Wednesday 13th December
Caught Charles Dickens scratching the front door mat just as the postman pushed through a padded envelope addressed in the familiar bold, italic handwriting of Aunty Mary with her trademark mismatched collection of stamps. Inside was a pack of 12 Christmas cards with a cheery red robin perched on a snowy twig, sold in aid of the RSPB and an orange Post-it note – ‘Thought you might need some extra.’ Last year Aunty Mary swore blind she had not received a card. I’m positive I sent one. I remember picking out a Christmas tree in a snowy landscape. Perhaps it was lost in the post. Clearly this year she wants to make sure she isn’t forgotten. Aunty Mary is the super organised member of the family. She has a printed list of all the cards she has sent and received. As she would say, ‘It is bad manners to repeat oneself.’ Must check last posting day for 2nd class.
Thursday 14th December
I arrived home from the library tired and damp. It drizzled the whole way. It’s evenings like this which make me question why I ride a tricycle and never learnt to drive. Tucked in the corner of the porch was a familiar cake tin decorated with a picture of Highland cattle. Inside were 11 mince pies and a scribbled note from my sister Hilary. ‘Sorry, should have been a dozen but the dog ate one!’ Hilary has a ‘cockapoo’ called Louise, a highly strung, yappy creature with a tendency to jump up and snaffle food. Louise was a lock down purchase, the girls were desperate to have a dog. At the beginning taking her for a walk was a novelty which wore off quickly. Looking forward to putting my feet up with a home-made mince pie or two and watching the telly.
Friday 15th December
Mum popped into the library this afternoon, quiet had descended after the chaos of ‘Baby Rhythm Time’ in the morning. She was laden down by shopping bags. With a triumphant flourish she handed me a 10 metre roll of Christmas wrapping paper. How many presents does she think I have to wrap up? I could see Malcolm out of the corner of my eye grinning. I thanked her and offered a restoring cup of tea. ‘Not one of your dreadful herbal ones, a proper cuppa, please’. More grinning from Malcolm. I’m still trying to persuade him to try one of my herbal teas but he refuses to give up his mugs of builders tea.
Saturday 16th December
With just over a week to go I decided I should start putting up some decorations. After much effort and a bang on the head I retrieved the cardboard box from under the stairs which I hoped contained Christmas decorations. Some years ago, I channelled my inner Aunty Mary and, in a moment of zealous organisation, stuck a label on the side of the box listing the contents. There was only one corner left, looking more like one of Uncle Harry’s cryptic crossword clues.
Not much help . . .
Retrieved the string of lights I put along the mantelpiece. Each year another one stops working, now down to 9 red, glowing Father Christmases. There used to be a setting which made them twinkle on and off but this too has stopped working. Charles Dickens was never too keen on how they flashed on and off randomly. In his younger days he liked to bat them with his paw. Maybe that’s why some don’t work any more?
Sunday 17th December
Derek & I went to the Christmas market. Plenty of stalls selling all things Christmassy. Delicious aromas and a plentiful supply of tempting samples laid out to tickle our taste buds. A selection of carols played on a loop. There was a magnificent tree right in the centre of the square decorated with hundreds of lights. Around the base a miniature railway ran, in the form of Santa’s sleigh drawn by reindeer, one with a red nose that flashed. One stall I was particularly drawn to sold hand-dyed silk scarves. They floated gracefully in the soft breeze, I was so tempted. The auction house where Derek works has an annual Christmas lunch with a theme. I’ve noticed they are keen on themed events. Everyone is allocated a task by the boss’s secretary, Poppy. For some inexplicable reason she suggested Derek do the place settings for the table. Why didn’t she ask him to cook something? They don’t know what they are missing. He keeps that particular talent well hidden. Eureka! After trawling up and down lots of stalls we found one selling all sorts of table decorations. Derek was delighted to find sets of 8 star shaped place cards in gold and silver. The theme this year is precious metals. He bought four sets. That should be plenty.
Monday 18th December
A text message from Dad asking me to pop in on my way home. I hope there isn’t anything wrong. I have noticed recently a greater number of ‘little accidents’ as they call them. Be it Mum catching her hand on the hot oven when she’s cooking or Dad tripping on a paving stone when they’re out shopping. This time of year there is increased traffic and even on a tricycle it took me over half an hour. Couldn’t see any new bandages or bruises. I was greeted with a glass of wine and a mince pie. Mum said Hilary usually delivers eighteen but this time there were only fifteen. Louise the cockapoo, strikes again. As I was leaving, Dad handed me a box of 7 red candles. He said it should have been ‘four candles.’ He was always a fan of ‘The Two Ronnies’.
