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I often try and imagine myself doing other people’s jobs. A supermarket checkout assistant, for example, a line of work to which I would be singularly unsuited, since I am unable either to shut up and mind my own business or pick things up without breaking them.

I know I couldn’t resist commenting on customers’ purchases (“Do you really want to buy that? Are you sure your household should be eating those?”) and if any customer stood in front of me with their mobile phone held up to their face I wouldn’t be able to vouch for my good manners. I’d be out on my ear – and out of a job – faster than you can say “Do you want any bags today?” or “Would you like any help with your packing – and please don’t say yes because everyone’s in the staffroom.”

Just as well I’m not on a checkout, then, and just as well, at this cold, wet time of year especially, I’m not a milkman, a postman or a dustman.

Yes, I know they’re not called dustmen nowadays, and I mean no disrespect, but we do at least know who and what I mean when I use that distinctly old-fashioned word and not the ambiguous ‘waste collector’, which frankly sounds a bit drain-focused and honey-wagonish to me.

I couldn’t do what they do. I wouldn’t be able to reach anything, lift anything or keep those big gloves on.

A non-starter then, so what about the good old milkman of blessed memory? Assuming you can find one, he qualifies for a status that isn’t so much a vanishing breed more a museum exhibit, thanks to being priced out of business by supermarkets, where pints cost no more than a bottle of posh mineral water.

Pity the milkman, that poor benighted saint, the neighbourhood watcher without compare, who is hard at work as dawn breaks and whose profit margin on a pint hardly enables him to break even. Little wonder there are so few of them about. Seventeen years ago, when we turned the new century, 27 percent of milk drunk at home was delivered to the doorstep. That figure is now less than three percent.

It probably isn’t the job I’d be aiming for, since I am sure it can hold little in the way of career prospects and even less in the way of satisfaction for someone who admits – and call me a softie if you wish – that being snuggled under the duvet at 4am on a January morning is preferable to remembering who wants a pint of full-fat and a tub of cherry yogurt in the maze of a bleak, frost-bound housing estate.

I’m not sure I’d cope with being a postman, either. Or postwoman, if you are pedantic enough to insist on that clunky gender-specific title.

It isn’t just the shorts – I really couldn’t – it’s the snappy dogs and the even more snappy letterboxes, slicing off finger-ends and reducing every delivery to a game of chance.

Our postman, Richard, also known as the best postman in the world, sets the bar very high. He is reliable, like the proverbial clockwork, enterprising in his ingenious methods to deliver against the odds, impervious to any degree of inclement weather, looks pretty good in shorts and, here’s the thing, endlessly, infectiously cheerful.

In an age when such traditional jobs are endangered either by technology or increasing competition, or both, let’s give thanks to those who, so often unseen and unsung, keep our wheels turning.

As smug expressions go, the one that informs us there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, takes first place in the line-up to have its lights punched out.

It is beyond smug, more smug even than the girl in my class called Jennifer who got top marks in everything, even for sitting up straight at her desk.

The assumption we all have the right clothing for every type of weather this British climate throws at us presumes we have halls and wardrobes of Tardis-like proportions and a staff to maintain (and find) jackets, macs, hats, scarves, gloves, windcheaters, short coats, medium coats, full-length drag-in-the-mud coats, sandals, shoes, wellies, walking boots, thigh boots, waders, waterproof overalls, splash-suits, parasols and at least half-a-dozen umbrellas guaranteed never to blow inside out and detonate in the street into a hundred flimsy pieces of metal and a bunch of limp nylon.

Understandably, we Brits, especially those with normal wardrobes and no staff, think wistfully of those places where the climate is more straightforward, with less variety and more predictability. You know where you are clothing-wise then: a bit of keep-you-warm and dry stuff for the cooler months, not very much at all the rest of the year.

Places like the Mediterranean countries, for example, where the mostly benign winter months hurry away to allow the sun its traditional place, centre-stage and reliably, for most of the year.

That is the norm, except that fierce snowfalls and seriously plunging temperatures this past week have turned that perception on its head. Strange images of snow-covered parts of Greece, Turkey and Italy, even snow-blocked roads in Sicily, have made me look up at our leaden, rain-filled skies this week and think that at least we can get from A to B, even if we get soaked in doing so.

Not soaked, of course, if we have the right clothing – but we know about that. Now we’re being warned of much coldness coming our way as this week drips and gurgles into the weekend, so it’s back into the Tardis to find some insulating woollies and the full thermal kit.

I learn that our dose of the white and icy stuff is not the same as the rest of Europe’s. It comes from a different front, or side, or some such meteorological expression.

Aha, the Brexit effect. So it’s come to this, even before the button is pushed on Article 50. The others won’t even share their weather with us now, like kids who turn their backs in the playground and refuse to play ball with the unpopular misfit.

