Now that we have a big toe in December, I am ready to acknowledge Christmas is looming. Up until now I’ve steadfastly refused to admire the fairy lights sparkling away in neighbours’ gardens or open Christmas cards that have come through our letterbox. I don’t know whether folk are just trying to prove they’re super organised, or whether they just love Christmas so much they want to make it last twice as long. But for me, nothing happens until 1st December.
Every year I look forward to Christmas. And every year it fails to live up to my expectations. This is usually because family members who rub each other up the wrong way are thrust together and have to suffer each other’s company for more hours than at any other time of the year. I won’t name names, but last year a certain person moaned about everyone and everything. Everybody waded through a very tense lunch, listened to the Queen’s Speech with an atmosphere you could cut with a knife, and finally sat around the tree exchanging gifts. I say exchanging but in all honesty it was a case of policing movements so that presents weren’t used like hand grenades. By four o’clock the culprit had overstepped the mark and another person (who shall also remain anonymous) finally lost the plot. For five minutes our living room resounded with the noise of two people having the biggest wobbly in history.
At that point I busied myself collecting torn wrapping paper and told myself we were surely not alone. That there must be other families all over the land riding tensions, dealing with outbursts, biting their tongues or drowning their sorrows with the Christmas pudding brandy.
Will this year be any different? Well I hope so. Because I have flatly refused to entertain anybody on Christmas Day other than immediate family. In fact, such is my rebellion that I’m seriously thinking about foregoing the traditional turkey and pud and letting my son do the cooking. He talks very animatedly about vegetarian stew and a chocolate salt tart. I’m happy for the former but will pass on the latter. The dog keeps looking at me and mouthing vegetarian stew?
But all that has yet to come. First things first. The Christmas tree. My daughter has renounced my tried and tested method of dismantling the Christmas tree these past years. This involves flinging a vast black sack over the tree – still dressed in baubles and fairy lights – and carting it off to the garage where it awaits the passing of eleven months before coming back into the house. Da-dah! Instant dressed Christmas tree. ‘It’s no fun,’ Eleanor moaned, ‘part of the enjoyment of Christmas is unpacking each bauble and deciding which branch it should hang on.’ Personally I call that fannying about. I can’t bear it. I like instant results. Patience is not my virtue. I’m the same when out Christmas shopping. All these shoppers s-t-r-o-l-l-i-n-g along just drive me nuts. What’s wrong with power walking? Anyway, I digress.
So to appease my daughter I agreed a new, bigger, better Christmas tree would be purchased. Did she want to come with me to buy it? Good heavens no. Eleanor was far too busy watching I’m a Dimwit Get Me Out of Here. So she could hardly blame me for shopping for a tree that...well...came with few short cuts. ‘Where are the fairy lights?’ Eleanor asked rummaging through the shopping bags. ‘It doesn’t need any,’ I said, ‘they’re built in.’ My daughter regarded me in horror. She should be grateful I didn’t buy the upgrade – not just fairy lights but also spray-on snow and plastic pine cones.
‘What about tinsel?’ Eleanor asked. I shook my head and said, ‘Gold beads.’ She frowned and carried on picking up the new decorations. Gold baubles. Gold ribbon. Gold angels. Gold snowflakes. Gold fairy to go on top of the tree. Finally Eleanor passed judgement. ‘Everything is gold.’ My goodness, you have to hand it to my daughter. She knows her colours. ‘Is that a problem,’ I asked. ‘It’s boring,’ she replied.
So there we have it. The first bit of Christmas tension. Watch this space. Come Christmas Day, instead of flying presents, there might be a flying Christmas tree complete with airborne angels. Which reminds me. What did one angel say to the other? Halo there...