Noel Noel

Nigella is smugly relating how easy Christmas catering can be if you have a camera crew and producer who live at your house, on the TV, and The First Noel was just on the radio, and I was unsuccessfully trying to find a place to hide a present (even though it’s in a box and nothing can be told of the contents therein) – Laetitia sniffs, and shakes and listens, and carefully examines postmarks and other evidence on packages, you see – and concealment is important in preserving the Christmas surprise. And Christmas ought to be a series of surprises, after all. Happy ones. But we just don’t seem to have the present hiding room these days. Very disappointing … and reason enough for a better job, more money, and a bigger house. That we own … OK that’s maybe a trifle ambitious. (Just quietly, I love the way the rental markets in Australia are so insane that when the GFC came along prices went up – as demand was still so high, despite everything becoming more precarious, and prices rising[1] – rather than down, as there was a good chance properties might not get rented – but owners were taking a hit and thus increased their prices too. When demand exists despite serious systemic pressures affecting the national economy we have a problem – the ‘laws’ of economics are not allow to stop working, or apply in reverse – or are they?)

Received a book I ordered a few weeks ago in the mail today – Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and other writing s on the season by him, in a pretty little cloth-bound volume, which looks a little dirty around the edges, and I can’t recall whether I bought it second hand, but that won’t worry me. I won’t let it. I think Christmas-related items: books, decorations, music, should be given and used before Christmas. They should not be Christmas presents, unless given a week or more before the day. Kind of wrecks it to be given a beautiful object that could have hung on the tree, on Boxing Day. To me, anyway. As if time and emotional reserves have been retrospectively interfered with or wasted.

But the festive season has its shortcomings as well, and this can’t be denied. For a long time I heard adults talk about the pressure and the family stress and I thought they were whingers, really. I have a strong memory of enjoying Christmas shopping with my mum, quite late in the piece, even on Christmas Eve. Little feet became sore and little bodies wanted rest, but there was something about the energy of the seething late present-buying, catering and organising crowds. Now the thought is scary. Now I feel the pressure. Since I’ve had proper money to spend on presents, and those presents can be good or bad, it has been a strong motivation to get good things, things people will not be expecting, things, if possible, people did not even know they wanted, and then it’s a good feeling when they are impressed on the morning of the 25th. But it’s a better feeling to know you’ve done well. Satisfaction is all.

Running with this stress thing, and perhaps this wasn’t typical stress at Christmas, and perhaps “running with” wasn’t a great way to start this paragraph and I don’t even know what it means (if it means anything), last year wasn’t good. Perhaps we took on too much, and when I say we I don’t mean I was doing the most of any of it – it was all Laetitia – but it had all become so very difficult for me: relaying phone call queries between Mum and Laetitia, the usual present thing, preparations, expeditions, concerns, a descending cloud of depression which wasn’t soothed in a kitchen confrontation over not doing something I’d decided I just couldn’t face that day, and then the big day, and the release of some nervous energy, and the bitterness over a spillage on a beautiful tablecloth, which was accidental. What could be worse? Thinking Lily had run away, looking for her everywhere throughout the neighbourhood, and then receiving guests shortly after returning home, when we realised she was still here – that was worse. That was the worst way to start Boxing Day. And we were behind on prep. Shit happens, you might say. My nerves were fucked, I’ll say in reply.

But both days were fine, in most ways. And I’m looking forward to it this year. The giving and eating and drinking.


[1] Australia pretty much avoided the GFC’s worst outcomes. I’m fully aware of the fact we are nowhere near as in the poo as most other Western countries, and can look on with a kind of fascination as Portugal, Ireland, and Greece (and other countries) seem on the brink of collapse.

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Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

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