Camber Sands with Mother

Mum said she wanted a week by the sea, and I can write anywhere, so I told her that if she didn’t mind being ignored until midday each day, I would take her to Camber Sands. Am hoping we don’t murder each other.

Other people’s reactions to the news were telling. My children all declined to join us, citing work/parties/washing their hair as plausible excuses. My siblings all advised I take lots of alcohol. My friends all said, “A whole week? Gosh!” I expect they were jealous.

We set off on Saturday. The dog filled the whole boot, so I told Mum we could only take what would fit behind her seat. I packed the dog, my stuff (one tiny bag) and the food (quite a lot of bags) and went to collect Mum. Her stuff was already packed, and in a long line down the front path and round the corner and half way to the next town. But we managed to fit it all in. And I quite like eating bruised apples and crushed crisps, so it’s fine.

Arrived at the cottage in one piece, despite my dodgy driving and fairly useless brain and completely useless SatNav. We have rented a two-bedroomed house from ‘Beside the Sea’ cottages. It’s on a little estate of pastel coloured houses, and is 3 minutes walk from the beach. The house is pretty small (Mum suggested we could empty a cupboard for big smelly dog to live in) but it’s very pretty. It also – most importantly – has a shower with decent water pressure, an outside hose (for rinsing big smelly dog) and two washrooms. There are also a few luxuries, like a Nespresso machine (am on my 4th coffee this morning and the world is buzzing) and Netflix. The owners have included helpful things like capsules for the dishwasher and hand soap for all the sinks, and we arrived to cake and biscuits and a bottle of wine. All very nice.

After a quick cup of tea, we walked to the beach. I don’t know if you know Camber Sands, but in the summer months, the only part of the beach where dogs are allowed is accessed via sand dunes. Dragged Mum over one the height of Snowdon but we made it to the beach. Tried to take selfies – realised neither of us were very good at this, and we now have several photos of our feet, and the sky, and the dunes. Both dog and mother went completely nuts and insisted on paddling. Mother told me she thought I was completely ridiculous to be wearing wellies on the beach in June. But I have lived with Husband for too long. And I hate sandy feet.

Sunday: I took the dog for an early run. The tide in Camber goes out for miles and miles, so we had a good walk. The only other people out there were fishermen digging for lugworms. I worried a little that the tide might come in and we’d get cut-off, but there were no warning signs (only about riptides for swimmers) so we walked 27 miles out to the sea and back. Kia chased seagulls and brought me dead crabs and stones to throw. (I didn’t throw the dead crabs, in case you’re wondering.)

Met Mum and we walked to the little wood and brick church on the main road, next to Pontins. People seemed friendly, and there was coffee and cake afterwards, which Mum stayed for as she likes chatting to strangers, and I didn’t, as I don’t.

We had lunch at The King’s Head in Playden. I’ve been there before, and it never disappoints. It’s pretty and cosy and the food is lovely. Spent the rest of the day walking and reading and watching Netflix.

This morning I walked along a footpath towards Rye (I couldn’t face even more sand and wet dog, I figured one trip to the beach a day would be fine.) The path went past fields of chubby lambs and great pools of deep water with fishermen next to them, and was lined with poppies. Camber seems to have lots of poppies in June. Came back to write this, and will now do some work. So far the week is going well, and we are both still alive. I’ll give you an update next week.

Thank you for reading. Have a good week.

Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson is an author of several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in bookshops and on Amazon.
Thank you for reading.
anneethompson.com

The latest, and best book (in my opinion). An exciting novel written in the first person, which shows how a psychopath views the world. The story encompasses the world of women trafficked in India, and shows how someone very bad, can be used to achieve something amazing.

A gritty thriller, which shows what it means to be a psychopath, and how it would feel if someone in your family did something awful. (Because every psychopath has a mother.)

This tells all the things I wish I had known when first diagnosed. A helpful book for anyone with a potentially terminal illness. It shows how to find a surgeon, how to cope with other people’s fears, how to not be defined by an illness. It also has a few funny anecdotes – because even when you’re ill, it’s good to laugh.
Available from Amazon (you can get it free if you have a Kindle).

