Monday 24 December 2012

I wish you all a Merry Mammalian Christmas!

Have I run out of cling film? No, I haven’t. There’s a spare roll in the cupboard under the sink, next to the spare roll of aluminium foil, the packet of sandwich bags and the ice cube bags.

The wine is sorted, no thanks to Michael Noonan. A good bottle of Chablis for the Snapper and an ancient Bordeaux for the cook. Oh, and a few lesser bottles as back-up, for that stage of proceedings when the thirst has fled upriver with the tastebuds.

There’s a bottle of Port for the stinky creamy Stilton, which I like on digestive biscuits. Must remember to get those digies. They can slip through the shopping net if you’re not careful.

A strong nutty Cheddar from Cheddar and a gooey ripe Normandy Brie, along with the brandy to flambé the pudding, make the brandy butter and provide a healthy slurp of winter warmth to the cook.

He seems to crop up quite a lot, that cook, especially when there’s a slurp in the sentence.

Talking of slurp, in the fridge is the bottle of champagne that kicks off proceedings, consumed whilst opening presents in front of the fire on Christmas morning. By that time the turkey’s in the oven and the cook is feeling pretty chilled. In this house we choose sausage rolls as an accompaniment. Champagne and sausage rolls, representing exactly what my much-missed Dad taught me as a child: enjoy the fine things in life while really appreciating the simple ones.

Sausage rolls. Blimey. Haven’t got them yet.
What else have I forgotten?

Well there’s a small perfectly-formed tree in our living room, so I didn't forget that. Cards are strewn around the planet, my presents long since sent off to England, while a little pile of promises for the Snapper are sitting under the tree. They look fantastically raggedy and boy-wrapped, next to her perfectly pretty ribbon and bow creations.

At this time of year I’m driven by strong primal forces. Oooerrr, Matron! My natural propensity for list writing goes into overdrive, alongside an overpowering impulse to stockpile everything.

Maybe it’s because I was raised by Blitz generation parents, or maybe it’s because my father was raised by Holocaust refugees. In Jewish circles, the hoarding of toilet paper, over-cramming of fridges and cupboards is called ‘Holocaust mentality’, driven by a terror that I thankfully do not suffer.

No, I’m just a hairy mammal like you, and we’re all responding to our animal instincts to prepare our caves for hibernation. As mammals, we need to be warm, feast on high fat foods and feel safe enough to sleep until Spring. Yet instead we rush around in the cold and dark, becoming stressed out at the least apt time of year.

When we turn our backs on mammalian ways, we start to behave slightly crazily. Hence my own list-ticking neuroses, nurtured through many rural West of Ireland Winters. To be safe, warm and feasted you have to be prepared. The power might go out, so I need loads of candles, and matches, a spare cylinder of gas and a small continent of briquettes.

There’s a full tank of heating oil and 6 x 5 litre bottles of water for when the big freeze hits and the taps dry up. There are torches beside beds, loaded with batteries that work and spare batteries in the drawer. There are batteries in the radio, because when the power goes out, radio can be great company.

The greatest comfort for this hairy scribbler is knowing that it’s all done. Everything is safe. I can let go and enjoy myself.

Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe the power supply is more secure than it was years ago. Right, but the ESB can’t stop a tree falling on a power line in a storm.

Whatever happens, we’ll be lit, warm, able to eat and drink. 
Sipping whiskey by candlelight; how bad?

I want to go out right now and buy everything, but I have to wait. First thing on Sunday morning, I’ll appear in Marks and Spencer, where two aberations will remind me its Christmas: I’ll take a trolley instead of a basket and I’ll pay with plastic. Many use their credit cards to pay for groceries each week, but I daren't because when I’m not using cash, the horizon disappears from my economic eye: I believe I can afford everything. Once a year though I really enjoy allowing myself to go consumer crazy.  

So what do we still need? Well, the turkey, vegetables, fruit salad and ...
… and is that it? Do I really already have everything else? There’s the cake and mince pies, cream and custard. There’s the posh box of Belgian chocolate biscuits and that naff little tray of dates. Every Christmas I have to buy dates and a bowl of nuts, which sit on the table paying homage to lost childhood.

Sausage rolls! Haven’t bought them yet. Mustn’t forget those little blighters. That'd be a disaster. Oh, I’d better check and make sure that we have HP sauce to go with them. Nothing else will do.

But I don't really need to check, because I know that there’s a bottle in the fridge and a spare bottle in the cupboard, next to the spare ketchup, mayonnaise and Salad Cream. They’re right next to the spare teas, coffee and hot chocolate.

Time to fish out those clunky old Christmas CDs. Put on a bit of Bing Crosby, sit down and inhale the smoke and peat rising from the whiskey in my glass.

What time are the guests arriving?

Guests? Who said anything about guests? This year it’s just us two, so we’re very ready and extremely willing to have an exceedingly happy Mammalian Christmas, which is exactly what I wish for all my colyoomistas.

Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Solstice and Diwali. May your God be with you.


johnbendel said...

Have a lovely day together - I have very fond memories of our Christmas Day a couple of years ago. And slightly ironically watching "Fiddler on the Roof" before a snowball fight. Fine times. And enjoy celebrating the end of a so much better year.

Charlie Adley said...

Thanks JB - tried calling you a couple of times but you're a man about town, duckin' and divin', snackin' and drinkin'...
I'm looking forward to catching up with your news mate! Have a good one!