S/P/T Days 23 and 24 and ghosts of Christmas past

Day 23 - Winter Wonderland (I wonder why I'm there)

Day 23 – Winter Wonderland (I wonder why I’m there)

Day 24 - Red

Day 24 – Red

You know the drill by now – Silent Sunday means just that, no words. Just one picture. So here are today and yesterday’s photographs for Britmums‘ ‘Snap it, Pin it, Tweet it’ photo challenge.

We did the usual over-consumption thing, again. Every year we say we’re going to cut back. Every year, the shopping bill for a couple of days’ worth of food (and drink) has me feeling extremely guilty . To be fair, this year, I think we have cut back, but food prices have – as expected – gone up. Our local Tesco also has a cunning little plan in the run up to Christmas. Remove all but the most expensive versions of popular products, for example, frozen sausage rolls. You can’t have your customers going for the Everyday Value sausage rolls at 88p for 50 when you have the ‘Party’ range at £2.00 for 40, can you? (I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe that the more expensive ones are any less mechanically reclaimed / scraped off the factory floor / from pigs who slept under duvets on feather mattresses – a sausage roll is a bloody sausage roll, they just put them in different bags).

Anyway, enough moaning. I have a cupboard full of Twiglets and a fridge full of cheese. I’m not sure I have enough wine to see me through this afternoon (I only have three bottles, after all), but the Co-Op are wisely staying open until 10pm tonight.

The second picture features my favourite Christmas ornament. It used to hang from my maternal grandparents’ Christmas tree, and it was bought by my mother when she was three. This battered little heart is now shining through its sixty first Christmas.

Things like this always lead me down the path of mawkish sentimentality when I start to reminisce about Christmasses past. I have learned that I must never start thinking back on family Christmasses when I have been on the falling-over water, because it always ends in tears and hand-wringing guilt that my children’s Christmasses don’t live up to how wonderful and magical mine were.

What I saw, as a child, was a day filled with family. My grandparents would come over in the morning when we were very young to watch us open our gifts. There would be an enormous lunch – always minestrone soup as a starter (my mother loathed minestrone soup, so I’m not sure why this was a staple of Christmas lunch), always turkey (my mother always complaining that it was too dry). Nine out of ten times, the stuffing would be forgotten about until 4pm when someone smelled burning. There were always croquette potatoes. We never had croquette potatoes at any other time of the year. Always Christmas pudding. I’m not entirely sure any of us actually liked Christmas pudding.

The grandparents would reappear in the evening, my grandmothers glammed up to the nines as though they were off to the opera. My Grandpa would invariably be 90 minutes later than the others because he was glued to Zulu for the forty seventh time. Even the invention of the VHS recorder didn’t help – he would just tape it whilst watching it so he could watch it again on Boxing Day.

There was laughter, and games, and stories from my grandparents’ past. There were lighthearted squabbles, and demands that my sister and I performed some twee Welsh hymn we’d learned at school. There was Christmas tea – with the too-dry turkey, and home-made mince pies, and trifle (mine with cream and no custard, Grandpa’s with custard and no cream – we were always partners in contrary awkwardness), and special orange chocolate biscuits my mother only bought for Grandpa because he didn’t like anything else.

Boxing Day evening was spent with Nanny and Grandpa (once he’d finished watching Ice Station Zebra, or – in later years – the recorded Zulu he’d watched the day before), the 27th with Nanna and Grandad. Heaps more food – including pickled onions, red cabbage, and – on Boxing Day – the annual ‘take the mickey out of Nanny’s Christmas cake’ (she had plastic candle decorations for the cake that, given her lefty leanings, we decided looked more like Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles). On the 27th, we used to play the ever popular ‘what did Nanna do with the sausage rolls she just cooked’ game, and ‘mustard roulette’, where you would have to guess which of the sandwiches had been liberally spread with half an inch of English mustard, despite Nanna swearing she didn’t even have any mustard in the house.

