Jolly Yuletide Quiz

Having found all the Grauniad quizzes and the crossword far too taxing this year, I have devised a little light hearted quiz to take my mind off having to go back to work tomorrow. I hope you are all having an enjoyable time, and are looking forward to the New Year in spite of the doom and gloom pervading the news. Please join in, if you’re in the mood for frivolous distraction. Apologies if we’ve had any of the questions before, but here we jolly well go:

1. Amazon recommends … what is the strangest combined offer you’ve had from Amazon (or anyone else) this year?  Mine is “6 pairs mens thermal socks size 6-11; The Bed of Procrustes – Philosophical & Practical Aphorisms; Ben Ten Galactic Racing and Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diababte.”

2. Do you have a Christmas tree? If so, what is on the top? As you can see from the photo, we have the Bogeyman – handmade by a ghost of Christmas past. Can you top it?

3. What present are you struggling to be grateful for this year? And does it make you think the giver just doesn’t know you at all, or that they know you too well? Mine is a voluminous pair of ice-cream pink flannelette pyjamas with cats on – my efforts to project my image as a hard-driven career woman / cougar / middle-aged sex symbol have obviously failed, thus far. Perhaps I’d do better with Amazon.

4. What percentage of your Christmas cards includes a portrayal of an animal or bird of some kind? (Warning: this may involve standing up and using brain). Mine is 50%, including a turkey on the mast of a lifeboat. Go figure, Amazon!!

5. What did you have for Christmas dinner, and are you still eating it? In my case, Mr Munday brought us a shepherdless shepherd’s pie (green lentils) – I had some yesterday in a stew and today it’s soup … meanwhile the cat is sulking and out looking for shepherds.

6. Tell us an amusing anecdote about Christmas – any Christmas. Mine is probably the year my brother fell down my other brother’s stairs in the dark, playing hide and seek with us kids, circa 1973. He wasn’t badly hurt but had the pattern of his string vest etched into the bruise. And the banisters were wrecked. Probably our last true family Christmas, for some reason …

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55 thoughts on “Jolly Yuletide Quiz

  1. 1 I don’t remember any interesting combinations, but Amazon has assured me that I’ve ‘purchased or rated’ albums by John Dankworth and Keith Jarrett recently, which I’m pretty sure I haven’t.

    2 No tree….not bah humbug, but house full of boxes leaving nowhere to put it.

    3 All my presents were brilliant this year – well, Matt’s hasn’t come yet, but apart from that…Actually I’m surprised he’s sent anything at all since he doesn’t usually.

    4 Just over 50% if you include teddy bears. If not, just under 50%.

    5 We had a vegan Christmas again this year, because it worked really well last year – lentil bake with tomato sauce, roast potatoes, sprouts, broccoli and sweetcorn followed by mince pies and Christmas pud with soya cream, vegan vanilla ice cream and hard sauce (without the brandy – the vegans don’t drink alcohol). I was given some mince pies to take home and still have 2 left. It’s the big snag when you go to someone else’s house, of course, that you don’t have any leftovers! Though come to think, my mother always used to give me a hefty chunk of the turkey…

    6 My mother had spent part of WW2 in the States and her landlady there, Mrs Trim, used to send her a food parcel every Christmas for many years afterwards – I’m not sure how many years, but I can certainly remember them coming and I was born in 1949. Mrs Trim was sorry for us because of the rationing. Not that amusing perhaps, but neither is yours, Ali! I got a Boxing Day black eye this year in fact when the hatch-cover thingy for the loft fell down and hit me in the face. But it was my own fault.

    • Ouch, tfd. Hope it’s healing now. There is a certain perversity in getting food parcels from someone called Trim. And it was funny when my brother fell downstairs because my dad got flustered and blamed me (no, I couldn’t work that one out either, I’d told him to leave the lights ON) and as Alan fell, he made this splendid noise like a deflating balloon … I feel sure that alcohol was involved, somewhere, which probably accounted for the lack of pain, and my dad’s irritability!

