Not since I was a child have I asked myself the following question… and answered it.
How soon is too soon to start feeling Christmassy? October? Don’t be absurd. Late November? Well duh. Same answer. From December the 1st? Maybe. Probably. Oh, ok then just give in to it. Knock yourself out.
And that’s what I’ve found myself doing. Getting excited about Christmas.
Having recently decamped from London where I had, like most of the capital, restricted celebrations to a couple of days or a week at a push, I was ill prepared for what started as a fluttering and then developed into a surge of festive anticipation. And I don’t do surges (at least, not in a way I can go in to here). I’m too old for it, I know, but there’s something about the atmosphere in this market town that’s having an unusual effect on me. I’m simply going to have to fight it or where will it end? Any minute now I’ll be splodging bits of glitter on handmade Christmas cards and preserving things (Apples? Pears? Who knows what?) in jars to bestow on friends and family as thoughtful seasonal gifts. And that’s so not me. And I don’t think any of my friends and especially not my family would be even remotely impressed by what they would consider to be cheap-skate presents (because after all thoughtful really is a relative term.)
I explain all this to Rose, my glamorous septuagenarian neighbour, as she pours a little Grand Marnier into flutes and tops them up with champagne.
“Yes, I completely understand,” she says, passing me a glass.
“I had no choice but to give in to it years ago. The pre-Christmas build-up simply wore me down in the end. Now it’s all I can do to stop myself from going to a Ye-Olde-Let’s Get Chrismassy Crafty Fayre at the church hall on the 4th November. And as you know, I don’t sew. Or knit. Or crochet. Actresses never do. There’s no time to be fashioning pin-cushions out of one’s old petticoats when there’s a lover to be stabbed or a husband to be poisoned.”
I put down my glass untasted.
“Theatrically speaking I mean. Do try and keep up, Sally. And aren’t these delicious?” She takes a long sip from her drink.
“My understudy in A Little Light Music introduced me to them. I think she thought that if I had enough of them I’d be too drunk to go on and she’d get her hour in the sun”
“And did she?” I ask, draining half my glass.
She raises an eyebrow.
“What do you think?”
I nod appreciatively. Rose is the most elegant and truly lady-like woman I have ever met but she can drink like one of those TV Reality Stars on Celebrity Big Brother that end up in The Priory.
“Actually, there was one actress I knew” She continues “Who, in between takes on a BBC re-make of The Turn of the Screw, cross-stitched her way through a design of all of the twelve apostles lounging around the table at The Last Supper. Mind you, she was playing the ghost which I think goes half way to explaining it. Now, where were we? You and your attitude to the forthcoming holidays. Tell me more”
I proffer my now empty glass.
“I was even toying with the idea of going to Midnight Mass”
“I didn’t know you were religious” says Rose making us both another round.
“I’m not. It’s just that I think it would feel… well I’m not really sure what… inclusive, I suppose”
“Ah” Rose crosses one elegantly trousered leg across the other with a knowing smile “You seek a sense of belonging”
“And is that so terrible?”
“Not terrible. Just needy.”
“Oh crap you’re right.”
“Well naturally I am. Not a word I like by the way.”
“Crap do you mean? I would have thought being an actress you would have heard a lot worse”
“It’s the scatological I don’t care for. I don’t object to profanity in the least. How could I when I use it myself? Fuck for example is such a lovely word as both an adjective and a verb. It’s the consonants. So satisfying to say. And indeed do. As an activity.”
“As an activity? Yes. Absolutely. I completely agree with you there. I think there should be more of it generally. And in the particular. Meaning me.”
“I thought you did” She flashes me a sardonic smile “So needy.”
I grin “In fact, I have an idea. Why don’t I try making… what did you say? Pin-cushions?…”
“Out of old petticoats” cuts in Rose.
“I’ll have to borrow some of yours,” I say “As I’m fresh out. And instead of the usual festive design of a robin or some sleigh bells I’ll just stitch the word fuck on them. What do you think?”
“Love it darling. I’ll place an order right now. I can think of several people that they’d be the perfect gift for”
“That understudy of yours for one?”
“However did you guess? Another drink Sally?”
TO BE CONTINUED