A hilarious romance for when you want to relax.

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson.
An easy read, feel good novel, set in an infant school. An ideal gift, this is a book to make you smile.

An exciting novel, set in the near future. One family shows how they cope with driverless cars, new laws, and schools run by computers.

Feeling Frazzled

Feeling rather frazzled as I write this. There are several reasons, but the main one is a mouse, in the house, which is never a welcome adventure. Now, I am quite good with animals in general, and I think that other than spiders, I could sensibly handle any animal, big or small, that I needed to – if it was contained. But there is something about rodents, especially mice and rats, which, when I encounter them running around freely, makes me scream like a girl. Not really sure why.

We still have the painter/decorator in the house (possibly another reason for feeling frazzled) and he had just started to prepare the recently emptied lounge, when he mentioned that a mouse had run the length of the hall and disappeared under the study door. Super news, just what I was hoping to hear.

Old incontinent cat.

I collected old incontinent cat from her new home in the garage (she can’t live in the utility room while the painter is here) and dumped her in the study. Felt she might need back-up, so went into the garden and whistled for the outside cats. They are very good at coming when I whistle. Unfortunately, so is the dog and all the chickens (note to self:learn how to do two different whistles). Separated the cats from the general group of random animals, and took them into the study.

By this time, old incontinent cat had managed to catch the mouse, whilst also leaping over all the stuff recently removed from other rooms ready for the painter, and managing to break an assortment of complicated lego models. (Do not ask me why, when we have no children in the house, it is necessary to keep aforementioned lego models, but apparently it is.) Old incontinent stupid cat had then put down mouse to play, and mouse had run into fireplace.

We could see it, sitting there, completely still. The cats, however, seemed completely blind to all things rodent, and were busy exploring the shelves and desk.

Tried waving various cats in general direction of mouse. Mouse remained still, cats disliked being waved and struggled to be free.

Decided we needed to catch mouse ourselves. Managed to trap mouse in a plastic cup, and slide coal shovel underneath to contain it. Not sure what to do next.

Mouse sat there, looking quite cute, with big round ears and beady eyes. I think it was a baby one. Did not feel I could kill it, nor did I trust the cats to do the job for me if I released it. Nor did I want it to breed a whole family of new mice in my house.

Sent Husband down the lane, with mouse in plastic cup with shovel underneath to contain it. He complained a bit, but I coped. Opened window so incompetent cats could join chickens and dog in garden.

Now, I do know, that the mouse will probably walk back to my house. Though it was injured, so it might not make it. Plus, I am assuming that should it return, it will be slightly more careful to not be seen again. I also know that a quick killing would’ve been the most sensible course of action. But sometimes, there are some things, which I simply cannot manage to do.

Hope you have a rodent free week. Thank you for reading.

Take care,
Love,
Anne x

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Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. They are available from book shops and Amazon. She writes a weekly blog at: anneethompson.com

The latest, and best book (in my opinion). An exciting novel written in the first person, which shows how a psychopath views the world. The story encompasses the world of women trafficked in India, and shows how someone very bad, can be used to achieve something amazing.

A hilarious romance for when you want to relax.

An exciting novel, set in the near future. One family shows how they cope with driverless cars, new laws, and schools run by computers.

A gritty thriller, which shows what it means to be a psychopath, and how it would feel if someone in your family did something awful. (Because every psychopath has a mother.)

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson.
An easy read, feel good novel, set in an infant school. An ideal gift, this is a book to make you smile.

Lexus LC 500

We went to look at sports cars. You can do this sort of thing when you get to a certain age and are bored. When you’re younger, the sales person asks lots of awkward questions about why you want to change your car, and what your job is, so they can check you aren’t just messing about. But at our age, they simply ask what you currently drive (to check, I assume, a certain income level) and then they are happy to let you play, accepting that one of you must be having a mid-life crisis.

We had been out for brunch at Marcos in Sevenoaks (best place locally for brunch) and drove down to the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells, where there is a whole road of car dealerships, so you can walk along comparing cars. We started in the Lexus garage, looking at the LC 500.

