I have no memory of ever having set foot in a grotto. I don't recall ever sitting on Santa's knee. I have no shortage of both vivid and blurry childhood Christmas memories - browsing mail order catalogues marking items for the wish list (pausing briefly in the homeware section to draw faces on all the dinner plates), placing my wish list under the front door mat for Santa's helpers to collect, watching the Poseidon Adventure on Christmas Eve with Grandma sat next to me preparing a colander full of sprouts, filling the red plastic beaker with milk for Santa's midnight refreshment, genuinely believing my brother and I could open and re-pack our stockings at 4 a.m. without anyone else in the house knowing - but no matter how hard I rummage in the memory bank, meeting Santa himself just isn't in there. I'd like to meet him now. I know his local schedule so it wouldn't be impossible to track him down somewhere between his appearance at his Ceredigion Museum hide-out and his walk through on the Rheidol Railway Santa Special journey up to Devil's Bridge.
After 30 plus years the Mr Frosty slush puppy maker that regularly appeared on my wish list but never in my Christmas sack has been knocked off the top spot. Assuming a 42 year old woman can stalk a bearded old man in a red suit and sit on his knee without being arrested, and assuming also that he believes my claim to have been ever so good this year, I would ask Santa for a handyman. I don't expect my handyman to be one of those manly Diet Coke swigging chaps who are the advertising industry's idea of the ideal handyman (not least because he'd catch a terrible chill being bare chested during a Ceredigion winter), just someone who turns up when he says he will, works without back-chat or complaint and accepts payment in cups of tea and packs of biscuits. I don't even expect my handyman to do everything on my extensive task list, just those chores I dislike the most but either can't leave David to do on his own without feeling guilty or which David won't do because he doesn't consider them necessary but which I need to see done for reasons born of obsessive compulsive tidiness.
Any job related to the reed bed is in the former category, but the winter cutting and clearing of each year's reed growth is right up there in the "most hated" section of the "chores I dislike" list. I have no issue with handling reeds that grow in poo-ey water. Apart from the occasional nose wrinkling whiff as the septic tank liquid flushes through, the reed bed is surprisingly odour free. No, my issue is with the reeds themselves, their itchy scratchy cut ends. Despite the gauntlet gloves, for days afterwards I have to keep my forearms covered to avoid looks of concern and raised eye-brows. Plus it's one of those tedious jobs where you can break into a serious sweat working for hours and yet each time you stand to survey your handiwork there always seems to be more to do than has been done. I should confess that due to illness my contribution to this year's reed cutting was minimal, and that only serves to increase my guilt.
Jobs in the latter category include leaf clearing. And when you have a lot of trees, you also have a lot of leaves. Leaves fluttering in the breeze on trees are pleasing to the eye and ear. Leaves piling up in gutters, on paths and around the bins are a drainage problem, slip hazard and an eye sore respectively. I can only persuade David of the first of these. He accepts that an acidic leaf mulch is required for our blueberry bushes, but I cannot persuade him that the needs of those six bushes are reason enough to rake up, bag and drag every fallen leaf. His punishment for maintaining this patently unreasonable position is to stand at the lower side of the sloping Games Room roof and scrape towards him, into his face, into his eyes, the leaves, twigs and general tree detritus that I gleefully push down the slope towards him. My punishment is spiky beech nut cases down my sleeves. If Santa doesn't put a handyman in my stocking I shall be forced to clear the rest of the leaves on my own!