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In praise of the Chrimbo-Limbo*

The Fallow, Romjul, the Chrimbo-Limbo* – call it whatever you want (except the Christmas perineum); it's the best time of the year, says Sali Hughes (visits from the in-laws notwithstanding...)

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By Sali Hughes on

You’re there. The presents have been exchanged, opened and accepted with faux enthusiasm, the turkey has finally filled its last stale bap, the cracker toys are hibernating in the sofa cushions (where they will remain before waking and stabbing you in the arse circa March) and, if you’re some kind of monster, your tree may even have come down. But don’t be despondent. You’ve finally got to the gold. The Fallow (as its known to posh people), or Romjul (in Norway), the Christmas perineum (to people who haven’t had to push a baby past a real one), or the Chrimbo-Limbo (the kind of people who also say “squee”, “meep” and “holibobs”) is the gap between Christmas and New Year – those lost days from which one emerges with eight extra lbs and blood that’s 75 per cent Brie, and the period to which I most look forward all year. People who hate the Fallow are exactly the kinds of people who can’t sit still with themselves and a book, or feel the need to ruin a perfectly good holiday by skiing. A reasonable person should embrace the Fallow and enjoy every minute – a visit from the in-laws notwithstanding. Here’s how.

Make Bubble & Squeak

The best meal of the festive period comes not from the oven on the 25th, but from the frying pan in the days that follow. I look forward to my B&S brunch all year. Chop leftover roasties, mash or boiled potatoes (making sure they make up around 80 per cent of the overall mixture), add chopped carrots, spring onions, any leftover greens, parsnips if you have them, salt and pepper; mix together and form into large patties. Add a little oil and butter to a heavy, hot, non-stick pan and fry the bubble and squeak until golden. Meanwhile, grill smoked streaky bacon and set aside. Top the cooked patties with soft fried eggs. Eat in front of a true crime box set (The Jinx, The Staircase or similar) and a steady stream of tea.

Tidy Up

Your house will look bad and the Fallow cannot fully be enjoyed until you’ve given it at least a cursory going over. Shunt all the wrapping paper into recycling, put the duplicate/crap presents into the top of the wardrobe to be regifted throughout the year, stack all your new books in a neat pile, from the must-read (Alexandra Shulman’s new memoir, for example) to the when-hell-freezes-over syllabus (Donald Trump’s The Art Of The Deal). For every new pair of socks or pants, get at least one older but decent pair from the drawer and take to the clothes bank (no one donates undies; charities are desperate for them). Put on a wash, ensuring you have enough pyjamas to see you through the next week (at a rate of one-to-two pairs per day).

Clear the Sky box

The Fallow is the perfect time to clear your Sky or Freeview box of all those programmes you kind of wanted to watch but didn’t because there was too much else to do. BBC Four music documentaries make for perfect Fallow viewing (you know the kind of thing – The Stiff Records Story; a forensic analysis of a Fleetwood Mac album you’ll never own), as do reruns of classic dramas like I, Claudius and GBH. See also: back to back episodes of Don’t Tell The Bride, which can be half-watched while you fiddle with your new six-colour Biro or Kindle Fire. Also, do take this opportunity to get trigger-happy and delete entire series unwatched. Both those you series-linked with good intentions, and those you forgot to cancel after their last execrable run-out and which, thanks to a new series, have reappeared on the planner like knotweed on a patio. I plan to do this with series three of The Affair. I’m already looking forward to seeing the memory count rise, as the biggest load of old cobblers I’ve seen in recent years (season 1 & 2 was plenty) disappears into the ether.

People who hate the Fallow are exactly the kinds of people who can’t sit still with themselves and a book, or feel the need to ruin a perfectly good holiday by skiing

Spend Time With Your Partner

When was the last time you and your missus or fella spent all day, every day, together, without the pressures of commuting, deadlines, workload or school run? Probably last Christmas. Savour it. Wallow. Sit in silence, each of your noses in a book, or laugh like drains at comedy repeats. Chuckle at his dodgy uncle or your interfering mum behind their backs, or remind him that you own his arse at Trivial Pursuit. The joy of the Fallow is that you are a social island. You need not do anything you don’t much feel like and, for a few precious days, the hands have effectively fallen off the clock. Just nipping out for more cheese can be the entire point of the day if you want it to be. The important thing is that you’re together as a family.

Arrange to Do Something

But, while I believe very strongly in the need to mainly put a stop to activities during the Fallow and allow your blood pressure and anxiety levels to return to normal (constant stimulation is part of the problem with the rest of the year), having just one nice thing in the diary gives you something to look forward to, gives you an excuse to get dressed and not go fully Colonel Kurtz. A drink in the pub with friends is enough, a visit to a lovely auntie with good jokes and a well-stocked sherry cabinet, perhaps. During last year’s Fallow, I went to a friend’s wedding. I was initially reluctant to leave my pit, but every guest was similarly a bit fat and sluggish on the dancefloor, and the atmosphere was among the happiest and most relaxed I’ve known.

Eat Everything

You’ve come this far. There’s no point turning back now. All the food you’re tirelessly ramming into your face day and night is to ensure that, come January 2nd, you will feel instantly queasy at the thought of another Miniature Hero and immediately crave celery. Increased plumage is the inevitable result of a fallow well spent and to resist it is futile. January is about penance. Now, on the other hand, is the time to dunk a giant Toblerone in a baked Camembert and eat until you hate yourself.

Enjoy The Sales

Perhaps the single most enjoyable aspect of the Fallow is the sales. I can’t get enough of them. Specifically, lounging on a sofa a couple of days after Christmas and opening a paper to see a photo of Boxing Day’s early-morning queue outside Next, in a shopping centre it’s taken these deranged bastards two hours to park in, basking in the knowledge that I am less likely to be joining them than I am the East Sussex Base Jumping Club, and contentedly popping another Lindor moment.

I wish you a safe and happy 2017.


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