Good intentions. They're great aren't they? I'm going to do all my Christmas wrapping as soon as I get the presents home this year. Didn't happen. I'll empty the freezer in November so I can bake well in advance this year. Didn't happen. I'll get all my shopping done well before the week before Christmas this year. Didn't happen. I'm going to join in all of Sian's Christmas Club Sundays. No, that didn't happen either. Of course my default setting for when plans go wrong is naturally to blame it on the husband. Especially if I can get away with him not knowing I'm blaming him for something I haven't done. So the reason I missed last week was his fault. No, really, it was his fault. After all, it was his birthday. Tradition dictates that the Sunday closest to his birthday we have a mini Christmas with all the family round and he gets to choose the menu. So last Sunday went in a whirl of cooking and clearing up and decorating tables and welcoming visitors. Glass of prosecco for the cook? Don't mind if I do. Long dog walk in the afternoon? Who can resist those big puppy dog eyes? Trying out a new game and getting hooked on Bananagrams. As I wearily closed my eyes at bedtime I suddenly realised the day had gone and I hadn't shared a story.
My mum loved Christmas. If ever there was a Mrs Santa Claus, it was her. Christmas was a magical time in our house. She would spend weeks cooking in advance, because everyone had to have their favourite things to eat. Presents were thoughtfully chosen, she must have listened so hard to the slightest hint of conversations where people would mention something that they had seen that they liked. There was a year where I saw a lovely knitting pattern in her magazine for a cable knit jumper and mentioned how much I loved it. This was just a short while before Christmas, and she then must have rushed out to buy wool the next day, and secretly start knitting as soon as I'd gone up to bed in the evenings to get it done in time. How she managed that I do not know as she wasn't the fastest knitter in the world and it was a tricky wool to work with especially in the evenings when the light isn't so good.
She was also a crossword fanatic. Every day she challenged herself to do a crossword and was so good at getting those cryptic clues. So she introduced a new family tradition. She would give crossword style hints on gift tags so you had to have a guess at what it was before you opened it. Let's just say that some clues were more cryptic than others. Some had to be explained even after you'd opened the present! She particularly like anagrams and to this day I think of my Kenwood Gourmet food processor as my Gemtour as the clue for that was 'Something to help make the picnic you take on a Gem Tour'
So silly me. I decided to pick up the baton of this tradition. When she passed away in December 1977 it seemed an ideal way to keep her in our thoughts on Christmas morning. Her clues always brought laughter as we tried to work them out. But oh mum. I never realised how hard it is to come up with something original. I did not inherit your cryptic brain. Although I have inherited the ability to totally confuse people with what I think is a blindingly obvious clue!
Thank you Sian for giving us all an excuse to walk down memory lane with our family stories, they've been such fun to read.