OK, rest-of-Europe, if you must be like that, we’ll cope with our own weather. We aren’t the sort who sit back helplessly and watch as our entire country grinds to a halt. Not all that often, anyway. Well, sometimes we do, but we do get provoked an awful lot.

You must understand that, unlike you with your sunshine-addled attitudes and tide of flip-flops at the door, we not only have the right clothes for this – fleeces and fur-lined boots, and a whole range of impractical hats – but we have gritters and snow-ploughs, too, and they aren’t always under two feet of snow in a lay-by.

We can certainly skate by, as long as the difficulties last no longer than about six hours. After that, and judging by many winters of experience, we could be trying to be cheerful in a snowdrift with nothing but a cheese sandwich and a 1998 book of road maps.

Two things struck me this week that make me realise how cynical I must have become.

Not at all cynical in 2016, of course, but suddenly afflicted by an unhealthy dose of it as soon as the new year chose to hit us with a wet splash on Sunday.

I was thinking about the fact that last year saw the loss of such a large number of celebrities.

I am sure we all know the names off by heart by now, after every 2016 news round-up and mournful media commentator has reprised the year’s very sad death toll of big names.

But then the awful thought struck me (Cynicism No 1): the fact of these losses must now surely mean a vast glittery raft of new celebrities will have to be created to redress the balance.

This awful prospect – bringing with it yet more crash, bang wallop TV shows with wall-to-wall big hair, frenetic movement, hyperventilating audiences and ranks of hoola-hooping budgerigars – casts a gloom as I greet the start of a new year with my customary open arms and determination not to change a thing.

The second gloom-inducer hit me when I saw in my daily newspaper on Monday a headline exhorting me to acquire a flat belly by adopting a diet enjoyed by the Vikings.

My word, I thought (Cynicism No. 2) we haven’t come far in eleven centuries, have we?

True, when reading on (I’m such a sucker for these things), I find that the Vikings ate what we call nowadays ‘a sensible’ range of food. Certainly nothing with the name Mr Kipling anywhere near it.

The Vikings – presumably not having a great deal of choice in the matter, since I bet there wasn’t a Co-op convenience store or even a Tesco Metro down the road – went for things that were freshly slain or harvested or, in the case of grains, nurtured by sun, rain and their own fair hands.

I don’t know about you but I’m always keen to rush out at dawn and hunt and gather a handful of conveniently growing berries for my breakfast. Sometimes I’ll even take an arrow and shoot a cauliflower for supper.

So if I eat berries and lots of freshly slain vegetables, where’s my flat stomach? I believe it could be somewhere about my person, but currently there is no evidence to prove it exists. I fear it became subsumed by external forces and internal Miss Piggy tendencies round about the Early Modern Period of my life, otherwise known as the Child-Bearing Years.

My excuse is that my severe lack of height and the insistence of my son to grow to a monstrous 10b 2oz before declaring he was ready to be born, was never going to enable me to pass for a Viking with a flat belly come 2017.

(While I’m in this territory, touching on childbirth and tummies, don’t you just hate it when some women – OK, celebrities, so here we go again – win praise for the way their post-baby figures have ‘pinged’ back into shape? The only thing that ever pinged with me was my eyelids, snapping up or down in their state of acute sleep deprivation, or buttons, detonating off my clothing in an unkind show of mockery.)

Having declared these two threads of cynical thought – the dread of celebrity creation and the tyranny of another flaming useless diet – I am now going off to hunker down with the last mince pie. I’m pretty sure the calories won’t count because I shot it myself, with a bow and arrow.

Here one minute, gone the next. That’s Christmas for you, done and dusted and over for another year. How can something so long planned for, shopped for, obsessed about and discussed, come and go ‘just like that’, as if it were a Tommy Cooper sleight of hand?

I can’t believe how suddenly it was all over. As the last cartoonishly packed-to-the-gills carload of family drove away from Dorset, taking, as always, a little bit of my heart with them, I had to give myself a kick to avoid falling into a post-Christmas state of gloom.

Come on, get a grip: there’s a new year to look forward to, a spring holiday to think about, and, oh look, what fun, an oven to clean. I find I can always rely on something as basic as that to get me back into the groove, and so it proved.

While cleaning, and trying any ploy to keep my mind off the task, I thought back over our Christmas and decided it had been one of the best. There were no dramas, we didn’t (quite) run out of food, no-one cried or had a tantrum (although Geoff regularly retreated to the study when he felt his fuse becoming perilously short) and everyone was nice to each other in spite of being related.

At one point, with 15 of us from four generations gathered in the sitting-room, we orchestrated some Christmas Day sparks with the long-traditional display of indoor fireworks, a winner for all ages, from the 20-month-old upwards.

Small children always turn a big event into something memorable, whether it’s for the mayhem they create or the huggable things they say. Or both.

