Yorkshire’s with your Christmas Turkey: Yes or No?

Oh my lemons, there’s hot debate going around in the run up to Christmas.  I’ve already mentioned the Family Action research which has calculated that a budget Christmas will cost a family of four (two adults and two kids) £34.25 (Carol’s Calcs = £8.56 each – no adjustments for child portions).   Now I see that the University of Nottingham reckons the cost of an average Christmas dinner for six will set you back £74.00 (Carol’s Calcs = £12.33 per portion – age of participants not given).

Contentious issue this – go have a look at the picture on the BBC web site http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-16146246 and tell me if you can spot the Yorkshire puddings?  Nope, thought not.  So what are they spending their £74.00 on?  I can’t find a breakdown, but since I first discussed the budget Christmas, there has been hot debate in the circles I move in over whether or not Yorkshires should be served with Turkey.  If the average family of six are well bought up types and appreciate that Yorkshires are not served with Turkey, then there’s a saving to be had.  On the other hand, if the “average” chef is splashing out this year and, say, decides to visit Waitrose, they could spend as much as £1.45 on a pack of 6 (non-frozen) Yorkshires.   The budget family are lucky, they get 15 frozen Tesco ones for a mere .49p, but will there be enough leftovers for Bubble & Squeak the next day?   Or are they just surviving on frozen Yorkshires for the rest of the festive period?   What’s going on, questions need to be asked.  Yorkshires or no Yorkshires?

I eagerly await the next Christmas dinner research, into what a family with a nice Christmas bonus is going to spend on their festive meal?  But please give us the details.

PS: I am very pleased with myself because I have managed to purchase our Turkey Crown in exchange for all my Sainsbury’s points – standard!  This will skew my already skewed figures, but I’ll let you know the outcome.  Purchased and in the freezer thus far are Sausages wrapped in bacon (BOGOF) and Stuffing (no BOGOF but b*gg*red if I could faff around making it this year).   Oh and a panic buy of Profiteroles for £1.00 – given my documented experienced of homemade batter making, I thought it would be better to buy frozen).

Starved of love but not food this Christmas

Fancy depressing yourself just before Christmas?  I obviously do because when I saw a report on the Which website headed “Families forced to cut back on Christmas spending” I went to the source to find out more.

The charity Family Action http://www.family-action.org.uk/standard.aspx?id=17206 has interviewed 22 of it’s “service users” (parents to you and me) and have estimated “…that the minimum acceptable Christmas costs £182.00”.  They elaborate that “far from luxury, this cost represents a Christmas with a few trimmings and traditional element”.  One hundred and eighty two pounds.  That got me thinking, how much have I spent in the past on Christmas?  For me, Christmas was a time of military precision.  We had the larger house in our extended family, so naturally everyone would come to us.  I would be planning the event well before the day, ensuring everyone had a bed to sleep in with a proper duvet and pillow – so much so that when we “downsized” I was shocked to discover how many pillows I had accumulated over the years.  We had a z-bed and proper flocked double lilo for overspills.  I would make the Christmas pudding beforehand, always being moaned at for not putting in the rare silver sixpences.  Mum would make the cake, sometimes handing it to me to ice.  Shopping would start early so that everything would be available on the day – Christmas morning “special” biscuits, alcohol, bubbly to open presents with, bubbly at the dinner table, turkey heavy enough for the table to require extra structural support, large turkey plate for turkey (used annually), table decorations, food heaters so stuff wouldn’t go cold on the table, special piece of mdf to extend the table, Christmas tree (shopping centre sized), room decorations which would often mean trekking out to pick greenery and a day spent in construction.  Then I’d prepare the running order for the day, turkey on overnight, timings in writing, food prepared the night before, husband permanently at the washing up bowl, teas and coffees for everyone, it was truly a military operation.  Did I enjoy it, yes, I did, it was an achievement ensuring everyone had a good time.

I won’t even begin to describe the last family Christmas we had which I decided would take the theme of a “Caribbean Christmas” complete with a 8ft handmade papier mache palm tree.  I think you’ll agree, I had the luxury of time and money in order to achieve all this.

So what of this year?  Like 3 out of the 22 families interviewed, I will be working, so time for making fripperies is limited.  Also space is now severely restricted, so much so that I have already blown part of the £182 budget on a “narrow” 6ft Christmas tree (£19.99 Sainsbury’s – should have gone to Poundland), although quite where it is going to go is another matter.  I will be a family of four, because my gorgeous niece and husband are coming to spend the day with me and my lodger will be there too, so I’m going to try to follow the principal of a Cut Price Christmas and see how I get on.  However, about 75% of the budget has been spent on mine and my husband’s Christmas present, but …… excuses, excuses.  I discovered that prisoners are allowed to have a guitar inside with them, having seen the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, we decided that to pass the time it would be a good idea for Mike to learn the Uke – seeing as how prison has bought out his musical side!  And I purchased one for myself so we can spend the long lonely nights, when we can’t afford to go out, jamming!  It was that or he could purchase something from the prison shop for me and I really don’t want any shaving foam or HMP rizzla’s.

