Firstly, let me wish everyone out there a very Happy New Year. I hope that it brings you all you hope for, and that you manage to keep all the resolutions you made in an inebriated state on New Year’s Eve.

I confess that I am glad that life can finally return to a more even keel after the hectic pace of the holidays. To say we had a houseful in the March household, would be something of an understatement. They started arriving from Christmas Eve, and as one lot of friends or family departed, another lot would arrive – occasionally there was an over-lapping night, but the rule of thumb was “hot-bunking.” It’s just a wonder that the dishwasher and washing machine haven’t blown up in protest.

The one constant was the ham – a very large leg of ham, possibly the biggest leg of ham ever to grace a dining table. The leaflet, which accompanied the ham, said it would easily provide 60 to 70 slices… I can only assume that they meant 60 to 70 slices each day. The most worrying aspect was that it never seemed to grow smaller. I needed a sumo wrestler just to heft the monster out of the refrigerator. I was very virtuous – I kept it in a damp calico bag (the ham, not the sumo wrestler) to prevent it drying out, and I carved off slices with a great flourish of a special ham knife I keep hidden away for the rest of the year. (Did you know there was a special knife for cutting ham?)

But yesterday was a red letter day. I went to the refrigerator and was able to lift it out single-handed – literally single-handed using just one hand! We, and our guests, had finally won, we had felled the monster. The question was what to do with the remains. The last of the guests departed on Saturday so there was nobody left to feed other than ourselves. The solution, of course, was soup. All of those odd bits lurking in the refrigerator could be put to good use. I flexed my muscles and managed to snap the thing in half at a convenient ball and socket joint so that I could cram it into a vast pan. I then proceeded to chuck in every last carrot, parsnip, celery stalk, onions (of assorted colors), garlic, a hunk of ginger, very oddly assorted fresh herbs, some split peas and lentils I found in the store cupboard, a little chile, and then boiled it all up. Once it had bubbled and gurgled for a good long time, I processed the lot (no NOT the bone!) and now have vast quantities of soup, which I suspect, will last as long as the ham did.

At least the animals got through Christmas without too many disasters. They all enjoyed the occasional slice of ham on their dinners, and seemed very partial to the turkey too. Unfortunately the puppy developed a taste for the lights on the Christmas tree and she now has a comforting inner glow. And if devouring the tree lights wasn’t enough mischief for a puppy, she then managed to get hold of a pack of dried ancho chiles – all that was left were some seeds scattered around on the floor, and half the label. Oddly, she suffered no ill effects from any of her misdemeanors. I can only assume that she is the reincarnation of a Mexican dog, maybe a Mexican Hairless, and is simply masquerading as an English Springer Spaniel.

Of course, now that all the guests have gone, and we are virtually comatose from exhaustion, I say what I say every year: “That’s the last time we have that many people for the holidays.” The trouble is that come September and October, we will be starting to issue invitations, check who would be home alone and who therefore must come and join us, and be placing early orders for giant hams, and hiring a sumo wrestler for weight lifting duties.

Happy New Year!

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