Wednesday, 22 December 2010

In which I refuse to talk about Vince Cable

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I'm not going to do it. No, no, no. I said I was on holiday. I said no politics. It is all going to be season of goodwill and festive cheer. For the next few days, this blog is going to be the internet equivalent of mulled wine and mince pies. Or Christmas pudding, possibly, filled with plums and shiny sixpences.

So I am not going to say a word about old uncle Vince referring to himself as the nuclear option, or his declaration of war on Mr Rupert Murdoch, or the rumblings of the old right-wing backwoodsmen, or what Jeremy Hunt will do now he is in charge of the Sky deal. (I have a horrid fear that he has a secret war himself, on my beloved BBC, but I hope I am wrong about that.) No, not one word. Obviously, for political obsessives like me it is so interesting that it is like an early Christmas present, but for normal people it probably boils down to: older gentlemen says mildly disobliging things about his working arrangements to two people he has never met before. If I were going to say something about it, I might observe that The Telegraph is now going to be insufferable: secret undercover operatives PENETRATE the heart of the Coalition. But since I am not going to talk about it, I won't.

What I would like to talk about is silver eucalyptus. I am not a minimalist. I am most certainly of the more is more camp, although occasionally I rue the day. So I decided that one enchanting vase of eucalyptus was not nearly enough, and bent the Heavenly Stepfather to my will for another trip to the flower shop. (My car is immovable, under a foot of snow.) There was no more of the deep green stuff, but instead they had amazing silver foliage. At first, I thought it was artificial, sprayed by elves. But in fact it is an amazing natural silver. I cannot tell you how Christmassy it is. It is a little more expensive than the bog standard version, but for ten of my Scottish pounds I got a huge armful, and bore it away feeling like Nicole Diver after her glorious shopping expedition in Tender is the Night.

We had a lovely time in the village. We found the landlord, stocking up on whisky; I made friends with a very nice black labrador (cannot pass a sleek black dog without stopping); everyone was smiling and wishing each other happy Christmas. There is something very charming about a small village at this time of year.

I bought cocktail sausages and smoked salmon and mince pies, since I am giving a party tomorrow. Also: a nice Chilean cabernet and spices for mulled wine. You can see that I am letting no Christmas cliché go uncovered. I bought Madeira for the Christmas day gravy, and some deep red tulips, which I am having this year instead of roses.

I finished the chicken soup for my mother, and made some potato cakes, which I have not done for years, and which always remind me of my childhood. The sun came out and the thermometer rocketed up to minus eight, which feels quite balmy after yesterday's minus eleven. The relatives are miraculously starting to arrive, mostly by sleeper from Euston, since the A90 is fraught with snow and the airports are impossible.

I am still in a mild state of disorganisation, which is traditional at this stage, but for some reason I seem not to mind. That line from the jolly old yuletide song keeps repeating in my head: it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Today's pictures are the usual snow/dog/hill melange, plus added tulips.

The hill, this morning, lost in the bright sky:

22nd Dec 1

A little earlier, the sky had been quite apocalyptic:

22nd Dec 2.ORF

Then it turned quite pale and clear:

22nd Dec 3

22nd Dec 4.ORF

The duchess went out for an inspection:

22nd Dec 5

22nd Dec 6.ORF

There was some posing:

22nd Dec 7.ORF

22nd Dec 17

There now follow far too many pictures of the silver eucalyptus, but it was so glorious that I could not just take one shot and be done with it:

22nd Dec 9

22nd Dec 10

22nd Dec 12

22nd Dec 11

The tulips I bought a few days ago, now getting into their blowsy stage, like an old Edwardian mistress, slightly past her prime but still wonderfully alluring:

22nd Dec 13

22nd Dec 14.ORF

Dog and tulips:

22nd Dec 16.ORF

(There is something about that picture that makes a klaxon go off in my head at full blast: GORGEOUSNESS ALERT, SCRAMBLE, SCRAMBLE.)

I wanted to show you the pretty new tulips, but for some reason, I could not get them in focus, even though the house was filled with sunshine. My new camera is still slightly mysterious to me, and I am a bit of a klutz with it sometimes. Then I decided that in fact an imperfect, out of focus picture would serve as a perfect metaphor for this time of year. It is the moment when the perfection genies descend, not in single spies but in battalions. They especially like to torment the Women. Oh, they say, with their nasty insinuating voices: house must be perfect, tree must perfect, food must be perfect, presents must be perfect, hostessly skills must be perfect, clothes must be perfect, hair must be perfect. At which point, if they are anything like me, the ladies run screaming from the room.

Here is the point: absolutely none of it has to be perfect. It can be like my tulips: a bit blurry round the edges, but still lovely for all that -

22nd Dec 18.ORF


PS. If you would like to see something interesting about the whole Vince Cable affair, the always brilliant Michael White has easily the most thoughtful and fine take on the whole thing here.


  1. I refuse even to think about him in his slightly sinister black hat. What I am thinking about is mulled wine and the hsband breaking up for Christmas and buffalo burgers for dinner. Far more cheering. Now all we need is another good dollop of snow.

  2. I head home to the North East of Scotland tomorrow after work (only from Glasgow, so no sleeper train required). I shall be looking for some silver eucalyptus though... and perhaps some tulips and a black labrador too. My mums face when I arrive Merry Christmas Mam - blame that blog I read for your presents! Lovely read as always, and enough about politics for me to go and read up on it via your posted link. Merry Christmas when it comes!

  3. I will make no comment on Vince, fascinating though the story is. All the presents that can be wrapped are wrapped, I have cinammony scented candles burning and the weather is looking promising for the first stage of my travels tomorrow.
    You are right, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. 'There's a tree in the Grand Hotel, and one in the park as well, the sturdy kind that doesn't mind the snow'.
    The silver eucalyptus is gorgeous, and looks so well with the scarlet berries.

  4. What is it with old men and young (ish) women??? Such a cliche. Not like your tulips though which are my favourite flower so unexpected at Christmas!

  5. I seem to have unplugged myself from the radio and tv over the past few days and it's rather liberating not to listen to the ins and outs of every tiny essentially unnewsworthy thing.

    I much prefer to look at your glorious photos. The eucalyptus is simply stunning but I have to say that the dog/tulip photo is my favourite. Such colour and joy.

  6. yeah let's not mention it- as people pointed on twitter he had a very good hat and that is all I'm saying- and if they go near the BBC, especially radio 4- I will be chaining myself to broadcasting house. I'm already quite annoyed about the world service money being taken out of their budget now instead of out of the foreign offices- because it's one of the best advertisements for this country and costs so little in terms of what it does- but tra la la it's Christmas.

    How wonderful to arrive for Christmas by sleeper train- more journeys should be by sleeper- your Christmas sounds delightful- I really hope all have a wonderful time


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