Thursday, 14 December 2017

My Perfect Christmas For Less Than Fifty Quid

This week's style icon: The 2017 IKEA Catalogue

For me, Christmas is a time to be together with friends and family, throwing a charmingly imperfect dinner party or chanelling my inner Heston Blumental with a wooden spoon and a long, lazy lunch with family and friends, or whoever I love to share my world with, friends and family and neighbours, the people who matter most in my life, whatever's on the menu. That's why it's important to de-stress, whether I'm attempting to slice fugu fish with a wooden spoon or channelling my inner Damien Hirst with a packet of frozen peas, big time. For me, the perfect start to any meal is a bottle of Aldi's Asti Spumante, at £4.99 - fizzy, refreshing, above all £4.99. If I'm in the kitchen, chatting and laughing with friends, all night long, sometimes with neighbours and family, I want to be in a no-pressure affair that allows me to be a guest, too.

For the main course? Don't sweat it: cooking doesn't have to be a high-end, stress-filled get-together of neighbours and a turkey and some family and friends and sprouts. Instead, it can be what you want it to be - channelling your inner Oliver Reed with three bottles of Aldi Cambalala South African Pinotage at £3.89 a bottle, or experimenting with a trio of Kooliburra Australian Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignons, £3.99 a bottle. Above all, Christmas is where we get together to share a meal, tell stories and make plans about how we're going to get home afterwards. The tables and chairs are based on the style I like and the size I need (XXL), and make a great place for telling stories about friends and neighbours and bringing together a few key pieces - the wonderful everyday - that make my style all my own, whether I'm in the kitchen or not, throwing out the old rules or simply ditching my inhibitions in a style all my own or in a zinc bucket.

Of course, a bit of downtime, some personal space, is also good, especially when I've had about all the friends and family and neighbours I can stand. For me, a big table where I can spread out and go solo, channelling my inner Søren Kierkegaard, is a must. Here's where I can create, eat, read and make my own 'project table' out of a handful of boxes and a wooden spoon and above all, a bottle of Maynard's Ruby Reserve Port, £4.99 from Aldi, although it's only 20cl, but that's enough to get creative and blot out the memory of mostly family, maybe with some catch-up TV if I can get the telly to work, but why only 20cl? I should have bought two. Anyway, it's enough to savour the moment and be the person I want to be without compromising my inner Malcolm Lowry. Mistakes are merely lessons inside out, I tell myself as I attempt to create the space that inspires me and wonder where I put my personal happy space, because that's all that matters. Maybe I should look in the bucket.

Because after all, if I create an inviting space, it can make any moment feel like I'm on holiday, although God knows I've had some terrible holidays, but that's no reason not to share the expectation that everyone will have a great time when it comes to finishing up the turkey leftovers at about nine o'clock with a couple of bottles of Aldi Castellore Sicilian Pinot Grigio, £3.89, and a looming hangover. This at least is where I can be the star of my kitchen, whatever I'm in the mood for making - although mainly I'm in the mood for making my way up to bed, except the friends and family are still here, sharing stories about other members of the family who aren't here and failing to make everyday dining a rediscovered delight, so there's no way I can create the right mood for merry-making and instead have to make do with a cheese biscuit and a bit of dried-out Stilton given that the only rule is there are no rules and if adults need a private space to recharge and relax, where, precisely, is that? In my busy life, with work committments and social media, all I want is a 'me-time' moment to zone out, but what are the chances? I ask you? And is it wise to start on the Tomova Salted Caramel Vodka Liqueur (£9.99) that someone gave us, just to get over the hump? Would that be a perfect no-compromise compromise? Maybe I should ask the people who matter most in my life, although they're now watching Strictly, so how about the washing-up? That's something I've noticed about the wonderful everyday: the tidying up afterwards. It never ends.


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