Caravaggio was the perfect name for the unhinged Gerbil

Christmas is over for another year and the New Year is naked and helpless in our hands. May it be fertile, fettling and festooned with joy for you all.
I have learnt a number of things over the festive period some of which I wish to share with you.
1. Socks. I so many ways these are the perfect Christmas gift – even though there have been niggly jokes about their inappropriateness as gift items ever since they were first invented. On the surface they may be dull and practical but, if you stop and think a moment, they are so much more. Perhaps it is my age but I like nothing better than a new pair of socks. I received some specially designed boot socks which are an absolute dream – especially as I spend most of my time shuffling around in R.M.Williams boots (the most comfortable footwear so far invented – I have five pairs) – and a gorgeous cashmere pair in soft grey. If you ever have need of a short cut to my heart then forget jewels beyond compare, leave your dancing girls (trained in the 396 ways of love) at home and bring me socks.

2. Cold. It has been a bit parky round here over Christmas – nothing compared to Yakutsk, Siberia (where it is a bracing -40C) or even Bozeman, Montana (which is sweltering at a mere -8C ). I like cold when outside (especially when wearing appropriate socks and- one of the wonders of the modern age – neoprene lined wellies) but not while indoors. We have the most ineffectual fireplace in the world here. It resides in the sitting room which we only really use over Christmas and much of my time is spent trying to make at least some of the heat come into the room rather than just whooshing up the chimney. The secret is to pile on lots of wood and sit close: so close that one should be within an elfin whisker of second degree burns.

3. Food. This section has some sub-clauses:

a. There is never enough really good chocolate.

b. Brussels sprouts are pretty close to vegetable perfection. My children called them cabbage balls when they were small: an admirable description.

c. Fudge should always be hard (like Scots tablet) rather than soft and the consistency of earwax. It should never be sullied with raspberry essence or rum soaked raisins: that is an abomination. The whole glory of fudge is the almost palpable aura of unhealthy deliciousness – it is all about ingesting enough sugar and condensed milk to fell a diabetic from fifty paces.

d. Pink champagne truffles only belong in the dressing rooms of strippers.

e. Christmas pudding is better cold. Brandy butter is best eaten by the spoonful straight from the fridge after other people have gone to bed.

4. I am very bored of the credit crunch. It is no fun whatsoever. To be more specific I am particularly bored of  having newspapers and television gleefully working everybody up into a froth of anxiety.

5. I resolve to look cynically upon every use of the word Sustainable. I have long suspected that its widespread use is mostly tosh and baloney.

6. Gardening. It is always very satisfying to do a couple of hours hard gardening in cold weather. The pain of thawing out damp, muddy and icy fingertips is so exquisite that for a brief shuddering moment I saw the attraction of hair shirts and ritual flagellation. Then I decided to concentrate on cake and the moment passed unscathed.

Enough rambling I think. I am off to give a lecture to the Northamptonshire Branch of the Hardy Plant Society this afternoon and must concentrate on what I am to say.

I am listening to It’s A Bad Man’s World by Jenny Lewis. The picture is of Cedar cones.