All Wrapped Up

In which our reluctant hero wonders if he will ever learn? And why not?

Ebenezer Scrooge: You’re a little absent-minded, spirit.
Ghost of Christmas Present: No, I’m a LARGE absent-minded spirit!

(A Muppet Christmas Carol)

My belt is almost up a notch. That tired, sluggish, not quite with it feeling induced by having consumed Pringles and Celebrations as starters to every meal for a week has kicked in. The rest of the break may as well be sponsored by Rennies. Just how long is it since Christmas again?

Overindulgence amnesia asides, this Christmas has presented some new curious things to ponder. Perhaps they will provide useful knowledge for next year. Perhaps I thought the same thoughts last year. Who knows?

The amount of packaging encasing modern stuff is spiralling out of control.

You would expect a Marks and Spencer apple to be individually wrapped in a polystyrene tray and about 250m of shrink-wrap in the olden days, but this was the exception not the rule.

I’m convinced that today’s manufacturers are challenging each other to make the most difficult product to open. And it’s mum and dad that suffer.

This year set a high bar with parents needing a minimum of two screwdrivers, pliers, a junior hacksaw, scissors, mole grips and a Black & Decker Workmate to open the average present on Christmas morning.

“This Christmas was brought to you in association with Tommy Walsh.” He must be laughing all of the way to the bank.

Surprise Batteries
Talking of being ill prepared, who knew that “C” sized batteries are still a thing? Not me.

After a brief panic, I managed to source four used ones, thus avoiding a Christmas Day incident with the Luvabella Doll.

Already tired and emotional after their previous life in a VTech toy, the batteries lasted a day, whereupon the perilous state of charge caused the doll to start talking in French.

Replacement Duracells cost a whacking £8.40 from the local Tesco Metro on Boxing Day morning. This is around £3.40 more than the price that my wife told me that most of the kids’ presents cost. Ho, ho, ho.

A.I. Is Just Creepy
Speaking of Luvabella, don’t bother getting one in the January sales if you’re of a nervous disposition. Within three hours of it appearing, I started calling it Chucky. I swear that it’s out to get me.

It’s not just presents that get all wrapped up for Christmas.

Have you even eaten anything in the last week that hasn’t been wrapped in pastry, cheese or bacon. Or all of the above? I’m amazed that a box of “Heroes” has not yet been made in Wellington form.

Next Christmas, why not make a massive cheese, ham and Cadburys Fudge pastie on Xmas eve and plough through until New Year. All of the Christmas food groups in one and the same net result as every other festive meal. Am I wrong? No.

Away Days
Q: How much stuff do you need to take for a single afternoon or night away visiting family?
A: The exact amount of stuff to completely fill the boot of a Vauxhall Meriva, obviously.

Sadly, the only thing that I wish to achieve before I die remains driving somewhere and being able to see out of the back window. I fear that I may not live that long.

Today is…
Wednesday? Sunday? Nope, sorry. Not a clue.

Expanding on the above, have you any idea when bin day is? No, neither have the council.

The formula to calculate when to put your bin out over Christmas is so complex that the next volumes of work by Professors Steven Hawkins, Brian Cox and Green are all dedicated to solving it. Probably.

The excellent @mutablejoe off of Twitter got close to working it out a couple of years back;

“Reminder your festive bin collection day is given by the simple equation
d = (√x²-3π) – (∆y – √∆x) – (Gx/∆y)
where x/y are your lat / long”


While there’s plenty of lessons learned, one mystery remains unsolved. Where do all of my Swizzles chews off the kitchen table keep disappearing to?



Question Time

In which our reluctant hero gets his excuses in early.

Last minute Christmas shopping. Last minute food shopping. Pub. Wrapping. Re-wrapping. Writing labels. Building a flat pack ice cream shop. Dismantling and re-mantling a flat pack ice cream shop after realising that the sides were on the wrong way. Lugging presents downstairs for Father Christmas. Peeling veg on Christmas Eve. Up before the “Sun’s up up in my room, Daddy!” every morning. Overexcited little people. Opening presents. Trying to work out who sent the previously opened presents. Tidying up the mess. Boiling sprouts to within an inch of their existence. Basting the turkey. Serving Christmas dinner. Serving Christmas dinner to the cats. Pulling crackers at every meal or snack time. Rediscovering the terrible joke in our homemade cracker. Setting fire to the pudding. Putting out hat that was a bit too close to the pudding. Washing up. Eating a wheelbarrow’s worth of Celebrations by coffee time. Bedtime meltdowns. Bedtime meltdowns by the kids too. Tidying up the mess. Again. Trip to the tip. Almost chucking the youngest’s buggy in the skips (oops.) Etc.

Christmas. Marvellous isn’t it?

I’ll forgive you for mistaking the above for a thirty second Groundhog Day-esque summary of Christmas Eve to Boxing Day. Close. It is in fact a rather hastily list of excuses as to why I haven’t written, or even thought about writing, a proper post this week. Which is odd as the Christmas period is often seen as a time for quiet thought and contemplation. Its Christmas. With kids. Fat chance.

