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Tis the season to be…

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Taking on a festive role, at this time of year, involves making a list of those you really 'need' to gift. Basically Thank YOU packages for those who persevere with our offspring and their ludicrous spelling, others who put our homes back together after an overly-sociable weekend or he who delivers weekend newspapers when none of my housemates want to walk down the road in their PJs. But, what I'll now call tactical giving, is reaching an all-time peak... mostly because our gifting competitors are ensuring the how to show your appreciation bar is unbearably high.

The way I see it, there's an opt IN or opt OUT tick box system going . If I opt in, I'm going to end up spending more on the form teachers, the music teachers, our drycleaners (not my idea, His) than I will do on my nearest/dearest – because, in all honestly, Father Christmas only half heartedly drops by our gaff on the eve of the turkey-eating marathon. Plus, I'd need to immediately buy shares in Jo Malone, Space NK or even setting up an affiliate marketing programme with JohnLewis.com to enter this gift-rat-race.

Opting out has its own set of risks: will the teachers think I'm only semi-grateful? Or will I look like the meanest, tightest, not in the least bit involved mum if I simply fling a bottle of something strong their direction – in exchange of their detailed school report and exhausted faces?

So I've decided that my logic is to be instinctive and personal. Gifting doesn't need to be excessive. In fact, the more excessive, the more uncomfortable so while the most curious of mothers – laden with more gifts than Santa – totter up to the school gates, I'll hide behind their reindeer and watch the teachers squirm.

I can't bear life without my husband

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 11 December 2015
Dear Patricia Marie,

I can't bear the thought of Christmas, or in fact next year, without my beloved husband, who died three months ago.

What is the point of my life without him? How do I even start to get on with my life now he is gone?


Patricia Marie says...

Dealing with the death of a loved one is an extremely difficult and traumatic experience, and the pain is significantly heightened at this time of year when others are joyously celebrating the festivities. It's not going to be easy this very first Christmas without your husband, but instead of focusing on life without him, perhaps allow yourself some time to remember the special times you enjoyed with him. I often suggest to those grieving that they could light a candle in memory of their loved ones. Keep a photograph of your husband nearby, and open up to your family and friends, as they care for you and will be conscious of your loss. At times you may feel overwhelmed, but this is perfectly natural. Starting to address your grief, often through tears, does provide relief, and promote healing.

Cruse Bereavement Care offer professional help and support, including group counselling which I feel could be particularly beneficial, allowing you to see that if others can make it through their losses, than so can you. Learning coping techniques may give you hope for the future, and, even better, perhaps supportive friendships could be forged, through experiences shared within the group.

At this moment you are clearly suffering, but you don't have to hurt forever or manage this alone. Be compassionate with yourself as you work to relinquish old routines and establish new ones. Life without your husband will inevitably be different, but, given time, you will hopefully soon realise your life is still very much worth living, and certainly not over.

I recommend 'Death And How To Survive It' by Kate Boydell, a unique, practical and uplifting guide to coming to terms with the loss of a partner.

Cruse Bereavement Care: www.cruse.org.uk 0844 477 9400

A Christmas Message

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 04 December 2015
Christmas is a magical time of year when happy memories are often made, but the festive season can also be a source of great anxiety caused by the extra workload, financial pressure and anticipation of potential family disputes.

The responsibility of hosting Christmas can be overwhelming, as we are expected to produce the perfect meal, beautiful table decorations, gleaming cutlery and sparkling glassware. A way of lifting some of the pressure would be for each family member to contribute so everyone can enjoy the day. Perhaps one could prepare the starter, another cook the main, and another prepare dessert. Don't worry if anything goes a little wrong, as it should be fun just being together round the table enjoying each other's company. And do remember, everything is enjoyable in moderation. Too much alcohol could ruin the day, not only for you but for those in your company, and try not to over indulge in the seasonal fayre, to avoid any unnecessary ailments. After the festive lunch, instead of settling down to watch television, perhaps you could enjoy an invigorating walk with the family.

The purchasing of presents at Christmastime can be extremely stressful. Organisation is the key to avoiding any last minute panics. Shopping online can make life so much easier, by avoiding huge crowds and having to deal with heavy loads of shopping. Work out what you really need, and stick to a budget. If you are concerned about the expense, consider writing some gift vouchers, which cost nothing. Adults could be given personal vouchers for your offer of babysitting, house cleaning, ironing or gardening. Edible treats wrapped festively would be well received. Or, if you can knit, perhaps a cosy woollen hat and scarf. For the children, how about making some mini family albums, as children love looking at family photographs. Everyone would be sure to love these thoughtful personal gifts.