      • It feels better but it doesn’t look better – and I’m babysitting tonight so the boys will get a shock if they wake up!

    • also ouch, I do hope it heals fast, can you put arnica on an eye? My loft has caused me injury too, although it was my fault for not making sure the ladder was safe, it fell down as I was near at the top which led to exciting bruises and two holes in the door it hit on the way down.

  2. 1) I no longer shop from or support Amazon. Their sleazy business practices and conditions for workers are just horrible.

    2) Nope.

    3) I’m quite grateful for all of my gifts this year! Very happy camper, but off soon to exchange the lovely boots my sister got me as they’re a size 6 and i take an 8.

    4) 0% – I don’t do Christmas cards.

    5) Well. I have dinner every year with the Catholic branch of the family (sister’s). They go to midnight mass on Xmas eve with the in-laws, and then ditch the parents and go to an afterparty. They usually get home around 5 am, and when they wake up on Xmas day, they’re generally hung over. We usually get together very late afternoon, and this year they didn’t pick me up till 6pm. Apparently they weren’t up to cooking the usual Xmas dinner, so we had a pre-made (by sister) chicken pot pie and salad, and a Carvel ice cream cake for dessert. Sister is a chef, so it was the best potpie i’ve ever had.

    6) A quick Xmas story from this year – around 1 pm was working at home before meeting family, and was thinking how lovely and quiet it was. Knock on the door – neighbors? Family showed up early? (My apartment door is tucked way around the back of the building, not obvious, and not easily accessable.) No, Jehovah’s Witnesses. On Christmas fucking day. I sent them packing swiftly and started drinking early.

  3. Thanks Amy. Your story made me smile. I had to google ‘pot pie’ and have spent the last 10 minutes reading about food and getting hungry again.

    • I didn’t realize that was an American dish, figured that was one that we got from the UK. Chicken Pot Pie is like meatloaf or macaroni and cheese here – a comfort food staple, and very tasty if done right. If Steenbeck had a suggestion for a vegetarian version, i’d love to know how she’d alter the recipe. My sister did a version with sour cream, and it was chock full of veggies too.

  4. 1. I’m not sure what the most bizarre is, but I do find it odd that they recommend alternative versions of something that you already bought… (I currently have umpteen versions of Gormenghast in my recommend list).

    2. Yes. A very boring silver plastic star that came in a kit from boring old Tesco.

    3. Toiletries. I hate getting toiletries. I am slightly allergic to certain perfumes (I don’t know which), so I usually buy Simple or similar. Nobody buys Simple as a present. They buy fancy stuff, usually beautifully packged kits complete with weird things that I either don’t know what to do with or wouldn’t use in a month of Sundays. Unfortunately, my mother loves toiletries and seems incapable of remembering that I don’t. I’d rather get socks.

    4. I’m really not sure. Somehow, the cards never made it to the wall this year. We collected them in an old Quality Street tin instead.

    5. We had beef roast (ordered from our local butcher, who I feel guilty for not supporting more). There’s a tiny bit left – enough for a single sandwich, I think.

    6. Can’t think of an amusing necdote right now, I’m afraid.

  5. With you on the toiletries, I’m allergic to almost all of them, so they end up being donated or recycled. This is the first year I can remember when I haven’t received any – thanks, everyone!

  6. 1. Can’t think of any “specials” but I do get odd suggestions on Amazon, apparently they are under the impression that I might be interested in both an i-pad and the Cure live at Bestival. I can assure them I am not.

    2. Ubuette did the tree this year and went for “tasteful” ( coordinating baubles and tinsel) so it’s an angel with a tinsel “star” backing.

    3.A “super pen” that needs no ink because it’s nib is , apparently, a special science fiction substance that leaves a trace upon paper. We used to call them “pencils”.

