The week before Christmas

Mr Greg Freeman, my prodigiously hardworking and inspirational editor at Write Out Loud, is having a break, and so I find I have a free Sunday.

To be honest, I need it. For various reasons I spent the first 9 days of December at residential poetry courses in Derbyshire and Cumbria, and managed to squeeze in two readings along the way. I got ridiculously tired, but the batteries are gradually recharging, the black tragedy of the GE notwithstanding. And I think that the run up to Christmas is invariably more fun than the thing itself

There are rituals in our house (as there will be in yours ) …including using a lot of wire wool and BriWax. It’s just what we do, along with the business of trees and sparkly lights and baubles and wind-up toys. Last year it was mildly disrupted by a glut of late apples that I was picking two weeks before Christmas. There’s one ritual that began via the accident of a glut of small green tomatoes some years ago, and now is expected. It also involves lots of hot vinegar. Good for the sinuses.

The end of summer 

drags on, like a party long past the fun,

past the dancing, past dalliance,

past love among the coats,

past the stage of mixing up

the ends of bottles, and dregs

of other people’s wine; past the point

when no one has any cigarettes,

when there is only instant coffee,

when the sugar has been spilled

in the sink and milk is on the turn.

Like that.

Raspberry leaves go lemon pale,

the monumental pipework

of courgettes collapses soft and sour,


like opening a door at the end

like a spill of light, like a new day,

the last small pale green tomatoes.

Perfect spheres. You can see 

your way clear and inevitable.

Crisp white cauliflower, 

green peppers, mustard, cloves,

white vinegar, brown sugar,

peppercorns, ginger, turmeric;

scalding out the jars.

This is the end of summer.

They call it piccalilli.

2 thoughts on “The week before Christmas

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