If you feel torn between invites during the festive period, try to choose the fairest option and perhaps suggest one member hosts Christmas this year, and the following year another takes their turn. If there are any unresolved issues amongst the family, agree to not discuss these until the New Year, and focus on the children as top priority, particularly in the case of those from broken relationships. Christmas can remind us of those we have lost, so try to celebrate their memory by raising a glass to them, or if your grief is too painful, allow yourself some time out for recollection.

If you know of anybody who is likely to be on their own at this time, give them a friendly phone call, and if you're able to extend a festive invitation to them, even better. If you are facing Christmas alone, perhaps consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or animal shelter which would help make a difference to someone's life and provide you with company.
Focusing on the traditional side of Christmas, having realistic expectations, enjoying the festive treats and relaxing together will bring a sense of closeness at this special time of year. Just being with our nearest and dearest is all most of us need to create the perfect Christmas.

Thankfully the majority of us will enjoy what Christmas brings, but for many the time of year makes no difference to their suffering. Whatever the problem is, or however difficult things may seem, no one has to manage alone. There is always someone to offer help and support at the end of the telephone.

Here are some useful free phone numbers to have in case of an emergency situation. Please note these services are available 24 hours every day, including Christmas Day:

Alcoholics Anonymous: 0800 9177 650 www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk

ChildLine: 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk

Domestic Violence: 0808 2000 247 www.refuge.org.uk

Samaritans: 116 123 www.samaritans.org

Silver Line: 0800 470 80 90 www.thesilverline.org.uk

A letter from Patricia Marie

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 19 December 2014
Dear readers,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for sending me your problems and dilemmas over the past year.
I take time to read each and every one of them and feel privileged that you have trusted me with your most intimate concerns.

Over the past few weeks I have received numerous emails relating to Christmas, highlighting that this time of year for various reasons can be a very stressful time.

Many of us are extremely busy, and once all the shopping for gifts and food has been completed, the cards written, the house decorated, and presents wrapped, we can all be left feeling completely exhausted. Sometimes our happy ever after image of the perfect family scene does not work out as we had originally planned. Maybe its the heightened expectation or indeed, the stress of it all.

This time of year extended family get-togethers can sometimes prove rather challenging. If you sense tension rising - suggest a good walk which can often diffuse the most awkward situation.

Whilst Christmas inevitably is about compromise, finding time to visit numerous friends and relatives, having to entertain at home - it is also a time when many are having to face loneliness. If you know of anyone who will be spending Christmas alone, ask yourself is there anything you could do to improve their situation. Would it be possible for you to invite them to join you for lunch, or if they would prefer to be in their own home, could you offer to take a meal to them, and perhaps include a small gift - you would be bringing the spirit of Christmas to someone who would have otherwise felt isolated at this significant time.

Relaxation is most important for our wellbeing, more so at this time of year. Allow yourself some peaceful time, get to enjoy a nice walk, read a good book or your favourite magazine - indeed anything that would offer you some precious time away from the hustle and bustle the festive season brings.

And finally, I hope Christmas magic finds each and every one of you, and shall look forward to being here for you next year throughout 2015 whenever you may need me.

Very best wishes,
Patricia Marie.

THE SILVER LINE helpline (0800 4708090), set up last year by Esther Rantzen, offers help, comfort and support for all those facing loneliness, not only during the festive season, but 24 hours a day.


Have a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.


In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows



I hate Christmas

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 11 December 2014
Dear Patricia Marie,
 
I always hate this time of year – Christmas.  My closest friend died in a car accident on Christmas Day five years ago, and every year I am reminded of her and how much I miss her.  She was such a vibrant, happy person and she used to love Christmas. 

I visit her grave every year, put flowers there, and talk to her, and this year I have explained to my boyfriend of nine months that I don’t ‘do’ Christmas, and why.  He seems a bit irritated by this, but has said he will visit the grave with me.  He wanted me to spend the day with his family and children, but I can’t do that.  I have to honour my friend’s memory.
 
Nobody seems to understand.  How can I make them see that I feel it is wrong for me to celebrate this day?

Patricia Marie says...