    4. About 40-60. Lots of penguins.Which is a bit odd, if you think about it, as they live in the Antarctic rather than the North Pole. About as Christmasy as an Emu.

    5.Vege-balls with tomato sauce, stuffing balls, roast pots, parsnips and sweet pots, sprouts, broccoli , peas followed by Christmas pud (vege) and cream, all cooked by my own fair hand and , for once, hardly any left so no leftovers.

    6. One Christmas I got sick ( I have about at 50% average over my lifetime in that respect) with a really bad dose of flu and took to my bed. Determined to join the Christmas “fun” ( we are quiet, boring people at heart) I tried to get out of be only to discover that I was suffering from a weird “body distortion” thing which , rather like Alice, meant that I “was” too small to get down from the bed. I remember sitting there for ages looking down at my legs and the apparently huge drop to the floor and thinking “This is right” ( it wasn’t).
    I have since discovered that there is a “syndrome” causes this effect and have had a few “flashbacks” since. It can be quite amusing but at other times can cause problems like the time I “fell” off the kerb into the road because I had suddenly become “small”.
    ‘Twas not the best Christmas I have had, sadly it also wasn’t the worst !

  7. 1. Can’t think of any combined offers from anywhere offhand, but we’ve got a Blur CD on ‘special offer of the week’ at work as of today for €9.99 instead of €8.99 – any takers?!
    2. Yes, we do have a Christmas tree. It lives in a pot out the back, rescued from a neighbour’s not particularly successful *get-yer-Christmas-tree-‘ere* business a couple of years ago, and we drag it in for Christmas week every year. It’s a bit too wonky to put anything right on top, but there’s a blue angel made by TheBoyWonder at primary school quite near the summit, battling for attention with Little’un’s red ‘angel’ (made by folding thin card like an accordion and sticking sparkly stuff on for hair) dangling from a branch nearby.
    3. My partents send me a tea-towel every year; I think it’s supposed to be a joke. (I took my revenge by knitting my dad a Christmas pudding hat resplendent with holly leaves and berries on top – he hates it!)
    4. One polar bear plus one Winnie-the-Pooh (do fictional animals count?) = dunno percent.
    5. Ended up with turkey after all (a chunk of breast meat rather than a whole bird) which lasted for two meals (cold with cheese & veg pie on Boxing Day), but may well have fed a teenage-son-less family several days longer. (Hollow legs)
    6. Got Little’Un a shocking pink mp3 player of her own, in the vain hope of getting my (black!) one back, but she refuses to believe it’s not a telephone and wanders around with it clamped to her ear, gabbling incomprehensible messages to her friend Emirhan from the school bus (yes, I know that’s not very Christmassy, but presents were BIG on the agenda for her this year – it’s the first time she’s been interested in more than the wrapping paper)

    Merry Midwinter, everyone!

    • At least your story doesn’t involve physical injury or general incapacity … I gave in and bought Sam an Ipod (and not much else). He has only 5 songs on it so far and has spent most of Christmas playing games on it – he could have done that on my laptop!

      • My Sam was bought an ipod for his 13th birthday (his whole class clubbed together for it), so I was allowed to keep the boring black Dutch number I’d bought on special offer months before!

      • I wasn’t at all sure it was a good idea but in the end, it was all he really wanted, so that’s what he got. We’ve still be playing table tennis with a balloon and rolled up newspapers, though. Much more fun.

    • I want a Tshirt with your avatar on it (in fact, I think we should all get one). Maybe the treasurer of the currently *resting* ‘Spill Records could organise that for the shareholders?!

  8. 1) I can’t think of any weird combinations but I am a salutary example of why it is not a good idea to order things for other people. Somebody I know through work keeps asking me to get him Blu-ray copies of action movies. This has changed my profile completely and I have to keep on ticking “do not use this for recommendations”.

    2) My Christmas Tree is one foot tall, fibre-optic and makes pretty colours. It does not have anything on the top.

    3) Can I have those pyjamas? I’ll swap my copy of Misery Bear’s Guide To Love And Heartbreak.

