Winter is coming (and that holiday)

It has been brought to my attention, which I am no longer allowed to ignore, that apparently winter is coming. You may think that the changing seasons would make this obvious but in large parts of the UK the temperature was still reaching the double digits a few days ago. In fact, even though the autumn sports have been well underway for months we have still avoided experiencing full-on ‘rugby weather’ and my waterproof trousers have yet to be unrolled. Admittedly, it is getting rainier, windier and darker and the aftereffects of the recent storms Abigail and Barney made some treacherous running conditions for me when I attempted to circle a lake while narrowly avoiding being blown into it. But the worsening weather is not really the reason why I know that winter is coming.

It is because lately, I have been bombarded in all directions by the biggest winter holiday in the UK, aka Christmas. Yes, the big day is looming its head again in our house but it’s still only November. It came as a surprise to me to have to face this already as I am mostly immune to the Christmas tat and decorations that are put on display every year from September in department stores and supermarkets. So I blame this early onslaught of Christmas in my house on the John Lewis Christmas ad.

The ad was impossible to avoid as every section of the media was preoccupied about its launch while newspapers and television presenters discussed at length whether it would be anything like the tear-jerkers of years past. How would this year’s ad compete with last year’s penguin or the one with the bear the year before that? The ad was finally launched with much fanfare and this year’s star was a sad old man who lived on the moon. Of course, this prompted even more media discussion. What did it mean? Was it about homelessness? Or loneliness? Or something else entirely? Is the moon the island of misfit Grandpas? With no firm answers offered, we could only wonder why he would want a telescope for Christmas to watch everybody else having fun at a distance. I think he might have preferred some company or a spaceship in which to travel to earth. Or at least a kindle.

In any case there was something about that ad that seemed to spark off some early Christmas action at home because almost within 24 hours of seeing, it I began to be firmly reminded of Christmas’ presence. First, it was the several notifications from our schools about their upcoming annual Christmas carol concerts, plays and Christmas Fayres. As my children attend different schools, the events are multiplied, often clash and they compete for attendance. Sometimes it comes down to one of them getting the edge if mince pies are involved. Next I was given a strict deadline to make advance meal choices for differing Christmas meals out. Trying to imagine what you will be in the mood for eating in 3 weeks’ time is difficult enough at the best of times but avoiding turkey overload before the big day is pretty tricky. Through menu elimination of what’s left you end up choosing a combination of courses never attempted before, probably for good reason. Finally, I was given a less-than-subtle reminder that Christmas was getting closer when I was presented with my children’s suggested list of gifts complete with websites, hyperlinks and highlighted items that they really, badly would like. There is nothing more sobering than realising that as your children get older, their wish list gets smaller but exceedingly more expensive.

So I blame that man in the moon for forcing me to realise that winter and that holiday is coming up. I am not exactly trying to avoid either but the problem is that I am a member of a shrinking minority that still stubbornly refuses to do anything Christmas-related before December. Despite the persistently cheery reminders surrounding me and being compelled to plan and pencil in Christmas events in my diary, I have managed to avoid everything else. Like a Scrooge, I refuse to give in when my children ask me almost daily ‘Aren’t you feeling just a little bit Christmassy yet??’ or ‘Aren’t you excited for Christmas?’ and I don’t let them play Christmas music yet.

However, I have had to admit that it is getting increasingly more difficult. I don’t know if it is because the holiday has become more commercialised or simply that I am too tired to fight it anymore. But I have increasingly found my thoughts wandering to whether we should stick to the same mince pie recipe this year and debating the ingredients of the panettone. And I have been thinking about the impending ‘stir-up Sunday’ Christmas cake preparations. Worst of all, my children caught me the other day mindlessly humming the theme song of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ while I was preparing dinner and accused me of hypocrisy.

I am still trying to resist Christmas—at least until 1st December—but I don’t know how much longer I can last. My daughter has noticed that I am starting to crack and says that I need to give in to my ‘inner Christmas’. I can only hope that with ‘black Friday’ and ‘cyber Monday’ looming ahead I don’t succumb to some Christmas shopping madness. I can only imagine the number of telescopes flying off the shelves for every Grandpa this year…

But now for a recipe—definitely not Christmas-related—but something French. With the recent horrific events in Paris, it is easy to get overwhelmed so this will help revive nicer memories of that great city while filling you up. Fougasse is a common bread in France and is typically in the shape of a shaft of wheat but you can equally bake it as a baguette or small loaf. Bon appetite!

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