I have decided the only way to snatch five minutes peace amidst the festive mayhem is to hide in my office and pen a post. I have spent the day coughing away with a seasonal cold as I variously helped my husband clear out our garage to make it into a cosy little bolt hole for my parents to stay in over Christmas (it was either that or they would have to drive around the ice rink of the North Circular to a godforsaken Travel Lodge), prepped enough food to feed an army of relatives, dandled babies to stop the incessant screams and pondered on all the things I am sure I have forgotten.
Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, but from one year to the next the sheer scale of work it involves seems to be wiped from my mind, a bit like the pain of labour slips away once the baby is out, enabling you to contemplate having more than one offspring. I also find myself feeling flustered at the very concept of managing the timing of the day. I normally do get everything onto the table and cooked in time, but each year I set myself a new challenge, like adding an extra recipe or a complicated array of vegetables, just to spice things up a bit.
This year I have decided (rather indecisively) on three types of stuffing, because they all look so nice and I want to try them, I have also whipped up two extra desserts, one a decadent Bouche de Noel for Christmas Eve (a nod to my European years) and the other a chocolate confection for those who don't like the traditional pud. Not to mention the ham that is bubbling away on the stove as I type and the 9kg turkey resting resplendent in the fridge. It makes me tired just thinking about it.
I think that despite the inordinate amount of calories packed onto a Christmas plate it's actually the most slimming meal of the year. I spend so long rushing around preparing everything from cranberry sauce to brussels with chestnuts from scratch that (a) by the time I come to attempt to eat it I can't bear the sight of it and (b) I have expended more calories shopping and cooking for this meal than any other the whole year round.
Still the house has got a warm and Christmassy feel to it, with the grandparents safely here and installed, the children bouncing off all four walls and sneaking forbidden peeks at the mysterious packages secreted under the tree, the smells of Christmas cooking wafting around the house and a weariness in my limbs induced by hard work expended make our house as hospitable as possible at this special time of year.
I think it must be time to start cracking open one of those many bottles of Christmas spirit and really getting into the swing of things. I doubt I will be able to sneak off again before the big day so I will take this chance to wish all of you a Merry Christmas.