This time of year brings much sadness to those remembering their loved ones, and the pain is often heightened when others are wanting to celebrate the festivities.

If you can plan Christmas to include remembering your best friend, the day may not seem quite so daunting. Take some comfort from lighting a candle in memory of her - have a photo nearby and tell others of the special times you shared. They will want to be included in your thoughts, rather than feel isolated.

Sometimes we can feel no one understands because we don't open up - so do talk to your family and friends, they care about you and will be conscious of your loss. I suspect your boyfriend is not so much irritated but frustrated by your refusal to enjoy the nice times that you so deserve.

Be grateful for the time you had with your friend and focus on this rather than there absence in your future. Have you considered that she wouldn't be wanting you to be feeling so miserable, or not making the most of the life she can't have. So with this in mind, perhaps you could you try to compromise and enjoy the loved ones that are here with you today.

If at anytime you do feel tearful, that's fine too. Don't be so hard on yourself, look to the future and believe things will get easier.

Over Christmas time professional help and support is just a phone call away. Cruse is an excellent organisation offering bereavement counselling which I feel you could benefit from: www.cruse.org.uk (0844 477 9400) You may also find the below poem resonates with you.

SHE IS GONE

You can shed tears because she has gone,
Or you can smile because she lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her,
Or you can be full of the love you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she is gone,
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on,
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back,
Or you could do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

By David Harkins



Have a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.


In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

Shaking up Christmas shopping

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Thursday, 11 December 2014
In all honestly, I’ve no time for Christmas shopping this year. Nor patience either. Besides, everyone I know keeps telling me that they don’t want anything anyway. Of course, the high street tells me otherwise, winking at me through their twinkly, festive shop windows, and Black Friday hit our screens like a ton of discounted bricks. So the plan is to add a little more precision and logic to my Christmas shopping task.

In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that there’s a proper strategy to my purchases and – generous old me – is prepared to share my gifting rules:

1)     any present needs to fit in a stocking, which in turn needs to fit in a suitcase as we are travelling into the festive season.

2)     All items MUST be something I would have bought anyway regardless of any babe in a manger.

3)     the Smalls are not allowed to write a list for Santa and she is busy with a new job, an old job and lots of carol concerts to attend

4)     no plastic anything this year…

5)     at least two items must look and feel like books.

6)     A little money will be given which can be saved, donated or spent – the decision is theirs (and I’ll try not to judge)

7)     He can have a good old fashioned wet, sloppy kiss and maybe even a lie-in.

And now I feel relieved. I can tick Christmas Shopping off my to-do list.

WANTED: that bag

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Thursday, 04 December 2014
The timing couldn’t be more selfish with only a matter of weeks before everyone in my life is expecting a gift. Besides all of this frantic googling could have been avoided. Whatever it was which made me look, enquire, stare (and then WANT)… might never have happened? Only, it did and, from then on in, the rest of the world was on shut down. Mute. I literally couldn’t hear their voices. Face-to-face with some perfect leather and the empty, inviting space inside it, I was spellbound.

If you’re desperately trying to work out what my problem is, it’s that I’ve fallen head over heels in love with a bag. But not any old bag. No, it’s a perfect one. Oh and it’s perfectly stunning too.

Let me try and describe it to you: smooth, soft buttery leather with minimal, elegant gold uppercase branding, in the shape of a seamless bucket tote. That’s all there is to it. But that’s the whole point.

But it was her’s and not mine. Apparently her reward for staying up all night, drooling over a laptop. She had swooped in to click while the homeless buckets were momentarily In Stock and BOOM they were gone again.

Sold out worldwide in seconds. Totally and utterly inexplicably untrappable.

But I will NOT give up; committed to the hunt. In fact, every website which spits out a dead-end, only makes me all the more hungry for my prey. However, the harsh reality is that I’m not alone in my desires, this item is coveted by international fashionistas who can only be viewed as the enemy.

So my chances of success are low, I might need to speed dial Santa.

Christmas at Kew

Posted by Young Ladies About Town
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on Friday, 28 November 2014
If - like me - you live in central London but crave a country walk to escape the Christmas crowds, then head Kew Gardens.  They’ve developed a fabulous night time light installation in the grounds to create a totally new perspective on the gardens. Like a sculpture trail with lights, the effect is quite magical: music comes out of trees and the  fountain springs up with multi-coloured water. The world-famous Palm House lights up from inside, flashing and pulsating in quite a surreal and captivating way. Turn a corner and a plume of flames gives a dramatic flash of light, turn another corner and a wisteria covered in fairy lights creates a secret den to hide in.