It’s a very pretty car. It has nice rounded corners, and lights which are shaped like slitty eyes, assessing the road. It’s very low profile, and hugs the ground (so would probably make it to the end of our driveway before it was stuck in a pothole, but we’ll brush over that detail). It’s a hybrid, which Husband likes.

Inside, the seats were leather, with suede trim. They were very comfy to sit in, though a long way down, so I might need old-person grab handles in a few years to get out of it (if I ever gave my mother a lift, she would need to be hauled out of the seat when we parked). Very pretty, but I wasn’t sure it would be very practical with a dog. In fact, I was a bit unsure about the dog altogether. I checked the boot.

Checking the boot took longer than expected, as we couldn’t work out how to open it. There was no handle or obvious catch, so Husband checked inside the car. No clever levers or buttons there either. Eventually, I found a tiny round button next to the left rear light, which opened the boot. The cover slid elegantly back – and we both laughed! The boot was tiny. Really tiny. There was no way we could squash a German shepherd dog into it, or even a suitcase actually. Husband assured me this wouldn’t be a problem, as when we go away for the weekend, we could pack our clothes straight into the boot. I had visions of sneaking through hotel reception with pockets stuffed with socks and underwear.
 The boot did, to be fair, comfortably fit my handbag.

We were now on a mission – where could the dog travel? There was no room in the passenger footwell, as the dashboard curved over it. Perhaps the back seat would be the best place (if one didn’t think about muddy damp dogs ruining suede). We moved the front passenger seat forwards, with the rather swish mechanism that raised the seat and then slid it forwards while we watched. We stared at the back seat. It didn’t have much (any) in the way of leg room, but dogs don’t exactly put their feet on the floor when they travel, so that wasn’t a problem. However, the height from seat to aerodynamically designed roof seemed quite small. I slid into the back seat (not as smoothly as the mechanics had slid the front seat forwards) and tried to sit upright. I couldn’t, not without bumping my head on the ceiling. An adult would have to travel on the back seat with their neck bent. This is the sort of thing my children make an unreasonable fuss about, so we wouldn’t be giving them a lift anywhere. I wasn’t quite sure of dog’s height when sitting, but I had images of lolling tongue very near the back of my head while we drove.

We gave up on the LC 500 as a viable car, unless we left the dog at home. If you have lots of money to spare and either very small children or a very small dog who never gets dirty, this is the car for you.

We had a quick look at the Lexus RC, which is smaller and cheaper, and has a bigger boot. Then we wandered down the road. We looked at the Nissan sports car, but couldn’t sit in it as the showroom model had been bought. It wasn’t as pretty as the Lexus LC, cost about the same, and had no more boot room. We popped in to Toyota and Mazda too. But to be honest, I’d lost enthusiasm by this point, and all the cars were beginning to merge into one, so we went home.

Thank you for reading. Have a good week.

Take care,
Love,
Anne x

xxxx
Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book.
You can follow her blog at:
anneethompson.com

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Being Shameless (further confessions of an author)

As it’s a new year, I thought I’d give you an update on the whole ‘being an author’ game/business/nightmare (delete as applicable). Actually, to be honest, the last few months have at times felt like a nightmare – but I’ll come to that in a minute.

First, I’ll tell you about Christmas. For a self-published author, Christmas is busy. There seem to be sales everywhere, and if you’ve been organised a few months ahead of time, booking a table is relatively easy. Prices for a table tend to vary, so it’s worth researching which fairs are likely to give enough sales to recoup your costs. But selling at fairs is okay, all you need is a good patter, and people will buy a signed book for their son, aunty or bookclub friend. Actually fitting in time to properly celebrate Christmas with your family is more difficult. I did rather struggle through Christmas this year in a state of disorganised exhaustion – so perhaps I need to have a rethink for next year.

