“Everyone nodded, and sighed, and tut-tuted. And one person said, ‘I’m absolutely nowhere near ready. There’s such a lot to do. Only six weeks; my head is spinning just thinking about it!’ And I furrowed my brow and let out a modulated theatrical groan – just to fit in; because it felt appropriate. But really, I was thinking to myself: Am I missing something? What is it I’m supposed to be getting worked up about? What do they know that I don’t? Is there a Brexit impact on Christmas that I’ve not heard about?”
I was with M. The two of us sat in silence contemplating the monster myth that will grow arms and legs and teeth and hair and talons and maybe even horns in the next six weeks – the self-fulfilling prophecy that there is ‘such a lot to do’.
“You didn’t mention Brexit, did you? No need for total hysteria.”
She said she didn’t. But she did mention the time it took to watch, re-watch, evaluate, assess, compare and contrast this year’s John Lewis advert to those from pervious years.
“And what did they say?” I asked, genuinely curious.
“Nothing. I just got blank stares, and they dispersed from the water cooler and wandered back to their desks. Have you watched it yet? We could make a start on that now.”
We googled it. Seems it’s not out yet. The ‘such a lot’ to-do list had begun: No. 1 – watch the Christmas ads on television.
I decided M. wasn’t taking the first world problem of Christmas stress anywhere near seriously enough, so I grew her a list. Garden lights, and a grotto on the front lawn. Homemade cards, and macramé decorations made at a Saturday workshop in the community hall (I saw a poster). A wreath for the front door, fashioned from foraged greenery, and some of that mistletoe I spotted on the highest branches of the poplars in Ashton Estate – extendable ladders (send G. up, he’ll be grand). And the Cotoneaster bush in the back garden has plenty of berries, that could double for holly. Cake and pudding: they should be done by now, maturing in the pantry, fed fortnightly with brandy poured into holes made by 3mm knitting needles (the ones you use for aran knitting). Which reminds me, these darks nights are perfect for sitting up knitting mitts for the boys, you’ll have the needles out anyway. Keep turning your sloe gin; and dig out those scissors that cut in a serrated zig-zag edge, so you can cut rounds of seasonal fabric to cover the jam jar tops for the homemade mincemeat for the boy’s teachers. It’s probably worth trying out a few stuffing recipes in advance: polenta, Cumberland sausage and macadamia is the new thing. Best to make your own advent calendars too – when the kids are in bed, so they don’t know what you have drawn, and add a positive affirmation for each day.
“That should keep you going until you get onto the present buying,” I said, handing her the list.
She glanced at it, and handed it back to me, asking, “Did you ever see the episode of The Simpsons where Bart’s neighbour, Ned Flanders, cheerfully declares he’s having an ‘imagination Christmas’ this year, and his inexhaustibly positive kids join in, one bouncing up and down and the other hip-wiggling saying, ‘Yeah! I got a pogo stick!’ and, ‘Yeah! I got a hula hoop’?
No, I had never seen it.
“Well, this list is an imagination Christmas. I’m totally on top of things.”
‘Keeping on Top of Things’, by Connie Bensley
I want to be alone. But I have to see
the chiropodist, the dentist,
the car mechanic, the ear-syringer,
the roofer, the window cleaner,
and a man to cut back the creeper
which is forcing its way in
through the bedroom window.
Thank goodness I don’t have to see
the manicurist, the otologist
the reflexologist, the phrenologist
the hypnotherapist, the gynaecologist
the Chinese herbalist, or the psychiatrist –
at least not this week.