It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

October half term: the clocks have been put back an hour, the evenings are getting longer. It’s time to get used to coming home in the dark.

The clock in my car has not been put back an hour. But, for the first time since March, it is now in line with the rest of the country. I get used to it. It has caused occasional confusion to Mr A. He nearly ‘put it right’ for me just a couple of weeks ago. After two seasons of mental adjustment, putting it right at that time would have been more confusing.

In our house, for over thirty years, October half term has signalled the time for making a Christmas cake. This year’s cake is in the oven now, in the old tin, wrapped around with brown paper. The first smells of Christmas filling the house come as much from the hot paper as the spices.

The fruit was well soaked in brandy beforehand and the cake will be spoon fed over the coming weeks. It’s a rich fruit cake, always made to the same recipe; Delia’s, in which she says ‘any cake full of such beautiful things can’t fail to taste good’. She’s not been wrong yet, although this morning there was just a moment’s hesitation over the use by date on the black treacle (not long enough past to worry about it spoiling everything else, I decided).

It’s very much a tradition rather than a chore; bringing with it a glimmer of anticipation, hope and light as the days get shorter.

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