Follow me on Twitter: @janemcintyre12



I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Christmas: All Yule Need.

Most of the glossy women's magazines do it at this time of year. Seen them? Smug pictures of the beautiful people bragging that they've got Christmas 'all wrapped up'.

Party canapes, making one bottle of Cava go six ways, the perfect gift guide, the ideal LBD for your shape, and that vital Christmas Day hour by hour cooking countdown will all be there. Along with 'tantalising' glimpses into how the other half spend their big day, and some tips on 'making time for me'. (Just buy one in your life, and stash it away until next year because they don't change much.)

Or read this *.

1) Children's toys. Get them now. Got them? Check them, immediately. And secretly assemble them in the office, or up in the loft or somewhere. This advice comes to you after a decade of discovering, on Christmas morning, that toy kitchens, plastic play houses, ride-on horses, Barbie Jeeps and magical castles can take HOURS to put together. That's if the instructions are in English, and you have the time and the practical skills required. Trust me on this, or risk toddler tantrums, threats of walkouts, and cold turkey.

2) Christmas cards: Optional. Has it got to the stage where you have so many to write that it's become an RSI inducing ritual? Do you actually know the names of all the family members on the card you're writing this minute? Are you so tired and bored that your signature is just a GP's scrip-scrawl? Maybe think about making a donation to your favourite charity in lieu of cards instead. And while we're on the subject of cards, don't write 'catch up in the new year !!!' if you don't mean it. If you said it on last year's card, or they did, and you haven't... it ain't gonna happen.

3) Christmas cash - one year, me and my sister realised that we were just sending cash up and down the M1. I'd send her a voucher, she'd send me one of the same value. And then we'd send cash to each other's children. Each envelope cancelled out the one received. If the grown ups in your family really do have enough 'stuff'... maybe don't march around town aimlessly trying to find them a gift - just meet up for a fab meal out sometime soon, or make a donation to a charity that really needs the dosh?

4) Cooking. It has its place. And gives millions of people endless hours of pleasure. But if you're not one of them... ask for help. Assign tasks. Share the load. And... psssst. Christmas markets and festive fayres sell fanTASTic cakes and mince pies... so you don't have to bake unless you want to. Tradition can be fun. Seasonal rituals, slavishly adhered to, rarely are.

5) Turning up unannounced. Yep... there's every reason to invite friends and family round for a drink, a knees up, a meal, or more. Surprises really CAN be fun. But if it's the (not that interesting) couple you met on holiday five years ago who were 'just passing' (just as you're settling down for your favourite movie)... it's not that great. Don't be that couple. Check first.

6) Turning up unannounced... WITH BIG GIFTS. Has this happened to you, too? Not ONLY did they take us by surprise when the room was a complete bombsite with bits of toys, satsuma peel , broken nut shells, dog hair, plus fractious, overtired children, and sozzled, rosy faced adults with paper hats at a jaunty angle and waistbands loosened....but they did so armed with piles of presents that, like the guests, we really hadn't anticipated. Big, expensive gifts. Awkward? Very. Advice in these situations? a) Effusive thanks and honesty  b) Effusive thanks and shedloads of booze down their necks so they don't notice you're not reciprocating c) posting a small child on lookout so that you can turn off the lights if said couple approach. Not advised, as children have a habit of screaming 'but mummy, we ARE in...' just when you think you have it sussed. Ring first.

7) Working on the Big Day. Lots of people have to. All the blue lighters. People in hospitals. People in hospitality. People on the radio. So while Christmas is special, for lots of reasons.....don't beat someone up literally or metaphorically, if December 25 is 'another day at the office' for someone you love. See them another time.

8) The Food Shop. I remember one year, pre Christmas Sainsbury's was so crowded that the queues almost reached the back of the store. Most big chains have opened more tills, and got faster. But why risk it? a) do it now and stuff it in the freezer and b) are you *really* going to eat two trolley loads before the shops open again (often on Boxing Day) ? Do you need it all? I reckon we spend so much, and often waste so much on 'just in case' stuff. Cut back. Eat less. Give something to your local food bank, or have someone over who'd be eating alone.

9) Decorations. Do it your way. If a minimal, ice-white winter wonderland with everything matching floats your boat, go for it. Brrrr...but good luck. But if you opt to cover nearly every external brick in flashing, dancing lights, and you're keeping it that way until the new year, then good on you.It'll raise a smile.

10) Wrapping up presents. Ohhhhhh. So much fun when there's time. Such a toil when it's 1 am on Christmas day and the Sellotape's nearly finished. And all the tags have gone.I suppose it'd be easier to wrap stuff as you get it. But it's advice I never heed so... see you at the kitchen table at 1 am on Christmas morning, probably. Don't lose the end of the Sello, ta. Oh, and 'cheap' wrapping paper, isn't. It rips so easily that you need twice as much to go round the gift, so you might as well buy the more expensive, thicker stuff and stay calmer.

11) What Women Want. Don't be that man with the 'rabbit in the headlight' eyes in Marks and Spencer's lingerie department this Christmas Eve; grabbing anything that's left (often in festive red)  because 'she can always change it', and because you checked her cup fitting with the assistant who was 'about her size'. Ask her. And, while we're on the subject...ask HIM. He may not 'need' any more socks.

12) Santa Claus is coming to town... He will, and the look on your children's faces when they realise he's been, and has scoffed the mince pie and beer you left out... AND that Rudolph has chewed a couple of the carrots the kids selected for him... will stay with you forever, and make all the hard work worthwhile. And anyway... they help you see in the dark...

Have fun xx

*Yes it might look familiar. The advice stands though. And, frankly, if the glossy mags can recycle their festive advice year after year... so can I. Not least because I mention my blog only on Twitter (fleetingly and infrequently, honest...). And I have 2000 more followers this year, than last. Which is lovely. If you're one of them, have a Yule Blog. And thankyou for following. Do tweet me a hello sometime... so much easier than a Christmas card ;)

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