Alex James

Slow life | 20 December 2008

Festive fun

It’s underrated, winter. I love it all the way to spring, but Christmas is absolutely my favourite time of the year. It was an utterly immaculate morning this morning: festive with the startling glamour of a snap frost, a brittle dawn. Pale clear skies screaming forever over a frozen landscape, the horizon a curtain of lilac far beyond the deep frozen lawns and calm pristine parallels of box, yew and dry-stone walls. Warm light spilling from painted wooden windows. All across the petrified valley it was toy-like. There was nothing that wasn’t pretty. Pylons like sculptures. Even shrink-wrapped one tonne hay bales — normally the ugliest things on display in the countryside — had a chunky kind of elegance, all in neat rows, incapable of spoiling the view. Ancient oaks mystical, street lamps enchanting, town square crammed with huffing blowing traders.

I love Christmas and I’m starting to feel it now. Carol concerts, Babycham, stilton and pears, cheddar and pickled onions, the smell of tinsel, going to Booker and going bananas — it’s pointless trying to deal with the festivities via retail. Go trade. If the VAT is included in the price, you’re at the wrong shop. It’s all brilliant but once the flames of the pudding have died down and the embers of Christmas are glowing nicely there’s nothing I like more than a jigsaw. Parlour games come and go. Cranium was good a couple of years back. There is plenty of fun to be had with a bag of Scrabble letters, but jigsaws are evergreen. I’m coming over quite cosy and warm, just thinking about jigsaws.

I don’t want to go to the Caribbean. Ghastly thought at Christmas time. From lunchtime Christmas Day, there will be a 2,000-piece whopper on the go in our house and the aim will be to get it finished before New Year.

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