Sometimes, I truly believe that the small things in life act as a metaphor for the bigger issues. In my case, for the past ten days or so, my fate seems to have been dictated by a Christmas pudding.
It all started when I declared, with no uncertainty, that we would once again be embracing ‘Stir-up Sunday’ in our house, the last Sunday before Advent when, traditionally, puddings (and wishes) are made. I say ‘embraced’, but, in truth, I was the only one doing the embracing. The rest of my lot gave it more of a shrug.
Stir-up Sunday happened to fall on the weekend away I had booked with a friend. Undeterred, I assured the household that the ingredients had been bought and on my return we would congregate in the kitchen and make the pudding.
Now, I have a really good pudding recipe, care of La Nigella, and it can’t be compromised. Needless to say, as I skimmed it on the journey home I realised that I had forgotten that the fruit needs to be soaked for at least 24 hours (preferably a week) in the sherry before the pudding is made. After muttering a few choice expletives, I decided to opt for the short soak and declared we would have Stir-up Monday instead. I then ruined the mood by singing in my best Susannah Hoff voice ‘It’s just another Stir-up Monday…’. Yep, that reaction your having – same for the kids. And the husband.
Of course, by Monday I was knackered and the kids didn’t get in from school ’til 6 and I had only got in from work myself at half 5 so, I decided it was probably better to give the fruit a decent soaking after all and leave it until the next Sunday.
Next Sunday came and passed. Having single-handedly erected the tree and decorated the house I was in no mood for pudding. Neither were the kids who had reached ‘that point’ (I was soon to follow) and were shouting and fighting and bickering on a loop.
So, last night (Wednesday) I decided the fruit was plump to the point of bursting and pudding must be made. I was on a bit of a high because that day I had finished writing the 121 school reports required of me, the last Parents’ evening of the season had been administered the night before and, save a 3 foot high stack of marking, the end of term had now loomed into view.
So, with kids in pyjamas and about to go off to Bedfordshre, I dragged them into the kitchen and made them stir and wish, ignoring the arguments about who was in whose way and whose turn was longer (the longer the turn, the longer they could stay up – which was more bad planning by me). My son pointed out that as I was the OLDEST I had to go last. I made a very altruistic wish, more of a hope really, and packed the kids off to bed.
The last thing to go in the pudding was the pudding charms. A few years ago I splashed out on some lovely silver Victorian pudding charms, each with a special meaning and each, in its own right, a particularly beautiful choking hazard. I’m buggered if I can find them. I have checked all the usual ‘safe-keeping’ places and they are nowhere to be found. The only possibility is that I left them at my sister’s last year but, seeing as I am in Kent and she is in Lincoln, I couldn’t pop ’round for a rummage. So, this year’s pudding is one that champions all that is health and safety and none of the fun.
By the time I had actually managed to get the string around the rim of the basin to tie the ‘lid’ on, it was about 8pm. Merrily, I popped it in the steamer and checked how long it had to steam for: five hours. FIVE HOURS! I had been up since 5.15am with my poorly daughter and now I had to stay up ’til 1am. I was not convinced the pudding would be ‘right’ if left in the fridge until the today (and anyway, I have a carol service to go to after school and would have even less time), so I left it steaming and whiled away the evening with Alan, Dara, Ant and Dec until it was midnight and I only had an hour to go. Finding some meaningless nonsense on tele to watch, I waited out the hour…only to wake to an acrid smell at 2.45am and my head in the over-hanging branches of our Christmas tree. My pudding had boiled dry, the house stank and weeks of pudding-chaos had been topped, like the star on the top of the tree, by my falling asleep during the final leg. I turned the gas off, swore and went to bed.
This morning, the smell was still there and I gingerly peeped at the pud. It looks…done. It is supposed to be steamed for five hours and then for a further three on Christmas Day. I am hoping that I can steam it for 1 hour and it will be OK. But, more to the point, I am concerned that it will taste of the smell of carbonised stainless steel. I might tweet Nigella and see if she will help me. Maybe she’ll take pity tell me what to do, but I fear ‘Bin it and start again’ could be her response.
Anyway, assuming you’re still reading and haven’t given up on my pudding rant, the point of the post was that all of this menial activity is really just a metaphor for my life at the moment. The complete lack of time I have and trying to juggle events, squeeze things in, do six things at once…all of them badly. Nothing going to plan, no matter how much effort or preparation is put in beforehand. Life lacking charm and, like my poor old saucepan, feeling boiled dry.
I am hoping the pudding can be salvaged and, with it, the hope that, by Christmas, everything will be just fine. But, I fear I might be saying, ‘Pudding, I am going to have to chew you up and spit you out.’ Please, Life. Don’t do the same to me.