Drawing Room Christmas Window…’Then ’twere well it were done quickly’! So the quotation from Shakespeare goes. In other words, don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do now, this minute, today.

As January progresses our family Christmas unfurls into more general winter celebration with a couple of birthdays of close family members, Distaff Day, Plough Monday, the wassailing of the land on the 17th of the month and then, of course, a celebration of love on the 25th with Saint Dwynwen’s Day. Who said that there is nothing to look forward to after Christmas?

Yesterday afternoon, at the end of the first very sporadic and half-hearted working week  after the Midwinter holidays, the family gathered around the hearth to enjoy afternoon tea – a simple process of eating up the last of the stollen, spice cakes and mince pies. We shared our news of the day and then got down to singing some wassailing songs in preparation for next weekend. Many people sing these old carols as part of their Christmas activities and in some places the blessing of the land is done on New Year’s Day, but we prefer to follow the old calendar and celebrate it as a completely separate event.

None of us can ever remember the words of the old songs by heart, regardless of the fact that we sing them many times every year, so out came our Christmas carol books where the words to various wassails are also kept. These large plastic folders with individual pockets where sheets of paper can be slid in (or out) have been in our family for nearly 15 years and during that time each family member has added songs, written their own alternative words or collected variations which they liked/preferred. We also have carols in three different languages; German, English and Welsh… with the odd bit of Latin thrown in.

The result is that the original sequence and numbering of the sheets and pages is completely jumbled and a general consensus and quick reference of page numbers now almost impossible. Nor does everyone always have the same words either. Each year the chaos grows worse and each year we all declare that we really should do something about it.

Frustrated, my son suddenly decided that enough was enough and organised us into an impromptu song sheet sorting work party. How it is that four reasonably intelligent and well educated adults can find such a simple and logical activity so complex and difficult is beyond me, but it all suddenly became very complicated.

“Where did you say the Somerset Wassail was?”
“On the back of the Gloucester Wassail.”
“So where should I put the Ancient Lord Of The Dance?”
“I haven’t got A White Christmas!”
“Well I printed one out for you…”
“Oh. yes, it’s here behind the teapot…”
“The Holly And The Ivy?”
“And the alternative words for it with Herne off hunting in the woods…”
“There is also the version with stars shining and longer winter days.”
“Can I slide We Wish You A Greener Christmas in here?”
“Just how many versions of the Holly And The Ivy have we got?”
“Listen, I can easily go and print some more copies.”
“Has everyone got Jackie’s Bleak Midwinter?”
“No… yes! It had fallen on the floor…”
“What about Mother’s Night?”
“No, but I have three copies here of God Rest Ye Merry, Druid Folk… one in larger print…”
“I haven’t got Jingle Bells at all!”
“Look, I can bring the printer down here from the office…”
“Can anyone tell me where I should stick the Boar’s Head?”

You get my drift?

It took about forty minutes to get it all sorted out. Now, all I have to do is type up an alphabetical index. Thank heavens I shall be doing that all by myself! But at least we shall all be literally singing from the same hymn sheet in future.

And the moral of this little tale? Use some if this slower time in January – and in lockdown – to sort out stuff that otherwise keeps getting put off. Don’t try to do everything on your own – aim for assistance and teamwork where you can – it might not always make things easier or quicker, but it can be a heck of a lot more fun.

Happy ‘untangling’!