Yep, Christmas is coming. And I don’t just know that because the kids extend their Christmas list during every ad break from Peppa Pig (there is now not a single thing they don’t want for Christmas. In fact, last week Son Two told me he wanted the plane from the Cilit Bang advert, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Christmas lists are kind of limited to things he can find in the Argos book, why shatter his dreams?), or because I have heard “Last Christmas” three times a day on the radio for the past three weeks (and how is it that I never tire of it?). No, there are certain things that, for me at least, mark the beginning of advent far more meaningfully than opening a little cardboard door on a Power Rangers calendar.
Firstly, my list making begins to snowball. I love lists anyway, but as Christmas draws ever nearer the number of lists begins to multiply, present lists, food lists, to do lists, to buy lists, costing lists… In fact my Christmas list making begins in September, when it feels like I have all the time in the world to create a Good Housekeeping worthy Christmas. September lists are full of gorgeously twee ideas, things that I think the kids will really appreciate and show people how much I care: hand make all presents this year, order polystyrene balls to make funky tree baubles, talk to butcher re: free range turkey (incidentally I have never talked to a butcher in my life, unless you count being chatted up in a bar by some guy who works behind the deli counter in Asda, but it seemed like the kind of thing Kirstie Alsopp would do), felt for calendars. You get the idea.
Then, in November, when I still haven’t managed to tick anything off my September lists, I make a new list, still with the twee ideas, but now fashioned in clipped demands, with added exclamation marks for emphasis on importance: make presents!!!, card blanks!!!, balls!!!
Then we get to mid December, where we are now, and this is when I truly know the festive season is upon us. Because it suddenly dawns on me that I have wildly over estimated the amount of time I have available for all the wholesome stuff that I wanted to do (I don’t have enough time in a normal day to get everything normal done, so on what planet exactly was I on when I thought I could crank out one hundred and fifty handmade cards and matching envelopes?) So things start to slide. In the case of Christmas cards for example, September list: hand make all Christmas cards, (Christmas list making is suspended in October due to the multitude of Halloween lists) November list: buy and write all shop bought Christmas cards, December list: write cards back to people who have given one to me, Mid December list: Dispense with cards all together and plan a nice Christmas day Facebook status apologising for lack of Christmas cards (say it was an eco friendly decision or some other lame excuse) but wishing good will and glad tidings on everyone I know.
Gone also by this time are the other gorgeous but equally insane festive plans. Talk to butcher becomes go to Tesco two days before Christmas, pick up a frozen Bernard Matthews and curse the damn things for taking up precious fridge space for the next three days as it defrosts. Make all Christmas presents becomes ask everyone what books they want from my free bookshop and make own baubles turns into pull out the remaining dented three baubles that survived last years month long Bauble Footy Tournament courtesy of Sons One and Two.
The other reason why I know Christmas is upon us is that I am absolutely knackered. I have no idea whose idea it was to call Christmas a “holiday” because it is anything but. I feel exhausted, I look exhausted, I have a cold sore, and I am forever sitting bolt upright in the night shouting “school play tickets!” and scribbling things down on my list which I don’t understand the next day.
The other day I made 71 mince pies for my bakery business, and a fondant Santa cake for Son One’s Christmas Fayre (yet again no bloody certificate for “Best Cake”, when will I learn?), I then realised in sheer panic at 6pm that I had exactly one hour before I was due to leave for my NCT Christmas Dinner and I had to have handed in Son One’s nativity king costume by the following morning. So I went to Tesco, fully prepared to do battle with the other harassed and exhausted “bad mummies” over the last king costume, only to be met with a stripped bare display, the only things left a lame sheep and a suspiciously satiny and bejewelled Mary dress (do we think Mary really had sequins sewn to the waistband of her shiny dress?). I ended up buying a Tesco Value hand towel and manically sewing it onto a red fleece I had in the loft to make an ermine cape (I learned my lesson last year, when my “cleverly constructed costume” consisted of a purple towel with glued on cotton wool and black felt to make the ermine, after a number of school rehearsals the cotton wool had all but fell off and during the actual show poor old Son One was left desperately clinging onto the last remaining strands of it, adversely affecting his arm movements during the performance of “Little Donkey”), in amongst a days worth of washing up and Expensive Cat repeatedly leaping for the spool of cotton.
But just as I was rushing out the door to have the first of many rather badly cooked pub Christmas dinners with friends I wish I had seen more during the year, I kissed Son One on the head good night and he looked up at me and said “You do work really very hard for us Mummy. But you do make us lovely things.” Bugger, he would really have appreciated those handmade Christmas balls. Well there’s always next year (and that goes for the ever elusive “Best Cake” certificate too).