Our Christmasses at Casa del Raindrops are very different. We don’t have family around. Not because we don’t want to, but my family are all in Wales, and Richard’s family have other commitments to family who live more locally than we do. We don’t have turkey, we have duck. We don’t have minestrone soup, we have salmon or pate. We don’t have Christmas pudding, we have stollen cake. We absolutely do not have trifle. I don’t make my own mince pies. I usually forget to buy Christmas crackers.

It’s just the four of us; loads of Aldi nibble-food; red wine and cuddles. Christmas Day is usually spent laboriously undoing those pointless bits of wire that hold toys into boxes, looking for the batteries we definitely bought, looking through the wheelie-bin for some vital piece of toy that seems to have been thrown out with the wrapping paper and me drunkenly yelling ‘Stop trampling cake crumbles all over my floor’.

The kids seem to love it. They’ll have happy Christmas memories of their own, they don’t need mine.

Now all that remains is to wish my loyal readers – yes, both of you, a wonderful Christmas, and every blessing for 2013. See you on the other side!


S/P/T Day 22 and a shameless plug


Today’s Britmums ‘Snap it, Pin it, Tweet it’ theme is ‘Look what I made!’.

Good mothers make Christmas cakes, mince pies, vol-au-vents. Not so good mothers shut themselves away in the relative peace and quiet of their bedrooms on rainy weekends and twist bits of wire around other bits of wire whilst Daddy tries to entertain the stir-crazy children downstairs.

I must confess that I am just-a-little-bit-girlie, and I absolutely adore mulberry paper flowers. I made myself a floral headband for a fancy dress night out in November (the pink one in the centre of this collage), and a friend asked me to make her a Christmas one (bottom right). I have since made a few more for little princesses, and not so little princesses.

I ‘advertise’ them on my Facebook page. They cost between £8.00 and £15.00 depending on the size and amount of flowers required. It may sound a lot, but they are extremely pretty and surprisingly robust and considerably cheaper than I have seen them sold on Etsy and other similar crafting sites under the description of ‘bridesmaids’ headbands’. I just do it for pin money, anything I make (which is a couple of pounds at most, I do it because I love making them) goes back into craft supplies.

I am going to be experimenting more with mulberry paper flowers in the new year, incorporating them into wall/door hangings (middle left) and as glass candle holder ‘prettier-uppers’ (I might need to work on the name for that one) along similar lines to the Christmas one in the top left hand corner, which was an experiment with some left over foliage from the holly and ivy headband. It might help keep me sane when I give up drinking in January (for charridee, mate), but more about that in another post.

S/P/T Day 21, and one crestfallen six year old


Today’s theme is ‘dark’. I’ll admit, I cheated with this one. This is a re-edited version of a picture on my 365project. We were running a little late this morning so it wasn’t as dark as I would have liked.

My heart, however, is dark and heavy. Ellis announced to Granny last night that Father Christmas is bringing him a Nintendo 3DS XL.  At £195.00 a pop, Father Christmas is doing no such thing. Even if Ellis hadn’t waited until four days before Christmas before dropping this particular bombshell, he would not be getting one. That’s practically the budget for both children for all their presents.

He was devastated when we told him he absolutely, definitely, most certainly would not be getting this overpriced piece of plastic. I couldn’t bear to look at him, his face looked as though I had just asked him to drown a sack of kittens.

Of course, I did what parents do. I mentally beat myself up about it. I spent last night trying to explain to him that mummy and daddy do have to send Father Christmas money to pay for all the toys he makes, and that we just can’t afford that much – especially as it wouldn’t be fair if he got one and Fin didn’t; and wouldn’t it be much more fun to have lots of little things rather than one big, expensive thing; and that Father Christmas thinks he only wants one because Calum is getting one, and Father Christmas says they are a bit rubbish anyway, really, and nowhere near as good as the Playstation2.

I tortured myself last night remembering how his lovely little face fell in crestfallen disappointment. There was no tantrum, no stropping off. Just a little six year old boy being sad, and rather brave, really, considering mummy had just pee’d all over his festive parade.

The rational, sensible, side of me tells me that no, he will have forgotten all about it by Christmas day, especially when he sees his bike. The same rational, sensible side of me also tells me that children do need to understand that they can’t get everything they want, and that life is full of disappointments and that Christmas, like life, is not just about material things.

