Cummings’ Goings: My Christmas A to Z

Cycling Santas

Cycling Santas - Credit: Archant

BBC Gloucestershire’s Mark Cummings gives us his festive A-Z

Christmas in Bourton

Christmas in Bourton - Credit: Archant

A Anticipation. I love the long celebratory communal party we have for about six weeks leading up to Christmas and then for me it’s over after that last al dente sprout has been surgically forced into my belly on Christmas Day. If you start early you can enjoy the best bit, the build up, the warmth, the fun and the magic. After making the most of the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve I feel I’ve peaked, soaked it all up and need to move on to something new. Go on, immerse yourself in all the joy, indulgence, and excitement The Cotswolds provides with all it’s juicy drops of festive fun from late November through until Christmas Eve. If, like me, you hate the Christmas adverts in October and Slade on the radio whilst you are still picking bonfire toffee out of your teeth, then let me show you the other side of taking an early dip into the Christmas spirit. If you wanted to paint a picture with the perfect christmassy landscape then there is no better canvas than the Cotswolds. God has kindly provided forests, caves, docks, abbeys, cathedrals, rivers and unspeakably pretty villages. So throw yourselves into the Goodwill Evenings with late night shopping and free nibbles. Go and see Santa in Clearwell Caves. Take in a Christmas Concert at Tewkesbury Abbey or Gloucester Cathedral. Meander around the mysterious floodlit Westonbirt with the Enchanted evenings. Take a ride on a Santa express train. Enjoy the cute wooden huts in Cheltenham and the waterside wassailing at Gloucester Quays. Cheer as some local celeb flicks an imaginary light switch in your town and round it all off supporting your local amateur Panto performance.

B Bourton on the Water. If I had to pick out one place for a special mention I feel compelled to talk about Bourton. I went last year on a cold, fresh night. It was wonderful with the twinkly tree in the river, people dressed in Victorian garb and all the inviting shops and sweet smelling market stalls - Friday, December 5 for Christmas Lights and late night shopping.

C Clement C Moore. this American genius gave us ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ which makes a great gift for any young child and might just become part of their Christmas experience throughout their life. I’ve scripted a Cotswold version which I’m thrilled to say has now become a local tradition and is read at concerts, poetry nights and simply in people’s homes on Christmas Eve. If you would like a copy simply email me

D Decorations and dogs! I’m not one for dressing up animals apart from on Christmas Eve. In my defence, lurchers are used to having a coat on as they shiver like mad when winter nips at their boney little bodies. A trip to the pub on Dec 24 with Tyler the rescue pooch in his Santa coat has now become a village tradition

E Eggnog. Why would you? Why?

F Father Christmas. If you get the chance to dress up as Father Christmas, grab it with both hands. The utter joy you will spread as you camp it up with “ho,ho,hos” will keep you warm until Easter. I’ve invented a delightfully silly challenge where a few middle aged cyclists slip on their Santa outfits and struggle up the steep, zig-zaggy road that links Nailsworth to Minchinhampton Common. We all put in a fair bit of training for this as you need some extra energy to perform a cheery wave and thunderous “Happy Christmas” to startled onlookers. Heaven forbid some three-year-old observes Santa wobbling off his bike and being rushed to A&E.

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G Goose. I want to cook goose but to avoid a marital row at a time of peace and goodwill I’ve given in. Let’s talk turkey here, it’s just a big lump of dry, dull protein and we should be allowed to try something new. However tradition dictates it must be turkey. This year, however, I am determined to bone the legs and do something “chefy” with them. Just the thought of writing this and it being read by Mrs C any time near Christmas makes me think it might just have cooked my goose.

Cycling Santas

Cycling Santas - Credit: Archant

H Hibernation. I love December but find January and February a little tiresome as we we wait for spring to warm our cold cockles. So for those of us who don’t get anywhere near enough sleep during the rest of the year why don’t we bank all those extra waking hours and hibernate during January and February? What a perfect Christmas gift our bosses could reward us with. the best bit is, when we wake up it’s just about time for the Cheltenham Festival.

