P&J Column for 23.12.13

In the Internet age, Christmas cards are outdated, wasteful and redundant. Mind you, an email looks rubbish on your mantelpiece.

Davinia Smythe-Barratt, ordinary mum

I’m sure all our friends are wondering when the eagerly awaited Smythe-Barratt Christmas card will arrive, but we’ve decided to dispense with tradition this year and send our annual newsletter without a card. The time has come to finally reject the tyranny of that outdated mode of communication and bring an end to the rapacious capitalism of Hallmark, Clintons and their ilk.  I usually send environmentally sustainable cards in aid of charity, but this year the designs on them were frankly ghastly.  You’d think the Barnardo’s ones had been drawn by a child!

First of all, Milo wishes you all a ‘Feliz Navidad’ from Belize.  Christmas is a difficult time to have a husband in exile in the Caribbean, but Kaiser Osborne’s latest tweak to the tax system leaves us no choice.  If the revenue raised was being put to good use, like supporting the NHS or foreign aid, then that would be one thing, but as a protest against the policies of the Coalition government we refuse to pay a single penny more than is absolutely legally required by the current legislative framework.  Milo hopes to make it back some time in 2014 but it’ll most likely be to the villa in Guernsey. In the meantime we shall stay strong.  On the plus side, it was probably high time that Milo saw at first hand how our tobacco plantation is doing.

Emmeline is, of course, getting along fantastically well at school.  She’s top of her class in all subjects and is captain of the dressage team.  We were hoping to take her to Aspen for some advanced skiing lessons in February but her coach has rather inconveniently taken a year’s sabbatical to join the Red Cross as an emergency aid worker. Emms was distraught, poor thing. She was really looking forward to improving her carving.  Very selfish.  Still our solicitor assures us that we have a water-tight case against him for breach of contract, so that’s something.  He’ll think twice about distributing blankets to Syrian refugees once our legal team gets hold of him!

As for Fidel, he continues to develop into a wonderfully wacky little character.  He wears shorts every day. Not because he has to, but because he wants to. He & two of his pals are on a mission to make it through the whole school year. I did object, for the first twenty cold days, and then I gave up – I’m not fighting with him about it every morning. I never win anyway.  And he’s so endearing when he puts his fingers in his ears and blocks out what you are saying by shouting “I hate you I hate you I hate you” at the top of his little lungs.  He did it the other day, when we were stocking up on festive necessities in the Waitrose in Stirling (I still maintain that it is a breach of our human rights that there is no branch in Aberdeen).  I asked him to go and get me some vacuum-packed chestnuts to use in the stuffing for the organic guinea fowl with orange and Szechuan pepper. He absolutely refused, and rolled around on the ground screaming until mummy said she was sorry.  It transpired that he had seen Michel Roux on “Food and Drink” say that the frozen ones were much superior.

Our festive catering this year comes, as always, courtesy of Snežana, the au pair. She’s Bulgarian, but she’s marvelous. Last week she actually asked for Christmas off to visit her mother in Plovdiv. Bless her heart, I told her I would be happy pay for the flight myself, but she’s just indispensable at this time of year, so sadly I had to refuse.

As for me, I just muddle along as always, like any ordinary mum. The Range Rover has done 50,000 miles  this year – and not just on the school run! I’ve criss-crossed the length and breadth of the country, as I campaigned against the environmental impact of unnecessary car journeys.  I have also taken up the cudgel against the latest predations of the oil and gas sector (I have warned BP; if they start fracking, I shall have no alternative but to sell Daddy’s old shareholding).  In the New Year, I shall be using the media attention afforded to the World Cup as a platform for my drive across Brazil.  Freya from two doors down and I shall be hiring an air-conditioned Toyota Hilux, stripping to the waist to demonstrate our solidarity with the oppressed and exploited Akuntsu people of Brazil, and touring the country to highlight the twin threats of deforestation and climate change.  With any luck, we’ll manage to bring home some under-priced native art and a mahogany side-board into the bargain.

People often say to me, “Davinia, what an inspiration to us all you are.  Why do you do it?”  Well, the answer is simple.  We live in a dreadfully self-absorbed world.  It takes the actions of people like me – simple people doing remarkable things, quietly and without fuss, – to change the world for the better.

So, dear friend it simply remains for me to wish you a non-commercial Christmas and an ecologically-sound New Year.  May your chipolatas be hand-raised and may all your chestnuts be frozen!