Christmassy conundrums

Christmassy conundrums


Those pot plants…

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been given a houseplant this time of year. Typically, it’s a cyclamen or a poinsettia, showy plants that fill the December doorway of our local M&S Food or, in a slightly less flashy display, the Tesco Metro. They may be sporting a bit of seasonal bling – a glitter-encrusted wooden stake bearing the gladsome tidings that this plant will bring colour and joy to your home throughout the festive season.

Really?

In our house within a day or two these beauties have shed virtually all their blooms. If the leaves remain on board, they are starting to turn yellow and drooping much more than they ought to. I’m sure that means they’ve had too much water yet the compost feels so dry. The instructions say: ‘Water sparingly’. But what exactly does ‘sparingly’ mean? I’m paralysed with uncertainty about what to do, while being consumed with certainty that whatever I do will be wrong. The instructions say: ‘Remove yellow leaves and spent flowers’. Fine – but after doing that there’s almost nothing left!  Each time a friend appears with such a generous gift I’m filled with dread that another act of botanical slaughter is going to play out before the end of the week. 

What happens? Is it me? Or do these plants have a death wish? I’ve been wondering if they are, in fact, social plants. They obviously thrive amongst their kin on the shop floor or on wooden crates outside the florist. There they look perky and lush. Once they leave their floral chums and head out into the world on their own everything changes.

Especially when they come to our house. The cyclamen a friend brought me a week ago, looking splendid with its sumptuous, upturned pink petals crowding above two-tone waxy matte leaves, is now a shrivelled heap of limp stems, a weeping chicanery of shoots tipped with buds that will never be able to lift their heads to a rendition of Hark the Herald. It’s been banished to the back garden to save me the daily torment of watching its demise. Could it possibly rise again by Easter?

Christmas pudding anyone?

I’m in charge of puddings for the extended family Christmas dinner. There’s always a request for something chocolatey, and my deliciously reliable Chocolate Marquise gets its annual outing. A dusting of cocoa powder on top and a sprig of holly is all you need to transform it into a festive offering. But there always ‘has to’ be a Christmas pudding too though hardly anybody likes or has room for it. 

With only a couple of takers round our Christmas table, I resort to the shop-bought puddings; I’m told they’re just as tasty and they come in helpfully small sizes. Even so, there will be some left.  But I feel there’s less tragedy about slinging the leftovers into the compost than would be the case had I done it all myself.

I once made my Christmas pudding, seeking out all the ingredients that Delia suggested and wondering what do with the leftover 250ml each of barley wine and stout I didn’t fancy drinking.  And all that steaming after you’ve assembled the glutinous mass and piled it into the pudding basin. Sure, you don’t have to stand and watch it for 8 hours, but you can’t leave the house. And then the darn thing needs another two and a half hours steaming on Christmas day. Never again! 

There’s a time to let traditions go, I reckon.

Happy Christmas!

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