Kew-590

I have in on good authority that small children love it. Father Christmas and his band of magical helpers whisper your Christmas wishes to a listening tree.  The carousel, marshmallows to toast on a fire pit and room to run wild makes this a really great children’s experience that all the family will love. On the last bit of the mile long trail we hung a lantern on a tree and made a wish ( I would tell you, but it won’t come true if I do). We drank mulled wine and crunched along the frosty park and the crowded shops and frantic rushing of the city fell away.

If you miss the light show head to the park on a cold frosty day, walk off those mince pies, hug a tree and escape to the country in London.

For more information click here

I can't afford Christmas presents

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 27 November 2014
Dear Patricia Marie,
 
My grandchildren always expect big expensive Christmas presents from me, but this year I just don't have the money to spend like I used to. I can't even afford to buy my daughter and son-in-law a gift.
 
I haven't told my daughter this, but I'm dreading Christmas Day because my son-in-law's parents are going to be there and I know they're very wealthy.  I can't bear the idea that my grandchildren are going to be disappointed by my presents or that they'll start to see me as the poor relation.  What do you suggest?

Patricia Marie says...

For most people who can't afford Christmas presents, the situation can create feelings of worry, disappointment and stress. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty - you are not obliged to celebrate Christmas by someone else's standards.

Don't be too proud to admit to your daughter you're having a tough time. Simply be honest and ask her to suggest something reasonably priced that the children would really like. Even a nice book linked to their favourite character would thrill them.

Children love looking at photographs, so perhaps you could make them their very own album, to include past and present family, which will give them great pleasure, and provide much enjoyment for the whole family.

With regards to your daughter and son-in-law, you could consider sending personal gift vouchers to include anything from an offer of two hours' ironing, to a day of spring cleaning or an overnight stay of babysitting - treats which I am sure will be very well received. This will also highlight the fact that the best gifts do not have to have monetary value.

As for trying to compete with your son-in-law's wealthier parents, do not  waste another moment worrying about that. Grandchildren love their grandparents in their many varied forms, indeed it is the most special relationship.
The true meaning of Christmas runs far deeper than a present could ever represent. Spend quality time with your grandchildren, give your daughter a helping hand with the extra work Christmas brings and remind everyone that Christmas is about love, not spending power.

That's what your grandchildren will remember in years to come - not some present, however lavish.


Have a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.



In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

Dear Santa

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 24 November 2014
As I write this I am terrifyingly aware of how quickly Christmas is looming and then how to offer constructive options for what to put in a Christmas stocking and under the tree.

No matter what your religion there is no use trying to hide the expectation for presents as, dare I say, we live in a society utterly focused on “things” and “stuff” and “belongings”. I’m not saying it’s a totally negative concept; however, sometimes it seems the delight is more in the quantity and largesse rather than the expression of love and gratitude.

So have a think about the following as an alternative to the latest fad toy and brand name blingy thingy…

A regular date with your children where everyone gets to choose a fun activity (bowling, arts & crafts, a picnic, bike riding, mini-golf) or maybe just a regular movie night at home with popcorn and all the trimmings.

Sign them up for a magazine subscription, library card, to tap into your child’s curiosity or membership at the zoo, science museum or gym. Maybe you could find an adults and kids yoga or swim class to enjoy together.

Similarly, find a drawing or singing class, chess club, dance, riding, drama, skateboarding, indoor climbing, to give them a challenge for something new they might not have considered. Even if it doesn’t work out it’s not a failure but a learning experience and an adventure into the unknown.

Family coupons like an extra half hour before bed, my favourite dinner, sit and read with me, Anything Goes (give 3 options), cupcake baking & decoration, or something unique to your family. Children love personalised and thoughtful activities and usually the messier the more opportunity to giggle and be creative.

Outdoor supplies to get stuck into the garden together; board games, puzzles or cards for a rainy day or the evening; or you could visit a charity shop together to pick out dress up clothes for your afternoon tea date back at home.

Dear Santa, this year I’d like to give my children my imagination and time. I’d like to create new memories. I’d like my children to feel the joy of family and love. (Oh and if you have any magic sleeping dust for sprinkling on my children at night for an occasional morning lie-in, I’d like a box full please, to share with all my sleep deprived friends of course).