If you go to the bottom of the Family Action article, they have even itemised the gifts and food and drink that can be purchased on that budget.  I’m going to have problems there.  Sorry Steff, I don’t do Yorkshire Puddings with a turkey.  Mind you, if I did, purchasing them from Tesco at .49p for 15 does sound like excellent value, I’m not even sure I could make them for that amount (and even if I did, they wouldn’t rise, I have issues with Yorkshire batters).  Mind you, I’ll not be purchasing Bisto gravy, that has to be made from scratch with the turkey stock.  How I’d achieve  the £4.68 target of One bottle of Blossom Hill white I’m unsure.  One bottle will do just ME for just Christmas day…..  I do still have my homemade Merlot which worked out at about £1.60 a bottle, so on that basis I can make about 3 bottles available.  I notice there is no bottle of single malt on the list and just 3 tubes of Maltesers in the Chocolate department.  I don’t like Maltesers.  I wonder if Poundland stocks a slab of dark 100% coco Green & Blacks….

It will be a more frugal Christmas for us and for many others too.   But when you remember that this time of year is made special by being with the ones you love, I would far rather spend nothing this year in exchange for having my husband at home with me on Christmas day.

Conde Nast or Naste Con?

You are probably not aware, and I must admit I wasn’t either, that blogs like mine are subject to spammers.  What they do is “comment” on your blog, with something fatuous like “I really like the subject of your blog, I look forward to the next posting” or (an actual example) “I’m so happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that’s at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc” – eh?

However, upon investigation, these posts are in fact links to the poster’s own site selling the usual items like …. Well, I’ve just logged in and I can tell you that over the last 48hrs, my blog has been spammed by 8 spammers, 1 complete gobbledegook, 3 cellar links, 4 wine investment funds/scam none of which I opened, all of which I deleted.

One that did get through though was the following:

Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2011 11:32:15 +0000
To: caz_clark@hotmail.co.uk
From: comment-reply@wordpress.com
Subject: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

New comment on your post “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”
E-mail : hannah.shuckburgh@condenast.co.uk
Hello, I am the commissioning editor of Easy Living, the Conde Nast magazine aimed at intelligent, grown-up women, and I would love to get in touch with you about writing for us. Could you email me? Thanks, Hannah

Now I immediately thought “Scam”.  Why would Conde Nast magazine bother reading my blog?  But I checked out Hannah’s credentials and found that she was, indeed, the Commissioning Editor of “Easy Living”. 

So I responded as follows:

From: carol clark [mailto:caz_clark@hotmail.co.uk]
Sent: 22 November 2011 14:33
To: Hannah Shuckburgh
Subject: RE: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

Dear Hannah
I received an email from you via my blog page and am, as indicated, getting in touch with you.  I am working as a temp at the moment, but fortunately/unfortunately am not at all busy so often pop in and out to check on my emails.
I look forward to hearing from you.
With kind regards
Carol (Clark)
Pretty bland response from me don’t you think, keeping my cards close to my chest in case it was a spam.  But no, here’s the reply I received:

From: hannah.shuckburgh@condenast.co.uk
To: caz_clark@hotmail.co.uk
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2011 14:35:40 +0000
Subject: RE: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

Hello Carol,

Thanks so much for getting back to me. As I mentioned, I am the commissioning editor of Easy Living, the Conde Nast magazine. I have been reading your blog with interest – it’s brilliant – and I wondered whether you might, in theory, like to write about your experiences in the magazine?

Perhaps you could give me a bit of background about your situation – how your husband ended up in prison, and what inspired you to start to blog about it?

Really looking forward to hearing from you.

All best, Hannah

Hannah Shuckburgh
Commissioning Editor
Easy Living
The Conde Nast Publications Ltd
6-8 Old Bond Street
London W1S 4PH

T: 020 7399 2616


Now, I have to say, at this point an alarm bell went off – why, if she had read my blog “with interest” did she not know how Mike had ended up in prison.  It’s not like I make a big secret of it.  But, swept up with the idea of “appearing in print”, I sent Hannah the following answer to her query:

From: carol clark
Sent: 22 November 2011
To: Hannah Shuckburgh
Subject: RE: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

Hi Hannah

In answer to your questions…..the very short version of how my husband ended up in prison is as follows. 

