Helen Martin: Aspirational? Exasperational

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Nigella didn’t make her own mince pies at Christmas. Turns out she didn’t make much of anything and called in the caterers. Well, there’s a shocker. Like everyone else, she wanted a day off from the job she is paid to do the rest of the year round.

She even “cheated” with her biscuit tree decorations, popping them in a tin and using the same biscuits year after year. Makes sense to me. I can’t think of anyone who would relish eating a biscuit that had been handled and left hanging around for a fortnight with everyone breathing all over it.

It’s hardly her fault if some gullible viewers can’t tell the difference between an aspirational TV show and reality. And let’s face it, that’s what Christmas is for all of us, an
aspirational exercise which very rarely comes off as perfectly as we had planned.

For the last three Christmases I have been cursed. In 2011, I had a compressed disc which, put simply, meant I functioned in a fugue of heavy-duty painkillers and couldn’t sit down either for Christmas dinner or for anything else, and I do mean anything. For a lady that is problematic to say the least.

In 2012, it was sinusitis. When I wasn’t steaming my head over a bowl of hot water and Vicks, I was munching antibiotics and sporting a red nose that was at least seasonal.

This year I spent the Monday before Christmas in the dentist’s chair having an abscess in my tooth drilled and drained, and the subsequent few days eating on one side of my mouth only, when I wasn’t slugging back 
paracetamol.

Being something of a control freak I was determined throughout to cook Christmas dinner, chocolate truffles and Boxing Day muffins as per tradition. If I had any sense I would have bought ready-made and warmed it up in the oven, or if I had Nigella’s loot, called in the caterers.

But we are all conditioned to think it is possible to have a perfect Christmas and for many women that means doing it all ourselves, producing a meal that, if we are honest, no-one really wants to eat in the first place.

The driest, least appealing meat in the world must be turkey. I happen to like sprouts but most people don’t. The only person I’ve ever met who truly likes Christmas pudding, mince pies and Christmas cake is my mother. As for mulled wine, cough mixture makes a pleasant alternative.

The TV programmes and movies were quite good this year. I’m sure they were but after eating twice as much as I’d normally consume in a whole day, I didn’t see any of them and conked out on the couch. Is any of this sounding familiar?

Meanwhile, about 3500 households in Scotland were powerless to provide any normal Christmas at all this year as hurricane winds cut off their “leckie”. The emotional part of my brain recognises this as a tragedy for these poor people . . . Christmas of all days.

There is, however, a little irrational part of me that thinks perhaps snuggled up with a double downie and thermal gloves, playing Scrabble by candlelight while nibbling on crisps, Bavarian ham, cheese and whatever other cold collations were available, might not be such a bad Christmas after all.

I wish pup abuser a horrid New Year

ANYTHING bad that happens, such as power cuts, always seem worse at Christmas – being flooded, being ill, loved ones dying even if it’s great grandmother who was 99 and suffered from a long and terminal illness. In that inexplicable triumph of hope over experience, such things shouldn’t happen at Christmas.

The hand of God is one thing. But if I ever got my hands on the ***** (insert your own expletive) who left a nine-week-old puppy tied up in a lay-by on the A7 in Gorebridge, I don’t think I’d be accountable for my actions.

I hope they had an especially horrible Christmas and wish them the even more devastating and miserable New Year they certainly deserve.

Spending thatn doesn’t click

APPARENTLY for millions of Scots, Christmas is irrelevant anyway. Not for them the family feasting, the cracker-pulling, the party hats and It’s A Wonderful Life.

Instead, they were surfing the internet, logging 12 million hits and spending £29m on online shopping on Christmas Day alone.

I don’t know whether to feel more sorry for them because they had nothing better to do and no-one to do it with, or for the real shops providing jobs for real people, struggling against the odds to keep the economy going, but who seem to be fighting a losing battle against cyber life.

I am, though, as always, curious about where all this money is coming from in an age of austerity and food banks.