Regarding Christmas, I must confess, I was shameless, and did a terrible thing. You see, when you’re an author, it is very difficult to advertise your products. They are books. Unless you talk to people, they don’t really sell themselves. So, how to raise awareness? How to best remind people that my books exist, and they said that they intend to buy another one, but they haven’t yet got round to it? How to avoid being that boring person at dinner parties who always talks about her books? Marketing. The big companies do it, so why not self-published authors who are struggling to be seen? You often see massive posters at stations and bus stops, advertising the next blockbuster by Lee Child or Stephen King – why not by Anne E. Thompson?

 Now, I wasn’t sure if Husband would be happy to finance a thousand-pound advertising spree, but I thought it unlikely, so I didn’t ask him. Instead, I looked for something cheaper than a couple of posters at Victoria Station. My solution was photo-gifts. You know the ones? Those mugs, and coasters where you can have a picture of your puppy on the front. Well, why not books? I have photos of each cover, why not produce some merchandise? So I did. I went online, found some that weren’t too expensive, and had some things made with the cover photos of my books on the front. They looked okay. But then I needed to distribute them, so they were seen in public – which is where the shameless bit comes in. I decided that my family would all like to walk around, advertising my books on a bag, so they all received one for Christmas. (Okay, so actually I knew they’d be slightly horrified, but I did it anyway.) They were polite.

 I rather like the mugs, which are a decent size and a nice shape. So I had a few made. I’ll see if I can sell any when I’m next selling books, which won’t make me any money, because they’re quite expensive for me to buy, but they will help to advertise my books. I have this image, of someone drinking coffee, and being asked, “What is that picture on your mug?” “Ah,” they will reply, “that is the cover of a book I read recently. It was really good, you should buy a copy.” I tried this out on the man who came to service the boiler, and gave him his coffee in a Joanna mug. He didn’t comment.

The nightmare bit of my job is publishing Clara. As it’s my sixth book, I thought I had the publishing bit sorted. The book was finished in the summer. But everything since has been hard work. My editor suggested I rewrote lots of it, which took me months. Then the cover photo was later arriving than I’d hoped, which meant the typesetter didn’t get everything before Christmas. Then there was a strange glitch on the computers, which changed some, but not all, of the curly quotation marks to ‘smart quotes’, which look odd in a book, so I had to read through and find them all. Which took hours and hours. Plus some words were hyphenated, which always irritates me when I’m reading books, so they had to be found and corrected, because for some reason the auto-correct function only worked on some chapters. I felt like everything was against this book being published. As I write, we are negotiating with the printer, and hopefully, Clara will go to them this week. I hope so. I am worn out with things going wrong, especially as I find the IT side of publishing to be beyond my ability level.

I need to decide soon if I am going to have another book launch. They are a bit scary, but they do make it easy for friends to buy the book. If I do, I need to decide when. I want to avoid holiday seasons, but have it in time for people to buy the book for the summer (when most people read at least one book). I will let you know.

I also need to do something about Amazon. They have changed their listing policy, so cheaper books always appear first. Which means people selling secondhand copies of my books show ahead of me, and those are the copies people are buying. So I don’t receive any money. I am thinking that I might make Kindle paperback copies of all my books, and only sell my self-published ones directly. The Kindle paperbacks are less nice, they’re heavier and not of the same quality as my self-published books. But they are okay, and customers can avoid paying postage, and I don’t have to physically send them out, AND they would be listed ahead of all the other copies (because most of the money goes to Amazon, so they want to sell them). I’ll try to do it in February, at the moment I’m still trying to catch up with life.

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love,
Anne x

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You can follow my blog at : anneethompson.com

 Anne E. Thompson is the author of five novels and one non-fiction book. Her latest novel, CLARA – A Good Psychopath? is due to be released soon. You can find her books in bookshops or Amazon.

Which book will you read next?

Happy New Year! (Survived 2017 okay?)

Well, I did it, I made it to the end of the year. Christmas was lovely, but busy, then straight into visiting family, family parties, and preparing for New Year Eve’s party. I can now collapse in a heap somewhere.

The family parties especially are good to survive. They are fun, but somewhat different to the parties we had when I was little. In those days, we all went to my granny’s house, where she had a huge room that stretched across the shop below, and we played games. The games were things like musical statues, and postman’s knock – where no one ever wanted to have to kiss Uncle George because he didn’t have many teeth. He’s dead now. Today, it would probably be classed as child abuse.

