My advice for the most magical time of the year!
Merry Christmas everyone – or whatever holiday festival you celebrate! I hope it’s filled with family, love and happiness.
Of course, family celebrations can so easily be filled with arguments over the remote control, and why everyone got you socks again when what you wanted was a book voucher, which is really an argument over your place in the family and goes back to when you were seven, but hey . . .
Breathe. In and out. Slooowly.
Yes, 49 years on the planet, and I am finally learning the benefit of breathing. Not that I didn’t do it before, but now I concentrate: breathe in for eight and out for six. Several times. This helps.
When the stress hits along with the mortgage, the job issues, fears over people getting on, the anxiety over the sick husband, mum, cat . . . just breathe. The problem doesn’t go away, but you can cope with it better. That is my advice this Christmas, delivered with a bow!
Christmas in our house
I am a Christmas-aholic. This hit me 12 years ago when my sons were six months old (the gas ran out and we did a lot of huddling round a fire, too – but I digress). Till then, I was a bit ‘Bah, humbug’. The worst part for me was the frantic week before Christmas, when I tried to answer every unanswered email and buy the perfect gift for everyone. Doing both is impossible.
hen I became a mother, and I was a Born Again Christmas-Lover. You couldn’t move in my house in case you knocked over a cunningly placed bauble with a ribbon on it. Doors clattered when you opened them because I had metal hearts dangling on them. People got concussed when they opened high-up cupboards for the same reason.
My two sons, not entirely with the programme at this stage, lay in their beanbags and watched me maniacally ripping open presents and saying, ‘Look what Santa brought!’ They look a little bewildered in the photos, to be honest. This is called ‘Taking Baby’s First Christmas Too Far’.
Now 12, they are totally up to speed. Other people moan about the C-word being mentioned in shops in October. I say, ‘What shop? Do they have decorations?’
I have a wide policy when it comes to colour – I don’t buy purple, and that’s about it: anything else goes, which is why our Christmas tree is a glorious, lovingly decorated sparkly thing that looks nothing like anything in a posh magazine. We love it. We play old tunes, like ‘Rocking Around The Christmas Tree’, and whatever's played by the movable Santa-themed squirrel thing I have just bought, and we giggle as we decorate randomly. We talk about people who don’t have such good Christmasses because of poverty or war. We give to Vincent de Paul. We help with Christmas boxes for kids in other countries. My beautiful sons are part of a new generation of people, the Millennials, who are destined to be the most philanthropic people ever, and that is worth celebrating so much.
This Christmas I plan to:
Binge-watch box sets. I am going to start (again) Game of Thrones. That kid being thrown off the tower in the first episode shocked me (kill as many grownups as you want but kids and animals, noooo) but it’s supposed to be so brilliant. I need to catch up with The Good Wife and House of Cards. I hear The Affair is brilliant, and I loved James Spader in The Blacklist, so I have a few of those to catch up on. It just annoyed me the way the actress’ lipstick was always perfect no matter how long her day or what had happened.
Read more of the Elena Ferrante series after reading My Brilliant Friend. I have the latest Robert Galbraith too, along with a proof of former magazine editor Sam Baker’s thriller debut, The Woman Who Ran. I think I’ll reread Jilly Cooper’s How to Survive Christmas too, because it always makes me giggle.
Crochet. Yes, I have been pinning pretty crocheted things on Pinterest and may actually make some of them – although I have to keep stopping to check the difference between US and UK stitches because I am not professional enough. Anyone who says I just like buying wool shall be quelled with a stern glance.
I shall also train the dogs not to want to lie on me all at the same time when I am at a tricky bit of crochet. OK, this will never happen. I will probably put down the crochet, pick up the TV guide and see when Some Like It Hot is on again.
Sending you love and hope the deep breathing works.