Cook your gingerbread. It will easily last till Christmas and it’s good to have some on hand for unannounced Christmas guests. Also if you package some up now (in festive cellophane or whatever), you’ll have some Small Presents ready should you suddenly need them.
The board room looked like a medieval forest and the astonishment on the party-goers’ faces as they walked through the door was worth all of the holly pricks. I’d just finished adjusting some shaky foliage when Mariella from Corporate Comms shouted out to me from the opposite corner of the room.
“Janet!” she cried. “There’s something I have to tell you!” And she broke away from Meredith and Murray and headed toward me.
“What is it?” I asked when she reached me.
“Nothing,” she replied. “But I had to escape from Meredith. She’d already told me about every azalea she has ever planted, and she was about to start on her compost secrets.”
“Glad to be of service,” I responded.
“No, wait, there is something after all: have you tried the cheese?”
I hadn’t. (I’d been too busy anchoring the shaky pine tree by the window, which was threatening to crush the guests and turn Merrie England into the tragic chapters of Seven Little Australians.)
“It’s awful,” she said.
Jessica organised a bulk discount on cheese, and I hadn’t thought to tell her that quality is still important, even when you’re negotiating on quantity.
“People who don’t like cheese are refusing to touch it, and people who do like cheese are taking one bite and then backing away.”
I looked around and saw that Mariella was right.
“Maybe they’ll fill up on bread and pickled onions,” I said, hopefully.
“I don’t think so,” said Mariella. “You’ve done a good job with the wassail, and they’ll fill up on that instead.”
And she was right, but everyone was seemed to have fun (and the shaky pine tree stayed in place) so I’m counting it as a successful party.
 Although my friend Jenny had to keep Christmas treats in the linen cupboard to stop her kids finding them and eating them all in one sitting.
 This is the excuse my colleague Murray uses for buying an entire trolley-load of shortbread each December.