These days, I go to my in-laws houses for family games. These range from the impossible (Eg, trying to match words my mother might think of – I opted out this year and let my brother partner her) to the not so impossible (trying to stay awake during ‘Mafia’). My father-in-law brought a game this year: we had to order a list of animals according to the neurones found in their cerebral cortex. Which is a test for intelligence (the number of neurones, not the game. Though actually, now I come to think of it…) Like I said, I survived, and it was fun.

Then we began to prepare for our own party. The low point every year is lunch time on the day of the party, when the family wants food, but I am trying to clear up the kitchen and I don’t want to start cooking. Then there are always left-overs, which do not fit into the fridge, but I don’t like to waste them. Actually, the fridge is a major tension point, as I try to coat strawberries in chocolate and prepare vegetables for dips, and there is nowhere, absolutely nowhere, to put them. Why does no one ever eat the last piece of quiche/pudding/pie? And I can’t even put them in plastic bags anymore because Son who works for a conservation charity tells me it’s unethical. The dog walks around shedding hairs on my freshly vacuumed floors, and someone used the last bit of loo roll and flung the cardboard bit on the floor.

The party this year had an “Around the World’ theme. I went to church Sunday morning, mainly to avoid the annual tense discussion, when I try to keep my house undisturbed and Husband is in major ‘change everything for a party’ mode. I returned to a lot of flags, and tried to avoid going into rooms where I knew my furniture would be moved around.

Son 1 asked what he could wear, as he planned to come as ‘the international space station’. (If you have a young child who tends to announce on the way to school that today is Book Day, and everyone is dressing up, and if your friends tell you, “Don’t worry, they grow out of that,” – Don’t believe them. They don’t.)

By the time guests arrived, all was lovely, and I had a marvellous time.

Anyhow, I hope you too made it to this side of the new year. Have a rest now as you slip back into the easy routine of work and weekends. Have a great week.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

 

Thank you for reading.

Why not start the new year by signing up to follow my blog?

I usually write a post every week.

anneethompson.com

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How was your Christmas?

Hello, and how was your Christmas? Or, more to the point, how are you? Full of food and love and happy thoughts I hope.

I find the work for Christmas begins several days before, when I start making lists. Then I have to rewrite the lists, because I’ve lost the originals. This year I decided to also make a time-plan, like we used to make in Domestic Science lessons at school: 11:40 boil potatoes and parsnips, 11:55 potatoes into oven, 12:00 parsnips into oven…you get the idea. I hoped it might solve the “finding the chestnuts for the sprouts in the fridge, when I put the remains of the turkey in there” problem, which tends to happen every year. It didn’t work of course, but at least I had evidence that I had tried.

Another pre-Christmas job is laundry – washing everything that’s in the dirty washing basket. This was partly because I didn’t want to have to do washing during the Christmas period, and partly because I knew Son 2 would arrive with a suitcase of dirty washing, and I prefer not to have to queue for the washing machine. Husband then made helpful comments about, “Gosh, we must’ve been burgled, and they stole all that stuff you’ve been storing in the washing basket for months.” But I ignored him.

Actually, understanding Husband is sometimes difficult. He often embarks on a major DIY project just as my workload feels over-whelming. Like the year he decided it would be helpful to re-floor the kitchen on Christmas Eve. Yep, Christmas Eve. This year he mended the extractor fan in the bathroom. At least, that’s what he told me he was doing, it looked awfully like he was playing Candy-Crush whilst sitting on the sofa, but who am I to know?

To be fair, Husband mainly helps to stop me spiralling into despair. When I woke him at 3:30am on the morning of the 23rd, to tell him in panic I was completely out of control, the time had slipped away from me and it was already Christmas and I wasn’t ready, and I still haven’t managed to proofread Clara, he was very calm. He just sort of absorbs all my worries and tells me it will be fine. Which it was. Perhaps that’s why I married him.

