I was really excited to see two things I liked in Saturday’s paper – a seriously overpriced but utterly beautiful rose
gold bracelet and some equally impressive Scottish textiles, for mouthwatering sums. I don’t need either of them – just as well, because I couldn’t afford either of them – but that isn’t the point. And it’s not just champagne taste and beer money. The point is that they pleased me.
Always interested in clothes and fashion, the shape and the colour of things from cups to shoes, recent photographic spreads I have looked at were just horrid, charmless, self conscious, and bank breaking. And barring a large sweater which certainly should be warm at those prices, I was beginning to think that I had finally turned into the Granny Grim Natasha made a small statue of, all those years ago. Because I could make lists of what I don’t need or want for Christmas.
I want health for people, I want lungs, I want them to be able to catch their breath literally and figuratively.
And you can’t buy health, retail or wholesale, giftwrapped or plain. I want kindness and peace and a bit of imagination – like the Fire Fairy (to do with the colour of her hair) actress, director and teacher, now librettist and published poet, speaker of five languages and owner of a dicky knee (Signora Patella) – who simply said “My turn to buy the calendars” and we shall be meeting on Monday to share them.
Last year I sent her a Christmas card with an Inuit image – I very much admire Inuit art and own two small pieces, the carved vertebra of a sperm whale and a ptarmigan made of the handhewn tip of a narwhal’s tooth – and when she whooped with joy, bought her the calendar.
So perhaps we founded a tradition.
Years ago I parted company from stollen, mince pies, Christmas cake (although in its time, I loved my mother’s) and Christmas pudding. Boxes of sweets and chocolates, and biscuits do nothing to me. But panettone does, and when it arrives, I swan around eating it for breakfast on Christmas morning, trying not to gollop it because I like it toasted too. Buns – so named because he does have a sweet tooth – calls me Pans for short. None of this sugar foresworn is to do with dieting because I put weight in the winter like an old bear, but it is to do with taste and sugar for the sake of it has no great appeal to me.
Enjoy your turkey if it’s what you like, I shall enjoy something else – probably a chicken or a bit of duck with lots of vegetables and lots of fruit, and enough nuts to turn me into a (red) squirrel.
I’ve kept few decorations but pine cones fascinate me. I have some carefully silvered which I put about in a large glass bowl or across the sash windows. The doorknocker is a pine cone from Wal and I have two pine seeds in my wallet. In Jack London you hear about “roaring fires of pinecones” and apparently that’s OK out there in wolf world
but not clever for a domestic chimney. And last year I bought a Scandinavian straw wreath and I am so glad I did because the shop is no more. It reminds me of the ox and the ass, in the stable with the Baby.
I always have an angel shape, usually hanging on the shutters. I always have mistletoe , a much older tradition and I look yearningly at the rowan at the street corner which is covered with swathes of red berries (druids again). My attempt to grow a sorbis failed ( a regrettable combination of purple fingers and dubious soil) and I wanted it even more badly when I had learned that in the Celtic calendar it is my natal tree.
All the Christmas decorations I collected for my son when he was small are, like his books, waiting for my grand daughter to be just that bit older, beyond finger and discard. I look at them lovingly, I remember his shining eyes. “The nature of all exile” writes Alberto Manguel “ is that it affirms the perseverance of memory”, even if the only exile we’re talking about comes through age and time.