Today is the shortest day, but that doesn’t mean there is any less to do than usual, so rather than try and write a well-planned single-theme post, I am going to gather together a whole host of notes I’ve jotted down over the last few weeks, none of which is really worthy of more than a few lines:
Last week, I posted about the hippo at the manger; since then, it’s been pointed out to me that it isn’t really so out-of-line in these days of modern nativities, and perhaps if I’d seen the lobster scene from Love Actually I might have been less surprised.
The hippos weren’t the only things to catch my eye at the local exhibition, though; there was a Russian nativity scene that had me pondering:Does Mary really bring forth an angel, a donkey and the Baby Jesus?
Mention of Nativity Scenes leads neatly on to other Christmas talk. What would Christmas dinner be without Brussels sprouts? Wikipedia tells me that these are members of the genus informally known as cruciferous vegetables, which I think sounds more like Easter than Christmas, but never mind.
I’m not much of a gardener myself, but I do know that sprouts are brassicas, and I know that a lot of people dislike them. Perhaps that’s why the listing for the recent Farming Today programme on BBC radio was so brief:A question of “least said, soonest mended”, perhaps?
Looking back, I’m not sure why that struck me as so funny – perhaps I was discombobulated by getting up early – but I was interested to note that Farming Today was followed by the weather forecast. As I think I’ve mentioned before, in his book How to be an Alien, George Mikes makes much of the English weather and farmers:
English society is a class society, strictly organised almost on corporative lines. If you doubt this, listen to the weather forecasts. There is always a different weather forecast for farmers. You often hear statements like this on the radio:
“Tomorrow it will be cold, cloudy and foggy; long periods of rain will be interrupted by short periods of showers.”
“Weather forecast for farmers. It will be fair and warm, many hours of sunshine.”
You must not forget that farmers do grand work of national importance and deserve better weather.
I used to wonder if it was because the weather forecast for farmers was broadcast so early in the morning and the early risers were rewarded by being given the best weather.
Although it’s years since I read the book, there are certain passages that come to mind again and again. Chapter One begins with the sentence:
In England , everything is the other way round.
The footnote explains:
 When people say England, they sometimes mean Great Britain, sometimes the United Kingdom, sometimes the British Isles – but never England.
This seemed relevant when I was filling in a survey online last week and was asked about my ethnic background. The options were:I have never thought of myself as English, but for someone born in Essex into a mono-lingual English-speaking family, to say Welsh seemed to be pushing the truth a bit; I really wanted to choose White-British, but it wasn’t an option, so in the end I decided it was simpler to “prefer not to say”. Ethnicity seems to have become a very complex issue.
In reality I do think of myself as Welsh, but I am also proud of being an Essex girl; it was the latter side of me that was delighted to be given a gift basket that included this pot of honey:
The idea of Essex bees is intriguing: I imagine them in white stilettos dancing round their pollen sacs at the Palais on a Saturday night.
It’s not just my ethnic heritage that I’m confused about; I was equally bemused by the gender-identity question on a different survey:What exactly is meant by “identify with”?
The phrase “please skip if you prefer not to answer” again conjured a delightful image – and may be a good way to sort out the Real Men from the quiche-eaters.
There are other notes and photos I could continue with, but this has gone on long enough. So, I’ll just add one more anecdote to bring the post to a seasonal close.
I wanted to buy a white board, so phoned a local shop yesterday to find out whether they had any in stock. The lad who answered the phone very kindly went to look on the shelves; when he found there were only cork boards on display, he logged on to the stock-control system to see when they’d get some more in. It turned out that there were none on order. Reading from the screen he explained to me that the product was “seasonally exhausted”. Who isn’t?