Thursday, 5 November 2015

I'll be Lone for Christmas. You can Envy Me


  Do you enjoy a traditional family Christmas?

  If the answer is yes, then good for you. All the TV adverts are aimed at families.  Banded smugly together going through their rituals. Even though statistics show that there are more loner households than family ones. 
  Don't these companies want to make money? 

  If you don't enjoy a traditional family Christmas, then - comrade!

  I spend Christmas Day alone. 
  I am so happy! 
  I should be in adverts. 

  How do I/can you do it?  

  I have my favourite CDs of Carols, films to watch, my walk, and, of course, there's food. Food. Being with my family always got in the way of me simply having a wonderful Christmas time.  My mother couldn't ever make gravy, there were three attempted murders, I never got my Wish Upon a Star to be adopted. 

  The bottom line? 

  When I was seventeen, I told them I wouldn't be doing a family Christmas ever again; and I've stuck with that.
 Let me run you through my own typical Christmas Day Doings and Gubbins Diary.

  I can't stress enough that preparation is everything. 

  I soak the amount of coffee grounds I'm going to need first thing in milk and leave it in the fridge overnight.
  I make my YouTube Christmas Mix Playlist: Joan Sutherland, Leontyne Price, Kiri Te Kanawa, Julie Andrews, Kathleen Battle, Sinatra, the Andrews Sisters, Pinky and Perky.
  I replace the chocolate that was originally behind the last window in my advent calendar and stick the window back closed with eyelash glue.
  On December the sixth, you see, I will have been on the Cava pre-tasting, winkled windows seven to twenty-five and then tried to fit all the chocolates in my mouth at once.

  On the day.

  I put on my playlist and add water to the coffee grounds.  Bring it to the swirling boil once, take it off the heat; to the swirling boil a second time, take it off the heat; to the swirling boil a third time, take it off the heat.  Few drops of cold water in it to settle the grounds, strain into my The Little Boy who Santa Claus forgot is suing in small claims court for Emotional Distress mug.
 Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. 
 Reading aloud from A Christmas Carol. I make the ending happier still by changing the appropriate sentence to: '...and to Tiny Tim, who did die...' 
  Elevenses. Chocolate - at least ninety-percent cocoa solids - melted in milk, with honey and XO Cognac. Alternatively, I will use a box of Cadbury's Heroes and anything up to four brandy miniatures in the milk. I know I've nailed the ratios when I tilt the pan and can see no liquid. 
 I phone my parents - one in Kennington, one in Norwich - and slur Merry Christmas at them. We go through all the Yes, I know, really impossible with the trains to get anywhere - let alone get back - from panto this year. There's that one train on Christmas Eve, isn't there, going from Kings Cross north, but it's a special one, run for the Salvation Army Band. Our Fairy's going home by sled drawn by her neighbour's semi-tame llamas, but that's because her mother's got emphysema and can't make herself heard over the phone, so she really has to. 
  I ignore my mother's tactless reminder that I'm not actually in a pantomime this year. 
  Cava. Which you don't even think of poisoning with Orange Juice. 
  Three course lunch.  One part Gordon Ramsey to two parts James Martin, cooked on Baby Belling and eaten at table laid with a candle and napkin, special cutlery out of the drawer polished in honour of the day.  These are items from the silver service that my step-great aunt divided up in her will. They have a raised pattern of thistles.  It's like eating with bubonic poxy fingers. 

 And, of course, there is the talking point of my homemade table centrepiece...  

 This year I've gone for votive candles arranged on glitter-sprayed mulch, loosely bound in cranberry-juice tie-tied linen, the top knot folded into an attempt at an angel blowing a tiny brass trumpet: Make & Bake Playdough painted with Airfix AA0597 54 Brass Metallic. 
  It's a talking point all right. Even for me to myself. When I catch sight of it as I'm finishing up the Cava and wonder drunkenly aloud what on the peaceful earth it's meant to be, how did it get there and which of my aunts might have made it in whichever Hengoed District evening class she might have been attending? 
  Come again, maybe it's left over from Primary School?  
  It is the kind of thing Miss Postlethwaite would have had us making.  She used to collect, swill out and decoupage Germolene tins.  For the sake of the two Cadbury's chocolate fingers we had with our milk just fitting inside. Eventually all ninety-six of us in the Holy Trinity Juniors had one of his or her own.
  See, nowadays being old and cynical, I wonder how Miss Postlethwaite came to hurt herself so much she would have got through ninety-six tins of Germolene.  
  She wasn't married. 

  How to Increase your Endorphin Levels.

  After Seven Brides for Seven Brothers I pull on my trackie bottoms over my pyjamas for a jog up Primrose Hill.  One climb for each slice of lamb, I think, so - er - sixteen in all, but must get a wriggle on to be back home in time for Everybody Loves Raymond.  
  I will make it back in time.
  And how?  
  Because I won't be slowed down by loved ones.  
  All around I hear them:  
  'See, if we'd left ten minutes earlier like I wanted to, we wouldn't have missed the sunset.'
  'We're trying to get him not to kick his new ball when he's within a group, aren't we? Thinking of others.  So you actually joining in with him kicking his new ball within a group, thoughtless of others, is really, really less than ideal, darling.' 
  'No, mummy's not still sad because she heard those silly Christmas Carols; mummy's gone onto being sad about daddy's family, about how he never makes his quotas for that bonus that might finally get us out to the Seychelles, and about his other small endowment. Those sorts of things. You'll understand when you're older.'

  And as I jog I sing a self-affirming snatch of "I'll be Lone for Christmas, You can Count me out". 

  NB: what you don't need to know is this: jogging down Primrose Hill that last time, looking forward to more food, listening to all the stress-talk around and feeling smug, I saw just ahead of me a woman, also on her lonesome, also jogging along. 
  'Comrade!' I thought.
  Fifty yards from the gate by the zoo, she suddenly turned onto the grass and jogged to a tree.  
  She prayed, then took two chamois leather wings out of her pocket and velcroed them to the yoke of her coat.
  Dancing a Samba around the tree, she sang piercingly to it in Gaelic. 

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