DERNIER MOT - CHRISTMAS SHOPPING
I love Christmas here - we’re completely out of all the merchandising, hype and commercialisation of the festive season and beautifully placed for cooking, story-telling and sitting by the fire.
Preparations start months before; pickling and bottling, hoarding cases of wine and yummy-smelling boxes, we gradually stock up both pantry and freezer all autumn. I adore this hamster approach to Christmas, chortling over my preserves and hidden piles of presents, rubbing my little paws together when I think of all the goodies I’m amassing, and all the time making the kids scream with excitement by assuring them that we’re not having Christmas this year, and that all the preparations are for the good children next door.
We make the pudding, the cake, the stuffing, and the kids make the (wonky) chocolates, the brandy butter, the cranberry sauce, and the decorations. The tree is delivered by the local Mairie. Everything is perfect. We string lights up inside and outside the house, the kids set up the crêche, Dolly the Dog has a tinsel collar, Bad Boy Tombo nicks the salmon off the canapés, Sooty creeps onto the sofa purring like a small steam train and the rest of the family flop around debating the merits of Holiday Inn versus Love Actually.
Since there’s no television no-one cares what’s going on in the outside world, no-one has the faintest idea that being given woolly socks is a cliché or that we ought to have bought drinks instead of making our own sloe gin, egg nog and mulled wine. There aren’t any shops, bars or cafes open for miles around so there’s nothing to lust after or have a tantrum over. Everything is perfect.
We can scramble up the hillside outside our house and cut as much wild holly, ivy and mistletoe as we like. We even have am English carol concert in the village church, yours faithfully giving her (extremely) iconoclastic rendition of Silent Night, the village kids singing “We Weeesh You a Merry Christmas”, and the ladies’ choir chiming in with a lugubrious French version of “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”. Such bliss.
There’s only one glitch: crackers. You can’t make a cracker. I know. We tried. Last year we collected the inside rolls of a whole bumper pack of le Trèfle, stuffed them with home-made jokes and toys, covered them with wrapping paper, smothered them in glitter and... pulled faces.
It was no good. You can’t pretend a loo roll inner is a cracker. Not with all the Christmas goodwill in the world. Once a loo roll, always a loo roll. We were looking at a cracker-less Christmas.
Dolly had the answer - she was sleeping on a mail order brochure containing all sorts of goodies indispensable to the festivities; not only crackers, but tree-top fairies, robin-decked Christmas cards, and dog stockings, too.
Canine stockings? Yes, believe it or not, you can buy your woofer a Christmas stocking by mail order. They’ve got doggie bic-bics in them, and doggie-chocs, and bone-shaped, turkey-flavoured snack treats, and glitter collars and cuddly jackets for wearing out in the snow. So-oo sweet!
Dolly was wagging, her bright little Bichon eyes gleaming with greed and avaricious materialism as I read the advert, and everyone fell about laughing as I filled in the order form. They thought I had gone as potty as the pooch.
But let them laugh, and as for Dolly, she can pant and waggle her ears about as much as she likes. I wasn’t ordering her a stocking, I was getting the crackers. Dearo dear, what was she thinking of? Honestly, that Bichon must be barking.
Christmas is crackers, here.
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