It’s a date
Way back in January, you sketched out your Christmas schedule but you probably had to guess most of it. Now it’s time to tighten it up. Big bashes (office parties, Girl Guide break-ups) have probably set their dates so, if you haven’t heard, ask. Small events (catching up with neighbours, visiting old friends) quite possibly haven’t been organised yet, so take the wheel and get the date negotiations under way. Flexible events (like dropping a cake off for your aunt in her nursing home) can then be scheduled around those other events.
As you put each date into your calendar, schedule the appropriate work too: if you need to take a plate to the school break-up, block out the evening before to cook; if the neighbours will be meeting at your house for Christmas drinks, allow time for a clean-up (before and after!).
Christmas Day 1970: We tent-dwellers were allowed to stay up past our bedtimes on Christmas night but I think this was intended as a treat for our parents rather than for us: it meant that they didn’t have to deal with the arguments and protestations.
When we finally trundled off to bed, Nanna called out, “Sleep well – you’ll need all your strength tomorrow!”
“Why?” asked Peter, thinking excitedly of lake picnics or tree-house building.
“We’ll be making jam, and I need you to pick the apricots.”
There would be buckets of them, the sun would be hot and the adults would be relentless but we were too tired to give it any thought. Christmas was too special to waste any time thinking of the morrow.
 I got an email from my ex-colleague Donna today (the one who couldn’t organise a stationery cupboard). She wanted to know how far ahead you have to book office Christmas parties, which venues I recommend, what kind of package she should be looking for and if she would have to organise extras like tinsel and crackers. I managed to resist the urge to give her misinformation but I did spend a few pleasant minutes contemplating what I could have said to her.
 The early bird catches the worm, and the well-organised party planner gets the best dates (and dates are better than worms any day).
 Not that I need to do that for Auntie Helen any more.
 Or to drop into the supermarket to get chocolate biscuits or cheese crunchies.
 My cousin Russell’s party planning includes borrowing an extra recycling bin for bottles and cans. He does this by inviting his neighbour to the party and he also invites a colleague who shares the neighbour’s interest in toy trains because they have such a good time together that the neighbour goes home too late to complain about the noise.