Christmas is coming – among other clues, I can tell since I can no longer bear to switch on the TV because the advertising gives me hives, and also our washing machine has broken down and cannot be fixed until the 29th.
This morning’s breakfast fruit reminded me of Christmases in my childhood – there were certain comestibles which I always associated with Christmas at home. I’m not talking about obvious stuff, like turkeys (I never had turkey for Christmas until I was well into my teens – we used to have a goose, sometimes a duck); I can remember my mum making her own mincemeat (to save money, I would guess), and I recall dates (in those distinctive boxes with a camel and a palm tree on the label), walnuts (which I have never cared for) and – in particular – tangerines.
At the bottom of my Christmas stocking, the tradition was that I would always find a couple of tangerines and a silver sixpence. I have no idea how Father Christmas remembered every year, nor how he carted around great masses of tangerines – assuming everyone got them, but they were always there.
I knew that you could buy tangerines at any time of the year, of course, but it seems that we didn’t, and it was such a Christmassy thing in our family that it would have seemed wrong somehow. A tangerine was smaller than an orange, and had a completely different taste – I liked them.
Tangerines seem to be regarded with special affection in folk lore, too – as I recall, both Blackpool FC and Dundee United were always called the Tangerines – not merely the Oranges.
Anyway, today’s idle question is, what became of the tangerine? Whatever it says on the supermarket shelves is gospel, as we know. We went through a period of buying something called mandarin oranges, which were small oranges, but I’m not sure they were tangerines, as in proper tangerines. Nowadays we can get clementines, which to me just seem like small oranges, and we can get satsumas, which I guess must be the same as, or very similar to, tangerines, but they don’t seem to taste just quite the same.
I hasten to add that I enjoy my breakfast satsumas, but I would be sad to think that the tangerine, like the real banana, had succumbed to progress. Any tangerine fanciers/experts out there?
By the way – in passing – the washing machine problem. Bosch’s customer service very nearly got a Donkey Award this morning, but are spared at the last minute. Bosch cannot arrange an engineer visit unless you can give them some numbers from a plate mounted inside the door of the machine. You can see what’s coming: part of the problem with our machine was that we couldn’t open the door. Eventually we did manage to get it open, so the visit is booked, but if we had not opened it then we could not have had an engineer. Seems odd, but we’ll let it go, in the euphoria of having been granted a reprieve. The engineer’s visit, of course, costs £95, excluding parts, and even if he does nothing or cannot fix the machine, the £95 is compulsory. We’ll see how it goes – we went through this scenario in 2008, when the charge was only £69, which is still a handsome fee for telling someone their machine is knackered. You may have your own views on after-sales service scams, but it’s Christmas and for a little while I shall simply believe that a nice man will come and fix our machine. I have the paperwork for the Donkey Award standing by, though, just in case.
I wish everyone a contented and peaceful Christmas – may your satsumas be sweet and your rinse cycle run smoothly – may your eyes be bright and your clothes be dew fresh every day.
Have a good one.