A very happy Christmas

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 20 December 2013
Dear readers,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for sending me your problems and dilemmas over the recent weeks since I began my Agony Aunt Column. I take time to read each and every one of them and feel privileged that you have trusted me with your most intimate concerns.

Over the past few weeks, I have received numerous emails relating to Christmas, highlighting that this time of year, for various reasons, can be a very stressful time. Many of us are extremely busy, and once all the shopping for gifts and food has been completed, the cards written, the house decorated, and presents wrapped, we can all be left feeling completely exhausted.

While Christmas inevitably is about compromise, finding time to visit numerous friends and relatives, having to entertain at home, it is also a time when many are facing loneliness... All of this can place an emotional strain on us.

My recommendation to you, would be that you all find some quality for yourselves away from the hustle and bustle the festive season brings. Relaxation is most important for our wellbeing, more so at this time of year.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and sincerely hope that Christmas magic finds each and every one of you.

I look forward to being here for you next year throughout 2014 whenever you may need me.

Patricia Marie



Got a dilemma, please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk

Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.


In need of further support?

Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

Email: patriciamarie@tenharleystreet.co.uk

Turning off for Christmas

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Tuesday, 17 December 2013
We’re on the verge of hitting wind-down time to coincide with the fat man in red slipping down our non-existent chimney. Except that we’re anything but wound down. Instead we are MAXED out and I wholeheartedly blame technology.

Yes - I know - without Amazon we would be a different sort of frazzled and at least the odd e-Christmas card has prevented some degree of RSI. But there is no doubt in my mind that with omnipresent technology, we are dangerously close to spiraling out of control.

Picture this. The presents are wrapped, Ocado has delivered, the cranberry sauce is made, the table is laid and, with ‘A Wonderful Life’ on the box, all is calm, peaceful and quiet. But… there you are on the sofa, snuggled up with your loved ones, losing out on the precious moment as you OBSESSIVELY check your Instagram feed (keeping track of those supposedly having more fun) or instead tweet some alcohol fuelled almost-wit.

I think they now call this Status Anxiety as we struggle to show the (social media) world that we still exist. Or is it that we are suffering from a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out) as we feel compelled to comment willy-nilly on another’s status? Either way it’s utterly draining and completely unhealthy and not in the least bit festive. My advice? Lock up your smartphone, forget the virtual universe and raise a glass of sherry to a purely retro, non-tech-additive Christmas.



You can read more musings from Emma at www.lifeofyablon.com.

I think Christmas is going to break us up

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 13 December 2013
Dear Patricia Marie,

I have been with my partner for 6 years and Christmas is a major problem in our relationship. Over the years it has got increasingly worse as he will not be flexible on Christmas arrangements.

He is totally dominated by his family and submits to pressure of spending all the time with them. I am included but this is not my point surely a relationship should be a split decision? And even when I try and talk about the issue, he flies off the handle and we don't get anywhere.

I know this seems ridiculous but I think it's going to break us up. I love him and want us to be together but I just don't know what else to do.

Patricia Marie says...

I am not sure Christmas is the main reason you are at breaking point, rather it's highlighting the negative areas within your relationship thats contributing to the way your feeling.

Firstly, if your boyfriend is unwilling to compromise, you need to be focusing on your wishes for the festive season. If you're wanting to be with your boyfriend that's fine, but does it have to be completely on his terms? Perhaps if you were able to take some control, you may then begin to feel your Christmas is not being dominated by him.

It would be interesting to find out why he is so accepting of his parents demands? Is he using them as an excuse to do as he pleases? Your partner's dismissal of how you are feeling, and the childish behaviour he displays when he doesn't get his own way will only continue if you allow it to, and more importantly, if this problem is not addressed, it could become destructive within your relationship in the future.

If you are unable to talk to your boyfriend without him behaving irrationally, write him a letter, this way he can digest things and think before he responds. If you believe this relationship is worth saving, you need to work at it together, not alone.



Got a dilemma, please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk
Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.




In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

In which, quite by accident, I solve Christmas.

Posted by Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 11 December 2013
I am not feeling at all Christmassy. This is not due to any Scroogish bah humbug tendencies. I love Christmas and refuse to get cross about it. I don’t even mind that it has become too commercialised, which is the general contemporary complain. The wail is that Christmas has become all about presents and shopping, when really everyone should be sternly contemplating the Baby Jesus. A lot of people get furious bees buzzing in their bonnets and talk crossly of the ‘true meaning of Christmas’, whatever that is.

