Sunday, 20 December 2020

Have Yourself a Funny Little Christmas!

Well, I promised I would return to a perfume theme in this post, after my woolly digression in the last one. I will be honest and say I am not really in the mood for writing a pure perfume post right now, as I am feeling a bit 'overwhelmed' by the prevailing existential angst and global gloom, which is regularly given a brutal fillip by the abrupt twists and turns, volte-faces (is that a plural? ;) ), and generalised rug pulling of our country's Covid strategy. I know it is a fast moving situation requiring a 'dynamic response', but the constant raising and dashing of expectations throughout the year is proving hard to absorb psychologically. So I will return to those themes I had planned when I am feeling 'more the thing', as my friend Lizzie is wont to say. I am also taking a variety of new supplements, and the promising early results of those may also spawn a future post, albeit one under the wider heading of skincare / health...

That all said, I will mention a few scent-related aspects of this year's festive season: for example, I have quite randomly rediscovered Ava Luxe's Love's True Bluish Light, and am finding its milky-amber-vanilla vibe most soothing. I fancy Undina might like this one too, if she doesn't already know it, due to its crossover with Jo Malone's Sweet Milk. 

I have also dug out my little decant of SL Fille en Aiguilles, with the specific intention of spraying my wooden Christmas tree ornament with it. I ended up on the receiving end of some collateral spritzing(!), and actually enjoyed the scent on me more than I would have imagined. I had previously dismissed pine out of hand as a note solely reminiscent of janitorial products, which I realise is very 'short-nosed' of me.

I am a big fan of joss sticks and burn incense year round. It does feel especially fitting at Christmas. My absolute favourite is nag champa, and not any nag champa either - Goloka, with its distinctive yellow and orange box.  Great for anyone who needs to make up the value of an Amazon order to qualify for free delivery. Assuming you don't eschew Amazon for being an evil behemoth, which I totally respect, even as I remain stubbornly pragmatic.

For any UK-based readers, I don't know if your Christmas plans have changed in the light of the new Tier rules that nobbled London and some of the South East yesterday; the effect in my town was not as drastic as to ban all household mixing, but you can now only see up to two other households on Christmas Day itself, instead of spread over five days. I get why they are doing it, though it will make catching up with friends more logistically tricky over the holidays. Basically we are back to outdoor one-on-one meetings, typically based around a walk, not least to keep warm!

I may end up celebrating on my own, which I have never done before, except for the first Christmas in this house, when I had a migraine and spent the day in bed. Even so, I rallied by the evening and ventured out to a friend's, who rustled me up a plated supper in front of Call the Midwife. If that is the outcome, it will be novel and interesting at least, and there may yet be fellow waifs and strays who come forward to suggest forming a festive bubble. This year has been so comprehensively strange that it almost seems appropriate for the big day itself to be a bit of a departure from the norm! 

Then I have a truly minuscule turkey crown in the freezer, which I bought intending to use to practise on ahead of the date, as I haven't interacted with frozen fowl before, but never got round to it. I will either brave the unknown, hehe, or buy a tried and tested chicken at the last minute instead. 

Truffle will be here, obviously. She is still not bringing in any prey for the Derbyshire Uni survey, the second month's lot of stats for which I am due to upload shortly. Another big fat zero hunting tally is my prediction. Truffle is currently in the doghouse - or cathouse, should that be? - after savaging a wrist warmer that had taken me all day to make and sew up. I was on Facebook, busy defending myself against a sudden outburst of 'microwavable rice shaming', and she clearly targeted that item as 'the last thing I had shown a keen interest in that wasn't her', and set about chewing it with gusto. Unfortunately the glove is beyond repair, but I have just enough wool to start the pair all over again. Up until now, Truffle has only shown an interest in balls of wool - never the finished product that incorporates all those hours of labour! - so this is a worrying development. I mention the cat's presence, for in the light of this delinquent behaviour I feel she may have forfeited her right to the usual festive morsels. By the same token, I reserve the right to relent nearer the time. ;)

To match the turkey, here is a photo of my equally tiny Christmas tree. I put it up on 5th December, which is completely out of character, having been brought up to resist the urge to decorate the house until Christmas Eve (blame Nancy Mitford, hehe). However, something about the pandemic has prompted people to bring that ritual well forward - even into November - so 5th December turned out to be almost fashionably late in our street. I guess whatever else is going on in the world, pretty lights never lose their ability to excite and delight, and so it is with me.

I think that for many, the holiday period - truncated and weird as all get-out though it may be - will be a time of reflection and taking stock. I recently came across this photograph of a gig in Barcelona from a few years back - the first one I have ever watched entirely from behind(!). The contrast between this scene and the masked and socially distanced world we live in now couldn't be more stark. I hope the 'old normal' - or something loosely approximating to it - will return one day, but I am not 100% convinced.