    4) About 50% including robins, reindeer and cats.

    5) I took a veggie roast round to my sister’s house for me and my niece. I wasn’t sufficiently graceless as to take the remains of it home with me. I hope my niece has had a few sandwiches out of it. I have been living on Spring rolls and quorn.

    6) When I was fifty and my niece was fifteen she phoned me up on Boxing Day and complained that her mother and brother were at the football watching AFC Wimbledon, her dad was listening to trance and techno on his headphones and she was really bored. Would I come with her to Covent Garden to do some shopping? It was a lovely day and we both enjoyed ourselves watching the buskers and buying up most of the Lush shop but I kept thinking “is this mean’t to happen? Shouldn’t you be embarrassed by my very existence? not asking me to go shopping with you?”

  9. You can have the pyjamas but I don’t think I want the swap item … perhaps you could pass them on to your niece to restore the “embarrassing uncle” status quo?

  10. 1. I have a recommendation for a pokémon Tepig soft toy next to a Dave Brock album, but like Severin that is due to gift buying.

    2. My tree has a gold star on top of it, the angel was too heavy and looked a bit drunk as she bent branch, so glittery star it was.

    3. I am grateful for the thought with all of my gifts, but brown fishnet tights are really so not my thing. However I can’t moan as Mr Bethnoir unexpectedly bought me a new iPod and camera, which are two of the best things I’ve ever had, but shocked me as we don’t usually do expensive presents. I did get enough Body Shop stuff to start my own shop, but as I like it that was no bad thing.

    4. Do tobogganing sprouts count as animals? We have a chipmunk, kittens, puppies and birds, probably more Santas and scenery though, so maybe 40%?

    5. I had a Linda McCartney burger with lots of lovely vegetables on Christmas day and the pre-Christmas meal I prepared included a Quorn fillet for me. As the only vegetarian, I am glad to eat mostly what everyone else has as long as I get plenty of sprouts.

    6. My festive story involves one of my grandmother’s creative cake decorating. My dear grandmother made lovely tasting cakes and like to be original with the icing. This particular year, she had fashioned a ski slope out of polystyrene, covered it in icing to represent snow and put little plastic ski-ers on it with some Christmas trees for them to slalom around.

    As there was a lot of food everywhere, she thought a good place to store the cake would be in the oven. She didn’t share this with anyone else, so my mother turned the oven on without looking inside, it took a while for the smell to alert us to the issue, but luckily it was an electric over and heated up slowly. I think that alcohol might have been involved, but I remember lying on the floor laughing until we cried.

    Her icing always set as hard as concrete, so it was no loss when we had to cut it off, the cake tasted fine. I made my own cake this year, I missed her.

    • Bless. The first time I iced a cake it was a birthday cake for my dad. I put too much food colouring in the icing and we all ended up looking like vampires with red stained teeth …

      • Cool! Too much food colouring can be a hazard with marzipan fruits too, very red marzipan is not a pleasant sight. My icing was quite soft, but I expect it to harden to uncuttableness within a few days.

      • One solution to colouring marzipan is to paint the food colouring on. I used to do a lot of novelty cakes (for family and – at university – for friends); one idea that I used a few times was a giant hamburger with marzipan salad!

      • that is very sensible, Zala, if I am ever to make marzipan sculptures again, I will use that technique. Cakes and their decoration are something I usually leave to other people.

