I know that when Christmas comes I will be brave, and the actual day will be much better than the build-up. We're going to spend it with my parents, my sister and her family and there will be so many happy kids around I know I'll find it hard to feel too sad - or even have the time! But on Christmas Day I'll be thinking of Rog, wherever his soul may be, and sending him all the love in the world.
Ah, Christmas shopping. The smart ones among us started in August, have all their wrapping done, and are putting their feet up and smirking as they listen to the rest of us mere mortals bemoaning the hazards of shopping in December.
One thing I can never quite fathom is the arrival of the 'man' store, only there for the holiday period, stuffed full of silver gadgets in blue boxes, joke books about farts and football, remote control helicopters and other such fodder deemed 'manly.'
The streets are lit up, homes pulsing with light. Bushes twinkle in front gardens while back gardens up and down the country are dark and jealous. If you listen carefully, on this cold winter night before Christmas, you can almost, almost, hear the magical sound of the national grid wheezing...
Of course, Christmas is a time of celebration and merriment and I wish each and every one of you happiness and joy. Please let's just stop to consider the millions of lives, people who live on our street, go to school with our children, colleagues at work, men, women and children who are all dreading the time of year that has proven year after year to be a terrifying season.
Now I am sure that there are many owners who treat their exotic pets wonderfully but in my opinion these animals are not meant to be domesticated. The joy of a monkey or parrot cannot be seen when caged. It is seeing these creatures in their natural environment that brings the wonder and awe of the animal kingdom to us.
It all seemed so easy a few weeks ago. When Christmas felt like an age away and plans were being loosely discussed, your response was casual, almost cavalier. 'We'll have it at ours', you said, barely giving the size and scale of hosting Christmas dinner a second thought. Once said, almost immediately forgotten. Until now.
Beer has several properties that make it a perfect libation with food - water, carbon dioxide, hops and, quite often, bitterness (although not all beers are bitter), myriad flavours, diversity in body, texture, mouthfeel - all of which are very useful in cutting, contrasting, or complementing what we eat.
Each family has its memories and traditions and they will all be different. If, as adults, we are asked to describe our childhood, more likely than not, it won't be long before we alight on a family tradition.
The holiday season is here and with it comes an increased acceptance that getting wasted is the social norm. Which is fine for normal drinkers, but for alcoholics the Christmas season poses the risk of relapse and endangers themselves and everyone around them.
The other day we were talking about the kids and whether they'd been good this year. You finished off by asking me what I'd like for Christmas. And I said dismissively, 'Oh, nothing.' But I realised later, that wasn't exactly true.
This is the better meaning of Christmas: not that we receive from a supply that will never end, but that, in the dead of night, in acknowledgement of the limited resources that this world has, we recognise our common worth and equality and share what we have with those who have less.
You know what, nude tights are actually one of the most ridiculous creations. As well as falling to pieces through one use, they are literally like a sausage skin. If you have ever made your own sausages you will know that pulling on that thin membrane makes absolutely no difference to the appearance of that sausage.
Most countries in the world produce a fortified wine: a wine that is strong, and often sweet, made by adding some brandy spirit to the wine. For many people Christmas is the one time of the year when they will buy such wines, so here is a round-up of three fortified wines from classic European centres of excellence for this style:
I was very often late simply because my mornings were slowed down by my inability to select an outfit with speed and efficiency from my cluttered wardrobes. There was no order but clothes were generally thrown in the night before without any thought.
We all have a specific take on the world based on our experiences and upbringing. We can't change that but we can change our reaction to situations or news stories. We can recognise when we're making a judgement based our opinions rather than facts. We can consider all sides of the story. If you're scared. Admit it. If you don't understand. Ask a question. Just as a child would do...