There were a few low points. I had decided this year to avoid the ‘pull the crackers and then leave all the stuff on the table’ activity which happens every year. I decided to buy those make your own crackers and buy a gift people would actually want, which in my family is alcohol. The trouble was, the crackers did not arrive in pieces, as I had expected, they were already formed but with one end open. So inserting miniature bottles of drink was a struggle, and adding the hat and joke was impossible. I basically had to screw them up and stuff them inside. Which did, I admit, look less than professional when they were opened, but everyone merrily wore scrumpled hats. I guess the alcohol helped.

Another unexpected moment was when the food order arrived on 23rd. Who knew you could buy such tiny packets of stuffing?

The absolute low point however, was our family trip to the cinema to see Pitch Perfect 3. Husband’s choice. I knew it would be bad, but I hadn’t realised quite how bad. Words cannot adequately express my feelings towards such drivel. But everything else about our Christmas was brilliant. Next is New Year’s Eve party – not so much potential for disaster there. Is there?

Take care,

Love, Anne x

xxx
anneethompson.com

 

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How to NOT do Christmas

(Reposted because it’s that time of year again.)

How to NOT do Christmas

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by Anne E Thompson

Okay, so it’s that time of year again, when I look around and everyone seems terribly competent, with beautiful houses and cards sent on time. Or are you, like me, still struggling to clear up stray socks and find the floor under dog hairs? Here are some helpful hints for those of you who need to decorate the house, send cards to the correct people, produce a mound of wrapped gifts and cook that all important dinner; whilst also keeping the house clean, the animals alive, and do all the other jobs which fill your life and don’t disappear at Christmas. Hope it’s helpful.

The Tree

Everyone loves a Christmas tree. Here are some things to beware of:
If you take a man with you to buy a real tree, he will lose all sense of proportion. This is true. Crude jokes aside, it seems to be some strange male trait that they always want to buy a tree that is much too big for the space in your home. They always forget the bucket and top decoration adds extra height. And they always forget that you might want to live in the room where they plan to put it – and if it’s too wide everyone will have to scrabble through the branches to communicate. So my advice: do not involve a male of any age in choosing the tree.

You cannot however, avoid them being present for the annual family discussion on where the tree should go. Now, we have lived in our present house for many years and every Christmas we discuss (heatedly) where the tree should be placed. Every year it always goes in exactly the same place.

If you buy a tree in late December, your family will constantly tell you everyone else has theirs already. If you buy a tree in early December, it will probably be bald by New Year.

If you decide to ‘plant’ your tree in soil, over time, as it is watered, the soil becomes unstable and the tree will gradually fall over. If you follow the shop’s instructions and “treat your tree like the living plant that it is” and stand it in water, then after a while, the warmth of your house will have turned the water stagnant and everyone will be asking you what the funny smell is. If, on realising this, you then add a drop of bleach to the water, the tree first gets very pale looking and then dies very quickly. A dead tree will droop and all the ornaments slide off the branches. Your lounge also smells like a public lavatory.

If you ever want a tasteful tree, you must NEVER allow the children to put on their home made ornaments. Every year I produce those faded photos in plastic frames, the robin that sheds paint. I even have the clay angels that my sister made one year, which look like they slept in a puddle after an especially hard night out. It is true, they bring back lots of special memories, but I can now never not put them on the tree, so my tree, whilst full of precious memories, is also incredibly tacky.

If you do not water your tree, do NOT leave the lights on it and go out for the evening or it might burn down your house. (This did not happen to us, but it did happen to a neighbour in the US. A dried pine is incredibly flammable.)

If you have an artificial tree, you can spend hours sorting out branches and colour codes. My advice is: tell someone else that they are in charge of putting up the tree because it is too hard for you (this works well if you have males in the family, who will actually believe that you are incapable of matching colours.) They will also be keen to supervise the taking down of the tree because they will know how impossible it is to put up if not stored carefully.

Decorations

Do NOT believe that everyone who helps decorate the house will also help tidy up after Christmas. Every year I say, “Only put out the ornaments that you will put away afterwards”. I may as well not bother. I know this is true because one year I was ill, and we had a Nativity scene on one window sill all year. I find family members are very keen to decorate all sorts of random places, and not at all keen to tidy them afterwards.

