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Carrie looked frazzled already as she ordered her medium frappucino with a hazelnut shot.  It was only the 3rd of December.

It’s a nightmare, she said, sticking a fork into our shared slice of polenta cake.  (We were trying to be disciplined, given the calorific onslaught about to be unleashed on us.) I’ve got ten to fit round our dining room table, she sighed.

But you usually have a dozen.

Ah, but Luca and Morag are not coming this year.  They said they were worried about potential burst pipes and being snowbound for the duration at Glasgow airport. Magda has been invited to Bric-a-Brac for a week, so we have managed to get a temporary carer for Gyles’ mother.  We are collecting the old girl mid-morning, in time for her matutinal Dewlap.

But doesn’t that make 11 for dinner? I asked.

Oh, we’re including Sonia as she is on her own.  She’s offered to bring a Christmas pudding.

Quite a crowd then.

Yes, I hope no one tramps on the pugs. Ginevra said that she had her first two cards today- from France.  One was from Ola and Jean-Paul.  Apparently she is pregnant.

That was quick work, I said.

Well, you know the French.. Anyway, Ola bought a lovely antique berceau in a vide grenier and is sewing the drapes and bedding for it.  The other card was from Victoria, Gyles’ sister.  She is still making a fortune out of renovating mirrors and de-worming old furniture.

Cards-huh! I exclaimed.  The queues are horrendous in the Post Office since they charge according to size, as well as weight.  No one knows how much to put on the envelopes.

I know.  Size matters.  Parcels are extortionate too. My mother sent us a huge one packed with hand-knitted sweaters for all the family- including the pugs.  Tiger will be thrilled as her grandma told me that she made her one in a Sarah Lund pattern.  The trouble was that I had to collect her card from the Post Office as she had put insufficient postage on it and so they charged me a pound.  I challenged it, but they pointed out that she had re-used a couple of stamps that had been unfranked and said that she could have been prosecuted.

Really? Well,, it’s more difficult to steam them off now that they’ve put those little flaps on them that tear when you try to peel them off, I commiserated.  But, talking of Tiger, I saw her with Scheherezade in A La Mode at the weekend.  I went in for a festive mince pie and a glass of bubbly and there they were, touching all the Julien Macdonald Budget line, based on ex-Strictly costumes.  The staff looked rather anxious as they were spreading icing sugar everywhere and touching all the Bermuda crystals.

Controversial: Fashion designer Julien Macdonald, a judge on Britain's Next Top Model, has branded plus-size models 'ridiculous'

Oh, The Bank of Dad gave them an advance based on their grandparents’ forthcoming Christmas cheques.  They wanted tulle illusions to wear to the end of term party.

Will they be allowed?

Yes. Even the teachers have been in and cleared them out of some lines. The Lisa Riley numbers for the fuller figure went first, but not the yellow ones.  It’s a difficult colour.  Tiger and Sherry spied on the staff at lunchtime and saw them rehearsing a big gangnam number, which was supposed to be a surprise for the kids.

Hey! I reckon we are the sexy ladies, the classy girls who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee! I remarked, rolling my wrists around in that ridiculous way, as if I was heading down the local bridleways at a gallop.

Aren’t those the lyrics of the song?  

Yes, but I don’t see any ‘cool guys who one-shot their coffee before it cools’, I added, looking around Costamuchamoulah’s clientele.  Actually, it’s a pity that the lyrics don’t influence the girls to cover themselves, to look more sexy than ‘the girls who bare all.’

I agree.  You’d think that the freezing temperatures would encourage them to don some thermals under the flounces and furbelows.  Ugg boots and netting have never done it for me.  Well, must dash to Tesco’s before they run out of oranges for the Christingle service.  Did you want to come over on Christmas afternoon, if you and your husband are going to be on your own?

Thank you, no.  You know what he’s like.  The last drinks party we went to he muttered to me:  I’m a nonentity-get me out of here! I licked the last of the polenta crumbs off the knife.

 Okay!  See you then. Must get a bottle from Pop My Cork! for the boys’ form teacher.  Ciao!  And off she went, dashing into the street like Donner und Blitzen.

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