Saturday, 2 November 2013

Preparing for Christmas... Many a Woman’s Nightmare!

I know, even the mention of the “C” word, whilst Halloween is still fresh in our minds, and the sound of fireworks begins to fill the air, is a cardinal sin (and believe me I don’t normally like to even think about it myself until at least December the 1st), but seeing Christmas all of a sudden “appear” in the shops has reminded me of a book I read during the summer, “The Woman who Went to Bed for a Year” by the brilliant Sue Townsend.  Now, whilst I did enjoy the book, and could relate to much of the witty social commentary and humour (with which it’s bursting) I did find it got a tad ridiculous towards the end (although some might say this is part of its appeal).  The book is hilarious in parts, but also takes a poignant look at modern family life, and the sometimes unbearable pressures and expectations placed on the modern family woman. Not least, in the lead up to the festive season.

Great book, well worth a read.

So, whether or not this inspires you to go out and buy the book, I did want to share with you a few paragraphs about the annual ordeal that the main character, Eva, endures in order to prepare Christmas for her family.  Eva has gone to bed for a year (as you do) and is handing over the responsibility of preparing for Christmas to her bemused husband, Brian...

“On the evening of 19th December, Brian asked Eva, “What are we doing for Christmas?”
Eva said “I’ll be doing nothing at all.”
Brian looked shocked. “Do you want me to tell you how to do Christmas, Brian?”
“I suppose so.”
Eva advised him, “You may want to take notes.””

And so, Eva begins...

“You’ll find the Christmas Card list in the bureau, together with stamps and unused cards from last year. Write them tonight before you go to bed, and post them tomorrow.  After work tomorrow, drive around garden centres and garage forecourts looking for Christmas trees.  In your mind’s eye you are seeing a perfect tree, lushly green and aromatic, rounded at the bottom and rising in ever-decreasing circles until topped with a single branch.  However, there are no such trees. At 9pm the day before Christmas Eve, just as Homebase is closing, you will panic and push through the doors and snatch the nearest tree. Do not be too disappointed when you end up with a tree a social worker might describe as ‘failing to thrive’.”

Go to local butcher, order a turkey. Watch him laugh in your face. Go to supermarket, try to order a turkey. Leave to the sound of laughter from the poultry department. Buy ten tins of Quality Street for fifty quid. Decide how much to spend on distant or near relations, trawl round shops, ignore present list and make ludicrous impulse buys.  Arrive home, unload presents and immediately suffer buyer’s remorse. Take everything back the next day and buy twenty-seven pairs of red fleece socks with reindeer motif.  Go online, order latest technical must –have gadgets, find that there are none left in the country. Go late-night shopping to buy Christmas outfit for self.

Snatch a few hours sleep before driving to Marks & Spencer to join a queue. Reach tenth position in queue to hear “dressed turkeys gone”. No choice but to buy undressed turkey. Return home and, through fog of anxiety and sleep deprivation, unpack turkey and leave on kitchen table.
Drag stepladder up cellar stairs, untangle fairy lights, drape along picture rails, starting with artistic plan in head, end with fairy lights thrown over any ledge or surface.  Bulbs go. Search for replacements.
Do not throw away horrible papier-mâché bells or similar cack-handed ornaments.  The children made them in infant school.

Go into kitchen and find cat mauling turkey’s head, undressed turkey’s eyes expressing woes of world.
Brian interjected, panicking now, “How can one person possibly deal with all those different components?”
But Eva couldn’t stop.
Cook Christmas dinner, almost collapse after assembling food on table. Drink too much, ask for help washing up, everyone says “later”.  Eat half tin of Quality Street. Prepare supper. Drink self into stupor. Feel sick from Quality Street and vodka, go to bed.”

Any of that sound familiar?  Of course most of us say the same every year “never again”, “next year I’m going to make it simpler (and cheaper)”, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll put every last ounce of effort you have (and every last penny) into making Christmas magical for your family, thoroughly exhausting yourself in the process.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Christmas but surely there’s got to be an easier (less expensive) way?!  So far, I haven’t found one, but if I do, I’ll post it right here.

Happy Christmas planning ladies!

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