I overheard Poppy, aged four, inadvertently confusing her already seriously confused great-grandma when she said: “I go to nursery school but next year I’ll be in deception.”

I gently unravelled that for both of them, and then almost passed out when the great-grandma, otherwise known as my mum, turned to Geoff, gestured towards me and asked him, “Is she your mother?”

It’s true, I might have felt and, after much hard labour in the kitchen, possibly even looked old enough to be my husband’s mother, but as Christmas compliments go it wasn’t one of the cheeriest I’ve known. We make allowances, though, for a little soul who has seen 94 Christmases, and we hope others will do the same for us in years to come.

As New Year rattles towards us, and 2016 disappears in a dark cloud of broken dreams and untimely deaths, I shall resist the pointless business of making a list of resolutions. I’m done with them, but most of all I’m done with lists.

Every pocket, purse, bag, spare inch of surface in kitchen and hall has had a list in it or on it at some point over the past month.

My daughter and daughter-in-law agreed with me that they’d be looking forward to living without the tyranny of lists once their worlds returned to Planet Normal. For both, though, their reliance on lists would continue for a little longer as, once home, they faced more long-distance journeys, this time to the other set of parents/in-laws.

How well I remember that routine, with all the unpacking and re-packing of the car, the second uprooting of reluctant children, another consignment of presents to load, and everywhere those crucial lists to ensure nothing was overlooked.

You do get your reward for all this, you know, I assured the girls. You grow older and then, if you’re really lucky, everyone comes to you. It’s great, believe me.

We’ve reached the point of no return. Much as I might try and convince myself there are still several weeks until Christmas, even I know it is now only a matter of hours away.

I should be ready by August, I whimper at anyone unwise enough to ask me if I’m ready for the family’s arrival on Christmas Eve. Let’s be honest, I will never be ready, however hard I try. I don’t really know when I was last ready for anything, even just leaving the house to go shopping. I’d still happily nip back in the door for a final sweep and check round, just to be sure I’ve got everything (which I usually haven’t).

Whatever the occasion, there’s always something to be fussed and worried over at the last minute, and of course that’s exactly how it’s going to be right up to the family’s arrival.

What’s the alternative? Do I sit back and relax with a mince pie and a jug of mulled wine at my elbow? I think not. That’s not my style. Well, the goodies might be but the sitting back and relaxing isn’t, I regret to say. Mine is more the flap and panic mode of operation, fine-tuned over the years into a kind of frantic below-surface paddling. Yes, like a duck, but without that enviable air of insouciance.

Hearing from my friend Carla this week made me feel better about my shortcomings. She told me that she had, somewhat rashly, organised a switching-on of lights ceremony for all the houses in her cul-de-sac. Everyone joined in and gathered in her front garden to enjoy – yes, of course – mince pies and mulled wine, which Carla dispensed.

All went swimmingly until the countdown and the moment for the lights to come on: everyone’s lit up on cue except Carla’s.

The problem was duly sorted and the awkward memory duly blotted out with more mulled wine.

The next day, perhaps unwisely, since the rotten-luck fairy was probably still hanging around, Carla set about making a batch of her legendary marmalade. Sure enough, a stray elbow set a tray of eight newly filled jars crashing to the ground, spewing their sticky contents across the kitchen floor.

I’ve cleaned it up a dozen times but I’m still sticking to the floor wherever I walk, she said. Happily, she’s able to ignore it now as she’s off to London for Christmas. I am sure the residue of a marmalade tsunami will be easier to cope with once she’s been fortified by several days of festive fun and frolics. Or being away from home, anyway.

Geoff and I managed to fight our giant tree into place in the sitting-room after which I played a blinder on the art director front, creating a triumph of seasonal bad taste with a deadly combination of gee-gaws and baubles and zero artistic vision. It really is a winner.

However, our tree, strung about though it is with bits and bobs as old as time, has something particularly topical about it this year.

Geoff noticed that the ancient, tatty angel that he was entrusted to reach up and balance on the topmost spike (aided by a judicious squish of Blu-Tack), sports a familiar wild sweep of blond hair under its crooked halo.

We looked at each other in horror. There’s no escaping the terrible truth: we’ve got Donald Trump in a white net dress sitting on top of our Christmas tree.

Happy Christmas everyone!

As this is to be our first Christmas at home for ages and children will be with us, it was an easy decision that we should have a tree.

Obviously, when I say ‘easy’, I mean that it didn’t take more than two evenings of debate before Geoff came round to my way of thinking.

A third evening’s debate was needed to decide that it should go in the sitting-room (his idea) and not the hall (my idea). A tactical climbdown on my part, obviously.

All we needed to do then was get a tree. A small one, we were agreed on that at least, and not too soon or its chances of survival until the family’s arrival would be slim. Since we have two ailing houseplants currently in intensive care, a whole tree is going to have to have very strong survival instincts.