I Island. If you fancy getting away from it all just for once why not try Christmas Island? It’s in the Indian Ocean, lovely and warm and was discovered on Christmas Day.

J Christmas jumpers. This is such a simple idea and one that spreads much joy and happiness. For a tenner we can spend four or five weeks admiring each other’s reindeer, christmas puds and snowmen.

K Kingsholm. Here is a simple idea for a couple of days out with fresh air, excitement and a huge adrenaline rush. I’ve been to many home games this season and all I can say is Saturday, December 20 Bath, Saturday 27, Wasps. Job done.

L Last minute panic buying. It might well be a male cliche to leave it until the last minute but it’s all part of the Christmas Eve fun. Can I just say Hi to all our petrol stations across the Cotswolds and all of you who serve in them. Without your giant tins of Roses chocolates, well wrapped flowers and bags of charcoal many of us wouldn’t be here to enjoy another Christmas. I admit the charcoal gift did take a bit of explaining but I think I got away with it.

M Mulled wine. If it really was that delicious why aren’t we heating up our Rioja every month of the year and shoving a random cinnamon stick in it?

N New Year’s Eve. It seems poor old New Year’s Eve has taken a bit of a bashing lately. It has become the hip thing to denigrate this wonderful night and cast it off with the following criticisms. “I hate all the false jollity I’m too tired to go out it’s a rip off, them prices it’s just for the Scots”. Come on you lot who scorn the last party of the year, get back out there,and whilst you’re at it, learn the second verse of Auld Lang Syne.

O Oliver Cromwell outlawed Christmas celebrations and carols in England from 1649-1660. If I could outlaw anything it would be cliches like the chef invited onto radio shows on Boxing Day to give suggested recipes for turkey left-overs, opening advent calendars on air with the same squeaky door sound effect used for the previous 10 years and the magazine editors who super-impose a Santa hat on all their columnists. He hasn’t has he?

P Perfect present for a pedant. (see picture of mug)

P is for presents for pedants

P is for presents for pedants - Credit: Archant

Q Quantas Christmas. The most amazing Christmas I had was spent in Sydney. On Christmas Day we had all the trimmings by the pool and flew in the evening to Tahiti on a Quantas plane with a second delicious Christmas dinner at 37,000 feet. During the flight we crossed the international date line and landed in Tahiti on Christmas morning again. Guess what we had for dinner?

R Re-gifting. be careful very careful!

S Scrooge. This character was inspired by the banker and miser Jemmy Wood. The bank where he made his fortune is now a McDonalds on Westgate Street in Gloucester.

T Tree. Slight marital issue here. I love a real one but for the last few years I’ve found myself tramping through a “pick your own” field for three hours and always ending up with the one we saw at the beginning. I won’t go on because I’ll lose my right to do something clever with the turkey legs.

U Unknown fact about the festive period. It’s a strange medical phenomenon that calories don’t count at Christmas. However much you eat you won’t put a pound on so relax and go for it!

V Vouchers. If you were given an “experience” voucher last year have you used it yet? If not you better get cracking. Last December hoards of us battered the doors down at Charingworth Manor near Chipping Campden to lay claim to our luxury afternoon tea. Come to think of it I need to use my wine tasting chits for The Three Choirs before the offer runs dry.

W Waitrose. Happy Christmas to the brilliant staff I observed in Cirencester breaking up a fight between two old ladies scrapping over the last handful of sprouts left on Christmas Eve.

X Xmas. I think you’ll find its called CHRISTmas.

Y Yule log. Did you know this is an enormous log that is typically burned during the Twelve Days of Christmas. It has been suggested that the word yule means “revolution” or “wheel”, which symbolizes the cyclical return of the sun.

Z Zzzzzzz. Off to negotiate that hibernation idea. See you in March.