Last Thursday, I turned on the radio. “So this is Christmas,” goes the song – you know the one – “and what have you done?” Though issued via the radio and clearly rhetorical, it brought about a cold sweat. To answer the question honestly, “nothing”. With five days to go, I had “done” nothing.
The prospect of Olympia horse show and its preparation usually signals Christmas for me, like a gargantuan neon sign flashing ominously ahead. I decided that I would not be attempting any Olympia qualifiers with my old faithful this year, and consequently, there was no sign.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t made something of an effort to start feeling festive – I had. I dragged poor Rhys down Portobello, picked a tree and made him carry it home. In the rain. I questioned why such a lovely tree would be hidden amongst the others when I picked her. When we put her down at home, we realized that we had paid an eye-watering price for a wonky tree that leaned precariously like she had consumed too much mulled wine. Still, I dutifully sobered her upright and decorated her sparsely with some appropriately eye-wateringly expensive baubles.
And I attempted some shopping. Having shrunk his bobble hat and t-shirt, misplaced his gloves and lost his posh pen, Rhys announced that from now on, I would have to walk Betty alone even on the weekends – he would be too cold. Between the guilt and the prospect of dealing with the poo bags alone for ever more, Betty and I made a trip to Paul Smith on the way home. The long and short of it is, she wagged her tail so enthusiastically that she knocked over several items so guilt mixed embarrassment and I spent. We gave him the resulting gifts right away, as soon as we got back in. Whilst I made it clear that it formed part of his Christmas package, in the name of appeasement and my gag reflex it wasn’t worth delaying the exchange.
I was more successful during a hurried dash around Olympia Horse Show’s shopping village after watching my friend, Gemma. I found an utterly adorable cape which I had to snap up for Rhys’ niece. Nevertheless, it was only one cape. So I told myself that I would be heading out later that afternoon and making a significant contribution to ticking off THE LIST just as soon as the ‘handyman’ deployed by the agents to complete some ‘odd jobs’ in the flat had left. He eventually left when I had lost five hours of my life and most of my will to live out the rest of it. Needless to say, Christmas shopping didn’t happen.
Friday morning’s delivery of another of Rhys’ spoils – a Crosley record player – eased the pain. Or at least, it did until he came home with a large boxed gift for me with the label Crosley written across it… Why is it that situations usually reserved for comedy sketches actually occur in my life?!
Now, by my own admission, I don’t do cards. But I do wrapping. Which is all very well and good except that in order to wrap gifts in any sort of aesthetically pleasing manner, you have to actually buy them before setting off for dinner with the recipient. Buying for women, I have discovered, is just about passable in this manner. Rhys’ mother and sister were successfully struck off the list in this way, and each gift neatly wrapped by the assistant. His father’s gift didn’t fare so well in the packaging department. Imagine the mortification of handing over said gift in a stapled Evans Cycles carrier bag, the price quite clearly visible through the plastic…. Getting home to find that I had left the vegetable soup on the stove to become chargrill soup did nothing for my mood. And still, Christmas loomed ever nearer.
Saturday heralded desperation. A frantic dash to shops ensued. Betty, it seems, is not allowed into M&S so a trip there was unsuccessful. I tied her to the baskets in the doorway only for her to howl so loudly that a crowd gathered around her, gushing about her cuteness and her ‘adorable’ devotion to me whilst I wondered whether it was possible to have an operation that removes a dog’s voice box. Blushing, I untied her and left. I almost cried.
Skip a few hours and I ceremoniously placed a little pile of neatly wrapped parcels under the less-wonky tree. In the end, a Portobello market stall, Daylesford and Waterfords saved the day, though admittedly, they saved very little of my bank account. And now that they are under my mother’s tree, ripe for tearing open in the morning, I’m telling myself that next year, I will save myself some stress; start early. But deep down, I know. Glass of mulled cider in hand, I think I will toast myself; it’s not disorganization, but self-knowledge that lead me to this place: it’s just that I work so much better under pressure. Cheers, folks!