Thursday, 23 December 2010


In the most definitive study of the perennial real tree versus fake, an environmental consulting firm found that an artificial tree would have to be re-used for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually. The calculations included greenhouse gas emissions, use of resources and human health impacts.

“The natural tree is a better option,” said Jean-Sebastien Trudel, founder of the firm Ellipsos that released the independent study last year. The annual carbon emissions associated with using a real tree every year were just one-third of those created by an artificial tree.

If only I had known..............
I can never set a foot on the calendular escalator that leads to Christmas without remembering my friend Curly Beard and the free Christmas tree.

Curly was a former champion show jumper for whom I used to ride work in the days when I could be carried by a single horse. He spent much of his retirement drinking in the Sportsman up on the Cheshire/Welsh border at Tattenhall. I was in the bar there one day with Curly and my old man.

"I will have to go after this,” I said. “Going to buy a Christmas tree from the Delamere forest."

Curly said: "You don't have to buy one. I'll get you one free. But we will have to wait until dark."

So I said: "What will you have while we are waiting?"

Curly said he would have a large gin and my old man said,while I was ordering, would I call him up a large scotch? By the time I had added mine, my free Christmas tree had cost me £8 (it was a long time ago). By the time it was dark it had cost me another ten quid and we were in no state to go digging up Christmas trees.

We arranged to meet at opening time the next day. We were just going to have one and then collect a free tree from a friend of Curly's. We would have done, too, if the Wynnstay Hounds hadn't been meeting at the Cock at Barton. In those days hunt followers of standing - or in our case barely standing - shared the stirrup cup, a potent mixture of port and brandy which reconciled people to falling off horses. It tasted so good we stayed on after the hounds had moved off. Let's be honest, we were still on it, at my considerable expense, when the huntsman blew kennels somewhere over by Overton.

We kept meeting like that for about a week and I had lost count of how much the free tree had cost me in drinks. But it was well over fifty quid, seventies prices. To be fair, though, the next night we borrowed the landlord's spade and went off to dig up the tree. I don't know how we managed to break the spade - which I later replaced at the cost of £10. I know how I broke the tree. I remember falling on it. And even if I hadn't remembered, my wife of the time kept reminding me of it for years.

I do hope my little contretemps is not the reason the government plans to sell off state-owned forests. And not just the 635,000-acre Forestry Commission forests. This includes many royal forests, state-owned ancient woodlands, sites of special scientific interest, heathland, camp sites, farms and sporting estates.

Our cousin Isabel Suckling is having the merriest of Christmases. Her debut record album “The Choirgirl” was sixth in the Classic FM Top Forty. Beaten only by Andre Rieu, Russell Watson, The Classic album of Stars, Bryn Terfel and Aled Jones. She was 7th in the Official Classic Album Chart and on the Chris Evans Radio 2 programme where she sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” the Archbishop of York said she had a magnificent voice and the assembled choirs who shared billing with her gave her the radio equivalent of a standing ovation.

Not so Montreal MP Justin Trudeau

He is in hot water for sending a card of his family to his constituents. Trudeau, wife Sophie and their two small children were decked out in goose-down parkas, trimmed with coyote fur and draped with a coyote fur blanket. Trudeau's spokesperson said the son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was simply showing support for Canadian companies and had no ulterior motives. But the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called the card "lurid"and "inappropriate”. PETA spokesperson Lucas Soloway said, “I think it was disturbing, especially at this time of year in a greeting card. Where is the cheer in wearing the skins of animals? Coyotes killed for their fur are usually caught in the wild in steel–jaw traps, which have been banned in dozens of countries and often cause coyotes and other animals to gnaw off their own legs in an attempt to escape." Trudeau's aide Alex Lanthier explained the family wore the coats because they wanted to be supportive of Canada Goose - the company that manufactured the parkas. "It’s a good Canadian company,"said Lanthier. "The coats are made from sustainable products."

A RECIPE for the ultimate Christmas cake from my good friend Colin Dunne;


* 2 cups flour
* 1 stick butter
* 1 cup of water
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 cup of sugar
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 cup of brown sugar
* Lemon juice
* 4 large eggs
* Nuts
* 2 bottles wine
* 2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the wine to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the wine again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the wine is still OK. Try another cup... Just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner.. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the wine to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Check the wine. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the wine and wipe counter with the cat.
Go to Coles and buy cake.

Bingle Jells!