What I didn’t want for Christmas


What I didn’t want for Christmas

was a spice rack.

Spices have never been my thing.

I get confused between oregano and origami.

I can’t remember when to use rosemary,

paprika, tarragon, or turmeric.

What’s the difference between cardamom and coriander?

It’s all a mystery to me.

I got a rack of spices for Christmas a few years ago.

I threw them out after years of neglect and disuse.

But this Christmas

I made bread sauce.

For the turkey.

I love bread sauce,

And this was my contribution to Christmas dinner.

I made it so carefully!

I bought ingredients.

Including spices.

Garlic, cloves, peppercorns and nutmeg.

Sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf.

It took me two hours to make on Christmas morning.

I took it to my son’s house in a large glass bowl.

It joined the other dishes on the groaning board,

Hidden behind a giant turkey and massed roast vegetables.

It was consumed without comment.

No-one said: ‘This bread sauce is beautifully spiced!’

So I explained that I’d made an effort,

Racking the shelves of Waitrose for fresh bay leaves,

Grinding nutmeg on Christmas morning.

After dinner, we opened presents.

My daughter and partner gave me a spice rack.

She said: This is just what you want, Dad!

We weren’t sure you would like it,

But after that bread sauce!

Chelsea Pensioners

A band of jazz musicians, some retired, regularly play the Chelsea Inn in Easton, Bristol


Catching the swing, we synco-

pate into the Chelsea. The band

of six take time from years gone when:

brass resonates at front,

piano trips an autonomic rhythm,

banjo strikes arpeggio. Players retune

from lives of slower time,

set glasses dancing. Outside, Bristol

in January plays gusty wind,

debris and detritus; but in

the pub the air is clarinet

as time’s lefthanders beat the rhythm strong,

keep ragged time enhancing.

January Swimmers

Lido at Christmas

The sky is dark within the outdoor bathing pool.

Thin wraiths of steam ascend the solitary swimmers.

Swimming in January is serious. Three men, one woman

Propel themselves in lengths scooped out by hands

And arms bent right to gain dramatic traction.

Lights, blue and white, bedeck the changing roofs;

A Christmas tree is pricked with small red torches.

Double glazed diners wear cashmere sweaters

And sharp pressed trousers. Warmer by the blue-grey splash outside,

They sense their privilege. Only the swimmers toil,

Washing themselves clean of the old year,

Buoying their souls to meet the coming spring.