The Duke - December 9, 2015

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When do you put your Christmas decorations up? If the answer is “already”, then I either admire or loathe your efficiency “already”.

And how overboard do (or did) you go?

Do you buy a “real” tree every year and grumble about how much more it costs than last winter?

Do, or did, you find last year’s artificial one has been squashed irreparably in the upstairs cupboard and needs replacing – despite you feeling so smug about saving money this time last year?

Do you, or did you, dust down all the old baubles you have imperceptibly collected over previous seasons, in the hopes that no one comments they’ve seen them all before – adding just a couple each December for good measure?

Do you, or did you, balance precariously on wonky step ladders to erect enough outside lights to put Blackpool Illuminations to shame (or at least make the next door neighbours wonder whose meter they are actually plugged into?

And don’t even get me on to who tangled the inside lights into a Gordian knot when no one was looking, and you have to try and convince everyone they look quite good as a big blob of colour.

We were toying with putting a reduced amount of our decorations up last weekend. Well, when I say “we” I think you can guess which part of “us” “we” was. Anyway “we” (as in “us”) went to Skipton Christmas market instead – which put off the evil day for a week because hanging decorations, whether you are retired or not, isn’t the sort of thing you can do on a weekday. But eating all the cheese we bought could pose a challenge even with a “best by” date somewhere in January or beyond.

It’s round about here I should pretend to be really knowledgeable about the origins, history and tradition of Christmas decorations and come out with a string of facts and figures. Or at least blame them on the Victorians, like I do with so many other things.

But quite honestly I can’t be bothered to Google it all and pass it as off as though I’m cheating in a pub quiz. Google it yourself. Or look it up in an encyclopedia (look that up as well younger readers). I don’t care where they originated – probably Ye Olde Pounde Stretcher or Mr Grumblechop’s Glitter & Baubles Emporium.

All I know is that today is December 9 and I’m still staring at a jumble of carrier bags with labels on indicating which part of the house their contents are destined for. And so far none of them say “garden shed” or “dustbin.” Or even “leave for someone else to do”.

I presume I’ve already missed the last date for posting cards any further afield than Knott End (though if the ferry stops running you’d better get next year’s off in good time). So it’s a good job I always forget to send cards anyway.

Basically, I’ve enough on my mind trying not to forget The Manager’s birthday on December 19 and the Middle Duke Brother’s on December 22 (and, yes, he really is called Noel – much to his annual annoyance). Or is it the other way round? And one of my sister-in-laws’ is in there somewhere too.

The only good thing about that is that it’s less to remember in the other 11 months of the year.

At least this year I have remembered to order a turkey for Christmas Day, but that’s largely thanks to the lady in front of me at the butcher’s ordering hers.

She’s collecting hers on Christmas Eve (before 2pm) so I asked if she’d pick mine up at the same time. Strangely she declined – and it wasn’t Merry Christmas she wished me.

You can’t take it with you....

I’ve never really seen myself as much of a trend bucker. Don’t be alarmed, it’s not rhyming slang.

I’ve always pretty much gone along with trends. You know – long hair when it mattered, a beard for a while, flared trousers when anything else would have been old fashioned. That sort of thing.

But I’m currently well on my way to bucking a big one.

I’m around three years away from being 70 (The Manager is there already – oops, sorry the secret’s out!) which means I’m supposed to start spending less on “non-essentials” such as holidays and eating out – and cutting back on recreational activities.

By 80 I should be saving almost £6,000 a year, according to a study by the International Longevity Centre (wherever that is).

Well, have I got news for them. I’ve actually budgeted my savings to start running out by the time I’m 80.

I want to eat out whilst I’ve got teeth in my head, go on holiday whilst I can remember where I am and enjoy recreational activities until I fall over and break something.

After that I most likely won’t care. Saving at 80? “Under consuming” so I can leave an approved £50,000 when I peg out?

Where’s that saying about shrouds and pockets when you need it?