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The Christmas Nazi

This week everything is very Christmassy here in Rees towers.  Despite my griping about Christmas coming too early in the shops, once again, I’ve fallen for the whole yule-tide jamboree hook, line and sinker.  I’m weepy-eyed at the kids singing carols and have ‘pomander thumb’ an uncomfortable condition caused by pushing sharp cloves into unforgiving oranges.  Reams of paper have been made into snowflakes and I even got the sewing machine out and made Christmas bunting.  Yes, I’m full of Christmas spirit.  (Well, champagne actually.  But there’s much to celebrate.)

This is all in marked contrast to this time last year, when Emlyn and I had one of the worst rows of our marriage.   It was a full-frontal scream-a-thon during which he accused me of being a Christmas Nazi and added that I’d been relentlessly cheerful for three and a half weeks and he was sick of it.  I retorted that he was a lazy, bah-humbug scrooge and ought to stop hiding with his computer and join in the Christmas proceedings, there being three excited little girls in the house.

He then countered that Christmas was all my problem.  Christmas, he told me, was invented by women for women.  It’s women who are competitive about it, not men.  Men don’t give a reindeer’s fart if the house is tidy, or decorated, or whether any Christmas cards have been bought, written, sealed, stamped and posted.

I flapped my mouth open like a guppy fish, astonished at his outburst.   And then, to drive the point home, he added that ever since the time of Jesus himself, the husband’s only role in Christmas has been to open the door to unwanted visitors.


So there you have it, girls.  A bird’s eye blokes view on Christmas.  We laugh about it now, but I’ve taken on board the grain of truth at the heart of the row. There is no point being angry at men for not doing much in the run up to Christmas.  Because they don’t care as much as we do.   Fact.

But being described as a Christmas Nazi hurt.  A lot.  Probably because it was a bit more accurate than I wanted to admit.  But then, suppressing my inner-Nigella and the hopeless feelings of inadequacy that goes with it, is hard at this time of year.  Adding festering resent of one’s spouse on top is a toxic mix.

Acceptance and serenity and lots of booze is the answer, I think.  This year, I am trying very hard not to be a Christmas Nazi, although I am being relentlessly cheerful.  I can’t help it.  But I’m happy to do solo Christmas shopping in my deeply inefficient dithery sort of way.  And I even de-tangled the Christmas lights for the tree all by myself.  I’ve signed all the Christmas cards from all of us and the marital involvement only has to extend, for today at least, to the Middle One’s Winter Wonderland Christmas play this afternoon and the Year 2 parents piss-up tonight. And so far, so good, although there is a week to go.

I’ll report back, to let you know whether my new ‘acceptance and serenity’ policy holds up through the inevitable packing-the-car row, or the inspection of presents critique on Christmas Eve!

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The problem with shopping…


So here’s a picture of me having my big author moment on Friday.  My book signing at Gatwick.  OK, so it’s not me pulling up in a stetch limo outside Harrods in a white designer trouser suit, like I always fantasized it would be when I started writing novels, but it felt pretty rocking none-the-less.

For a whole day, I managed to cover up my pool painted toes and shutter scraping war-wounded knuckles to sign copies of my new book.  The lovely Tina had tables of books ready for me to sign and it was a fabulous feeling seeing so many copies of Forbidden Pleasures and Platinum all stacked up.

The only thing that irked me was that I had no children with me, lots of time and all the family credit cards, but could I find anything I wanted to buy in Gatwick?  Could I hell. Not a thing. 

I’m usually dashing past Accesorize, running for the gate with kids in tow and screech to a halt as a lovely bikini has caught my eye, but there’s no time to buy anything and I’m dragged off, cursing that I never have time to shop.

But shopping is an illusive thing.  It’s one of those girly life skills I seem to have completely missed out on, along with how to apply fake-tan and how to achieve a smoky-eye without looking like I’ve been in a fight.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I’m slightly phobic about shopping.  Don’t get me wrong, I love having new things, but not so much that I don’t look in my wardrobe and think that what I’ve got already will do.

So far, one of the highlights of my summer has been getting all my summer clothes down from the loft.  I only ever bring hand-luggage on holiday, as I know I have loads of clothes already here, but it wasn’t until I got them out the other day, I realized how many there were.  It was like Christmas.  Loads and loads of old favourite summer dresses – all totally shabby, but wearable.  I sat with them heaped around me, dewy-eyed with pleasure – the biggest part of which was the knowledge that I wouldn’t need to go anywhere near a shop for the whole summer.

