Yes, I know I've been very naughty again by neglecting this blog. But I have a good excuse (don't I always?) - I've moved house! I've shipped out of London, after several years there, and have moved to the supposed peace and quiet of the countryside.
It's all gone pretty well, but it has of course been made infinitely more interesting by the recent weather. Now that we live out in the sticks, the sudden realisation that an 'extreme weather event' (who on earth came up with that phrase, anyway?) can be a very real obstacle to putting food on the table is a bit of a wake-up call. I've quickly learnt the art of stocking up at any and every opportunity, and of using the freezer for keeping stuff other than ice cream, ice cubes, and voddie. ;-) London habits are dying hard, and quickly. It's all about survival of the fittest around here, me hearties.
On that note, here are a few Christmas thoughts and tips (in no order of significance) to help you get through the festive season of ho! ho! ho! and goodwill to all men, women, and random waifs and animals.
1. No amount of kisses in your letter to Father Christmas will guarantee you a Thermomix, iPad, or Lumix camera. There's a recession on, and Father Christmas's priority is to keep Rudolph out of Battersea.
2. Never, ever leave your Christmas tree and pets together unattended. Ever. This applies particularly if you have terriers and/or cats with a known love of shiny things on string.
3. It is too late now to make a Christmas pud or cake, so there's no point panicking about it. If all else fails, buy the richest fruit cake you can find, and pour a litre of whisky over it. Or just drink the whisky.
4. When wrapping the kids' stocking presents, remember that the wrapping paper you're recycling from last year may have wording written on it like 'To Jan, with love from Aunty June'.
5. There will be key points on Christmas Day when you need to remember to turn the oven on, and to turn it off. Try not to confuse the two.
6. Going to church IS important on Christmas morning. It's all about the baby Jesus, after all, and the fact that you want Jemima to get into the local church-run school is entirely unrelated.
7. Make sure that Grandad/Granny has his/her hearing aids switched on, and enough batteries to last through the holidays.
8. You haven't gone grey overnight. It's icing sugar.
9. Granny will insist she doesn't touch a drop. Keep her glass topped up anyway. She'll provide hours of free after-dinner entertainment.
10. No matter how well you've cooked the Christmas dinner, the senior females in your family will all claim they can cook the bird/roast potatoes/gravy/bread sauce/Christmas pud (delete as appropriate) better than you, and your children will agree with them vigorously. Smile sweetly throughout.
11. The tradition is to set fire to the Christmas pudding, not to the house. And holly stinks when it burns.
12. Squirty cream isn't funny and it isn't clever. Still, if you can't get hold of anything else, tell everyone that retro Christmases are 'in' this year and that you're channelling Fanny Cradock.
13. For one sodding day of the year, do NOT take photographs of the food, and do NOT blog your Christmas dinner.
14. Your mother-in-law and your daughter's new Goth metal boyfriend will hit it off and form a worrying alliance. Be very afraid.
15. Even if you don't watch the Queen's Speech, she has her uses. Invoke the old dear as an excuse to pour another drink, and raise a toast to Her Maj.
16. Yes, you did tell your brother that it was fine to get your two-year old a mini drum set.
17. Dogs don't like Quality Street. Actually, they do. But Quality Street doesn't like them. Violently. Unattended Yule Logs achieve much the same effect.
18. If it all gets too much, throw yourself to the floor and wail hysterically. The shock of the sight of you will be sufficient to bring everyone to their senses, and you won't have to do anything else for the rest of the day.
19. Even if you remember the key points in (5), you WILL have left the oven on when you go to bed. You will remember that approximately ten minutes after you've got into bed and have got all warm and cosy.
20. Put Nurofen on your bedside table before turning out the light.
Above all, enjoy! Have a great Christmas and a fantastic 2011!