As I write this my house is filled with the most wonderful aroma – a glorious combination of brandy, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and dried fruit. Yes you have guessed it – my Christmas puddings are delightfully on the boil, giving off a scent so evocative of this time of year.

In discussions with my Italian business partner, the notion of Noel came up and I was interested to hear that in Italy, Christmas shopping only kicks off during the first week in December. And that’s the way it should be, noted my business partner, not the daft way you Brits do it. Of course, this immediately spiralled me into a Meldrew meltdown during which I added how annoyed I get when UK high street shops, supermarkets and garden centres start flogging their Christmas wares to us in late September/October. And each year this purely money and profit driven exercise seems to get earlier and earlier.

Have these commercial folk ever considered the possibility that their marketing schedules could actually work against them? By the time I am ready to buy some festive stuff in late November, the shelf contents of all these shops are looking tired and stale. The tinsel decorations along every aisle seem to have wilted and lost their gloss and constant Christmas jingles just jangle the nerves.

At this time of the year I am repeatedly reminded of one of my favourite stories my mother used to read to me about a mouse family who lived under the floorboards of a large house. On Christmas Eve, the mice kids were allowed to sniff at a piece of bacon rind and on Christmas morning, each was given a hazel nut.  How simple and so not OTT.

While mulling over all this, my son rang from Edinburgh to tell me he would be home for Christmas on 19 December and he asked what I wanted in the form of a gift.

“I would be more than content with a hug and a hazel nut,” was my response.  This was followed by a moment of complete silence on the other end of the phone. I could just hear my son thinking “oh, good grief, she’s really losing it.”

My son is wrong – I am not losing my mind (well not as a consequence of premature Yule Tide at any rate). I am trying to lose the greed and commercial drive of what should be a time spent cordially with friends, family and who knows even a passing stranger?

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