That's the last time I attempt home-made pot pourri | Alun Newman

If there ever was a time when I questioned what have I become, this was it.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 6:10 am
Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. Picture: United Artists/The Kobal Collection
Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. Picture: United Artists/The Kobal Collection

Only myself and my daughter have any interest in sourcing our Christmas tree and decorating the family home into festive first gear.

Tree-wise, we either go for the last weekend in November or the first one in December.

Yes, we go early.

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The tree is usually decorated as we feast on Twiglets and Mini Cheddars, listening to Motown Christmas on Spotify while I try not to get irritated about the positioning of the Christmas tree lights.

As we wandered through the garden centre, mooching through the decorations and tinsel on our way to the tills, we were hit with the smell of Christmas.

Bag after bag of different dried fruits and fir cones were emitting a fabulous seasonal aroma of orange, cinnamon and rolling woodland.

They were wrapped in cellophane and finished with red ribbons – at £20 a bag!

Twenty quid for the smell of Christmas!

I could dry some fruit and stick a piece of cinnamon in a bag for a fraction of the price.

Kirstie Allsopp’s been convincing us that any idiot could turn their two-bedroom terrace into a country manor with some holly from the local park and a few beads from Poundland.

I refused to purchase at that exorbitant cost and instead decided to buy a bag of oranges and lemons on the way home and model to my daughter a bit of the make do and mend attitude that this country is famous for.

It couldn’t be easier – Googled.

Place the sliced fruit directly onto the oven shelves.

Temperature at 130C and turn every half an hour for the next four hours, as if I had nothing better to do, but I was committed and I’m a role model.

The oranges and lemons not only started to weld themselves onto the baking tray, they also leached out litre after litre of juice.

It was pouring out of the oven.

Two hours in, we had to put a tea towel on the kitchen floor to keep mopping up the overflow.

Three hours in and griddle marks, more familiar with a well-cooked steak, appeared on the fruit.

After three and half hours, some of it had gone so brown it had to come out of the oven, others were still floppy.

Eventually the process seemed complete and I was left with a pile of fruit that looked like it had been retrieved from a bush wildfire.

Somehow, I had to turn this into a celebration of Christmas.

I placed a portion, once cooled, in an Ikea sandwich bag that my daughter had brought back from school.

The rest went in presentation bowls, positioned around the house. The outcome…

My daughter refuses to do her homework as she’s claiming the acidic smell is making her feel sick.

She’s gone to her room.

My son wanders in and asks why I’m setting fire to marmalade and was I aware the house stinks.

My wife draws a long intake of breath from the presentation plastic bag and says that she can smell cheese – I should have washed the sandwich bag.

I have several key areas of learning.

The first being that it’s good to at least try.

The second, know your limits.

The third is quite clear.

If you want the smell of Christmas buy a Spiced Apple Ambi Pur plug-in and watch The Great Escape like normal people.

Electric cars are boyishly good fun

When I was in my early teens we would travel every summer to haemorrhage our cash at the funfair.

As a group of lads, our focus would often turn to the dodgems or bumper cars. If enough of us could commandeer a car each, we could have our very own race track.

We perfected the art of completely rotating the steering, meaning you could fly back in reverse.

We laughed until we could hardly breathe if we managed to perfectly time a head-on smash that forced you to hold your neck while others moved in for a second hit on the stunned prey.

However, we’ve moved on from those fabulous days and I thought they’d be lost forever. Until now.

Recently, I was required to drive an electric car and, hello, what’s this sensation?

Right foot down, no noise, flying forwards wondering whether I’m in control. I’m back in a dodgem.

Granted, I’m wiser, older and more sensible (boring) but there’s no doubt about it.

When you pull away silently, with just the whirring of a motor, you’re back in a dodgem.

It might have all the adult creature comforts that we’ve come to expect but if there was a man standing on the back bumper telling you to stop messing about or you’ll be off, it would be pretty close.