As well as knitting - and soon to be re-knitting, hehe - I have been enjoying reading lately. My current book is Mrs Bridge by Evan S Connell, a superbly understated study of a 1950s housewife's life in America. If you like the little period touches in The Queen's Gambit, this might well appeal. There are some priceless lines, such as this comment about Mrs Bridge's husband Walter:

"For a while after their marriage she was in such demand that it was not unpleasant when he fell asleep."

After I have finished this I am spoilt for choice, with several tottering tsundokus in the living room to dive into. For I am as much of a compulsive book buyer as I am of wool - and used to be of perfume. However, I promised my English teacher (with whom I am still in touch!) that I would read The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, which I bought when it first came out. Just checked - the print is not too small, which often puts me off tackling books.

Then does anyone else do that thing where you buy yourself presents and put them under the tree unwrapped? I have got into the habit of doing this, and this year so far have bought myself a calendar, a diary - okay, they technically count as 'office essentials' - some socks, a little pottery bowl with a bottle of gin and a cat on it(!), and a bicycle pump.

So I think that is all for now - for those who are celebrating I would be interested to know whether you buy yourself presents on top of the ones you receive from family and friends, and also, crucially, how different your Christmas will be this year...


Unknown said...

Very enjoyable, Vanessa - and I liked my incognito cameo role. I hope that however you spend Christmas Day, you enjoy it.

Vanessa said...

Hello Unknown,

Keeping the incognito thing going with your Internet handle, I see...;) Hmm, you have to be either the friend who came to the rescue with the plated supper or my English teacher, and my money's on your being the latter. Have a very Happy Christmas yourself!

Tara said...

I highly approve of buying yourself presents at Christmas. I do that every year.

I just read that those meeting on Christmas day should avoid 'hugging, singing and board ganes'. So no festive scrabble for you if you do bubble up!

I have The Miniaturist on my Kindle so I'll join you in reading that when you get to it. We can do what book people call a 'buddy read'.

Very curious about your success with supplements considering I take a considerable amount myself. This includes biotin which I'm sure is boosting my hair growth. Look forward to the post.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Glad to hear you also buy yourself presents - I wondered if I was the only one, and whether it was an odd thing to do to put them under the tree.

That Christmas Day advice is amusing, and not unexpected. Perhaps we could still play Twister with our faces turned away, and the window open.

I am game for a 'buddy read', if not the name for it, haha. You are a much faster reader than me though, so you would have to take care not to tell me any spoilers. Will let you know when I get to it!

Yes, am intrigued as to where these supplements will lead: so far my osteopath, hairdresser, and one friend (out of the very few I have seen lately) have all spontaneously noticed differences to *three different things*. It is a bit of a scattergun approach that I am adopting, to be fair. And that is enough for now or I will be doing my own spoiler of that post, hehe - assuming the improvements continue in a perceptible way.

Not heard of biotin, but will google. Glad it is working for your hair.

Ines said...

I think it's unavoidable. I look for presents for my family and friends and of course, come across some that I'd like to gift myself with. :D They are already packed underneath my tree.
Which I did later than I wanted to as I moved this summer and my flat is still not where it's supposed to be. I honestly thought that the work needed to be done would take much less time than it did.
I sincerely hope we get back to the world that is seen on your concert photo. I just wonder how long it might take to be so carefree again.
I hope you enjoy your Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Our Christmas is going to be even more different than we expected - my aunt who has dementia unexpectedly got a place in the lovely care home we had chosen for her and she entered it just a few days ago. Although this inevitable move is sad, she is actually enjoying it there, which makes the tremendous relief we feel almost guilt-free. This is the best Christmas present for us, and while we are still responsible for her, life hopefully won't be as fraught as it has been over the last couple of years.

As for little Christmas presents, I do buy things I want and give them to my husband to give to me! It's safer that way. And he wraps them up.

Bad Truffle! Phoenix is constantly rearranging our tree and running off with garlands and baubles. Strangely the other two cats ignore it completely.

I am looking forward to your health bulletin, especially if you are taking supplements for hair loss? I notice with interest what Tara says about Biotin. I hope that the implication is that your bone pains are diminishing?

With all that life has been throwing at us lately, perfume isn't a major passion for me at the moment either - I think my pleasure has been tea and stinky cheese, and a sneaky gin or schnapps! We will be cooking our turkey crown so hope you do the same - I'm sure that Truffle will enjoy helping you eat it. I am going to put "Truffle" butter on mine - no relation to feline Truffle (or chocolate). Although I have to admit it's actually roast potatoes that I really look forward to.

Here's hoping that, after this weird Christmas, that 2021 will be a happier one for us all. Sending the very best of wishes to you and Truffle.


Undina said...

