I’m not a person who does Christmas very well.     I’d cheerfully vote it off the calendar, robins, turkeys, lords-a-leaping and all, and instead stand with my tribe, our breath smoking in the winter air, to give thanks for the rising of the sun.   However, it is nice to see family and friends, exchange greetings and feast together, so I try to ho-ho-ho it with good cheer.

Given a general reluctance on my part to start the whole proceedings, (not helped by shops playing It’s-looking-alot-like Christmas in September when it decidedly is NOT) I am generally late  with everything, icing my cake on Christmas eve, missing the deadlines for postage etc.   This year however, I resolved I would not miss the postage dates, and was pleased to find something to despatch to Sheena’s daughter in Canada.    Technically I do not know what relation I am to Claire.    Sheena is my cousin, but as I am the eldest of our generation and she is the youngest, her daughter is the same age as some of my own grand-daughters, so I view her as a honorary  one of them.     However I find something I think will suit, and which will post, and John wraps it up (I get tangled up in cellotape if I do it) and it sits on the kitchen table waiting for me to address it.

This morning Carolyn is coming for coffee,  after an exercise class -when one is generally hungry.    I decide to make scones for her.     When Princess Diana died, I saw her described in three words in some newspaper – Diana, princess, mother, icon.   I’m sure the late Diana was more than that, (beauty, surely?) and that my own list would be much more mundane, but in among the other nominations – I would think scone-maker would feature somewhere.   (Doubtless the lady Diana never indulged in so humble an activity.)    But I’m remembered for my scones.   I give master classes in scone making (all down to my mother’s excellent teaching and the fiery stove we cooked on.)   Because Anne, the other partner in our long-historied triumvirate is not coming,  I decide I will make fruit scones on this occasion, with cinnamon – Anne does not care for cinnamon.

Before I can get started on the scones however, John asks for the parcel as he’s going up town and will post it.   I get my address book and look for the parcel.   It is nowhere to be found.    John – who in fairness very rarely loses anything – begins to stomp around the house turning over objects and up-ending things with loud mutterings to which I don’t listen.    I send him out to look in the bin to see if it is there.  Since only he takes stuff out to the bin he protests loudly that it isn’t there because he hasn’t put it there, but I insist.    He starts asking me to reconsider what I did yesterday but apart from remembering it was at the table at lunch time, I have absolutely no recollection of doing anything further with it.

Meanwhile, time is marching on;  I haven’t set the table or begun on the scones and Carolyn will shortly be here.  I tell John I need time to think about the parcel and must start on the scones and he goes off, whirlwind style, around the house, moving stuff and muttering.   I pull myself together and begin the scones.

I decide to make half the usual quantity, so I start with 8 oz of wholemeal flour.   I add some butter, a spoonful of sugar, and then a teaspoon of cinnamon and a handful of sultanas.   I realise I haven’t put the oven on as usual to preheat so I do that.    With wholemeal scones, I often add a tablespoon of yoghourt, which softens the dough, so I do that, plus an egg and some milk.   It doesn’t seem enough milk.   I add more.   Still not enough.   What on earth is wrong with it?   I add a dollop more but too much – the mixture is a batter before I can stop it.   These will never shape into scones.   Then I look at the flour bag and see that instead of, as I thought, using self raising wholemeal flour (which I do have) I’m using very strong bread flour, so my mixture is both far too wet, and has no raising agent.   I get my baking powder, of which I have only a little left, and fling the lot in, plus more flour.   I now have hardly any milk left, but I manage to get the mixture to about the right consistency and I dollop it out on the table with a floured hand.   As I pat out the sticky dough, I look along the table and I see the parcel is standing end on behind the table, the same colour as the chair, and because it’s standing on its end,  we haven’t seen it when we look underneath.   I call John.

He then wants the parcel addressed because he’s about to go out, so he looks up Sheena in the address book.   She is a married lady, so I give him her name, and he can’t find her address, and then I remember I’ve probably left it under her maiden name.    More mutterings about the impossibility of following my filing methods.    She’s also moved, so I wonder if I’ve put in the new address, but fortunately I have.

Meanwhile, my dough is sitting on the table.    One of the requirements of scones is speed of operation.    At last the addressed parcel goes off with John, and I cobble together the scones and shove them in the oven.

I never give a set time for how long they take.  You just cook them until you smell they are ready (about 5 – 10 minutes.)    This lot seems to take forever.  I keep opening the oven door (you shouldn’t do that) and poking them and they’re not ready, and then I go off and see to something and when I next look at them, they’re burnt.

So now I’ve set the table, complete with a plate of what looks like doughy biscuits, slightly burnt and not at all appetising.    It’s half an hour past the time I was expecting Carolyn (who is normally to time.)     Have I got the time wrong?   Have I got the day wrong?      Have I got the week wrong?

One thing is certain, I’ve got the scones wrong.

Anne Armstrong, scone-maker (not today.)