Christmas is coming!
Hello again, and thank you all so much for the warm and welcoming comments you’ve posted over the last couple of weeks. It felt like arriving at a reunion and meeting lots of friends I hadn’t seen for ages. It’s humbling to be remembered so well by so many. Thanks again. I really appreciate it.
Christmas is coming
And the goose is getting fat.
Will you please put a penny
In the old man’s hat?
If you haven’t got a penny,
A ha’penny will do.
If you haven’t got a ha’penny,
God bless you!
This is a traditional folk rhyme which my great-grandmother used to sing to me when I was a small boy. Christmas was so exciting in those days. It still is, but for different reasons now. You see, Lucy is coming home from university tonight! Yay!!! So if this blog just ends suddenly and without warning, you know she’s arrived and I have jumped up from my desk to hug her and put the kettle on.
I bought a handsome Christmas tree last weekend. It stood for a week in my garden, in the pouring rain, before I brought it in yesterday and put it up in the living room. Because I’ve lived in and travelled to a great many countries, we have a lot of Christmas tree decorations from here, there and everywhere. My favourites are the wooden ones from Sweden, which my late wife and I bought when we lived there (over thirty years ago). We have a few lovely terra cotta decorations from eastern Europe (especially former Czechoslovakia), some beautiful glass ones from Germany and Austria, and even some lovely bamboo baubles from China.
The house is full of Christmas food: chocolate and marzipan, fruit cake, ginger biscuits and all the ingredients I need for Christmas dinner – a goose to stuff and roast, potatoes (also to roast, in goose fat), sprouts and parsnips and carrots. I’ve made some stuffings and on the day itself (25 December) I’ll make a gravy with some of the meat stock. There’ll be Christmas pudding with a sweet white sauce, and there’ll be chilled wines and cognac to drink. I like Scandinavian traditions, too, so we will have a little cured salmon with a sweet mustard and dill sauce, to start, with akvavit to drink. Then we’ll need to fast for a month to recover!
The house is decorated with branches of yew and pine, and there are white candles ready to be lit. The Christmas cards are scattered around the house on every flat surface, and underneath the tree there is a small mountain of presents wrapped in bright paper – and mostly for Lucy!
Looking around the house, I begin to understand why the old man in the folk rhyme was asking for a ‘penny’. Christmas costs a fortune. You can’t buy anything in Britain for a penny, nowadays. But if enough people dropped enough pennies into the hat maybe you could eventually afford a cup of coffee!
It’s something I can’t help thinking about – especially at this time of year – every time I pass someone begging in the street. There are not many people who sleep rough on the streets of London, but there are some, and it must be awful for them. Right now it is cold at night (it has been snowing all day today), it is windy and it rains quite often. Lucy and I are so fortunate. We have a nice little house, a caring family, lovely friends and more or less enough money (no one ever has enough money, but you know what I mean). We don’t have to rely on charities, the Church or Social Services for our food and warmth and comfort. Right now we are more or less healthy and we can earn enough to live on.
Christmas is coming
And I’m thrilled about that
And yes, I’ll put a ‘penny’
In the old man’s hat!
Hey, is that the sound of someone’s key in the front door lock? Yes! I can hear the taxi driving away. Here she is! Gotta go! I’ll talk to you again, on Christmas Eve, when Lu and I will be preparing to go to the theatre for a Christmas treat.
All the very best, and bye for now,
PS: Thank you, Hyoshil (UK), for your nice comments about Lucy and her twenty-first birthday. Yes, we did shed more than a few tears, but it was a happy and very successful day. Nice to hear from Kirsti (France) again – I wonder whether you’ve found the hidden Beatles’ title in today’s blog (by the way, it wasn’t Paperback Writer in the previous one, I’m afraid)? Remember, everyone, that all the answers will be at the end of my final blog on 28 December.
Kuldeep (India) wrote a long and impressive comment and asked about my favourite music. I like ALL kinds of music, but while I’ve been writing this blog I’ve been listening to one of my favourite Christmas albums, Christmas With My Friends II by Nils Landgren (ACT Music, 2008). Thanks to Guzin (Turkey) for his comment about favourite heroes, and to friends from Slovakia and Bulgaria and from the Middle and Far East for lovely comments and your good wishes. I’ll answer a few more in my next blog.
PPS: By the way, the goose is not the only one getting fat this Christmas. Lucy has clearly been enjoying her flatmates’ cooking since September! (But please don’t tell her I said so.)
PPPS: I will post an up-to-date photo-gallery either much later tonight or on Sunday 20 December. Look out for photos from Lucy’s 21st birthday and for pictures of our house decorated for Christmas.
SOME USEFUL WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS
a meeting or a party for people who have been separated from each other (for example, people who were at school or university together)
for a long time
a person who is ‘humble’ is not proud and does not believe they are better than other people. A humbling experience is one which makes you feel humble.
short for ‘half-penny’ and pronounced /haypni/
put the kettle on
a common expression meaning to prepare to make a cup of tea. Putting the kettle on means either switching on the electric kettle or putting a kettleful of water on the gas to boil.
a reddish-brown clay that has been baked but not glazed (often used for making flower pots)
a small, cheap ornament; a Christmas tree decoration
a paste made from almonds, sugar and egg
to fill (in cooking, for example)
vegetables, like very small cabbages
long, thick, pale cream vegetables which grow under the ground
long, thin, orange vegetables which grow under the ground
fillings made from herbs, dried fruit, chestnuts, onions and/or minced meat (which are cooked inside the goose)
liquid made by boiling bones (meat stock) or small amounts of vegetable leftovers (vegetable stock) and used in cooking, e.g. to make sauces
a pudding, eaten at Christmas in Britain, made from dried fruit, spices and suet
dried, smoked or salted
a herb with yellow flowers and a strong sweet smell
a strong alcoholic spirit popular in Scandinavian countries
to eat no food for a period of time
an evergreen tree with sharp leaves and red berries (NB: not ‘holly’ – check in a dictionary)
a tall evergreen tree with cones
costs a fortune
costs a lot of money
asking for food or money because they are poor
are homeless, and therefore obliged to sleep in the streets or parks, for example
voluntary organisations which raise money to help people who are ill, disabled or poor
official local government department responsible for taking care of people who are homeless, disabled or poor
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