  11. 1. i-tunes still hasn’t worked out that someone who likes Flamenco isn’t likely to be over enthusiastic about the latest Shakira-Beyoncé or whatever collaboration. I’ve given up looking at the recommendations.
    2. Yup. A big gold star. Just below it we have a blown glass Nativity scene in a bauble my mother gave to my wife a few years ago, which is special for us, though.
    3. A Michael Bublé Christmas Special CD from my boss. Haven’t worked out what to do with it. Re-gifting seems cruel and dangerous for any shreds of credibility I may still have. Charity shop looks like the best option.
    4. All of them. Nativity scenes one and all.
    5. Suckling pig. Just enough to go round.
    6. Don’t feed over excited bairns bilberry pie on Boxing Day just before a drive over the Pennines. Christmas was always a great time at my Granddad’s house in Didsbury – 48 hours of screaming and playing with a host of cousins I only got to see once a year. When I was seven or eight I’d had the usual whale of a time and wolfed down seconds of my favourite pudding when Mum and dad popped us all in the car for a pre M62 drive back to the north east. Somewhere near Bury it made its first reappearance. We were well past the Wetherby Turnpike before things had settled down.

    • Ugh, Maki, that story conjures up the most horrible picture. I can remember my dad driving fast over “the humps” when we used to visit my grandparents in the Lake District – I thought it was fun at the time but my mum used to turn a very funny colour.

  12. Amazon – Never really used it to buy music. As such never noticed it’s musical recommendations

    Tree – I’m in a one-bedroom apartment. Storage space is at a premium. I have a 15 inch artificial tree that my niece attached coloured buttons to the branch tips with glue. It has a small paper star on top, coloured with markers and covered with glitter. She made it for me and my wife in school when she was about age 7. (She turns 12 this Spring.) I also have one of those animated Christmas tree’s that sings and shakes when someone walks by it. Annoying as hell, but it was a gift from my wife when we were dating, so she forbids me to get rid of it.

    No really, you “shouldn’t have” – I got a Fushigi ball – one of those contact juggling balls that are advertised on US TV. I’ll probably give it to one of the children in the family and tell them it’s a crystal ball.

    Animals – That same person – who shall remain nameless – also gave me two coffee mugs with lids that look like fat smiling cats. Gee thanks, I think.

    Leftovers – I was traveling, so I didn’t take too much food home. Just some unopened bags of crisps – (“Take these home or I’m gonna feed them to the dog.” Gee thanks.) and some slices of various cakes. Much of those went to work with me on Monday to be shared with others in the office.

    Festive story (?) – Christmas 1980 – My British aunt had died earlier that month at age 55 from a stroke. As it was a sudden passing, her family could not attend the funeral. Her mother, stepfather, along with her half-sister and first cousin and their children came for Christmas instead.
    What a wonderful trans-Atlantic holiday right?
    As a kid, I never knew how much hostility and anger actually went down that week as us kids were simply told to go outside and play, which we did and had a lot of fun.
    I only found out years later that my uncle (picture a personality combo of Frank Barone, David Brent, and Foghorn Leghorn) had deeply offended his in-laws by having his wife’s body cremated and buried in an unmarked grave in Alabama rather than a family plot in England. He had also sold, discarded, or given away some of her family heirlooms. His jokey, wisecracking, good-ol’-boy personality went over poorly too.
    While most of the issues eventually got resolved – and my aunt eventually did get a headstone – her family never would return to the States until 2011 when her half-sister – the only adult from that ’80 trans-Atlantic visit who was still living – returned for my cousin’s funeral. My uncle is today a fairly healthy age 92 and still hosts the family Christmas get-togethers.

  13. Good questions Ali.

    1. My Amazon.jp account is usually pretty spot-on, but my Amazon.uk account is only used for gifts and throws up some pretty disparate pairings.

    2. We DID have, it’s already been taken down (yesterday) to make way for the New Year clean up. On top was a very tasteful hand-crafted, plain, wooden star – purchased in Sweden in one of their Christmas markets.

    3. Did pretty well this year…no howlers. Although we did get some very expensive-looking handmade glass candlesticks from my Dad that Mrs Panther is not too enamoured of….I think they are OK though.

    4. All 5 or 6 of them have already been taken down and put in a box. Sorry !

    5. We had two friends over and had a locally raised free-range chicken from a local farmer (if anyone has read Jonathan Safron Foer’s “Eating Animals” the chapter on factory chicken farming was enough to put me off supermarket chicken for life…but not quite enough to turn me back into a vegetarian !) with all locally grown roasted veggies and broccoli soup. Very nice it was too !

