Just a spoonful of soup or so

The King was determined to show that he did not lack for gold and silver, so he drew heavily on his treasury to make these occasions as grand as he thought they ought to be… he decreed that there should be a great sausage banquet, he got into his carriage and himself invited all the kings and princes to what he said would just be a spoonful of soup or so, but that was to make the surprise of the delicacies they were to be served all the nicer. “For you know, my dear,” he said to his wife the Queen, in very friendly tones, “how much I like to eat sausages!”

The Queen knew very well what he meant by that, which was that he wanted her to make the sausages herself, which she had done before, and a very useful task it was too…

Now the trumpets and drums played and all the princes and potentates in their fine clothes came to the sausage banquet, some riding white palfreys, some in crystal coaches. The King welcomed them warmly…but as the liver sausage was served, the King could be seen turning paler and paler, raising his eyes to heaven – faint sighs escaped his breast – he appeared to be suffering some terrible internal pain. And as the next course of blood sausage was served, he sat back in his armchair, sobbing and moaning, covered his face with his hands and wailed and groaned.

The whole company jumped up from the table, the royal physician tried in vain to feel the unfortunate King’s pulse, a deep and nameless grief seemed to be tending him apart. At long last, after much consultation and the application of strong remedies for reviving someone in a faint, such as burnt feathers and the like, the King to some extent came back to his senses, and barely audible, stammered out the words, “Not enough bacon!”

The Tale of The Nutcracker – Hoffman

Hitting the shops

Gingerbread PJs from ASOS, knitted hot water bottle cover and candles from Aerende (a shop that supports the underprivileged and struggling in society – the hot water bottle covers are knitted by a breast cancer survivor)

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initial mugs from Anthropologie and Christmas biscuits from Ashton Belle, cups from Rita Konig

Asma’s Indian Kitchen and Polska by Zuza Zak

Donations, eg to Refuaid which gives refugees important language training and interest free loans to retrain in their new home to carry on with their previous careers, donations to Shelter or women’s refuges; SheSaysIndia

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Coffee spoons and concrete origami paperweights from Havelock studios

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A bit of comfort reading

I like that mountain

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I like that mountain in its black pelisse

of fir forests – because

in the gloom of a strange mountain country

I am closer to home.

How should I not know those dense needles,

and how should I not lose my mind

at the mere sight of that peatbog berry,

showing blue along my way?

The higher the dark and damp

trails twist upward, the clearer

grow the tokens, treasured since childhood,

of my northern plain.

Shall we not climb thus

the slopes of paradise, at the hour of death,

meeting all the loved things

that in life elevated us?

Nabokov

Last day

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of Christmas, and also a day for reflection and revelation before the routines of normal life kick in. Many of us are back at work and in the swing of those routines already, but there’s still time to:

1. Listen to the spirituals from Michael Tippett’s A child of our time.

2. Donate to one of the many charities that need help: Shelter, Crisis, Refuaid, Girls not Brides, Age UK etc.

3. Take a bag of stuff to the charity shop and come back to mull that last bottle of wine.

Shopping lists

Whilst nothing can match Cup of Jo’s annual gift guides, here’s my thoughts on some pressies that would be welcome round the family:

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Jo Malone soaps that look like macaroons

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Sali Hughes’ latest book about the biggest make up developments out there

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A gripping history of scientific research, propaganda, paranoia and political infighting that I couldn’t put down on holiday recently

Spicy gingerbread biscuits

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A history of 60s London, with a foreword from Pritchett in 1985, lamenting that the city’s “almost Venetian” low waterline was about to disappear for ever

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Felt oysters, because

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A book about the recent developments in medical knowledge (spoiler: exercise will not kill you, nor will vigorous singing) that came out this year from a Royal Society of Literature prize-winner

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Messiaen’s organ music for that post-Christmas blissed out state

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Illustrated cards from freelance artists like Flora Walcott or The Printed Peanut

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Chocolate, obviously.

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PJs for snuggling.