Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The magic fridge

Over Christmas something very strange has happened to our fridge, and our biscuit tins. Well, not exactly tins. I used to have real biscuit tins, with quirky retro pictures on them, but they didn't really keep biscuits very well - especially after the boys left home and it took us days, if not weeks, to get through one packet. So I gave in and bought those nice plastic boxes from Woolworth's with blue click-on seals for the lids. Now the cheese crackers and malt biscuits finally stay crisp.

Normally crackers and malt biscuits are the only biscuity things you'll find in my pantry. As for cake, forget it. I'm a cook, not a baker. Besides, cakes aren't Harvey's thing, so if I do make one for visitors I end up eating most of it, slice by decadent slice.

But before Christmas I do try to Make an Effort. It doesn't run to actual Christmas cake, which neither of us is hugely keen on. But a few home made mince pies are likely to appear (thanks to the wonderful mincemeat Alison gives me), along with some kind of cookies or truffles or macaroons (handily gluten free for people who need that).

And after Christmas the fridge fills up with interesting leftovers - various kinds of meat, exotic bits of cheese, potato salad made from the unused Jersey Bennes (this year with real mayonnaise, made to go with the remains of a side of smoked salmon brought by our Boxing Day guests). Maybe some lemon mousse or berries, and always whipped cream.

Friends come round in a steady and welcome stream to help us eat it all up. But they also bring their own contributions, for the tins and the fridge.

So this is where the magic fridge comes in. We eat and eat (well, I certainly do), but while the total quantity of food available changes in interesting ways, it never seems to get much smaller.

Our macaroons make way for Dale's shortbread. Our smoked salmon turns into Kathrine's chicken. Apricot truffles appear in place of the last few meringues. The German Advent chocolates vanish, but Diane's French ones step in.

It'll all settle down eventually, I know, and our fridge and tins will return to their modest everyday state. But in the meantime it's wonderful - as long as I don't make the mistake of trying on trousers in the sales. Then everything suddenly turns to custard.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ho ho ho to you too

Not a lot of genuine Christmas cheer around, is there. Huge ads yelling about price cuts, as retailers make increasingly frantic efforts to lure us into spending money we haven't got on things we don't need. The new bunch in the Beehive backing them up and telling us it's our duty to spend our way out of the looming recession.

And all over the country, women starting to panic about all the extra work involved in producing a proper Christmas. I don't think I've ever heard a man say, "Oh dear, I haven't done a thing about Christmas yet" - but every year I hear scores of women saying it.

I admit I'm feeling less Christmassy than usual. It hasn't been a good year for us - in fact it's been a real bugger - and it's been much worse for some of our friends. I'm not looking forward to writing the annual round robin letter. We always seem to get quite a few that go like this:

"As you know, Justin retired last December from his post as managing director. (His timing couldn't have been better, because in January the receivers moved in. Thank goodness he'd sold all his shares!) In March we celebrated our 40th anniversary at a magical hideaway in the Cooks.

May brought the pleasure of seeing both the twins graduate with first class honours, Logan in law and Megan in marketing. Then in September we finally took our long-delayed holiday in Europe. For me the highlight was probably dining by moonlight in the Colisseum with Andrea Bocelli singing some of his gorgeous Italian songs.

Now you may recall that last year I did that wonderful Creative Writing course at Victoria? Well, in November I was amazed when my little collection of short prose pieces won the 2008 New Voices Prize!! It's coming out next week, just in time for Christmas. Speaking of which, we're off to the Far North again for our annual family gathering at the beach house. Hope you have a great one!!!"

I feel strangely ashamed that I can't provide my own glittering catalogue of good news. Last year I could at least report that we'd moved house. This year the best I can do is resort to wry humour.

My husband has dramatically reduced his petrol consumption! (Because of his illness, he's just had to give up driving.) My son was appointed to a prestigious Chinese university post! (He's teaching part-time at a weekend business English course, on top of his regular job, so he can save enough money to come home.) And as for me - well, I started a blog!