Usually, by this stage, I would be decking the halls, but the halls remain resolutely undecked. This is partly because I’m running up to another deadline, and I can think only of character arcs and plot development and tightening up my paragraphs. It is partly because my red mare has taken a glorious leap forward in her education and so when I am not thinking about work, I am contemplating the beauty of a soft cue. It is also because dear old Scotland, after a vicious storm which blew in from the west, has reverted to her most benign and gentle state.

Morven, my favourite mountain, usually bright white with snow at this time of year. This morning, it remains resolutely unfestive.Morven, my favourite mountain, usually bright white with snow at this time of year. This morning, it remains resolutely unfestive.

The sun shines every day, and the turf is green and springing, and the temperature soars to an absurd thirteen degrees. We do the horses in our shirtsleeves and each morning I ride up to the top of the hill and look out over the rolling mountains, which are blue and serene in the light. It looks more like October than December. There are no glittering hoar frosts to get the Christmas spirit stirring, no holly berries traced with silver, no hint of snow.

I suspect it is also because I do not watch commercial television. This is not a famous last stand against the kind of cheap entertainment which rots the brain. It’s just that I grow old and fogeyish and prefer Radio Four. So I do not see all the advertisements which want me to rush off to the shops and buy festive items and appropriate foodstuffs. I see no comedy reindeer, hear no sleigh bells, observe no laughing Santas. The nearest I get to anything remotely Christmassy is Linda rehearsing her pantomime in The Archers.

I’m also on a bit of an economy drive. I like shopping for Christmas. It is not just the choosing of clever presents which I enjoy, it’s the getting of a ham, or armfuls of eucalyptus, or delicate silvery jangly things to hang on the mantelpiece. This year, in the new austerity, I am going old school, and making most of my presents, and relying on the old decorations which live in the Christmas cupboard, and next week I shall go out into the hedgerows and gather my own greenery.

The red mare, unbelievably muddy and furry and scruffy. It is too mild for rugs, so she takes the opportunity to indulge in a daily mud bath. I suppose I could brush her up and put some tinsel in her mane, but I almost certainly won't.The red mare, unbelievably muddy and furry and scruffy. It is too mild for rugs, so she takes the opportunity to indulge in a daily mud bath. I suppose I could brush her up and put some tinsel in her mane, but I almost certainly won't.

The funny thing is that, without meaning to at all, I have denied that commercialism which makes everyone so cross. I do admit, it is rather restful. There is not the usual stress and challenge, the annual drive to make this Christmas the most Christmassy ever. It’s all very calm and low key, and leaves my mind free to contemplate vague things like goodwill to all men, and women too. I’m not going to get so pious as to give everyone a goat for Africa instead of an actual wrapped present; I shall impose no self-denying ordinance to ignore the festival altogether. It’s just a rather quiet, bare bones thing this year.

It is amazingly soothing. I wonder if, quite by chance, I have cracked the thing. Perhaps I shall never again have to read one of those strict articles about how to survive Christmas without resorting to strong liquor or having a nervous collapse. I shall ride my dear mare and look at the old hills and feel vaguely benign towards my fellow humans. Perhaps, in a few days’ time, I shall push the boat out and go a buy a nice stollen cake. And that really will do.

I am beginning to dread Christmas

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Monday, 09 December 2013
Dear Patricia Marie,

My daughter has recently split from her boyfriend, we were the family he never had and I miss him terribly. For the past five years he has spent Christmas with us, however this year my daughter has invited her new boyfriend who not any of us are keen on and insists I am not to invite her ex. I am so upset as I know he will have nowhere to go, wont receive any presents and feel disowned by us. Plus the new boyfriend has a huge family and isant even keen on coming to ours. I am now beginning to dread christmas. Would very much appreciate your advice.


Patricia Marie says...

Am wondering if you could try to see things from your daughters perspective. For whatever reason, she split from her ex-boyfriend because things didn't work out. Would you rather she be unhappy in a relationship because it suits you for her to be with someone you approve of? Your daughter has to make her own choices, and even if we don't always agree, it is our role as parents to support our childrens decisions rather than risk jeopardising the relationship.

