Miles Kington: Never trust a journalist's advice on Brussels sprouts

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The Independent Online

Today I bring you the first post-Christmas advice column, so let's go with the first problem ...

Q. When it comes to left-over Brussels sprouts ...

A. Stop! Right there! Stop! I shouldn't tell you this, but when a journalist tells you how to dispose of left-over Brussels sprouts, he is on thin ice. She does not know what he is talking about. Do not trust them. In fact, do not trust him or her on the subject of any of the Top 10 Post-Christmas Advice Column Ideas.

Q. Good heavens! What are these Top 10 Useless Articles which journalists of either gender are tempted to write after Christmas, to correspond to all those useless articles they gave you before Christmas, as for instance on how to behave at office parties?

A. As follows. Do not trust a journalist who offers you advice on: Brussels sprouts, hangover cures, how to start and maintain a diary in the New Year, the reuse of Christmas pudding, dealing with dud batteries, how to understand gadget instructions written in Japanese English, last-minute ski breaks in unusual destinations, identifying British winter garden bird songs, taking defective toys back, and the best ways of filing for post-Christmas bankruptcy.

Q. Hmmmm. So what is Number 11? Which is the one, presumably, it pays to start with?

A. Exactly. It's about wrapping paper. Go on ask me.

Q. What can sensibly be done with left-over wrapping paper? I have carefully kept all the better sheets, and have spent long hours smoothing them out again with my thumb-nail, which sounds crazy but it did keep me sane through some long sessions with my family ...

A. Make your own Quality Street chocolates!

Q. Sorry?

A. We all buy a tin of Quality Street chocs and toffees at Christmas, but it's not really for the sweets themselves, which are basically good old soft, sugary, chewy, stick-to-the-top-of-the-mouth chunks. What people love is the glowing jewel-like range of colours in the range of squeaky paper wrappings, especially when disgorged from the tin into a lustrous bowl of glittering gems.

Q. Y-e-e-es ...

A. Solution make your own sweets! Then wrap your sweets in best cut-up bits of wrapping paper. Keep for next year in carefully retained Quality Street tins.

Q. I have received nearly half a dozen different copies of this year's best-seller, 'The Cranford Christmas Cookery Compendium', but I think one would be enough to help me make frumenty and syllabub. What can I do with the others?

A. Let us hope your donors did not commit the ultimate sin of signing the book. It's hard enough flogging a new Christmas Palin or Nigella at the best of times, but a lot harder if it's got "Love from Granny" written in it. The best you can do is wrap three Cranford cookbooks at the same time, relabel them The Cranford Cookery Collection and sell them.

Q. But they are all the same book!

A. I didn't say it was a good idea, only the least worst.

Q. Why are all those CDs of Christmas carols recorded at the far end of a cathedral, thus making the singing all muddy and inaudible?

A. So that it doesn't matter if you hire a cheap choir for the job.

Q. I want to go to the pantomime, but my wife doesn't ...

A. ... Oh, yes, she does!

Q. I think perhaps we should stop there.

A. OK. Or rather, I'll leave you with a list of things that you really really do not need to keep after Boxing Day. Ever. Ready?

Q. All ears.

A. Do not imagine there is any point in hanging on to half-finished bottles of bubbly, chocolates bearing tooth marks, anything still covered in marzipan, Christmas TV and Film guides, mulled wine sachets, those little bags of fine sugar you get with some Italian cakes, sweet chestnut in any form, last year's calendars, half a jug of solid Cumberland Sauce, scented candles (especially unopened), relations ...

Q. relations?

A. Bound to be some left hanging round. But there are some problems that even a journalist can't solve. Sorry - you're on your own now.