Regular readers will be all too aware of my ‘bah humbug’ approach to seasonal festivities.
It is even more pronounced this year, what with a house to buy and every spare penny tied up in things like mortgage deposits, solicitor’s fees and other joyous items of house buying loveliness.
Normally I don’t pay too much attention to the whole drama of Christmas anyway, due to the wonders of internet shopping and online grocery ordering, which mean I can avoid going into an actual shop for weeks and weeks.
And the fact that most of my friends are either as disorganised or as old gittish as me.
We do not meet for egg nog. We do not pop to town for a little light festive shopping, only made tolerable by getting plastered in a wine bar beforehand. We do not spend our holidays trekking to one another’s houses wearing jumpers with snowflakes on and handing out warm mince pies. We make fruit bowls out of Slade’s Merry Christmas Everyone, and snap Santa’s candy canes.
Before weeing on them.
We sulk, and commiserate with each other by the power of the world wide web.
I love this about the modern world. I don’t care what you say about the internet being a force for evil, and how before long we will have to all stare at our monitors to see what the weather is doing outside our window, countdown to the apocalypse, blah, blah. Anything that stops me having to go near a retail park from mid December through to February is my friend.
And e-mails are much more direct and entirely less hideous than Christmas cards. I cannot tell you how delighted I am to no longer receive pictures of robins balanced on the edge of a brandy glass wearing a poinsettia fascinator at a jaunty angle.
Unfortunately, this year I have had to become rather more engaged with Christmas than I am entirely comfortable with.
This is the fault of school.
I appreciate that not all children can grow up to be the jaded curmudgeonly bastards that I am shaping my own offspring into. Some of them actively seem to enjoy this time of year, if only for the fact that it allows them to hone their rapacious greed and comprehensive list making abilities.
Today my festive tolerance has been tested to the max by the inclusion of my not so good self into the full on festive operation that is ‘decorating day.’
Decorating day is when the entire school gives up any pretence at not being absolutely hyper excited about the fact that Santa is bounding into view in about three weeks, and everyone goes Christmastastic bonkers.
Each class spends the entire day making acres of decorations and items of festive cheer. Some of these stay in the classroom and moult all over the navy blue nylon carpets until we all look like sparkly tramps and get electric shocks every time we try to sit down. Some of them come home to proud mama and papa, until the dog eats them.
As there are multiple crafting/baking/decorating opportunities in every classroom, various volunteers are asked to come in and assist little Johnny and Jacinta in their festive quest, and to make sure nobody glue guns the quiet one to the white board while frisking them for the green triangles out of the Quality Street tin.
And to help stop the teachers going insane because they have made ninety seven wonky snowmen and the stress is beginning to make them grind their teeth.
My job today was to help Tallulah’s year make mince pies. I volunteered to help with decorating day before realising that it might also require culinary skills, I might add.
Had I known this I might have been slightly less forthcoming with my cheery ‘of course’.
I don’t mind baking. As you know.
I do mind baking with twenty five crazed midgets covered in glitter who have been listening to Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ on heavy rotation for several hours and who are now in a post hypnotic crafting frenzy.
Also the school oven is on its last legs, and were I not so keen to scoop all available funds into the library renovation I would be campaigning like billio for something more like an actual oven and less like a shoe box with a heat lamp in the back.
And before last Thursday, when I did an emergency dash to ‘The Asda’ as my friend ironically calls it (it is a Leicester thing, putting the word ‘The’ in front of things that don’t need them), and appropriated all supplies for mince pie making, I had never made a mince pie in my life.
Due to the fact that I bloody well hate them. And all who sail in them.
Since then I have made over a hundred mince pies.
Which, for someone who really doesn’t like them at all, is over a hundred too many.
It turns out that I am quite good at ‘The mince pies’, which is ironic.
Today I made forty eight mince pies on a rickety table with one rolling pin, and a paintbrush from the art cupboard I pinched because I had forgotten my own pastry brush for the egg wash (I did wash it first). The heat lamp was co-operative, and as everyone else finished cremating the salt dough decorations last week I was all alone with my pies and the oven. I had had visions of having to beat all comers to the hot box with the power of the rolling pin and my ninja death skills, learned from playing karate killers with Oscar when he was three.
Luckily it did not come to pass, because you can guarantee I would have slipped on some mincemeat and gone down like a sack of spuds.
Or someone would have wrapped me in short crust pastry, like Tom Kitten as The Roly Poly Pudding, and tried to serve me up, smuts and all.
As it was, I cremated nothing, poisoned nobody and did not stab anyone with a makeshift pastry brush.
I feel like I have passed some sort of major watershed moment of my life, smelling vaguely of mincemeat.
I still bloody hate mince pies though.