The Spike


December 2015

Merry Christmas…

…from Bruce Willis. And from The Spike.

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Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.

Thank you for your enthusiasm for this new project. I wasn’t sure it was going to work but it seems to be going alright.

Anyway, as editor, chief writer, reporter, sub-editor, picture editor and head of digital media of this blog, I’m giving myself a week off – see you January x


What to buy in the Sales

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Buy it. Buy all of it.

Okay, not very Christmassy to talk about the sales right now, but you’ve got to be prepared.

And my recommendation to you is this: do not bother trying to buy any clothes or bags or shoes. They can see you coming. You will not find a Chloe Drew bag for £18 in TK Maxx. You will not find an Eve Lom gift set for £5 in John Lewis. You will not find a Bonpoint party dress for £30. You just won’t.

Those apocryphal stories about Gucci handbags for a tenner and French Sole leopard print Henriettas in your size are just that: spread by people who own shops in order to send you down to said shops so that you don’t find the thing that you’re looking for but spend your money on a flamingo-print skirt or a pair of neon yellow moon boots anyway just so you don’t come back empty handed.

The only – only – thing to buy that represents any value in the Christmas sales is Christmas decorations, cards, ribbon and wrapping paper.

Don’t get pissed off!! I used to think that people who stocked up on cards, wrapping paper and decorations in the sales were the worst sort of miserly bastard – but that was before I was in charge of all of those things and witnessed quite how fucking insanely madly expensive they are when they are, you know, in full cry.

And I’m telling you this from experience – it is the only thing that you are getting a deal on. Seriously. They are the only things that shops genuinely want to get rid of.

Consider it a gift to your future self: imagine next December 15th opening your “Christmas” drawer or cupboard or Ikea blue bag or whatever and seeing in there a 2ft gold glittery reindeer you got for £5, marked down from £20, that you had completely forgotten about!!! And a pile of festive shit from Nordic House that you had dismissed the purchase of as insanely profligate.

When you pop open your stash and find out that you’ve got enough cheerful wrapping paper, tags, cards and faux red berry “sprays” to sort out Christmas at Balmoral, you will want to high five yourself until you blister. Now that is giving your gift with love.

Crisis at Christmas

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Whatever you think about Christmas, a core value of it is hospitality – taking someone in. If you cannot literally do that, then consider doing it in spirit via Crisis at Christmas.

Christmas can be a bad time of year for all sorts of reasons, but if you have no family and no home, it makes a bad situation unbearable. Crisis at Christmas runs centres all over the UK that are open from December 23rd to December 29th when everything else is shut and there is nowhere else to go.

A donation of £22.29 will give someone access to three square meals and other facilities that might make a real difference to their lives. I know it’s a lot and the donation process is a bit long-winded, but if you feel like it, donate here.


Bread sauce

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I did not take this photo

This is a really great thing to make if you are contributing to a Christmas lunch or dinner, as bread sauce is a hassle and how many people make it alongside everything else? (Don’t answer that). This is delicious and, if it’s the only thing you’re making, not too much of a bother to do.

Aromatic brown bread sauce

This amount will do for about 10 people

1 large onion

150g wholemeal bread, crusts on

6 cloves

4 cardamom pods

some nutmeg

salt and pepper

75g butter

900ml milk – whole or semi

300ml double cream

Preheat your oven to 130C.

1 Chop your onion up really small.

2 Tear the bread into small pieces – about the size of a 50p coin and put in an ovenproof dish with the onion

3 Put the cloves and the cardamom into a small piece of muslin or cotton, tie with string and chuck into the dish. You could just put these free into the sauce if you don’t have a piece of muslin or any kind of substitute but you need to make sure you get them all out again, otherwise you might find yourself biting into a clove or a cardamom pod, which isn’t nice.

4 Grate over a generous sprinkling of nutmeg, salt and pepper and dot with butter. Mix the milk and the cream together and pour over the bread and onion. Cover tightly with foil or a lid and then cook for 2 hours(!). Stir once or twice during cooking.

Please do not forget…

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… about your local environmental services team this Christmas, i.e. the blokes who do your bins. Once upon a time at Christmas they’d knock on your door so that you could give them a tip (because otherwise you might miss them and you might not want to leave a gift for them out in the open).

But they don’t do this anymore, so you have to find another way of leaving them a card, or a bottle of fizz or a tin of mince pies to show your appreciation for them being out, all year round, in all weathers, doing the bins.


We’re Doomed

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If you get a sec watch We’re Doomed, which is a drama about the making of Dad’s Army – aired originally last night – now available on iPlayer.

My own dad was 80 this year, probably a bit older than most of your dads; he was born the year that war broke out and when he was 7, walking home from somewhere where he grew up in Erith, Kent, a Messerschmitt, also on its way back home, chased him down next to a railway siding and unloaded a lot of unused ammunition at him.

My dad ran and ran – he ran for his life – and was, as it happens, leapt upon by two loitering Home Guard officers who fell upon this small bespectacled boy, to protect him from the the armed warplane, with no thought for their own safety. They all escaped undamaged. True story. You ought to hear dad tell it – your hair on the back of your neck will stand up.

So the Second World War was no distant memory in the Walker household of the 1980s – it was a real, living and breathing thing. And Dad’s Army was on, all the time. I watched it a lot with my parents; I can’t think that I can possibly have understood it or thought it was funny but I hold it in complete and deep affection.

We didn’t hate the Germans in my house, by the way. Nor the Japanese, nor the Russians. That’s the thing about my Dad – we were taught to be cold rationalists and to always respect market forces. You may detect some of it in my prose here and elsewhere.

Anyway, We’re Doomed is, to my mind, a magical piece of telly. So, as I said, watch it if you get a sec. And mind out for those Messerschmitts -real, or metaphorical.



I am absolutely and completely in love with this new To-Do app called Tick. You can have different lists for different problems, which are customisable with colours and cute little icons. You can “tick” them off as things are done – the text goes grey and moves to the bottom of the list.

I live by lists but have always found making them on my iPhone a bit dementing. I still hate typing on my iPhone, (I think it might give me, or have already given me, a minor stroke), but you just cannot run your working and domestic life from scraps of paper with scribble on it. I finally realised that I had to do something more grown-up about my to-dos when I forgot to take my party shoes to a weekend away just now and had to go to someone’s smart party in my trainers.

I mean, I don’t think anyone noticed but it was quite shaming for me. Especially as it has happened before. More than once.


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Item 1: remember party shoes.

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Friday Spike


… your gingerbread house or village from a very handy kit. Becky B got me mine from John Lewis and although I was initially a bit freaked out by it, it turned out to be a great fun thing to do (particularly after the kids were in bed, a bit like grown-up colouring). I even went a bit nuts and ordered some tiny fake christmas trees and tiny plastic reindeer cake decorations off Amazon.



…The CBeebies Christmas panto, on today at 5pm. This year it’s Alice in Wonderland. Giles is freaked out by Justin Fletcher but personally I can’t wait to see him as the Queen of Hearts. Just as Christmassy to watch it on telly next to a Christmas tree with a mince pie and less traumatising for the under-5s than hiking to an actual venue for a panto that may or may not be any good, or unintentionally hilarious, or full of off-colour jokes “for the grown-ups”.

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… these amazing Isabel Marant knock-offs from Zara kids. But only if your feet are no bigger than a size 6.

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Zara Kids, £29.99


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