury, sweet, peppery – it was mind-blowing. I still think about it to this day.

We are having my family over for Christmas. My mother’s comment was “since you have the nice new cooker you can do Christmas”. So I’m catering for 6, which will be the biggest number I’ve had to cook for before. Luckily I have a gorgeous Belling range with two (!) ovens. Contrary to tradition, we’re having a big chicken rather than a turkey. Some people don’t like turkey, Nana’s making a goose for those of us that like goose, and so we need a chicken. I did us two a Sunday roast yesterday and the chicken crisped up wonderfully so pleased with that, and my Yorkshires were like mountains.

I baked a fruit cake for Pickering horty show and while it didn’t come anywhere – I didn’t even get the family leaning, can you believe! – I think if I shave the burnt bits off and cover it with icing, it’ll be gorge. It smells wonderful and Christmassy. One thing I make every year is a Roulade – not sure where I’ll find the time for that!

I’m not looking forward to the Christmas food shop, but I’ll leave that for a Things I Don’t Like About Christmas post.


In recent years, Christmas has become very commercialised and very consumer-driven, though I do believe we are seeing a resurgence in the meaning of Christmas – you can take it to its pagan roots, or we can go Christian. While I’m not an avid church-goer, I am religious, and I do work in an establishment that does have its own abbey, so I’m around it a lot. I’ve gone to Midnight Mass numerous times with Nana, and while we didn’t go last year because it was out at one of the further parishes, I still watched the televised version, which is a bit more serious than I’m used to.

The family emphasis always makes me think of those no longer with us. I’m of an age now that means I have felt the cruel exploitation of time. As someone who gets emotional at the slightest thing, and I mean a particularly sad cello solo can get me going for no reason other than it was beautiful, it can be a sad time of year. So I try to make the most of it with my family, and look to the future.

What are your favourite things about Christmas? Put them in the comments!

Merry Christmas!

Thanks for reading, and look out for ‘Things I Don’t Like About Christmas’, coming to a Scrooge near you!

Christmas and New Year: just another day

So Christmas has been and gone, and so has New Year. Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. My mother said when I was little I used to get so excited I would make myself poorly. And when I was a little bit bigger we went to Lapland one Christmas to really ramp up the festive authenticity – which was possibly spoiled when Father Christmas wasn’t at his grotto and then when he visited the hotel he gave me a game of Twister to play with all my non-existent brothers and sisters.

This year you might have thought, what with me leaving my job in November, I would have had all the time in the world to prepare for Christmas and really make it the best Christmas ever. Yet I hardly managed to do any of my traditions, to the point where on Christmas week I made both my roulade and a Yule Log in a bit of a rush. The roulade was a bit of a disaster: one of the eggs cracked so yolk got into the whites and they didn’t fluff up like they should, and then my cooker burnt it down one side yet leaving the other side perfect. All the same, it tasted light and chocolatey, but we didn’t eat it fast enough so the cream went to cheese. But since it got Scott’s approval I think I shall make another.

I left my job to focus on my writing and to get on with the move to my Grandad’s house, but also to support Scott at the farm while he was working full-time. Now that he’s driving on an as-and-when self-employed basis, we’ve been able to really get on with the farm and make some decent progress. I’m still learning and am probably more of a hindrance than a help, but with such short days at this time of year, it’s hard to fit everything in and get all the jobs done.

I still managed to do some Christmas shopping and get for everyone. I went to the Country Living Christmas Fair in Harrogate with my mum and with Scott’s mum as well, and we had a really lovely day. I had saved up for Christmas all year so I didn’t feel too guilty about spending money despite not earning anything at the moment.

Across the festive break, Scott’s favourite phrase has been “it’s just another day to me” – be it in relation to Christmas, New Year’s, or whatever. And for farming, and a lot of other industries, that’s absolutely true. There are still animals to feed, water troughs to top up, calves to feed twice a day, and to bed up if necessary. But I spent years working on Christmas anyway when I worked at the pub in our village, so I am well aware that the world doesn’t stop for one day.

And now we’re here, in 2017. How time has flown! Despite it not being the Christmas I might have known – waking up in my own little house instead of at my mum and dad’s, not going to Midnight Mass, not going on our Boxing Day walk with the doggies – it has still been a wonderful Christmas I’ve spent with those that I love and cherish, all the while missing those whose chairs were absent at our table.

Christmas Roulade

Another retrospective post!

I have lots of traditions at Christmas: not only do I make the starters, and fail to decorate the Christmas cake, but I also make a chocolate roulade. When I was at school, I used to decorate a shop-bought swiss roll in about an inch of chocolate buttercream! Mmm heaven! The past few years however this has developed into a chocolate roulade.

Here’s a pic of last year’s…


Somehow, I always end up with quite deep fissures along the ‘bark’, but I suppose that just adds to the rustic ‘fallen log’ image. And let’s not forget that I won the roulade category in this year’s Horticultural Show, with one perfectly rounded end, and one that was a bit, erm, triangular!

I follow Mary Berry’s recipe, from the Bake-Off, though I have been hunting for a method to stop the cracks in the rolling process. After lengthy googling, I found an interesting theory, which involved rolling it up – while warm, sans filling of course – in a tea towel and bunging it in the oven to ‘remember’ its curl. Sounds logical right?

Well, it was, until half of the roulade broke off.

Devastation central!

After some tears, and some laughter, and then some serious expletives aimed at a website that had done me over, I filled it anyway, whacked the broken layer on top, and dusted it with icing sugar.

IMG_0686Anyway, it tasted gorgeous! Even if it was rocking a slightly more dilapidated ‘fallen log’ look – maybe a ‘hit by lightning’ look?




Christmas Day Pate

Although it may feel like years ago already, Christmas was only just a month ago. Which means it’s taken me over a month to put up the pictures of what I made for Christmas!

I love Christmas, and always have huge plans for what I’ll do: I’ll make my own Christmas cards, I’ll do the veggies, I’ll ice the cake and decorate it with an amazing gingerbread version of our house, with snow made out of royal icing… Obviously, those things didn’t quite happen. However, I did make the starter!

This isn’t anything all that new: making the starters has always been my domain, but in previous years, the starters have been those typical 70s stalwarts: prawn cocktail or grapefruit. This year I decided to push the boat out. I was going to make a pate!

Check it out!


I made it the day before, following a recipe from BBC Food. I used chicken livers (which was a pretty gruesome task when it came to chopping them up), then we didn’t have enough brandy so to deglaze the pan I used orange juice, which I thought added a nice citrussy kick. I declined the peppercorns in the butter and just grated on a little bit of orange zest.

I made my own wholemeal bread, which probably should have been kneaded a bit more, and proved a little longer, but toasted under the grill was fine.

A very homemade starter, and it went down a treat! I was dead chuffed, and will definitely have a go again.