I predict even if you invited her ex, he would decline, as to be in the presence of your home could ignite painful feelings for him, which you may not have considered. You are not responsible for him, and maintaining an attachment could be delaying him from finding his own future happiness. For now, perhaps you could meet up before or after Christmas on neutral territory with a small gift, this way you won't feel your completely disowning him, but gently distancing yourself.

I have a feeling the other family members are mirroring your feelings and believe once you let go of the past, you will embrace the future and look forward to new beginnings. You may allow yourself to get to know your daughters new boyfriend, and whats more, you may even get to like him!


Got a dilemma, please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk
Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.



In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

Tomato relish

Posted by Nigel Brown
Nigel Brown
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on Thursday, 28 November 2013
Christmas is creeping closer (Advent starts on Sunday after all) so now's the perfect time to make that tomato relish, ready for Boxing Day's cold meat and salad... Nigel Brown recipe

Ingredients
  • Rapeseed oil, for frying
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 10 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 150g demerara sugar
  • 150ml red wine vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • tabasco, to taste

Method

Heat a little rapeseed oil in a frying pan and cook the onions until softened. Add the tomatoes and mix well, then add the sugar, vinegar and cinnamon and bring to the boil.

Simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper and set in sterile jars with tight fitting lids.

Store the relish in your fridge for 1 month for best results.

Why nothing beats packing away the decorations

Posted by Slummy single mummy
Slummy single mummy
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on Monday, 07 January 2013
Christmas is over. It’s official. Now we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but the Christmas I love happens in the weeks leading up to the big day - the dark evenings and twinkly lights, cosy meet ups with old friends over mulled wine and mince pies.

I love buying presents too, but the shopping, and imagining my children’s angelic faces as they open them is always more fun than the actuality. Never in my fantasies does my ten-year-old have a strop because her sister has been given something she wanted, or complain that she only got nine out of the ten things on her Christmas list.

Once the rose-tinted build up is over, the day itself is always an anti-climax, and the no-mans-land between Christmas and New Year is positively ghastly. I’m practically stuffing gold coins into the kids’ mouths in a bid to clear the house of anything remotely festive, and as much as I love getting the decorations out of the garage mid-December, nothing beats the feeling of packing them all away and hoovering up the last of the damn pine needles.

I love Christmas, but once it’s done, I want everything out. I wait impatiently for the Christmas recycling collection so I can dump all the Christmas cards and cardboard packaging and long to pack everyone back off to school, to reclaim the house and perhaps just a little of my sanity.

If only I could find it under all the wrapping paper...

Festive fever

Posted by Tania Kindersley
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on Tuesday, 18 December 2012
I decide that this is the day to start the Christmas gravy. I like doing this early, so the flavours may mature. Then it’s just a question of adding all the lovely juices from the bird, on the actual day. This is such a domestic goddess plan that I practically fall over.

I run to the village shop to buy Madeira and Marsala. I’m not taking any chances. Actually, I can never quite remember which of them tastes more delicious so I generally throw in half a bottle of both. This year, I may also add some tawny port, for a certain je ne sais quoi. I explain some of this to the man in the shop. He seems marginally less fascinated by the subject than I.

All the time I am running around the village, the following things are running through my head:

Must get present for great-nephew. Can a boy have too many tractors? Answer, in his case: almost certainly not.

Must write Christmas cards. Must find out last posting day. Why am I even writing Christmas cards? I never send Christmas cards. I am up against a hard deadline, for the 3rd of January. Why I agreed to that date I do not know. I shall be writing chapter eighteen first thing on Christmas morning. There shall be no getting drunk on dry sherry and lying in. What was I thinking?

Parcels for the godchildren. Have to do parcels for the godchildren.

That present I got for my sister suddenly seems all wrong. I thought it so marvellously clever and delightful at the time, but now it looks somehow not quite right. This is the problem with doing Christmas shopping in advance. I did mind in November, believing myself to be gloriously organised and what my mother calls Ahead of the Game.

In fact, it is fatal, on two levels.

First of all, it lulls one into a false sense of security. I think, because the presents are bought, that I have got everything done. Then I end up running round the village in a panic, buying Madeira and thinking about tractors. Second of all, the object that looked so shiny and alluring a month ago may, with the simple passage of time, appear gimcrack and shoddy. Bloody hell, I think, what have I got in the present cupboard? (I will do anything not to go into Aberdeen which is, according to all reports, a zoo.)