Unbeknownst to me, my husband, although having a very well paid position at a local company, felt neglected and unrewarded.  He had been promised shares in the company for many years (in front of other witnesses, so I know this to be true) and for some reason, after watching the other two directors of the company reward themselves with dividends and bonuses, decided to start rewarding himself.  He began to take sums of money from the company, not, unusually, to fund a lavish lifestyle, which is why I never became aware of the matter, but to make investments for our, and his family by a previous marriage, future.  The first time I became aware of this was in February 2010 when he came home early to tell me that the company had suspended him for illegal use of airmiles (two flights) and then the bombshell…. “they’re going to find out I’ve been taking money”. 

They did find out – I told them and the rest is history.  Our accounts were frozen, we had to sell our home to pay back the money along with all the investments he had made.  We had to negotiate this minefield without a solicitor (Legal Aid in Civil Cases very difficult to secure).  Luckily, as part of a settlement agreement, I was allowed a portion of money with which to purchase a home – nothing like the 4 bed country property we used to own, but I love it nonetheless and it was back to work for me!  And if matters couldn’t have gotten any worse, the day before we were due to move (from a caravan) he was arrested.

We are now in the situation he strived to avoid for years in that we have no investments, no pension, scant savings but at least we have a roof over our heads, which, as I have since discovered, is a lot more than others have.  So I am grateful.

This led me to start blogging, the fact that I might have lost everything, but that I would change nothing.  I have gained my husband, this experience has bought us closer and we plan on living our lives to the full when he gets out.  It’s been a remarkable education for someone at my age (49 and a half), allowed me to see a part of life that some “Daily Mail Readers” scream and rant against, to be sympathetic to the plight of victims of crime – that’s actual victims and the unseen families of perpetrators.  I daily discover things that previously I had no interest in and have learned that the ramifications of committing a crime are like the proverbial pebbles in the stream, touching everyone who has anything to do with a criminal.  I want to educate people.  I want those involved in white collar crime to stop and think what they are doing, I want those thinking about “nicking a tenner from petty cash” to forget it, it’s just not worth it. It may well seem like a victimless crime, but the victims are those you love.

By the way, he got 3 years and you can read all about it if you Google “Mike Clark SBS Worldwide Kent”.  Lots of lovely articles and a very unflattering photo (note: if you are going to be arrested, get your hair done first).

If you think this would be of interest to you/your readers, please let me know!

Kind regards


….. and was overjoyed to receive the following response:

From: Hannah Shuckburgh

Sent: 22.11.11

To: Carol Clark

Subject: RE: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

Hello Carol,

What an extraordinary story. You are incredibly brave and you write so well. I think it would be amazing to tell you story in the magazine, and, as you say, to paint a true picture of this kind of crime and its victims. I will speak to my editor about this on Thursday, and come back to you with more details about how best we can reflect story (we won’t do anything too personal or salacious, I promise) – and we can work out what sort of piece you should write for us, and then we can discuss fees, etc. I do want to ask, though – are you ok to be photographed?

Looking forward to hearing from you again.

Very best,


Hannah Shuckburgh
Commissioning Editor

However, Thursday came and went and I heard nothing.  Knowing media types as I do, I thought, probably busy test driving Gucci hands bags, I’ll give her the weekend to mull things over.  The weekend came and went, and I argued with myself, perhaps I got the wrong Thursday, perhaps it’s this week her meeting is being held.  In the end, after angsting over this for far too long, I sent the following:

From: carol clark
Sent: 30 November 2011 15:33
To: Hannah Shuckburgh
Subject: RE: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

Hi Hannah,
Just so I know, was it decided at your meeting last week not to go ahead with this idea?
with kind regards

OK, so maybe my brief introduction into the new life of Carol Clark was a bit too intense, because I received this:

From: Hannah Shuckburgh

Sent: 30.11.11

To: Carol Clark

Subject: RE: [Otto’s Mummy] Comment: “BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live interview”

Hi Carol,

I don’t think we will be able to do a piece on your blog at the moment, but I will keep you in mind and come back to you when there is more space in the issue. Thank you so much,


Hahahah, what bollocks!

I’ve been wondering what the moral to this story is and I believe it is “pride comes before a fall”.  I was so proud that a magazine had deigned to read what I had written, proud to think I would appear alongside adverts for stuff that not even when we had money could I afford.  Proud because I told my dear friend, who had been so upset over the wrong impression my radio broadcast gave, that I would this time give the real story of what we went through.  Proud because with the “oxygen of publicity” I might be able to dissuade someone else from doing (or stopping doing) what Mike did.  And then I fell.

So this is today’s lesson PRIDE COMES BEFORE A FALL in every situation and you must never, ever forget it.