Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Simple pleasures

It's that time of year when we have the annual 'Christmas Present Conversation'. It goes something like this.

Jane: You're so difficult. Is there anything you'd like?

Me: Just buy me some books.

Jane: But you buy those all the time.

Me: I can't think of anything else.

Jane: How about a coat?

Me: Not clothes please.

Jane: Point taken, but you must want something?

Me: How about some nice Jam?

Jane: I can't buy you jam.

Me: Why not?

Jane: Because it's not right, unless you're Eighty.

Me: Then I'd like a saxophone. A tenor saxophone to be precise and you get them from...

Jane: Now you're just being silly.

I'm not trying to be difficult; I realise that I sound like my grandparents - note I've skipped a generation and didn't bother with the parent-like stage - but I genuinely can't think of anything I particularly desire.

Instead, I smugly ponder how it is small things in life which give me most pleasure.

Except that's not true - I like big things too!

This year I took enormous pleasure from re-roofing our cottage in slate although I could have used tiles. When I 'needed' a new computer I bought a top specification Apple-Mac because I sit at the thing for hours every day. And I'm about to pay a ridiculous amount for a new kitchen because I want it sorted and I want it now. But none of these are exactly Christmas present material.

I like specialist things too. I told Jane I fancied a Hilleburg Nalo GT 2 tent, to which she replied, 'So you'll be getting that yourself.' I'd also like a specimen of Automris Io for my moth collection but I didn't bother saying.

I realise it's the mid range I need to get better at. The present that lies somewhere between a book and a saxophone - I did suggest a banjo but that wasn't taken seriously either. A raku piece? Maybe, but I'd want to chose it, so no surprise on the day. Or what about a... I'm really struggling here; surely Christmas isn't meant to be this difficult.

So might I suggest we reconsider the merits of jam.

For the fact is, I really like it - blackcurrant especially. Good jam is one of the small but delicious pleasures I insist on each morning. I know it only costs a few pounds but why should that matter? George Orwell in his essay on the delights of English cookery, wrote, 'is there anything quite as good as the soft part of the crust from an English cottage loaf.' Well, I'd add jam - and some good coffee too.

And while I'm on a roll: a good book, some olives and goats cheese for lunch, and a brochure from World of Butterflies.

Now that would be a fabulous Christmas.


  1. Now this was a post well worth reading my friend.

  2. A ukulele. seriosuly. My ukulele gives me great pleasure and is very easy to play.

  3. How strange - for a moment I thought my son had posted a comment (he's called Dan too and reads the blog) and plays the Ukelele.

  4. I wanted to reply to your previous post. My husband has an illness in which he falls ino a coma, and, so far, has emerged on the other side, but it is a subject of discussion just how much he hears while in a comatose state. I cannot, because it is too painful, discuss it, even within your open, friendly forum. Though your raising the question enabled us to talk about it again.
    But...Christmas or even other presents...jam is something that we both adore...well made, home made jam...nothing can beat it. Medlar jelly..the best.
    Mid range presents...books now come into this range which horrifies me, brought up on cheap accessible literature.
    Big never a present for an occasion..just our own celebration of being happy together. Small stuff likewise.

  5. Good post this one Mark, really enjoyed it. We, that's the Royal 'We', used to have endless discussions around the 'what would you like/is there anything you specially want or need for Christmas?' I am good at buying presents, and giving lovely surprise gifts, as most women are. Men, generally speaking and here I hide behind the sofa to avoid the flak, aren't THAT good at it. My husband is the first to admit he's not imaginative enough, though he has had his moments in the past, where presents are concerned you understand! However, and this may sound ungrateful, after years of getting presents from people who I thought knew my taste but obviously didn't, and of these going round in circles conversations with my husband about gift buying, we solved the problem. Now we don't buy any!!! Well, I send something to our granddaughter, but that's it. Occasionally I might send a silly little something to my circle of really close friends, but otherwise, the hassle of present buying has been done away with. I shall not, however, be giving up making and sending cards.

  6. The wife and I have got into the habit of dropping subtle hints throughout the year and each making note of the other's preferences... that way we have a list to choose from and the other never quite knows what they're going to get on the day.

  7. Sorry to be all bah humbug but I think an annual event where we all rush around like lunatics trying to find something that might just please another person is craziness!!!! I still do it though!

    And don't get me wrong...I love Christmas!!!!

    I'm with the consumables(strawberry please) or an island. Thank you