Thursday, December 12, 2013

Essential Christmas Countdown

Wednesday. Two weeks before Christmas. Mrs D lurches from her bed with as much energy as she can muster, given that she is down with a very nasty case of Lady Flu.

(Which is of course exactly the same as Man Flu, except genuine.)

“It’s two weeks till Christmas!” she says, her voice hoarse from one too many rehearsals of the school Nativity Play. Or possibly from the aforementioned bug.

Yes, Mrs D, we know. It is indeed  two weeks till Christmas. Or at least it was. Now it’s considerably less than.


What we need is a Christmas countdown. You know, like all those domestic goddesses have. The Kirstie Allsopps, the Delia Smiths and the Mary Berrys (or even Berries) of this world.

Best leave Nigella out of it for now. She's got enough on her plate.

So here it is. Cut it out, fix it up with a fridge magnet, lose it down the back of the sofa, find it next August and wonder what all the fuss was about...

Your Essential 2013 Christmas Countdown. Accept no imitations.

Dec 12: Try on Santa outfit, blogger for the wearing of, and Mrs D’s impressionable young pupils for the scaring of. Examine suspicious marks left by previous occupant. Take to dry cleaners.

Dec 13:  Friday the 13th. Stay in bed, don’t tempt fate.

Dec 14/15: It’s the weekend! Not the best time to go shopping.

Dec 16:  Day off. Buy all the presents. Every last one. Including emergency replacements for the stuff that you ordered from Amazon and is due to arrive from Japan some time between now and Saint David’s Day.

Dec 17: Realise you’ve forgotten to send your brother a birthday card. Ring up and grovel.

Dec 18: Realise you’ve forgotten to send anyone any Christmas cards. Decide to go green, save trees, avoid wear and tear on the already strained postal service and generally make a virtue out of a necessity.

Dec 19: One week till  Christmas! No, wait, that was yesterday.

Dec 20:  One week till the day after Boxing Day! Go back to the dry cleaners to pick up Santa suit. Ignore pitying looks from dry cleaning operative. Take suit home, clamber into same. Succumb to sneezing fit induced by residual cleaning fluid in snowy white beard. Visit school, scare tinies. Job done.

Dec 21/22: It’s the weekend! Again! Crikey, where did last week go? Remember last weekend how you made a  good case for not going shopping? No more excuses, they won’t wash. Booze, smoked salmon, more booze, cheese footballs and even more booze won’t buy themselves, you know. The supermarket awaits.

Dec 23:  Ask spouse in a polite spirit of co-operation if she has definitely made the cake. Awaken some time later to discover that you have landed a starring role in 24 Hours in A&E.

Dec 24: Christmas Eve, and it’s too late to panic. Load up the car, hit the road for the relatives on the other side of the country, notice with abstract curiosity that everyone else in the entire world seems to have had the same idea.

Dec 25: Christmas Day. Relax, it’s all taken care of.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Four more candidates for Greatest Bathonian

The votes are flooding in for Bath law firm Mogers’ online poll to find the Greatest Bathonian.

As reported in last week’s Bath Chronicle, the sometimes controversial contenders are Jane Austen (obv), Uranus-discoverer William Herschel, painter Thomas Gainsborough, proto-postman Ralph Allen, four-minute-miler Sir Roger Bannister, singer Peter Gabriel, architect John Wood the Elder, and Georgian fashionista Beau Nash.

Now, whether or not these worthies were or are true Bathonians (born within the sound of the Abbey bells, or in the Princess Anne Wing of the RUH at a pinch) is open to endless and ultimately fruitless debate.

But there are certainly quite a few important historical heroes who are missing from the list. 

In no particular order:
  • Doctor William Oliver. The inventor of a very classy cheese biscuit. Bequeathed the recipe to his coachman, who got very rich on the proceeds. The  biscuit-making machine was purportedly moved from Bath to Reading in the 60s. Or the 70s. Or the 80s. The Bath Oliver has never tasted as good since.

  • Saint Alphege. Purportedly born in Weston Village, Bath. Saint Ælfheah to his Anglo-Saxon chums. Or Elphege, or Alfege, or Godwine. They weren’t that hot on spelling in 1006, when he became Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1012 he was clubbed to death with animal bones by a band of marauding Vikings. Most famous for having a school named after him in Whitstable, where Mrs D did her first teaching practice. There’s a spring in the hills above Weston called Saint Alphege’s Well, and tradition holds that if anyone attempts to build houses on it, the holy roller will rise from the ground and whack them round the head with a ham hock. If only.

  • Bladud. Legendary King of the Britons and early animal welfare activist, he purportedly drove his leprous swine into the Avon (as you do) and discovered the hot springs, thus accidentally founding Bath’s medical tourism industry. His name is honoured to this day by the stag and hen parties who visit the city every weekend and end up getting bladdered.

  • Queen Victoria. It’s all about the obelisks. Early in her reign, she pitched up in Bath and purportedly had a Hanoverian hissy fit when she discovered that Queen Square was named after her great-grandmother, Queen Caroline, rather than herself, and that the obelisk had been erected in honour of her grandfather. (Frederick, Prince of Wales, if you’re interested. Frederick, Prince of Wales, if you’re not.) The citizens tried to appease her by naming a park after her and building therein a second obelisk, guarded by three of the dopiest-looking lions ever to be rejected for service in Trafalgar Square. She was not amused.

Observant readers will have noticed four uses of the word “purportedly” in the above romp through Bath’s murky past. (Five including that last one.) Which goes to show that history is very much in the eye of the beholder.

But all claims for Greatest Bathonianhood for such luminaries as Napoleon Bonaparte, Catherine of Braganza, Albert Einstein,  Attila the Hun or Elvis Presley should be treated with the greatest suspicion.

And as for that Ronnie Wood...