Thursday, 16 December 2010

Christmas Miscellany - 16th Window

Musical Santas at Dobbie's the plant sellers.

We needed to find a present for gardener. Where better to look than in a large plant nursery-cum-garden tools-cum tat emporium. Gardener doesn't read my blog so he won't know that he is getting a pair of secateurs for Christmas. I almost bought him these Santas but they were part of the shop display only.

They played and sang non-stop Christmas carols. We didn't stay for long.

Don't you all hate supermarkets at this time of year? In spite of trying my hardest to avoid them the need for a visit could no longer be ignored. Cleaning materials, bog roll, every day groceries, potatoes, dog food and such boring stuff I buy there; the cold weather is forecast to return and my stores have to be replenished. So off we went to the supermarket.

Twenty minutes into the experience I was ready to commit murder. At this time of year they change their stock around; I normally try to get in and out as fast and efficiently as I can, but some very inconsiderate person had messed up my familiar aisles just to confuse me. Where there had been juice there were spirits, where there had been rubber gloves there were Christmas crackers. All I wanted were some food bags and clingfilm for leftovers.  And while I was stomping through the aisles, backwards and forwards, I was forced to listen to an endless loop of Christmas jingles, a tinny, badly arranged, flat, featureless cacophony of sound.

The more I resented it the more obtrusive it became. I went through those aisles like a thing possessed, hissing 'ssshhhut-up-ssshhhut-up-ssshhhut-up' with every step I took. I actually came across several people singing along to the atrocities on the sound system! Morons! I have no idea why they stared at me and gave me and my trolley a wide berth. 

I was still fizzing with nervous tension driving home.

How much more civilised it was to sit after dinner and write Christmas cards. A few chocolates, a glass of mulled wine and a CD by the The Sixteen playing quietly. Sublime. My rage melted like snow in the sun.

Today, on the 16th December, is traditionally the beginning of mince pie season, according to some ancient household books. Originally rectangular in shape and said to represent Christ's manger, mince pies were abominated as 'Popish and Superstitious' by Puritans, and described thus in 1656:

Idolatry in Crust! Babylon's whore
Defiled with superstition, like the Gentiles 
Of Old, that worshipped onions, roots and lentils.

Later however, the 'solid, substantial, Protestant mince pie' became the champion of the English Christmas against ' imported foreign kickshaws'.

Eat mince pies made by as many different cooks as possible: for every cook's pie, you will have a lucky month in the coming year.

Don't blame me, I'm only the messenger.


  1. Traditionally you should wish on the first bite of the first mince pie you eat of the year. Reading this reminds me that I haven't had one yet!

  2. What a cute little Santa band. And oh how i love a good minced pie!! Have a grand day!! Cathy

  3. friko - exellent depiction of the supermarket curse!!! as for mince pies - well i love them and will eat anyone's baking for free. steven

  4. Wow, this was full of interesting stuff! I kept pausing on your vocabulary...secateurs, bog roll, cling film and instead of hissing when you got home you were fizzing! I love the cultural differences in reading. I hate grocery shopping (love cooking) all the time and my store is also in the game of musical fruit and food and I cannot find anything anymore!

  5. Stay out of the supermarkets, Friko! I'm concerned about your welfare. Just eat more mince pies, drink more mulled wine, go for a walk with Benno. I know what you mean, of course, acts of violence are always at the top of my agenda in crowded supermarkets. :)

  6. Such a wonderful, descriptive piece. I can so relate to all the 'morons' at the supermarket singing along with those tinny commercialized renditions. And oh does the sitting at home after dinner, letting all the tension ease away. Not sure much about the luck of the mince meat pie, still not a real big fan.

  7. So I'm not the only one. The short days of mid-winter are not for some of the crazy things that we do. I'm glad I didn't meet you coming the other way coming down a supermarket aisle.
    The idea of mulled wine, mince pies and writing thoughtful greetings are much preferable.

  8. That was a funny post – I can well imagine you walking down the aisles and scaring everybody off. But then that picture of mince pie was so tempting. I hope I can find some bakery still selling mince pies in this area, but so far, no luck. I did find a “sweet potato pecan pie” here, can you find those in your village?

  9. I just googled secateurs and found them to be garden shears. I'm thinking a bog roll is what we call a fire starter.

  10. I may not read your blog, but I have a friend who does, and she's told me about the secateurs! I'm thrilled. But I do hope they're the expensive sort - with very sharp cutting edges, large comfortable finger holes etc. (Btw, pity you couldn't get the Santas. They would have have brightened up my greenhouse no end!) Yours etc. The Gardener

  11. I've never eaten mince pie. it looks like raisins and nuts, maybe some dates, yes? I would like that.

    And I avoid stores as much as possible because of the constant christmas carols.

  12. Just having a lovely catch-up on your posts......
    The one benefit of being laid up at this time of year is my inability to get out to do any shopping. It's been a blessing. The Great Dane does the groceries and otherwise, if it's not in the house it's not going to appear at this late date. It will be a relaxed Christmas!

  13. I didn't know you shopped in my local supermarket! There's nearly always someone stomping up and down , muttering darkly , and it's not always me .
    As for the Santas , I'd have bought them for Husband . I see they're still looking for a bass player .

  14. I love Christmas but - shopping? Bah Humbug!!!

  15. Stores are all rearranged around here, too. But I like your idea of mellowing out. I think I'll open a bottle of red wine, tonight. ;)

  16. I usually aim just to eat as many mince pies as possible, so now I shall definitely resolve to eat mince pies by as many cooks as possible! (What happens to neckst year's calendar if I eat them by more than 12 cooks?!)

  17. The value of shopping online = no canned musak.

  18. "Babylon's Whore" - mincepies, have to love it.

    I'll have a dozen of those Babylon Whores,please and a side of Curmudgeons on toast.

    Oh I can so relate to the store and that F***ing music everywhere including my favourite restaurant. Why the Chinese water torture, I said to them, stop punishing me I'm innocent! so they turned it way down.


  19. Your supermarket sounds just like ours be avoided as much as possible!

  20. Oh Friko, I am so glad that some tech wizzards in a land far away have been able to restore my computer's ability to visit other folks far away from New York.

    I have so loved each and every one of your Advent posts, and have been having a catch up (post crash) of some truly beautiful additions.

    Yes...gardener is going to love those sharp new cutters, but please (if he likes them as much as I do) add a mince pie to his gifts. (Yes, Santa knows that he has not always been good, but mostly, truly he's a treasure.)

    I love the photo of that desk top (non-computer version) and hope to be able to connect to your wondrous site for many days to come.


  21. Yes, I can sympathize --a day's shopping in many stores large and small has left me pretty much 'wore out' as my neighbors say.

  22. Ah, do I spy your inner curmudgeon coming out? Ah, yes, the tinny terrible Christmas tunes. Makes one long for a bit of John Cage's 4'33", no?

  23. Hahaha at Robert.

    And at you in the grocery store!

    I LOVE mince pie. My father-in-law and I are the only ones in the family though, so making a whole one isn't worth it, and the canned mince is expensive. So we usually buy two pieces from a very good pie shop.

  24. I can't even say if our supermarket was playing music yesterday. I was humming a not-Christmas tune and dodging people and carts.
    I love mince pies, but the rest of my family does not.


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