Perfect Christmas


It was late November and all the Christmas magazines were out. The phrase ‘for gods’ sake I’ve got ages yet’ pervaded my thoughts, after all I was reasonably well prepared with a few presents brought and half the cards written, so I was chilled. But then Christmas hit our Market Town with fripperies all around. Go into any emporium of coffee and cake and there they were, the young mums with slender diamond encrusted fingers running through newly highlighted hair. Hunched over their laptops frantically emailing their husbands about the likelihood of getting the annual work’s Fortnum and Masons hamper that would be just perfect for the mother-in-law’s present.

Then their next crisis: the dilemma of the Christmas trees both outside and in-what colour scheme this year? And the Christmas feast – was it to be a goose or a turkey stuffed with a goose that then becomes like a Russian doll with an ever-decreasing array of boned foul right down to a titchy quail? Then of course the pudding-one couldn’t possibly have the rich hearty steamed variety-no it would have to be some hugely expensive creation of a celebrity chef complete with exploding chocolate hedgehog at its centre.

Poor souls! They down another skinny cappuccino with four extra shots before they can face present shopping online for their offspring who have probably already demanded copious items from Apple, Hollister and Jack Wills to name a few. Thank the lord for American Express.

“What’s it all about? I ask myself. What has happened to Christmas? The real meaning and the long established traditions that go with it. So I decided to make a stand, and create the perfect Christmas of old. I compiled a list of handcrafted presents, foods and decorations – easy…or so I thought.

A memory of the Pagan Pup and I foraging for sloes a year ago leapt to the fore; how I laboured to make sloe gin, decanting the berry infused spirit into suitably country-esque bottles adorned with tartan ribbon and plain brown tags. A month or two later I peered into the back of a dark cupboard to find them gone!
Turns out, while The Husband and I were away Star I had, had few friends round and such was the quality of my sloe gin it had been utilised as the main forfeit in drinking game.
“It was disgusting Mum, Max threw up!”
Marvellous, right so sloe gin’s not on the menu but pickles and maybe jams most definitely are.
Now perhaps it is the ravages of age, but I have quite inexplicably become somewhat of a hoarder, so I was equipped with a large assortment of recycled jars complete with lids. I confidently blew the dust off me ‘Delia’s Christmas’ to discover that leaving ones pickles until the end of November was not the best plan as they should have been the ‘job for September’ (as in the previous year), when green tomatoes proliferate apparently- who knew?! Plus I found myself a little bereft of a preserving pan, cooking thermometer and twenty-five gallons of vinegar.

Ok, no panic. Hot foot I went to local suppliers of Hampshire’s finest relishes and spent a happy evening spooning them lovingly into odd jars, cutting out suitably festive fabric to make the lid covers and adorning with labels and rustic ties. The result, a traditional ’home crafted’ present to be given in the true spirit of the Yuletide season?

Nope, rather my kitchen looked like Beelzebub himself had been in charge of catering. I was just faking… I mean transforming a raw material into a loving gift but I felt bad, like the Grinch cheating on Christmas.

So there I was, hunched over my laptop on my second latte, shaky hands running though my grey re- growth, searching the world for suitable presents. I’d split most of my fingers trying to extricate a length of old mans beard from a hedge in order to make fairy light lit garland. I had no idea it would still have so many things living in it!

“What the hell is that Sandra?”, The Husband had spluttered on his return from the 18th to find a slightly damp if I’m honest, natural garland twisting up the banister.
“Well it looked ok in the magazine.” I was slightly tearful by then.
Star II saved the day. “Don’t worry Mum, I’ll make cinnamon biscuits for everyone”. They are so good there’s no way I could pass them off as my own even if I wanted to. So with relief I resorted back to my old Christmas ways, the huge tree decorated with all manor of the peculiar; some home cooked staples and a healthy smattering of M&S; lots of new and utterly frivolous ‘necessities’ from our Local Market Town; a huge amount of chocolate and way too many scented candles-cracking!

On the upside I now have enough pickles to last me through Trump’s presidency and maybe beyond! So I’ll wish you a Happy Christmas from the Pagans and leave you with the thought that trying to achieve perfection will only leave you in a right pickle.

Sandra Pagan