Gifts

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Do NOT buy gifts too early and if you do, do not forget where you have hidden them. It is annoying to find winter nightclothes for your daughter in June.

If posting gifts, do not forget to name each gift so the recipient knows who they are for (you would be surprised at what has happened in our family).

Do NOT assume you will know when your child stops believing in Father Christmas (sorry if this is a spoiler). When I asked one of my sons on his eighteenth birthday (okay, so he wasn’t quite that old) if he really still believed in Santa, he informed me that he had not believed for years but hadn’t liked to disappoint me by letting me know. This was a huge relief for the whole family, as we could now stop worrying he was completely thick, and it also meant that I could give the children their ‘stocking gifts’ the evening before Christmas. Which meant that we all slept much better Christmas Eve.

Do NOT forget to check that either your husband has bought his mother a gift, or you have bought one for her yourself. Really, I cannot stress enough how important this one is……

Food

Unless you are a very organised person, do NOT buy a large frozen turkey. They take days to defrost – and where will you put it during that time? If you leave it in the utility room, the cat eats it. If you put it in the garage, the mice eat it. If you leave it in the oven to defrost, you are sure to forget and turn on the oven to preheat – melting plastic over poultry is not a good smell, trust me. If you place it in a bucket of brine, as was suggested one year, what are you going to do with the salmonella-infected brine afterwards, and how will you stop the dog licking it? If you put it in the fridge, you cannot fit in any of the shelves, let alone other food. Trust me, big frozen turkeys are a bad idea.

Do NOT forget that supermarkets are open other than on the bank holidays. I always do this; I try to buy enough food for the whole holiday period, which is a military operation in an over flowing supermarket, with insufficient parking, and queues the length of the Nile . Then, soon after boxing day we always run out of something essential, like milk, and I go to a beautifully empty supermarket (which is now selling all the food that is decomposing in my fridge for half the price.) Being overly prepared is always a mistake I feel. Just buy enough for the Christmas Day dinner.

If, like me, you have a problem with chocolates, when you buy the family tub of chocolates, do NOT forget to also buy tape. Then, if by mistake you open them and eat lots before Christmas, you can buy a replacement, add the ones you don’t much like and reseal the tub. Your family will never know. Honestly, every year my husband tells me that there are a surprisingly large number of green triangles in our chocolate tin.

Important Things

Do NOT forget to go to a carol service. Actually, I do not especially like carols, unless they are sung by a choir. They are mostly really really long. A lot of them also have things in them that are very European and nothing to do with the actual account in the Bible. But I do like carol services, full of excited children, and people in thick coats that they don’t have anywhere to hang. One year at our church we even managed to set someone on fire. (It was an accident, I should add. She leant against a candle and she wasn’t at all hurt, just ruined her coat. The following year as a safety precaution the candles were suspended above us. Unfortunately, they weren’t the non drip variety and we all made polite conversation afterwards with white wax in our hair.)

Do Not forget to build some family traditions of your own. On Christmas Eve, if my children are in the house, awake before noon and sober (I assume nothing these days) then they still like to help prepare the vegetables. We all sit round, peeling sprouts and remembering how we did it every year while watching ‘The Lost Toys,’ and the year that the youngest removed every leaf from his sprout and then declared, “Mine’s empty!”

Most importantly, do NOT forget what is important. Christmas is not about family or tradition or nice food. Actually, it’s about a God who thought you were special enough that he came to this dirty smelly earth as a baby. Even if you don’t believe in him, he believes in you. And he cared enough to come, so that you have a chance to change your mind if you want to. So spend a little time trying to remember what it’s all about. Look in Luke’s bit of the Bible, and read the account of what actually happened – no donkeys, no inn keepers with tea-towels on their heads, no fairies or snow. Just a simple story of something special.

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Thank you for reading.

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If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy Hidden Faces by Anne E Thompson, an easy-read, feel-good novel, set in an English infant school. Why not buy a copy today and read something to make you smile?

(Also an ideal Christmas gift for your mother, sister, aunt, or anyone who has ever worked in a school.)

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