Of course, in with the good stuff was a heap of market mistakes, which I keep purely for comic value.  You know the thing when you’re on holiday and your basket is full of melons and peaches, but the lady on the next stall is selling cheap dresses and you convince yourself that the pretty fabric will look amazing on you? My favourite such travesty, is last years pink and black paisley one-piece with elasticated pantaloon legs and a boob tube top.  Yikes.  What was I thinking?  The Little One put it on her head and pranced around like a clown to riotous applause.

But I wonder about how I should teach my girls to shop, because they don’t have a clue.  My own mother failed to pass on any clarity.  She only shops in  M&S and buys endless outfits, only to take them straight back again the next day.  She’s spent more time in the returns queue than anyone I know.

But we all shop differently, I’ve noticed.  I have some mates who spend hours browsing the stores.  They know instantly when the new stock is in at Zara, or when the sales start in Selfridges.  They sniff out bargains and compare prices and stock like truffle pigs and they’ve often bought the Grazia recommendation even before it’s gone to print.

Then there’s the really skilled shoppers regularly schedule ‘shopping days’ with their other friends and lunch out for hours before coming back with whole outfits that they’ve somehow managed to co-ordinate.   I envy those girls.

But I don’t envy the junk food shoppers.  I know loads of them.  They’re after a quick fix, but remain deeply unsatisfied and have wardrobes full of ill-fitting Gap trousers and un-washable New Look tops, but still can’t stop themselves buying something on their lunch break.  They are Gok candidates through and through.

Personally, I’m of the smash-and-grab school of shoppers.  Once in a blue moon, I’ll see something I like, run into the shop and buy it.  I’m ashamed to say that price is rarely a factor in my purchasing decision and I only have a 70/30 impulse decision success rate.

So, after mooching round all the concessions at Gatwick, I consoled myself by parking myself at the Seafood Bar, where I decadently ordered myself a half bottle of champagne and a smoked salmon salad.  I’m pleased to report that there are some life skills at which I do excel, after all.

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The List

Today is a good day.  The list has gone up today.

‘The list’ is a sacred piece of A4 paper on the kitchen wall.  On it is written the things we’ll do when Emlyn has finished his book.

Yes folks, the thriller is a week away from completion.

Actually, that’s not strictly true.  A book is only ever truly complete when it’s been published and there’s a whole race-track of hurdles to negotiate before that happens.

However, the most exciting part – the moment when the book has been wrestled from the ether and onto the page – is nearly upon us.  As soon, I’m informed, as the end of the week.

I’m having palpitations of excitement.

A writer must pick their champagne moment wisely, when the tangible sense of achievement is at its peak.  Waiting for ‘the call’ from an agent or publisher is too torturous.  Waiting for the cheque to be banked is foolish and by the time the book is in the shops, you’re beyond caring and have almost completed the next project.  So experience has taught us that the Herculean task of writing a whole novel must be celebrated, the moment the words ‘The End’ are typed, whatever the fate awaiting it.

I loved the bit in the second series of Californication, when Hank Moody, played so brilliantly by David Duchovny, finishes Lou Ashby’s biography and enacts his own personal ritual, involving whisky, weed and Warren Zevon.

I don’t know if non-writers would get the significance of that precise moment.  The moment of exhalation.  The moment when you know you can now officially be run over by a bus, because the words are down.

Most recently I’ve been the one in this position, but this time, I’m playing the supporting role and is it my clever husband who is the one burning the midnight oil getting to the finish line.  But it’s not easy being the co-pilot as the project comes into land.

We’ve hardly seen him as he’s upstairs in the furthest reaches of the house, having recreated the conditions of Chaucer in which to work: strictly no phone, no internet and practically no daylight as he rattles away on the pre-historic Apple Mac – a machine so old, it recognises the concept of a fax and not an email.

I’m on hand to towel down his forehead, squirt tea into his mouth, feed him nutritious food, give him the pep talk, focus him on wrestling the bugger down onto the canvas.  It’s tough stuff.

But now we can both see the light at the end of the tunnel, the list has gone up.  The magical world of real life opening up to us.

We’ll have childcare and for maybe an hour a day, free time.  A heady combination.

We’ve split the list into two.  Fun things we’ll do, house things we’ll do.  The things we fantasize about and the stuff that’s always on the mental to-do list.  It’s quite illuminating and after all this time, my husband can still surprise me.  Emlyn’s number one entry of house stuff he’ll do, is to creosote the shed.

Creosote the shed?  Is that what boys think about?

I look out of my study window every day at the shed.  I’ve never, ever noticed it needs creosoting. I kinda like its shabby-chic appearance.

But then I scanned across to the fun things.  Number one is to rig the TV up in the shed, so that we can watch the whole of Wimbledon in the garden.

Aha! That’s more like it.

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