Christmas is nearly here and I hope that your Christmas shopping consists of plenty of dairy products; milk of course, cream, crème fraiche, cheeses, and that politically incorrect word ‘indulgence’.
No one does indulgence like dairy; chocolates, cream liqueurs, puddings, clotted cream, brandy butter and some ice-cream for the children, to name a few.
I am told that geese are fattening well now that the weather has chilled in December, bumper crops of British vegetables available this year, including parsnips, carrots and potatoes which are plentiful and good of size and shape, and of course the bumper crop of Brussel sprouts, which are large and tight.
The weather has been so good for producing almost anything in 2014 that there is a plentiful supply of all vegetables; indeed all farming sectors have had a good year with quite easy weather conditions in the main.
We should spare a thought for those less fortunate than ourselves and, of course, those who are homeless or depending on others. Our voluntary services and charities work harder than ever at Christmas, bringing cheer to people who would not otherwise get any, and supporting those who find themselves in difficulties.
What are the odds on a White Christmas? In Sussex it would be a brave bet considering how rare the occurrence is in this part of the UK. Considering that they are struggling for snow to grease the ski slopes this year so far, I think that a white Christmas in these parts is unlikely for 2014? Farmers will be planning Christmas in order to ensure that there is as little to do as possible on the day, and mild weather will certainly help them achieve that goal, whilst all children will look wistfully at the sky willing it to snow.
Retailers and supermarkets will have been planning for weeks, stocking up on all the things we will want to buy for Christmas. Their job is to second guess everything we may need, ensuring they do not run out of anything and minimising waste; a tall order. In addition to this they need to compete for our custom and full page advertisements in newspapers and adverts on the television have been going on for a few weeks, rising to a crescendo of late. Special offers galore and all sorts of discounts and temptations to get us in the door.
Farm shops and traditional butchers have also been busy filling orders for poultry, meat and vegetables. It really is a frantic business making sure we all have what we ordered and most importantly, what we forgot to order! Many members of our family exported to work in Australia will be on the beach in mid-summer celebrating Christmas in the hot sunshine. It will be very odd for those who are experiencing it for the first time, and even Elin our eldest daughter finds it still a little strange after all these years.
I expect the roads will be quiet as we all obey the drink and drive laws, but spare a thought for those in Scotland over New Year where the alcohol level for driving has been reduced to zero.
How does one ensure that there is no trace of alcohol in one’s blood? How long does it take to get to zero? Could one fail a test two whole days after a ‘merry’ Christmas for example? Liqueur chocolates, are they out? Brandy butter? I could go on.
Spare a thought for the French (again). Not only is the President of France struggling with the economy and his personal life, but he is now suggesting that a modest array of measures to remove red tape which stifles the economy will improve things. Massive opposition from lawyers and others who jealously guard their closed professions has been the result, and Hollande has dared to suggest that some benefit would also come from trading on Sundays.
This is not seen as reform, this is a test of what sort of society the French want, as Sunday is seen as a precious time to spend with family and friends, culture and sport. As the President acts under pressure from Brussels to unlock potential for growth in the French economy, he has met a wall of opposition. In the meantime as plates of traditional scallops are carried on to French tables, diners are shocked to find that some companies are sending scallops shells to China for cleaning, before filling them with the meat on their return.
Chinese workers complete the task 100 times cheaper than it can be done in France, and as a consequence one company alone sends 10 million shells to Asia from Brittany. The French consume more scallops than anyone else in Europe, they consume 25,000 tonnes annually; most of it over Christmas and New Year.
Why do we men of a certain age do silly things? Research published by Newcastle University recently analysed winners of the ‘Darwin Award’; those who have died in such a way that ‘their actions ensures the long-term survival of the species, by selectively allowing one less idiot to survive’.
In this first piece of research which looks at the difference between men and women, the vast majority of Darwin awards have been awarded to men and the researchers have written about it in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal; ‘There is a class of risk – the ‘idiotic’ risk – that is qualitatively different from those associated with say contact sport, or adventure pursuits such as parachuting’.
According to ‘Male Idiot Theory’ (MIT) many of the risk seeking behaviour, emergency department admissions and mortality, may be explained by the observation that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.
Alongside questionable intelligence, alcohol often has an important part to play in assuring men that they are ‘bullet-proof’, but not always. Worthy candidates include the thief who unbolted the steel hawser he intended to steal whilst standing on the lift, and the man who thought he would get free ride home by hitching a shopping trolley to the back of a train. Both successfully removed themselves from this world.
Whatever you do over Christmas – and some traditions go back well over 100 years such as the plunge into the English Channel at Brighton, I hope you have fun. Unfortunately the ‘Greens’ have banned the Brighton dip this year on Health and Safety grounds. Beaches near the pier will be closed to deter those who are seeking thrills, as inexperienced swimmers might be involved; and some alcohol might have been consumed, perish the thought! Taking a dip in the English Channel is now suddenly so dangerous that we need councils to close beaches to prevent us being so reckless, or at least a Green Council thinks so.
Elected as ‘anything other than the main parties’, this barmy council who upset their bin collectors by trying to introduce meat free Mondays in their canteen, have predictably turned out to be a far bigger nightmare than what went before. This only Green-led council should be a warning to us all, that run of the mill politicians are not so bad after all.
A Merry Christmas to all our readers.