The Big Day is over, you’ve bought everything, wrapped everything, cooked everything and rather unlike The Little Red Hen, everyone else has unwrapped it all in a tenth of the time it took you to source it, buy it and wrap it in the first place. And they have also eaten everything that you have lovingly bought and prepared in a similar timescale. Whilst you are glad that everyone enjoyed it, you do wish that the food didn’t take twice as long for you to prepare it as it does for everyone to eat it. I think it also safe for me to presume that there has been the annual festive strop from a family member who didn’t win at the Christmas game of chance and they simply could not be placated with a piece of chocolate orange (note to Terry’s – don’t think we haven’t noticed that you have taken the middle bit out and put the price up – you’re on a very short lead). Naturally there was the mystifying gift from a family member or friend whom you haven’t seen for years. And I’m afraid that by Boxing Day that Mariah, the only thing I want for Christmas is for you to be mute. It’s done people. Well done everyone.
Then we moved into that period between Christmas and New Year. No one was quite sure what day of the week it was, even if you were required at work. During this time everyone was very stoically trying to “get through the chocolate” and “finish off the Christmas Cake”. We became, as we do every year, a nation of nibblers; sausage rolls, a forgotten selection box, the cheese…nothing was beneath our attention. Except that rather sad looking bag of unopened salad languishing in the veg drawer in the fridge. I am sure that by looking at a bag of salad that you absorb it’s nutritional value – it certainly seems to apply to Scottish shortbread. Every year it takes us this interim period to polish off the Christmas food, sometimes with more family members and friends being drafted in to assist or vice versa. That is what I love about being British, we are always willing to help each other out in a crisis. One of my friends came over with my goddaughter for the day and we decided that the offering from my fridge was insufficient for our needs, so we went out. For an All Day Breakfast.
Now the kids are back at school, everyone is back at work and routine begins again. I find this bit of the year quite difficult. When the leaves fall in Autumn, there is the tantalising promise of the time in Winter when we can all be tucked up fireside reading a book whilst it rages outside. Or getting Hygge to coin a popular phrase. It’s lovely. The children are looking forward to Christmas, we all enjoy the school play, this year Sister B made cranberry gin….we’re all getting ready. By the time that Christmas is over, we are not getting ready and Winter is the reality that is facing us. And it is cold and dark and wet for the next two months at least. I am either outside with The Hound who during this time of year is brown rather than black, and I am carrying half a pound of mud on each boot as I try and make my way across a ploughed field. If I am inside I am trying to cope with The Three Childerbeasts and their endless creativity for creating more mess. I don’t know about you but I have more washing than it is humanly possible to get through. Ever. If the ironing pile gets any higher I fully expect a family of muntjac to knock on the door and ask if they can move in.
And whilst I am struggling through all of this, I often wonder two things to myself. The first is: how on earth do women who work in paid employment manage all of this and their paid jobs? I used to with Man of the House doing half, but I have no idea how we’d do it now. Besides, it is a truth universally acknowledged and backed up by statistics that women still do the lion’s share of the housework. As if the lion’s share is a prize to be won – yey, well done girls, you win a pair of marigolds and the loo brush! And the second is: I used to have a paid job where multi-national companies listened very carefully to what I had to say. They used to ask me for my advice, pay me for my advice in fact, and when I responded they would show all the signs of considering it very carefully before giving me their instructions. Maybe not forever, but for now, I have given that up. And I have given it up in exchange for speaking directly to someone on the very contentious subject of “juice with bits in” so they can (and they do) look me in the face as I am speaking to them and then just walk off as if they never heard me and I have never existed. I suppose you could say that as I have made and squeezed this persons out of my own person that I have only myself (and Man of the House) to blame. But it doesn’t stop me wondering.
I love the Seasons and how they change. The importance and the necessity of the leaves falling and rotting to make food and the way for the new life in the Spring has not passed me by. Winter is vital to that cycle. Hedgehogs, badgers, foxes, barn owls – all our peculiarly British wildlife – so beautiful and so very precious, seem especially so in Winter. I know that with my head and I love that with my heart. My logical brain tells me that it is lack of vitamin D, a lack of a vitamin that helps my general feeling of wellbeing, and my body has less opportunity to produce that when there are fewer hours of daylight available. As with so many things, I do wish my head and my heart could come to a more satisfactory arrangement between the two of them and then let me know what it is. Because it’s been dark for months now and it’s beginning to feel like I’m in Narnia and that it may be a blessing to be turned to stone – not a good place to be. My only solution, unless anyone has a better one, is head down and press on like the rest of you. With the rest of you. And if any of you feel like struggling across a very muddy field with me sometime in the few hours of daylight that we do have over the next few months, then, me and The Hound would be delighted for you to join us.
Happy New Year.