We’re going to watch the Wartime Farm Christmas Special later on, on iPlayer. Perhaps seeing the kind of gifts that children received – and were grateful for – in 1944 will help him to realise that what he already has, and what he will receive, is far more than many children could ever dream of.


S/P/T Day 20

Day 20 - Green

Day 20 – Green

Not a huge deal to say about this, really, except that it was Fin who spotted this interesting (and very green) bit of wall. He asks each morning now what the ‘boto challunge’ is going to be, and I was really rather proud that he spotted this and remembered the challenge whilst walking down a busy street full of distractions.

S/P/T – Day 19, and the List Of Things Yet To Do

Day 19 - Presents

Day 19 – Presents

Today’s theme involved having to stop procrasinating for at least fifteen minutes (my doing-as-little-as-possible-around-the-house schedule is pretty hectic at the moment, I’ll concede) and actually get something done in order to provide a photograph. The boys’ presents are stashed (OK, chucked), still unwrapped, in the cupboard/wardrobe/general dumping ground in our bedroom and threaten to collapse and engulf me in cheap plastic each time I open the door. That, I decided, was far too risky when I was expected at the school gates at 3pm.

I wrapped Richard’s presents instead. There are considerably less of them, most of them are a shape I can actually cope with wrapping, and involve minimal arguments with the sellotape that is possessed by the Devil himself.

I sat there, listening to this (you have to, really. It’s the law), giving the uncooperative sellotape a damned good talking to whilst giving myself more papercuts than an origami-loving masochist and, for a few minutes, felt rather festive.

Then I remembered the LIST OF THINGS YET TO DO which is, indeed, as ominous and Dickensian as it sounds.

The LIST OF THINGS YET TO DO involves procuring sprouts, cleaning the Glasgow grime from the windaes, removing several layers of e-coli infected grease and dust from the kitchen floor, and sorting out the modest (by today’s standards) gifts for Tiny Tim and his brother. Fortunately, it will involve no stay in Newgate Debtors’ Prison though, if the boys’ current mood remains at this hyperactive level of fevered excitement, it may well involve a little visit to Bethlehem Hospital.

Then, the small voice in my head – the one that speaks reason, and helps me maintain my lovely ‘fuller’ figure by encouraging me to do as little as possible to expend calories –  reminded me that it the house will be completely trashed by 9am on Tuesday anyway. I exerted a little energy crossing things like ‘cleaning’, ‘tidying’ and ‘being ruthless with the megaton of broken toys cluttering up the living room, stairs and bathroom’ from the LIST OF THINGS YET TO DO.

That all made me quite hungry, so I had a custard cream or three and a nice cup of tea. And a sit down. To recover.

Snap it, Pin it, Tweet it – Day 18

Day 18 - What I really want for Christmas

Day 18 – What I really want for Christmas

Today’s theme – ‘What I really want for Christmas’ had me musing over my morning caffeine fix as the boys scrabbled with coats, boots and gloves ready for the walk to school.

What do I really want? Materially – nothing. I do not crave a TV the size of the wall, or fancy shoes, or Pandora bracelets, or snazzy clothes or a faster, leaner computer. One could always do with a new jumper, or some matching socks, or some extra woolly tights for these cold Winter mornings, I suppose.

I watched them chatting together, my two boys. Ellis helped Fin with his wellies. Fin accepted the assistance with uncharacteristic grace and didn’t try to kick Ellis into the middle of next week. They started chattering excitedly about today’s Primary School nativity, and the impending visit from Father Christmas, and how many sprouts they wanted on their plates for Christmas dinner.

I thought of the families in Newtown, CT. I thought of those twenty tiny children, and the six adults, who were taken away so cruelly last week. I thought of all those unlived Christmases, all those candles snuffed too soon. I thought of all those who will spend this Christmas – and probably every Christmas until they too die – mourning those who were killed that day, the fourteenth day of advent.

I realised that what I really want for Christmas is right here already. With me. I want for nothing more.