Truffle is so adorable, and clearly it was your fault for not paying attention to her and leaving those tasty warmers unattended... so you can’t really keep a grudge until Christmas, can you? :)

Do you have an extra spot in your improvised book club? I would love to join you and Tara.

I buy presents for everyone, though usually I do not call gifts for myself such - I just buy things while I’m at it :). But this year is slightly different: A. and I agreed not to do surprises (we just didn’t have time or energy before the year-end staycation to look for presents), but instead we bought some things for us - new memory foam pillows, a mask for light therapy and a cake server that matches the other items in the set we use when we have friends over... for those times when we’ll have friends over again. Nothing though ever goes under the tree: because Rusty :)

We’ll do Christmas with our friend A. and his extended family. We’ve been a bubble all these months, so there’s no reason to change it now.

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

That's exactly it - you set out looking for presents for other people and decide you want to keep things for yourself. I see you wrap yours though. ;)

Enjoy getting straight at your new flat and have a good Christmas!

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Lovely to hear from you! That is great news about your aunt. It is a good time to move into a care home as they have got so cute now with all the protocols and safety measures she will be as safe as can be. And visiting rights may start to ease more.

That is cunning getting your husband to be the official donor of presents to yourself. ;)

Interesting to hear about the different 'naughty interests' of your cats. Truffle doesn't seem bothered by the tree, but she adores wool (in every state, as I now know to my cost), and grape stalks, which I may have mentioned on here before. She eyes up bunches of grapes while I am eating them, spotting the emerging 'skeleton' left behind with a glint in her eye. Hunting wool and grape stalks are the only kinds she does these days.

And yes, roast potatoes are the best bit! Oh, and pigs in blankets...

Happy Christmas to you both!

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I am sure I will relent on the festive treats front when it gets to Christmas. Truffle has been a good companion this year after all.

Of course you can join our virtual book club. Looks like we are kicking off with The Miniaturist...?

Thanks for explaining your and your vSO's present-giving MO. The things you have bought for yourselves this year sound very useful. I hope the cake server gets a few outings soon.

Looks like you have got a good bubble going there, not least due to keeping the names the same, hehe.

Hamamelis said...

Thank you for the good laugh 'she may have forfeited her right to the usual festive morsels. By the same token, I reserve the right to relent nearer the time. ;)'!
Things look rather gloomy here too, although Christmas isn't nearly as big an occasion as it is in the UK (no presents, at least not in my family) there are heavy restrictions here too, just 2 visitors allowed. But buying Christmas presents for myself sounds like a marvellous idea. I am so sorry for all the new strain/Brexit chaos, I really hope it won't stress life for you even more...and those truckers (Dutch ones too) stuck somewhere...what a mess. Hoping for better times soon!

Vanessa said...

Hi Hamamelis,

Nice to hear from you, and thanks for explaining the Covid situation in The Netherlands. I have spent New Year there, but never Christmas. Actually, I don't know if you would have been reading the blog back then - you might find my outsider's perspective of your country's festivities interesting?!

Ah yes, Brexit is not going well - life seems surreally challenging left and right at the moment. I have watched documentaries about the heightened bureaucracy facing (amongst others) Dutch flower and onion growers, so we can but hope the systems will bed down eventually.

Hamamelis said...

Oh Vanessa that is a hilarious antropological essay! I hate fireworks with a vengeance, because animals. The amount of birds that fly over on New Year's Eve in great panic inspires bad thoughts in a bird lover like myself. They have tracked these poor birds flying off the coast far into the North Sea airspace on New Year's Eve. And then cats ofcourse, dogs... horses, and many humans too abhor this pyromania. One of the good things Covid has brought: fireworks are forbidden! One of the reasons is that the hospitals are overloaded as it is without youngsters with (often horrible) fireworks injuries needed IC care.
And then the miracle of Spakenburg! I never heard of La Ruelle. Will the smoked eel for perfume trade agreement survive Brexit? We hope!
I understood the UK is largely dependent on Dutch onions, and mince meat..!

Vanessa said...

Hi Hamamelis,

I am glad you enjoyed the Dutch post - everything would be so familiar to you I had a feeling you might! I can't remember which is your town, though I should know it.

I hadn't thought of birds and other animals being upset by the fireworks, but it makes perfect sense. Am pleased to learn that fireworks are forbidden over there during the pandemic. Would you believe I have carried out a research study for our Health & Safety Executive in the UK about injuries in the different EU countries caused by mishaps with fireworks, which we then tried to correlate with the relative laxness or tightness of each country's regulations around fireworks. The ultimate aim was to lobby Brussels to tighten up rules generally across the community. I certainly won't get such a job again now, haha, but it was really interesting and I do remember that some of the Chinese fireworks were especially dodgy. Oh dear, China again!

I gather the port blockage may be lifting soon, so let's hope all those lorry drivers get home in time for Christmas, such as it is.