Tag Archives: Christmas

The ‘C’ Word

OK, I know it’s November, but we can’t miss it. Christmas is everywhere.  Are you, like me starting to feel overwhelmed by the thought of presents.  Well, here’s one solution…

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Do you remember reading ‘The Night Before Christmas’ when you were a kid?  It’s always been one of my favourite poems and I’ve read it to our own girls over the years.  I like that warm, fuzzy feeling I get at the end of it, when Santa has been to visit and has disappeared off into the night.

Well, here’s our much more realistic modern take on it – hopefully with the Christmas sentiment still intact…just.  ‘Twas The Fight Before Christmas is our latest parody and hits the shops this month.

We had an absolute hoot writing it. (Obviously none of our own family members – or those of our friends make and appearance AT ALL!)  It’s about Christmas Eve day and the mayhem at the Jones household when all the extended family turn up for the festivities. There are so many issues – Aunty Sue and Uncle Bob are post divorce, Uncle Trev on the lagers and Gran and Grandad attempting to micro manage everyone…oh, and let’s not forget that Mum’s internet shopping still hasn’t arrived.  It’s no wonder that a massive scrap breaks out.

Come and see our new Parody Central page for further updates.  Facebook https://www.facebook.com/parodycentralbooks/

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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.

Ugh!

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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Ball envy

November.  Everyone you know is really busy, right?  The world is full of harassed people, cramming in actual work before the party season starts.  But not me.  I’m in a writing hiatus, with projects awaiting the green light.  See these thumbs?  Officially on twiddle mode.

It’s all terribly frustrating and there’s nothing I can do, but wait.  You’d think, as the avid list-maker I am, that spare time would be a Godsend.   There’s a chocka-full Christmas present list, the Things I’m Going To Do To The House List bursting with tasks.

But the old adage – if you want anything done, ask a busy person – is so true in my case.  I’m dithering for Britain.

I should be used to waiting.  Waiting, after all, is a writer’s curse.  Mostly you sit at your desk waiting for inspiration.  I have various tactics for these times, my favourite – apart from writing lists – is the curiously satisfying task of de-fluffing my keyboard with folded over sellotape.

My beloved husband, Emlyn, spends his time cruising the BBC site, digging up ‘fascinating’ trivia facts with which to entertain and enlighten me.  Yesterday’s being that a new species of grasshopper has been discovered which has testicles which account for fifteen per cent of its bodyweight, making it officially the creature with the biggest balls on the planet.  ‘Imagine. Fifteen per cent.  That like an equivalent of a whole human leg,’ Emlyn said with a faraway look in his eye.

Gareth, our dear friend the poet, told us over dinner last night, that he too suffers from occasional bouts of ball envy.  He’s invested in a hamster to amuse him during the lonely hours as he strives to complete his PhD.  He pokes food through the bars and talks to his blind little hamster with its grandiose triple-barrelled name, Gabriel Dante Rossetti.  Gareth’s quite smitten with his little writing buddy, despite the hamster’s curiously large balls.

And talking of balls – and there is a link here – I’m pleased to report that my creative writing course started well this week.  I had a bunch of extremely talented twelve and thirteen-year-olds, who were an utter joy to teach.  I’m already excited about our next session together.

I’ll admit that I was a tad nervous before-hand, due to my entirely different kind of teaching experience which happened somewhere deep in the Winnersh Triangle, last summer.  (Which, for those who don’t know, is that oddly over-signposted area in the tangle of motorways just outside London.  Where, whenever we pass it, we can’t help but sing Barry Manilow’s ‘Bermuda Triangle’ and wonder if we too are about to disappear.)
I was speaking at two library events – one at lunchtime and one in the evening, and with an afternoon to kill, I volunteered my services to the English department of the local comprehensive school.

The harassed teacher who met me in the corridor during a stampede of kids, shouted in a war-torn kind of way that they were a ‘man down’ and hoofed me alone into a class full of texting, gum-chewing, blank-faced seventeen year-olds.

Scary.

It became immediately apparent that they couldn’t give a monkey’s that I was a published writer, or that my books have been translated into 27 languages, or thought any of my anecdotes were even remotely amusing. I started to feel like Naomi Watt’s character in King Kong, doing ever more elaborate tap dances and cartwheels to amuse the great beast.