Although not contemplated quietly, some deep, interesting, and theological (probably) questions did occasionally pop into my head over the period. A fleeting in and out, like Santa on a speed date. Questions such as (in no particular order);

  • Why are over fifty screws, nuts and bolts needed to build a child’s ice cream shop?
  • Where have I put the allen key this time?
  • When is “Escape to Victory” on?
  • How do you store Lego and Duplo in between builds?
  • How did two grown-ups end up spending all afternoon building the Lego?
  • Why do sprouts taste as bitter as a pint of bitter lemon on a chilly night on Christmas Day, but amazing when fried up as breakfast bubble ‘n’ squeak on Boxing Day?
  • Can our recycling pile be seen from space by a naked eye?
  • Working on the basis that everybody who wants to/has to watch Frozen has seen it more than five hundred times already, couldn’t the BBC have given us parents JUST ONE DAY OFF?!
  • Where did all of the salted peanuts go?
  • How do you make the Rapunzel Doll stop singing? In Spanish?
  • What on earth is a Shopkin?
  • Is the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special a new one?
  • What on earth have the boffins at Cadbury done to the Roses wrappers?
  • Why is “Mrs Brown’s Boys” still allowed on the electric television? (Presumably Brendan O’Carroll knows where the bodies are buried.)
  • How do you make the Frozen Doll stop singing? In Spanish?
  • Next year, will it be easier to arrange for my December wages to be paid directly into Amazon’s bank account?
  • Why are the children upstairs playing hospitals when there’s about half of Amazon’s UK stock sat in the living room?
  • Why wasn’t “Escape to Victory” on?
  • Is “re-mantling” even a word?

So there you go. Will I ever get answers to these questions? Probably not. Will I be asking exactly the same things next year. Probably. Ho, ho, ho.


Christmas Traditions 

In which our reluctant hero ponders traditions, which is quite normal for this time of year.

Where do mysteries come from? Nobody knows. The same may be said about traditions. Well in my world anyway.

a long-established custom or belief that has been passed on from one generation to another.

Or something.

Each year since starting a family, I have pondered laying down some Christmas traditions of my own. And each year, I quickly give up. This is (I think) largely because I can’t think of anything sensible to adopt, be it routine, food, dress choices, or pretty much anything else associated with the big day.

Cracking open the Champagne first thing on Christmas morning seems to be, rather ironically, a very British tradition these days. As is serving eggs benedict or smoked salmon for breakfast, usually with said bubbles. Faff and drunkenness by eight a.m. doesn’t really seem the best way to prepare for a twelve hours plus marathon of overexcited children and general chaos to me. Scrub that.

Roast turkey is a traditional Christmas lunch despite nobody really liking it and secretly wishing that they could ditch the bird and just have a mountain of pigs in blankets instead.

We had beef last year and lamb the year before. Hardly a model of consistency. This year will probably be the Bernard Matthews Turkey Roast (if I can get away with it – I won’t) or whatever is on offer in Aldi, provided that it’s not goose.

Have you ever cooked a goose by the way? It’s pretty much a four hour exercise in preventing the oven and house catching fire, with about the same meat as in a couple of Turkey Twizzlers left at the end.

Perhaps adopting something ridiculous is the answer. Having recently learned that Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii, or “Kentucky for Christmas” is an actual thing in Japan, a KFC Bargain Bucket may be the rather greasy future. Plus there’s the added bonus of no washing up to do, asides from the sprout pan.

As it’s a special day, should I wear a suit or go for the more practical option of pyjamas all day? The latter seems far more appealing, although driving to church in slippers is asking for trouble. Alternatively, we could all rollerskate there like the residents of Caracas do every Christmas morning. Yes, really. I also suspect that the first verse of Once In Royal David’s City would be drowned out by a chorus of tuts from the congregation.

What about other things? Should we leave “sleigh tracks” down the lawn, or should I dress as Santa? The Boxing Day swim is another tradition that many folk partake in, but with Wolverhampton being about as far away from the sea as anywhere in Britain that limits options to stripping off and diving into the inch of water left in Tettenhall Pool. No thank you.

Despite the obvious lack of activities to adopt as a new tradition, the other thing that makes me throw in the proverbial towel (straight into the washing machine – there’s bound to be another load due since I started writing this) is the lack of time. Time. There was never enough pre-children, but post? Forget it.

We did a homemade variation of the Elf thing this year (his eyes didn’t start off that wonky by the way) with the difference being there was less random naughtiness and more doing stuff. Will that become a tradition? Maybe. It has certainly been good for the craft pile and the children have loved it. But it has taken a lot of time and effort, mostly by mum, especially on nursery and playgroup days.


By the time the we’ve got up on Christmas Eve, bought the stuff for Christmas lunch, dropped the food parcel off for the homeless people, met our friends (who turn up from the West Midlands and beyond) at midday at our old local for lunch, got back, put out the carrots, mince pie and sherry for Rudolph and Father Christmas, scattered the reindeer food about, walked to the end of the street to scan the horizon for passing sleighs (it coincidentally covers the flightpath for Birmingham Airport), got our pyjamas on and watched a Christmas film, there’s just no time for Christmas traditions.


A load of things that we do, that I don’t really remember starting but we do every year nonetheless.

So, the moral of the traditions story? Less over thinking and more doing and it’ll all sort itself out in a couple of years time. A bit like parenting.