Christmas Eve Tidings

Dear Sophisticated Ladies

 My fondest wishes for the festive season to you all. I arrived Chez Mes Parents on Thursday as a dutiful daughter would of course do; allowing ample time to assist with the Christmas preparations. I had intended to write to you yesterday evening but I confess to succumbing to a fit of Victorian style vapours and taking to my bed at 830 pm! The cumulative fatigue of a long drive from Cardiff to Chesterfield and a fun packed day of shopping in the driving rain. The joys of the Co-op ‘supermarket’ to avoid Tesco in pursuit of trifle sponges.

The trifle, of an old fashioned variety, has been assembled; the trifle sponges slathered in raspberry jam (rather nice Aldi square jam) to make little sandwiches, then peaches in syrup poured over them and covered in homemade custard. Yum and it will be even more yummy when topped with a couple of inches of cream that I shall whip into submission in due course! And before you ask I shall NOT be sprinkling it with hundreds and thousands!

As I write we await the arrival of my brother from the North East; when he hadn’t arrived at 3 pm my mother telephoned him to ask if he had left! He apparently confirmed that he was indeed on his way without elaborating further. Mother is convinced he went surfing this morning and he may indeed have done as is his wont and frankly his right!

Today has been punctuated by a visit to the emergency doctors as on my arrival my mother complained of a rash on her face and soreness in her mouth. Yesterday we went to the chemist as she appeared to have a cold sore; the rash incorrectly being blamed on a new tube of Oil of Olay (what on earth was wrong with Ulay I shall never understand). This morning the rash was clearly blistering and I (correctly) diagnosed shingles.

The on call doctor was, as we say in Wales, ‘lush’ in the extreme, a dish my mother would describe him. And what a delightfully attentive manner, the extent of his knowledge evident with each syllabus that slipped silkily from his perfect lips. Far more yummy than the trifle! And a sophisticated ensemble from the pointed leather lace-ups to the tweed jacket, contrasting trousers, neat shirt and ‘just right’ tie. I confess that I was quite taken; you may have guessed this already! His ability to convey complex anatomy in simple language without the least smidgen of being patronising was enviable. Where I wonder did he learn this approach that frankly should be franchised across the NHS; I’ll pay to promote this on his glorious behalf! Does he need an agent I wonder?

Brother has just arrived and turned the news of mother’s shingles into a comedy moment as only he can! Marvellous timing as now this evening I need only take up mother’s trousers – she is desperate to wear her new ‘bought in the sale for £59 (original price £120)’ wide leg wool checked item tomorrow i.e. for Christmas Day! I remember the days when we had special outfits for Christmas Day frankly that was an AWFUL long time ago. And the joy of short term memory loss in my darling parents is that every time I wear something they think it’s for the first time; so suitable in these times of austerity!

This evening we will consume the fish pie – a variant on Delia Smith’s foolproof quick recipe.  The smoked salmon fillets with enrich the pie hopefully pepping up the rather (in my opinion) bland white sauce along with the pickled gherkins (in lieu of capers that the Co-op funnily enough didn’t have). Mother and I tested each other’s patience working together on the pie; my crime cutting the potatoes for mashing too small (apparently something my father does too)! Peeling the hard boiled eggs was a tad of a challenge too – the blinking shell wouldn’t come off without half the egg white!

I have also made mince pies; when I say made I mean the readymade pastry was rolled out and the shop bought mince meat was placed in the pastry cases. And based on this gradual move from making the mincemeat from scratch and the pastry by delicately rubbing half marg half lard into flour so it become light crumbs etc – as our grandmother’s would have done – how long will it be before we are buying shop bought mince pies. OHG standards are slipping but I confess the Organic to die for mince pies warmed in the oven with icecream as consumed by my friend was LOVELY!!

So dear sophisticated darlings do not sweat the small stuff when preparing for the festivities; ply your guests with sherry or Baileys (excellent over icecream) and just laugh to lighten the load! Giggling breaks the tension in my experience! A few words of Spinsterly Wisdom – if one opens a gift and when peeling back the paper a homemade item is revealed (and the giver is over the age of 12) think before you blurt out precisely how you feel! Phrases to avoid: ‘Oh Kirsty Allsop did something like this on ‘Make Do and Mend’, ‘have you been to an evening class’ or ‘homemade party food is so delightful’ or best of all ‘did the children help you with this’!!!

Happy Christmas and I wish you oodles of patience!

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