You are short of money in the run-up to Christmas. In these circumstances convention dictates that you spend judiciously until around the 22 December.
When 22 December dawns a red mist descends (or this year - a white blizzard descends) and instantly it becomes acceptable to purchase anything you see - the more overpriced, the better.
You do not even need a big Christmas tree. You are poor, your children are grown and a tree only drops and make a mess anyway. A modest Christmas tree will be adequate. You will pity-purchase a wonky, economy tree nearer to the date. You favour wonkers, a tree with a bald bit or a list or a double top or *gulps* an amputation, because you feel sorry for them.
Due to the snow you can't even get to the Christmas tree shop prior to the 22 December. By dawn on the 22 December obtaining a tree (the bigger, the wonkier, the better) is your only ambition.
It is snowing hard but Ian shovels the drive clear for three hours. In the process he liberates the Postman, which gives everyone a warm-fuzzy feeling. Ian spreads ashes to aid his return journey (note: these were not the Postman's ashes).
Ian and the Other Middlest child and the Postman set off up the blizzard-blinded lane in a stately 5mph conga in the direction of the Christmas tree shop.
Twenty minutes after their snowy departure the Youngest child draws up, her arrival aided by the thoughtfully scattered ashes. She slept away from home last night and has brought you a huge surprise.
'I've brought you a huge surprise - a Christmas tree!'
You speed dial Ian and his mobile telephone rings in the dining room.
You speed dial the Other Middlest child and her Elvis Costello ringtone sounds tinnily from upstairs.
The arctic adventurers return with the (second) flake-laden tree. They report that as they slewed to a halt at the Christmas tree shop the nice lady, sensible in her extreme-weather outfit, had clapped her gloved hands together gleefully. As they departed she'd said.
'I didn't expect to sell any trees today - and I've just sold two!'
Yes. Both of them to you. Both of them fiendishly expensive. Both of them major wonkers; one of them has two heads, two heads.
There is the mostly red/gold tree (aka The Dropper) - please note the Christmas chair decoration and the pink Christmas rabbit decoration. One visitor saw fit to comment on the oddness of these particular decorations. What is there to say, doesn't everyone have a Christmas chair? There is also a wonker Christmas cricketer decoration hanging around at the back of the red/gold tree.
And there is the mostly silver/blue tree (aka The Two-headed Sticker) -Yes, the coding guidelines have been loosely interpreted. Well, breeched. It's Christmas; and not really the time to get precious about colour-rules; and it transpires there aren't many blue decorations in the loot under the stairs.
Also just visible, next to the silver/blue tree (The Two-headed Sticker) is the cake, baked by the Youngest child, decorated by the Youngest child and the Other Middlest child, eaten by me.
My other reader will observe that the Shire Horse rides again.
Our approach to Christmas cake characters is much the same as it is to Christmas trees and to Christmas tree decorations. Bring us your wonkers and they are assured a place in our royal icing blizzard.
The cake tableau was a royal icing blizzard-conga to church featuring: an improbably compact church; a Shire horse; three Father Christmases; two polar bears, one able bodied and one alternatively abled (3-legged); an assortment of candle-head angels, some able bodied, some with wings missing, a King-Kong killer robin red-breast and a King-Kong killer robin brown-breast (the latter's red breast has washed off).
There is no Collie Dog for scale; I cannot explain this grave omission, except to say that the compact church and the King-Kong killer robins just chortle in the face of scale anyway.
The cake appears commendably inclusive - and so it is. But I am about to highlight a hitherto overlooked environmental hazard. If it wasn't for royal icing none of these seasonal characters would have sustained severe leg and wing injuries in the first place.
Over the years it has been scientifically demonstrated that royal icing is the primary source of polar bear and angel mutilations. It is almost certainly behind many other nasty disasters. Royal icing should probably be banned.
On Sunday I attended my excellent friend Steve's 60th birthday party in Windermere. This photograph was taken during his wintery birthday boat trip.
Happy Birthday (very) Old Fruit
And Happy New Year.