While we’re on the subject of puddings, let’s talk about the sixpences that were once baked into them. This old tradition took a body blow when decimal currency came in because the old silver coins really were silver but decimal silver coins are actually cupro-nickel which isn’t good when cooked in suet. So here’s what you can do to play it safe:
- Don’t put coins in pudding (This is the option most people take and it’s certainly the easiest but it’s also dreary.)
- Get some old threepences, sixpences, shillings and florins and use those. (You can either trade them back (effectively using them as tokens) or let people keep them as curios if you’re willing to get more next year.)
- Buy some pudding tokens. You will have to search around a bit but they do exist and they’re certainly fun.
Christmas Day 1970: Before long, there was a huge pile of wrapping paper in the centre of the lounge room and someone said that baby Russell was more interested in the paper than the presents – which was a remark I have heard every year since then and I’m over it. If there must be a perpetual Yuletide joke, at least let it be the Mary Christmas knock knock.
 You’ve got to like being paid to eat dessert, as my cousin Bronwyn was when she worked for a company that made fruit pies and used the staff to taste test them. She said half of her colleagues were permanently happy and the other half – who were on perpetual diets to compensate – were permanently grumpy.)
 But I haven’t been able to find out if it’s not good for people, or merely not good for the coin.
 There are plenty of non-rare (and hence not prohibitively expensive) coins around. Check out your closest coin shop.
 My cousin Linda once used planned to use metal Monopoly tokens and she assigned a fortune to each piece (the dog was “You’ll work like a dog all year” and the top hat was “I hear wedding bells!”) but then she discovered that some metal Monopoly tokens contain lead so she dropped the idea. (“I would have had to change all of the fortunes to ‘You will experience gastrointestinal symptoms and memory loss,” she said, “And that’s not very merry.”
 Cheap wrapping paper. This was not a family who thought temporary style was worth diverting funds to.
 But not in relation to Russell who is now forty-eight.