    6. Have had quiet Christmasses for the last few years – this year was the first I haven’t had to work in about 8 or 9 years – and can’t think of anything too outrageous from my dim and distant past….there must be something though….hmm…

    • tidying up already? That is very prompt. I must admit when we arrived back home from relative visiting on Boxing Day evening I did feel that the clutter of cards, tree and decorations was a bit depressing, but I shall resist for a few more days.

    • The clear up sounds like an excellent idea, we have a very small house which doesn’t respond well to clutter. But I try to last until the end of the school holiday (next Tuesday), just so my son doesn’t tell people “my mum doesn’t like Christmas”, or something!!

  14. the thing is that in Japan we do a big clean up (like spring cleaning) before New Year, it’s important to start the year completely fresh, we even put out new toothbrushes at midnight on New Years Eve in our house. So the Christmas tree gets boxed up almost immediately……we did put it up early this year to compensate though !

  15. Amazon are offering me a free mp3 of Shonen Knife wishing me a merry christmas & Ave Maria by some unidentified Celtic Woman. As it’s unlikely to be Sinead, and I’m over Xmas tunes for another year, I think I’ll pass.

    Mrs S got me something called ass rub. Unsure if this is moving or deeply disturbing.

  16. My great aunt was a formidable woman: one of the first woman doctors in Ireland, she met Hitler at a hotel near Berchtesgarten before WW2 started and I betcha Adolf was more scared of her than she of he. The source spring for Ballygowan water was in her garden (she never made a penny from it…).

    She told a story about a friend of hers in Limerick who had cousins in the US during the war. Everything was rationed in Ireland, so it was not unusual for family members to send stuff back to their kith and kin for Xmas – candied and dried fruit and spices being typically difficult things to get hold of.

    Anyway, a parcel turns up unannounced at the start of December crammed with mixed peel, glace cherries, raisins and spices. There was no indication as to what the contents of the parcel were, but they were able to figure out most things with ease. There was a sealed tin that was a bit of a mystery, but when preparing the cake the heaped a few spoons into the batter and thought nothing more of it. Christmas came and went and everyone agreed it was a fine cake. Some days later a letter turned up from the cousins apparently posted at the time that the parcel was sent.

    It began:

    “Dear Aggie

    I have sent a parcel under separate cover with some goodies for Christmas for you and the family.

    You will know about poor old Jimmy who passed away during the summer. He had told your ma that he wished his ashes to be scattered on the (rugby) pitch at Thomond Park, so could you drop the tin in to Seamus the groundsman and he’ll arrange for the priest to attend….”

  17. Hope I’m not too late for the party. Can I have this mince pie? Is there any port left?

    1. Not Amazon, but I had this from Facebook a while ago:

    Do you like Country music? Many people who like Gardening like this.

    2. Yes to the tree (Mrs Barbryn went out and bought a huge cut one in early December, before I’d had the chance to dig up the scrawny rooted one from two years ago that’s just clinging to life at the back of the garden) but nothing on top.

    3. I was grateful for anything – having to readjust to people who used to give me presents now just getting things for the kids. Yes, that’s fine. It’s totally fine. It’s not like they don’t already have INSANE AMOUNTS OF STUFF ALL OVER THE HOUSE (most of it bought, admittedly, by their doting parents).

    4. About 35%, mostly reindeer, but there appears to be a fashion for small animals wearing Santa hats this year (including a meerkat – maybe we all have a mutual friend?) Percentage of our cards that were for Innis from her classmates at school: at least 90%.

    5. What a lot of veggies we have… I made butternut squash stuffed with feta, some of which became a quiche on Boxing Day, plus the traditional trimmings

    6. The great aunt of someone I know a bit through a music blog had this friend in Limerick…

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