Should I get a nice holly garland for the mantelpiece? I’m not having a tree so perhaps a garland will give the feeling of decking the halls. But what if one tiny spark from the fire shoots upwards and sets the thing alight and then the house burns down? I realise that, far from being in the proper Christmas spirit, I am catastrophising wildly.

Must make a special Christmas list. The To Do list is spawning itself in my head like one of those creatures on nature programmes which may have eight hundred babies at once. At least if I write it down, it might seem more manageable, and less like a hydra. But then I have to decide which of my forty-seven notebooks the Christmas list should go in, and this creates another impossible decision of its very own.

Must, for no known reason, buy panettone. I am suddenly convinced that Christmas is not Christmas without special Italian cake.

Must: write book, do blog, tidy house, feed horses, walk dog, wrap presents, go to post office, buy red roses (again, nobody knows why), get a ham, make watercress soup for strength, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and generally go faster.

Christmas, I think, I am exhausted just contemplating it. And all this is just me and a horse and a pony and a dog. I do not have four over-excited children, or a gaggle of parents-in-law, or even a husband to worry about. I have created this insanity in the privacy of my own head. I do not even read those publications which insist that if your house and your Christmas table do not resemble something in a glossy magazine you are officially a Bad Human. I have absolutely no idea where it all comes from. Perhaps it is a lady thing; perhaps I am biologically programmed, after all. Still, I suppose that at least it keeps my mind off the weather.

Jingle Bell Rock

Posted by Slummy single mummy
Slummy single mummy
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on Tuesday, 18 December 2012
This week I attended my very last primary school Christmas concert. (Until I have that accidental late baby that my sister insists is going to happen just before I’m forty.)

My youngest is now ten, so gone are the days of the tear-jerker nativity, complete with shepherds stumbling over their costumes and a Mary who sucks her thumb throughout and carries baby Jesus around by his feet. Instead we had a carol concert, with minimal fluffed lines, and only one boy who kept dancing in the opposite direction.

My best bit though was the final ten minutes, where the mums and dads were allowed to join in with a rousing rendition of Hark the Herald Angels and Jingle Bell Rock.

I do like an excuse for a dance.

I ignored the faces Belle was pulling at me from the stage and the sniggering from her friends, and instead threw myself into the Jingle Bell Rock routine. Legs kicking, jazz hands on full power, I was the very picture of Christmassyness.

“Well done!” said the headteacher to me afterwards. “You’re the first parent who has joined in!”

I could tell she was impressed. Belle less so though.

“Mummy!” she hissed at me afterwards, “you were so embarrassing!”

“I know,” I said, “it was great wasn’t it?”

Happy Christmas!

Pork pie

Posted by Nigel Brown
Nigel Brown
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on Thursday, 13 December 2012
They're a picnic classic.... but pork pies are also the perfect finger food for your Christmas celebrations.

nigel dec13

Ingredients

Hot water pastry

  • 375g plain flour
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 125ml water
  • 110g butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt beaten egg for glaze

Pie filling

  • 450g minced pork
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Method

1. To make pastry, slowly heat water and margarine/butter in a saucepan. Once the fat is melted, boil for 2 minutes. Put flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the seasoning and egg yolk into the well, cover with some flour and quickly pour in the contents of the saucepan, stirring continuously. Once cooled, knead into a ball then leave covered for 30 minutes in a warm place.

2. Separate about two thirds of the dough into five balls, each around the size of a billiard ball. The other third of the dough will be used later for the lids. Make each pie casing by moulding a ball around the outside of the bottom of a pint glass. Stretch the dough up the glass for around 1.5 inches so that the pastry is reasonably thin. The pastry is easier to remove if the glass is coated in flour first.

3. To make the pie filling, simply mix all ingredients together.

4. Fill the pastry casings with the pork mixture. Roll out the remainder of the pastry using the pint glass if you don't have a rolling pin. Cut out lids using the top of the pint glass as a pastry cutter. Place lids on pies, sealing around the edges with some water. Using the point of a knife, make a hole in the centre of each lid to allow steam to escape.

5. Cook at 180 C / Gas 4 in the centre of the oven for around 1 hour, glazing with a beaten egg yolk occasionally.

6. After cooking, leave to cool before eating. For a special touch, pour a small amount of warmed, reduced stock into the hole and cool in a refrigerator to allow the jelly to set (To make the stock, try boiling some pork stock bones for a few hours until most of the water evaporates off. After cooling a jelly should form, this can be poured into the pies).


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