Tuesday 19th December
It was the Christmas party for all the library staff. After much discussion we decided to go out for a meal. Thank heavens we booked well in advance. There was a nasty altercation with one group, who turned up assuring the restaurant staff they had a booking, but were turned away. The restaurant produced a good Christmas lunch combining the traditional with a touch of modernity. Instead of standard Christmas pudding they served orange and raisin soufflés with brandy cream. I never fail to be impressed by a well-risen soufflé. In the ‘Secret Santa’ I was given a box of 6 crackers. From the big grin on her face I’m guessing they were from Beth. For the third year running I picked Malcolm. I think he fixes it somehow. Yet again I gave him a book of ultra hard Sudoku. I know – not very imaginative.
Wednesday 20th December
People are not allowed to eat food in the library, the smell for one thing and then there are all those sticky, greasy fingers on books, magazines and keyboards. I arrived back from a meeting at the Town Hall to find Malcolm confronting a belligerent young woman who was sitting in one of the reading chairs. Spread out on the small, low table in front of her was a well-used piece of tinfoil and what looked like ‘pigs in blankets.’ All the woman would say was, “I put 5 in there this morning, and now there’s only three. Who’s eaten two?” Before anyone could stop her, she had turned her bag upside down, scattering a myriad of detritus across the floor. I retreated, leaving Malcolm in charge. Half an hour later he came into the office reporting the two missing pigs in blankets had not been found.
Thursday 21st December
At lunch-time I popped into the wool shop run by Violet. I come from a long line of knitters and not just down the female line. There are stories of a distant relative, a sailor, who whiled away long hours at sea knitting socks for his fellow crew-mates. I have been growing various bowls of bulbs as Christmas presents. Derek suggested I could use vintage bowls to add some interest. It didn’t take long, scouring the various charity shops in town, to find a selection. Violet was delighted with her 4 hyacinth bulbs. The buds are just coming up. I know she has a fondness for all things in pastel shades, so I chose pale pink blooms.
Friday 22nd December
Carols-on-the-Green with the choir led by Charlotte, headmistress of the local primary school. No snow this year, thank heavens. I had just started to walk back to my warm cottage when Charlotte called after me and handed me a rectangular box. She apologised for not wrapping it. The gold label from M&S said 3 mini-Christmas puddings. Does everyone know I can’t cook? How depressing, another myth shattered.
Saturday 23rd December
I was luxuriating over my third cup of tea and the thought I didn’t have to go to work for four days when the doorbell rang. When I opened the door all I could see was 2 Christmas trees. From somewhere within the depths of the green foliage came the voice of Uncle Harry, Dad’s younger brother. He is a cruciverbalist. The rest of us just call them crossword setters. I once suggested he might like to try Sudoku and was subjected to a rant on how they were causing a decline in people’s general knowledge and appreciation of abbreviations, homophones and anagrams. I’ve never mentioned them again. “I spotted a BOGOF on trees at the garden centre and thought you would like them.” I only have a small cottage. Where on earth does he think I’m going to put them? I’m afraid I have left the trees propped up either side of my front porch. I don’t have any external lights, so in the dark they look rather menacing. If one or both are pinched, I honestly don’t mind.
Sunday 24th December
Heard Derek’s car horn toot just as I was buttering a piece of toast. Wonderful man came in carrying an overstuffed carrier bag, on the top was perched 1 turkey. In the bag were all the necessary goodies for cooking our Christmas dinner. My mouth began to water as each new treat was unpacked – dates, potatoes, parsnips (my favourite), smoked salmon, nuts, sausages, cream, lemons … I was ushered out of the kitchen. I did offer to help but was told to ‘just go and put your feet up.’ After an hour Derek emerged from the kitchen sporting a seasonal apron and two plates of ravioli. A definite improvement on my meagre piece of toast. Oh, what a lucky woman I am to have a man who can cook. A pile of presents sat under the tree, not one of Uncle Harry’s trees. A couple were marked ‘Charles Dickens’, given the amount of sniffing and scratching they were receiving I fear they might not last till the morning. One with my name on looked particularly interesting and I couldn’t help myself. I gave it a quick ‘squish’. Over his plate Derek’s look clearly said, ‘you won’t guess.’