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turkey

Happy New Year – my top ten festive moans…..

It’s 2013 and welcome to my Christmas and New Year top ten pet hates about the festive and holiday season.

Everyone has to have a rant now and then –  me more than most. So this week it’s the things which irritate me about Christmas and the New Year. Do let me know if you agree or, even better, what your additional gripes might be….

1. Reduced rubbish collection – the one time of the year when you are bound to collect more rubbish is Christmas, especially when you have children. So why are collections reduced or erratic at this time? I don’t buy the argument that people have time off – I’ve often worked over Christmas and New Year, and the only time I ever got paid extra money was for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day – and I wouldn’t expect a collection on any of those days. Recycling in Swindon is great – but not great when the bins aren’t collected. So I predict that for the next few weeks, the local authority will see an increase in its general waste and landfill costs because of the distruption over this period.

The tree must come down, along with all of the decorations….

2. Too many repeats on television – I love television, I work on television programmes and I know when goes into making programming. But is it just me or was the majority of programming over the Christmas period repeats? While some are accepted eg. The Christmas Carol, Mary Poppins – I felt there was little to look forward to in terms of new material. Also programmes were repeated loads of times. It’s the one time to draw people in but there were few highlights. Maybe, Miranda,  Downton Abbey special (which was horribly predictable) and the soaps (none of which I watch). Africa was one highlight too. The rest was pretty dull.

3. Turkey – I don’t mind a small turkey on Christmas Day but however hard I try I always end up with far more than needed. It’s the one time of the year when I try to buy an organic bird. I ordered one (I won’t say from where as that wouldn’t be fair) and asked for the smallest. I saw the tick on the list for a 4kg turkey – or around that weight. When it came it was more than 5.5kg – when I queried it I was told that they didn’t have many smaller ones so were having to move them around – without actually informing the customer. I was given no warning and it cost me almost £20 more than I was expecting to pay.  I did comment that if I’d budgeted for the amount originally quoted and hadn’t been able to pay that extra money – what would they have done then? Next year, if we go for turkey again, I’ll buy frozen.

4. Crackers – why are crackers so c**p these days? One of the joys of crackers is the bang when they go off, so many now don’t bang at all – and their contents are awful. And there’s not much choice around. It’s either totally rubbish or slightly better contents for twice the price. Why bother?

5. Round-robin letters in Christmas cards – I didn’t have any of these this year but I usually get a couple each year. It’s like a newsletter to a friend about your family’s achievements. I can’t put my finger on why this irritates me, it may not be logical, because I get them all the time in my business life and I don’t mind. Maybe it’s because it takes the personality out of a Christmas card. If you want to tell me something, just write a couple of lines. It makes all the difference.

6. The length of school holidays – as a working parent, this is something which bugs me often. Many people went back to work on Jan 2 including me  – but children don’t go back to school until Jan 7 or 8. Why? Believe me, most children want to go back to school earlier, they get bored at home, no matter what they’ve got to entertain them and they miss their friends. When you are self-employed, or in certain professions, it’s difficult to take yet more days off so inevitably child care is needed. Which means an expensive time of year becomes even more expensive.

7. Awful present dilemma – what to do with those presents you dislike but, as they’ve come from someone reasonably close, you have to keep at least for a while. We have had several of these within our household this year – can’t give too much detail. Some we’ve changed for other things, some we’ve put up with, some have gone immediately to charity and some we’ve put into the ‘spare present drawer’ for those times when you’ve forgotten someone’s birthday. But for the latter just be careful you don’t give them back to the same person. I’ve burned my fingers with this more than once.

8. What to do with Christmas cards? – we’ve got loads of this year, it comes with having three children at home. I usually recycle but as our bins are overflowing through non-collection and we don’t have cardboard recycling nearby – I guess they’ll live with us longer than usual. And for those of you who want to suggest that I make my own cards next year – it’ s not my thing but you can have then if you want them.

9. The way prices rise the minute the new year comes in – it’s “Happy New Year and here’s what it will cost you” . On New Year’s Day it’s rail fares, the Second Severn Crossing toll – it’s as if certain companies can’t wait to announce that you will be paying more money. This is on top of the fact that many families will face the inevitable credit card bill, rising energy prices as announced by my provider (I’ve now switched) and some of us are losing our child benefit this month. So in January 2013, I am considerably less well off than January 2012. Thanks a lot.

10. Taking down the decorations and the tree – has to be done of course and it’s not really a rant, just an observation. It’s a joy to put them up and a chore to take them down. And where to put all of those new baubles that you sneakily popped on the overloaded tree and that you are now going to have to own up to….and for me this year, an extra sadness. When we put up our tree in early December we took loads of photographs of our lovely cat Chloe covered in tinsel. Sadly a week later, she died following a seizure. And now I have to take them down and look at that tinsel and….well, you get the picture….

Our family cat Chloe who was part of my life for 16 years….

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda or M&S? Which one gets your vote at Christmas?

The fridge is full for Christmas - at last

Today we did a mega-shopping day visiting four supermarkets in a single day to get all the things on my ridiculous Christmas shopping list.

I think that puts me in a good position to assess the supermarkets’ readiness for December 23 – probably the busiest shopping day of the year – in Swindon at least.

First stop, by 9.30am was a town centre Marks & Spencer. Already very, very busy and (is it me?) full of people who think it’s okay to push you out of the way, tut in your ear and be generally grumpy. Nevertheless, the choice was reasonable, there was plenty of stock and we were able to buy the basketful of items we like the M&S way (pudding type things mainly, plus their version of Walnut Whips!).

Then on to Tesco – probably  my most hated supermarket in Swindon – as it seems to attract the most aggressive, anti-social shopper on earth. We just wanted a single item here – a prawn cocktail pot with a chilli flavour that they did about three years ago and which we have searched for ever since with no luck. Still, they did have a toilet so that made up for a lot! But no prawn cocktail, so a quick exit was in order.

Third Sainsbury’s – the venue for the main shop as we’d saved more than £100 in vouchers for the Christmas shop. However, I’ll think twice next year. We arrived here at about 11am, maybe a bit earlier, and the shelves were so empty it was almost unbelievable. I had the last few loose parsnips and carrots. We had to divide our efforts in the fruit & veg sections or we wouldn’t have been able to purchase anything. There were no sprouts (apart from those on a big stalk), no loose red onions, no Maris Pipers (my favourite for roasters). It was staggeringly busy with people in trolley jams all around but I couldn’t work out if it was phenomenal sales or really, really poor planning on the shop’s part. Around every corner as well as a zillion trolley-pushers, there were at least two large carts with frantic staff trying to fill up shelves.  I couldn’t get any dips like potato salad, humus or Waldorf salad – the kind of stuff I love on Boxing Day. And the only fresh herbs available were parsley, probably the only one I didn’t want!

Hence a quick trip to Asda – where there was so much food it was spilling out of the front door. No worries about sprouts here. In fact, I’d be worried about what’s going to be left as it was 5.30pm when we got there and there was stacks and stacks of food. I also picked up my herbs and nutmeg and was able to tick off the final things on my daft list.

I do now feel like I can relax – the food is in, the turkey is fresh and free range (ought to be gold-plated for what it cost) and the gammon looks like it could feed an army – but four kids should make light work of it!

Tomorrow it’s a pantomime of another kind – shorter, more entertaining and a lot cheaper – bring it on Keith Chegwin!

 

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