I’m planning our idyllic Christmas. We’ll celebrate Christmas eve with a small gathering of friends, who will arrive at our splendid country cottage. They’ll knock upon our door (adorned with a fine home made wreath) and be welcomed in to kick off their snow covered shoes before being ushered into the low beamed lounge so to warm up in front of a fire, which is blazing merrily in the inglenook fireplace. There, they shall drink bellinis before feasting on an array of Nigella and Jamie inspired dishes, and we shall drink and laugh and dance the night away. I shall be wearing a gorgeous LBD with fabulous heels and Joe Malone perfume. I am the gorgeous hostess with the absolute bloody mostess.
Christmas day shall start early; I rise to a snow filled sky and will light the fires and make a pot of Earl Grey tea. Husband John and daughter Robyn will appear and we’ll have breakfast of eggs benedict. They will take the dogs for a walk across the crunchy, snow covered fields while I prepare lunch. When they return, John will make us brandy coffees while Robyn and I set the table – this year we’ve gone for a Winter Wonderland theme and I’ve hand crafted some little gifts to put in the favours boxes, shaped like sleighs. We have 12 guests for lunch this year, and have catered for vegan, veggie and carnivores. Our main course is a wonderful nut wellington and a piece of roast sirloin along with delectable vegetables and accompaniments, as guided by Nigel Slater and James Martin.
We’ll play Christmas carols and open some presents from under the tree – a 6 foot nordic spruce decorated in red and gold and homemade gingermen biscuits. I’ll throw some pine cones and orange peel onto the fire and fragrance the whole cottage with Christmas.
I’ll go and have a hot bath while John and Robyn finish preparing the lunch. I shall bathe in my favourite Neals Yard geranium bubble bath and add a few drops of orange oil to it. I shall wear a red cashmere jumper dress and chunky silver jewellery – not too formal, not too warm but comfortable. I’ll add low heels and a spritz of Thierry Mugler.
Our guests will arrive at 12.30 and we’ll welcome them with flutes of champagne and canapes. I’ll leave Robyn in charge of entertainment and refreshments while John and I finish cooking the lunch. We’ll serve at 1.30 and each course will be accompanied by a different wine, with brandy and port to finish. After lunch, our guests will retire to the living room where we’ll exchange gifts, watch afternoon films, play games and snooze. Robyn and some others will walk the dogs and build a snowman.
I’ll provide sandwiches and mince pies at around 6pm and by 8pm everyone will be heading home. We’ll go and change into our pyjamas and then crash in front of the TV ready for Downton Abbey.
Unfortunately, I don’t live in a cottage. I do live in a fantastic apartment but we don’t have a fireplace. We don’t even have dogs, we have cats. In fact, I’m a teeny bit exhausted by Christmas already, and feeling that annual regret that I won’t be experiencing the idyllic scenario above. That’s the trouble with Christmas, there is always an idyllic scenario to be had. I blame the Homey Gardeny magazines and day time telly. Christmas always looks so glamourous, so cosy, so pristine. The reality for most of us is usually far from the idyllic. I’ve usually sworn about twenty times before lunchtime, had a tantrum and forgotten to brush my hair. But if get myself absolutely organised and pick from the dream list the things I know I can achieve there’s plenty I can do. Foodie and drinkie stuff? Certainly. Dressing up? Absolutely. Decorations, atmosphere? Of course. Family and friends? Without doubt. And I shall be bloody happy for whatever Christmas I have, because there are those who won’t have any kind of Christmas at all, despite yearning for things which many of us take for granted. It will be a miserable, poignant, cold and lonely affair.
I was talking to a loved one recently about what Christmas means if you are an atheist, if you resent all the pointless present buying and the indulgence and the spending of money which for many, leads to a spiral of debt. I guess as someone without religion who hypocritically loves Christmas and all the idyllic dream scenarios that go with it, then I suppose gratitude is one reason to embrace the festive season, because if this isn’t the time of year when you can thank your blessings for love, safety and security – if you are lucky enough to have those things -then I don’t know when is.
If one day I am lucky enough to achieve my dream Christmas scenario (what am I saying? I don’t mean ‘if’ I mean ‘when’!) – I shall be thankful for having got myself there. I won’t guilt trip myself for my good fortune but I will absolutely and definitely always be mindful that for me, Christmas is all about gratitude.
And mince pies.