I cut to the chase and got onto the creative writing session I’d planned.  This is all about accessing one’s seam of inner creative magic, I told them. They seemed sceptical.

I urged them to pay no attention to spelling, punctuation or grammar and banned them from crossing out.  They had to write.  Fast. For ten minutes. And even if they wrote ‘banana banana banana’ then their inner critic wouldn’t get air time, and eventually they’d get creative.

I gave them the first line to get them going.  ‘The shirt that he wore was…’
‘Don’t worry,’ I said, as they started, ‘Anything goes.  I’m un-shockable.’

Not entirely true, as it turns out.

At the end, some of them seemed to be satisfied with their endeavours.  I plucked a few out at random and read them aloud.  Then I picked on the smirking Goth boy in the corner.

‘The shirt that he wore was… tucked into a pair of tight black leather trousers,’ I read. I scanned down the scrawl, my cheeks flushing. ‘Inside were a pair of unfeasibly huge balls straining to get out…’

Oh God. I’d started so I had to finish.

Well, the best I can say about the humiliating – and lengthy – description of self-pleasure that followed, was that at least it included the rather lyrical phrase ‘squirrel coloured pubes’.

Afterwards, I ran to the car and called Emlyn, who was eventually sympathetic once he’d stopped laughing.  ‘You told them to write about what they know.  What did you expect?  What else do teenage boys do?’

Good point.

But I’m starting to think that maybe I’ve got a case of ball envy too.  Not the actual wanting of them, but the fact having something like to obsess about in the way that men do, would occupy my mind whilst I’m waiting for my news.

Do other women have ball envy too?  Do you?  Maybe we should set up a website.  A self-help group to find something bigger and better than balls, something that us intelligent women can singularly obsess over too.

Answers on a postcard/email please.

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Cross about the ‘C’ word

Is anyone else upset about the ‘C’ word?   It’s everywhere. It’s October, for God’s sake.   We’ve got Halloween and Bonfire Night on the horizon, but Christmas is suddenly obscuring everything.

Tescos are admitting that it’s early, but they’re already talking the up the ‘C’ word and trying to flog us yet more toys with endless plastic parts and ugly teddies.  Does anyone else think that they’re sailing perilously close to giving the game away about Father Christmas?  I know the nippers should be in bed of a Sunday night, but we’re in the grip of the X factor and giving us grown-ups ‘suggestions’ in the ad breaks has prompted some uncomfortable questions from my suspicious six-year-old.

Suddenly alerted to the fact that it’s Christmas before we know it, this seems to be the fortnight when everyone uses up the vouchers that they were given last Christmas before they expire.

Getting or giving an ‘experience’ or a hobby-related present always seems like a good idea, come Christmas.  It ticks many boxes.  It requires no wrapping, or queuing in shops and is eco-friendly.  Plus, enticing someone to think about themselves as having a hobby other than drinking vast quantities of booze has quite an appeal at that time of year.  But let’s, be honest, all voucher/hobby-related presents are a right pain in the neck.

Two friends had to schlep up the West End to  use up their theatre tokens this weekend.  With the weather as it was, the whole thing was a damp squib from start to finish.  Another pal went on a knife skills course, at which (since he’s a very good cook) he learnt precisely nothing, but had to spend the day with a random assortment of loonies.  Another texted from a seaweed spa day, which sounded rather unpleasant (and stung a bit from what I can gather).  Whilst here, an elderly friend served up a tooth-dissolvingly sweet crumble that had been rustled up at a Jamie Oliver cookery course.

We’re no different.  Our thing is the pottery.

When I booked it last December, it seemed like a great idea for the perfect gift for my beloved spouse.  He claims to have excelled at pottery at school and was pleased with my generous gesture of a taster ‘sesh’ for the two of us. Who needs posh crockery, when you can make your own? I was thinking.

In fact, we both had ideas of signing up to the follow-on course and be regularly doing some pottery of a Tuesday evening and wandering out to the pub for dinner afterwards.  It seemed like such a wholesome, jolly vision and yes, I’ll admit, I did have a bit of a me-as-Demi-in-Ghost-in-those-dungarees fantasy.

But real life is just too busy.  And with three kids, two jobs and all the bleedin’ homework, when are we ever going to be able to coordinate being out of the house at 7pm, for some therapeutic pottery together?  Oh yes.   October.

So voucher gifts for me this year.  And can someone PLEASE stop me thinking about Christmas?

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