I forget what it’s like!  It’s a bit like childbirth, you block out the pain …  Every year, somehow, the days before Christmas sink into some Bermuda Triangle never to be seen again!  I had plenty of time … and, then,I didn’t!  Why?  I even succumbed to pressure and bought a tree over a week ago but it is still in its net in the back garden – admittedly, in water – because the tree stand has chosen to disappear.  Of course, it has.  Isn’t that just part of the associated torture at this joyous time of the year?  Then, there is another problem – my palm plant which seems hellbent on impersonating a ‘triffidIt all but engulfed the table in the dining area of the kitchen in the house in Edinburgh and, now, it has taken root, here, in defiance of any incoming Christmas tree.  Yet … one of them has to go!  If I bring the tree in, the ‘triffid‘ has to go out and in these far from tropical climes, I am all but signing its death warrant.  Don’t think I haven’t tried to foster him/her out but, surprisingly, there are no takers.  Decorate the plant?  Look, I have done that before – rather successfully, I might add – but this one has spindly leaves which would hold nothing.  Are there any benefits to this goliath of a plant, I hear you ask?  Quite frankly … it’s like a habit I cannot break; where I go, there goes the ‘triffid’!

Do I need any more reminders of why we go away at Christmas?  Spoilt for the last four years, I have never taken our week in St Wolfgang for granted.  Emotionally battered, that little village nestling on the lake beneath the towering, snow-capped mountains brought us much-needed solace in 2016, giving us perspective and a chance to heal.  We made new traditions and made new friendships while renewing old.  It was our Christmas.  Seven days of sanctuary immersed in the beauty of nature and the heart of tradition, its power lying in the pure and simple.  I clung to its magic in this awful year; the three of us did.  As though a beacon in the darkness, a lighthouse in a storm, confined and starved of free will, there was still Christmas in Austria; we could look forward to that …

Thank goodness we are oblivious to what lies ahead and, thus, there is always hope.  I have long been mocked for my purchase of lottery tickets or entering competitions believing there is a chance I could win.  There is and I just might!  Meanwhile, never underestimate the power of hope.  As I always used to tell the children when they were little, Santa only exists if you believe …

There is nothing better than losing oneself in a Christmas film, always feel good and, usually, with a moral.  So it was that, last Sunday, we spent an afternoon of pure self-indulgence watching The Family Man (2000).  Starring Nicolas Cage – which nearly made me turn over – it is a modern-day version of the best Christmas film forever, It’s a Wonderful Life.  It is Christmas Eve in New York and a cut-throat investment banker, devoid of emotional ties – planning to work on Christmas Day – is, courtesy of a modern-day Clarence, given a glimpse into the life he would have had if he had married his college sweetheart rather than get on that plane to London thirteen years ago.  Life in suburbia with kids, a mortgage, utter chaos and a whole lot of love!  Turn a different corner …  It’s strange when you look back and see the obvious fork in the road.  Just a pity that, in real life, we’re not afforded the chance to go back and take the right one.  Oh, well.  It is a lovely film, despite Nicolas Cage!  Not really sure why I have never liked him but that’s instinct for you.

As ever, I have scribbled notes apropos the week’s news.  Not good.  I mean, gardening is racist?  Help!  Am I living in a parallel universe?  Quite frankly, I wish I was.  James Wong, a BBC presenter – known, primarily, for Countryfile – apparently claimed that the ‘fetishisation’ of words such as ‘heritage’ and ‘native’ were examples of how ‘UK gardening culture has racism baked into its DNA’.  How utterly, utterly, ridiculous!  What is he on?  You see, this is the tip of the iceberg.  The genie is out of the bottle and nobody has the gumption – or the courage – to squash it right back in!

The Vicar of Dibley.  How I loved that programme and, thus, I was so looking forward to its reprise in the form of short vignettes over the Christmas period.  However, Alice is gone – as are several of the other much-loved characters – and, with her/them, the magic.  Sadly, 2020 has claimed so much and this beloved programme, too, was a casualty.  Dibley was dragged, kicking and screaming, into harsh reality as Dawn French slapped a poster on the village noticeboard emblazoned with the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ before taking the knee.   No!  In one fell swoop, The Vicar of Dibley, loved for its gentleness, protected from cold reality, was no more.

As if things weren’t bad enough, am I to believe that Tom Cruise has gone feral?  Please, no.  Filming Mission:Impossible 7 in London, he hit the news after he was recorded screaming obscenities at crew members who were, apparently, standing too close together in front of a computer screen.  Threatening instant dismissal if it happened again, his anger and colourful language only served to showcase a man under pressure, on the edge of the abyss!  Tom Cruise is Mr Nice Guy who always goes that extra mile.  The ultimate gentlemen, he is polite, friendly and, seemingly, loved by all – other than his ex-wives!  Good-looking, he defines the term action man.  He is Jerry Maguire, the one who ‘had me at “Hello”‘!  I’m going to let this go.  At the end of a horrific year, he is clearly carrying the world on his shoulders – if not, the livelihoods of so many – and he over-reacted.  He is human but, if it happens again … ditch the obscenities or we’re done!

Let me end with a few words which, together, mean a whole lot!  A quote from the film we always vowed to watch every Christmas Eve – but, somehow, never have the time – it remains our favourite.  Just one thing, I don’t believe there is an ‘e’ on the end of ‘Santa Clause’.  That’s just wrong on so many levels …

Seeing isn’t believing.  Believing is seeing.’

The Santa Clause (1994)

This is Trish, signing off.