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Sunday, 23 December 2012

So here it is, Merry Christmas

There’s nothing like a peruse of other people’s Christmas traditions on Facebook or Mumsnet to make our household look like a terrestrial version of ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here.’ Never mind the making of fancy little star-shaped biscuits and jolly felt decorations for the tree, it’s as much as I can do to summon up the enthusiasm to bung up the Christmas poodle ornament with one leg missing and the starry tinsel that’s just purple wire now all its stars have leapt off over the years and rejoined the universe. If it weren’t for the children, I’d probably ditch the tree all together and pile up the boxes of wine into a triangle shape.
Other people have joyous traditions such as inviting people over to sing carols round the fire, which would be the quickest way to find ourselves alone at New Year. The husband sounds like the exhaust on a removals truck and I’ve long taken up miming at the children’s carol concerts. Then there’s all that putting down food for the reindeers and sherry wotnot for Father C, which just makes me think rats. And the dog would scarf up the Harveys Bristol Cream creating her own brand of Christmas doom in the form of a vet on a million-pound callout over the festive season.
And don’t get me started on Christmas cards. All that hanging around, blowing over every time the sitting room door is opened, guilting me into thinking about the people I didn’t send one to. I know it’s the thought that counts but am I alone in finding it weird that people send cards all the way from Australia, actually go to the effort of taking the damn thing to the post office to get it weighed in the middle of November then write, ‘Love Pat’? No news. No family nugget. Come on, guys, let’s tap into our loquacious gene here and make those airmiles worth it.
And then, deep happiness, there’s the present minefield. The children start making constant white noise about their present lists back in October, which I let blend in with the sound of the dishwasher until about 21 December, then pay out one third of the Christmas budget on presents and two-thirds on next day delivery. The husband gets stressed about what he’s going to buy me as I don’t need or want anything. To me, this seems a fine characteristic in a wife, but the embarrassment of being the only husband in the room who has bought nothing for his beloved seems to turn this fabulous quality of mine into a fault. So although a recent survey made mockery of sensible presents such as saucepans, socks and slippers, I think I would be delighted with just about everything in the top ten worst presents list with the possible exception of diet books, clothes in the wrong size and granny knickers, though better the big bloomers than some cheese-gratery thong that makes you scared to sneeze.
Last year the husband bought me a welly boot mud scraper, the year before a fridge, both of which filled my heart with much more joy than unwrapping a trinkety little box containing something sparkly. The pressure of having to like something expensive makes me back away, a bit like the dog when I try to wash the mud off her with the hosepipe.
But yet…when the extended family gather round on Christmas Day, my Dad raises a toast and says, ‘May these be our worst days’, the kids go into raptures over the nail clippers and plastic earrings from the crackers, the dog appears with a perfect (snaffled) triangle of Brie in her mouth, the husband is just such a damn good egg, barely raising an eyebrow that the family and friends this year come with an extra three dogs between them…well, I have to consider myself blessed, Christmas humbug and all.

P.S. If anyone needs a last minute present…I know of a fantastic book on Kindle…

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Everyone Does It Better

There’s nothing like achieving something I really, really want to chop the celebrations off at the knees before they’ve begun. In the time it takes for someone to say, ‘Whe-hey you did it,’ my mind has already shifted from the ‘Crikey, I did actually do it,’ to the ‘Now they’re all going to find me out.’ There’s barely time to unknot the wire round the champagne cork before I’m fretting about getting rumbled. Take this week. I’ve probably been talking about writing a novel for half of my life, writing one on and off for quarter of it, and really cranking up the brain and motivation for a tenth of it.
So The Class Ceiling is finally out on Amazon Kindle. Fourteen versions, proofread cover-to-cover, tried out on all the various Kindle and iPad incarnations, staring at a screen until my eyeballs were bleeding. I know more about hyphens and compound adjectives in the English language than any human being needs to survive. With a big ta-da, I pushed the button and there appeared The Class Ceiling in all its pink-covered glory. The family heaved a sigh of relief, muttered ‘Well done’ and hoped that now I’d stop shouting at everyone. I could have allowed myself, let’s say, thirty seconds, to enjoy the moment. But no. I just felt as though I’d rolled out a big ugly baby in a pram that everyone would to peer into and not know what to say.
The husband is singing from the rooftops, blaring about the wife’s brilliance. The teenage son has stopped telling his teachers that his mother is ‘an unsuccessful author’ and grunted that I’ve ‘done OK’. The daughter keeps showing all her friends the book on Amazon and saying, ‘My Mum wrote that.’ But the wife herself wants to creep into the dog cage and stay there until any danger of someone reading the damn book (and having an opinion on it) has passed.
Is it a gender thing? Maybe I’m being unfair but I feel like I’ve spent quite a lot of time with blokes lolling back in their chairs, one foot over a knee, steepling their fingers and sharing their fabulousness on subjects I swear I know more about. I mean, I’m not a genius but my brain doesn’t make clanking sounds if we’re talking about language, writing or how to make good banana bread. I’ll grant that there are a few more creaks and grating noises if we’ve drifted onto quantitative easing and those Libor rate thingies. But the point is, why do some people (sorry, guys, but it is usually men) feel absolutely fine about holding forth on subjects when their knowledge would fit comfortably into an eggcup, while I think twice about speaking up even if I’ve got a degree in the subject?
Time to man up – or rather woman up. My New Year’s Resolution? Carpe Diem. Dance in the dew. Parp own trumpet, quietly and in tune, on occasion. Small sedate clap for self without immediately being bulldozed by doubt. Accept that sometimes I can do well without needing a caveat emptor as big as a house.
But if you do read The Class Ceiling, please don’t let me know if you find any typos, the dog’s getting a bit fed up with me crowding into her cage…

The Class Ceiling is available on Amazon Kindle.