Thursday, 26 November 2009

The festive season is almost upon us

First of all – happy Thanksgiving to all my US readers. Although I don't expect you to be reading – get away from your computers and enjoy yourselves with your loved ones!

Second ... OMG, it's nearly Christmas!

That, in my case, means a birthday in between too.

I saw my first decorations over a week ago: fairy lights in the window of a flat in our block. It's not even Advent!

Actually, although it's embarrassing to admit it, I'm starting to get into the mood. Well, I've started listening to classic Christmas tracks on the way into work. Peggy Lee's Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree is a great distraction from the crowded bus.

The Other Half has purchased a festive waistcoast for himself, covered with glittery poinsettias. The girls in the office are delighted, but it's finished off his attempts at a 'bah humbug' persona for good.

Oddly enough, the run-in to Christmas isn't quite as long in the UK as it used to be. I remember the days when, return to school after the summer holiday would be almost instantly followed by shops putting decorations and gifts on display. Now, as we attempt to copy the US ever more, they wait until they've managed to flog Halloween stuff.

Christmas shopping started being a long affair during WWI, when families in the US had to allow a lot of time to ensure that their loved ones in the trenches of Flanders got their gifts on time. Now, of course, it gets going early for entirely commercial reasons.

There are still justifiable reasons for preparing in advance. Since we aren't going Christmas shopping on the Continent this year, I'm having to order my chocolate from France via the good old interweb. I do very heartily recommend Patrick Roger. It's mindblowingly fantastic stuff.

I don't know what I'm going to cook. There's only the two of us, so a turkey – even if we particularly liked roast turkey – would be daft. We did a roast duck for a few years, but that's daffy too: it's far cheaper to enjoy duck breast a few times a year, and occasionally duck legs as confit that buying a whole duck at Christmas.

I have a new book – Snowflakes and Schnapps, by an Australian cookery writer, who was inspired by her German heritage to explore northern European cuisine. It's giving me some inspiration, but I haven't nailed things down yet – hence the purchase of Delia Smith new Christmas book, which I'll collect from my bookshop on Saturday.

This year's Christmas has one major thing pencilled in: more cats. Boudicca is around five years of age and, until a year ago last August, had always lived with at least two other cats. Then my lovely Mack died. Trickie – who we adopted from Battersea Dogs (and Cats) Home – had died around eight months before.

We made a decision to let her have some time on her own – to blossom into herself. It's been fascinating and funny and wonderful. She was no shrinking violent to start with – how could you be with a name like Boudicca? She loves her human company, but she misses some feline interaction too. There's a gated carpark beyond out tiny garden and it gets daily visits from a local cat called Basil, who is as soft as the proverbial.

He always comes looking for her. She goes out and looks for him.

So we're intending to get kittens: two. We're doing it at this time of year because we'll both be off for around a fortnight, which should be useful as they all get to know each other. Even now. we're looking at Gumtree, an online market that includes cat breeders. And I'm wondering about names.

It promises to be a completely mad Christmas.

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