Jayne Dawson: Next time I promise you it is all going to be very different

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Tell you what, in a spirit of New Year selflessness, I’ll start first. It’s the beginning of the new. A blank sheet is before us.

It’s a beach without footprints stretching to a far horizon, it’s an infinite, cloudless blue sky, it’s an inviting, calming, wonderful empty sea.

You’re bang on, I have been watching too many of those irritating holiday adverts - but you know what I mean. It’s freshly 2014, and all is meant to be optimism and improvement.

And here’s how I feel about that: I feel fat.

I feel fat and I feel unhealthy and I feel exhausted and I feel greedy and I feel guilty and I feel anxious.

In other words, I’m right on track. Exactly where I should be. Because at this time of year this is how I always feel.

And at this time of year I always have the same conversation. I have it on a loop. I have it with everyone I meet. If I could get away with it, I would stop strangers in the street and have it with them. One year, I expect I will. And that will be the signal that it really is time to pass on the Christmas baton to another member of the family. Please God.

It’s the conversation that goes: “I’m not doing that again. Next year it’s going to be different. It’s ridiculous, all that spending of money, none of us can afford it, we don’t even like the stuff we buy each other. Let’s definitely limit it to one present each next year, and let’s not buy for adults, only for children. Maybe we should just turn it into a Secret Santa?”

That isn’t all of the conversation, that’s only the part leading up to where I need to draw breath and wipe away the tears.

The next bit is all about the food.

“Why do we buy so much? Nobody eats much these days anyway. It’s disgusting. No one has touched that ham, there are three boxes of out-of-date M&S stuffing in the fridge and I don’t know why I make a gallon of bread sauce every year because I’m the only one who eats it.” I’m sure you know the drill. I’m sure you have a similar conversation yourself. Like I said, I’m just going first.

The next part involves not talking, but searching. Scouring cool parts of the house for those pots of double cream you bought “just in case” and counting up how many stale loaves of bread you have.

This year, in a particularly vicious bout of festive chaos, three of us each bought extra pots of double cream. Now I have six lined up in the garage, staring at me, making me feel guilty for not turning them into homemade ice cream before they go off.

So today, it’s as if a giant vacuum cleaner has sucked all the festive spirit out of me, but in a way that doesn’t involve losing any weight. Festive spirit is powerful stuff but it clearly weighs nothing. Either that or I have been hit over the head by the New Year Hammer. The one that knocks some sense into you.

So next time it’s going to be different. Christmas is going to be fun, but it’s going to be just enough.

We are going to make merry by collecting our own holly - in a considerate way that doesn’t leave any tree stripped brutally bare - and my decorations will be greenery from my garden, after all it would be good to make use of that ivy that is currently choking everything.

My table will groan with just the right amount of bread sauce, and cranberry sauce and turkey and trimmings - but not too much. There will never again be six spare pots of double cream haunting my dreams, or a vat of sprouts mouldering in the fridge.

I will hit next December healthy, slim, fit and with a sane and sensible head on. Christmas is going to be a monster tamed - but in the meantime I have spotted some lovely half price baubles that would look perfect on the tree.


Caroline Verdon: Nothing quenches your soul like the taste of a great cuppa