WHAT’S not to like about November? Driving south out of the Chalke valley, over Knowle Hill and out of Broad Chalke at midday. Just at the crest, Martin Down rises like Avalon out of the mist and the lanes are shrouded in the dappled, dewy, gold and rusty palette of the last weeks of autumn. That whole stretch of downland from Whitsbury to Cranborne is incredibly beautiful, I’ve driven it a thousand times, and shuffled over it on horseback on numerous occasions.

Back in the real world the Christmas countdown is on; days and whole weeks are about to completely disappear as we hurtle towards the festive season at the speed of light. It’s never too early to start a wish list, so here are a few tips on what to add to yours. A couple of great books; firstly Knife by Tim Hayward, the culture, craft and cult of the cook’s knife. Or “Sheer blade porn” as observed by Anthony Bourdain. There’s some exquisite photography alongside intriguing histories and great advice on how to use them.

Secondly; On the Menu by Nicholas Lander, a really in-depth look at “The world’s favourite piece of paper”. An absolute goldmine of information about the nuances of menu planning, looking back at some of the first menus ever written, around 1805. It explores not only the graphic elements with differing levels of legibility and their ability to communicate, but also the very soul of the chefs and restaurateurs who put their passion into every page.

Something to add to your butcher’s wish list is ‘get your Christmas order in early’. I spoke to mine today to order up some products for events this weekend and he’s already sounding a bit rattled and there’s five weeks or more to go. Also, do yourself a favour and don’t go to pick up your order on Christmas Eve. The queue will be out the door and halfway to Bournemouth.

My top tip for the 25th, keep it simple, keep it light and start prepping two days beforehand. Good luck.