I burrowed in cupboards and hauled out bags and boxes of lights, baubles and a miscellany of other items that have adorned trees in our various homes over the past very many years. Each tells a story, carrying a memory that fills my emotions as I pathetically caress it and welcome it back into service.

First, though, the tree. We head off to a farm and explain our requirements. I flap my arms and indicate an approximate height. “Six feet, then,” the chap says, with authority.

Geoff and I protest. No no, that’s far too big. We only want something modest with nice neat branches.

We are shown about a dozen others, all of them huge, until a much smaller one is produced and I say, impetuously, “That’ll do!”

The farmer tells us the price and there’s a crash as something keels over in the muddy farmyard: it’s the familiar sound of Geoff passing out in shock at yet another reminder of 21st century life. While he recovers, I arrange a mortgage and the farmer fits our million-pound purchase into a plastic corset that shows it who’s boss.

It just about fits in the car. I don’t mind at all that it’s bouncing on my head and bits of it are attacking my ears.

We drive home with our trophy, slide it out and stand it up. It’s enormous! It’s far, far bigger than we’d intended. Big enough for Trafalgar Square. Geoff doesn’t need to speak. I know what he’s thinking and he’s right, of course. It is my fault.

We can both feel huge Christmas headaches coming on, not least because we fear that smaller grandchildren may go missing in the tree.

It is currently in a bucket of water in the garden where I am hopeful it may shrink. Failing that, I may set it up in the garage – fully decorated and topped with its angel, of course.

UPDATE: The dilemma I referred to in last week’s column, about the double delivery of a bagatelle board and what to do about the extra one, has been resolved.

I called the company, Jacques of London, and a lovely woman explained that computer problems had caused several customers to receive repeat orders by mistake. It’s too difficult and costly to arrange for your spare to be collected, she said, so we would like you to donate it to a charity of your choice.

What an extraordinarily generous gesture! I was so touched and impressed that I spent several minutes gushing my thanks.

I’ve already contacted an appropriate charity and I am confident that Jacques will soon be the toast of many, many grateful people.

The to-do lists are long, the ticks against the items are few. By this means I know I am making pathetically slow progress in the run-up to Christmas.

It’s the same every year and I refuse to get in a lather over it. Not much of a lather, anyway. Not yet.

The small amount of shopping I have done has been achieved locally and with notable success, I’m happy to say.

I have only once ventured off limits and ordered something online, and that was because I was seduced by an email advising me of an unrepeatable offer on a bagatelle board.

I bought one last year for the grand-boys and they love it. Time for one for the grand-girls, I decided, especially at this bargain price. They’re really far too young for it, but it’s a family game so their parents can enjoy it while little fingers grow and the competitive spirit is nurtured.

I enjoyed a frisson of smugness when I ordered the bagatelle board in early October. One tick on the to-do list already!

By mid-November it hadn’t arrived so I rang the company and was told the boards were ‘in manufacture’, which I translated as ‘being made’, and I should have received an email advising me of the delayed delivery.

I haven’t received one, I said. Oh, the girl said, carefully not apologising, and adding that my board would be with me by the end of the week.

It wasn’t, but it came at the end of the following week. It was a large and heavy parcel and the delivery man gratefully handed it over to Geoff while I scrawled ‘Sdfdjlpgkl’ with a piece of blunt plastic on to a blank screen, a curious procedure that proved the item was now in our safe keeping.

Five days later, another delivery man called at the door with an equally large and heavy parcel. Geoff dealt with it all this time, inscribing ‘Gfjghfjklq’ on the screen and waiting for the man to leave before calling out to ask me what I’d ordered this time.

I’ve ordered nothing, I assured him. That’s odd, he said, because I haven’t ordered anything either.

We checked on the label that it really was intended for Hill Towers and noticed that while indeed it was, the sender was the same company that had supplied the bagatelle board.

Then we tumbled to the fact that as both parcels were the same size and weight, this second one undoubtedly contained another bagatelle board.

Now we are up to our necks in a First World problem. Do we unwrap the parcel and double-check its contents, thus leaving ourselves with a re-wrapping palaver if the thing has to be returned? Do we heave it along to a post office, queue for 45 minutes and just hand it over and say ‘Help’, with a tearful whimper? Do we call Ms Unhelpful at the firm that sent it and ask her to sort it out? Or do we hang to it and wait to see if any more grandchildren are born?

It reminds us of the time someone else’s case of wine was delivered to us by mistake. It took over our lives while we tried to organise its removal. During the days it sat in the hall, like an unwelcome visitor that wouldn’t budge, it bruised our shins and seriously tempted with its ‘Drink me’ allure.

Take my word for it, none of this inconvenience happens when you stay in control and do your shopping locally.