Monday, 29 November 2010

Why I hate Christmas

Oh great!  It’s that time of year again!  Well, if you’d just landed from the planet Retail, you’d have believed that it’s been that time of year since around the end of September.  I’m talking about Christmas...

Over the years, I’ve tried so hard to like Christmas, to get caught up in the ‘Good Will to All Men’ shtick , but I have to confess that, after several gazillion years on this planet, it’s defeated me.

I grew up in a family that was not only more religious than the Pope but which also made church mice look like lottery winners – not a good combination for a child hoping for great things from Santa.  Even though that wasn’t a time for the ludicrous materialism that kids now enjoy, my friends always seemed to come back to school in January telling tales of groaning stockings and bulging pillow cases at the end of their beds on Christmas morning.  I would usually quickly invent some mega-toy then, caught up in my deceitful web, have to devise a convincing lie as to its whereabouts when they came home to play after school.  They rapidly became suspicious of the-dog-ate-it/my-brother-broke-it etc.

As an adult, more so as a married adult, I have found that Yuletide celebrations have been laid at my door for years on end.  I went through a phase of trying very hard to effect the perfect Christmas for everyone – lavishing carefully chosen gifts on a largely ungrateful family; stressing myself to the nth degree to produce a gourmet meal while the children whinged about not liking the stuffing/Christmas Pudding/Bread sauce, you name it; my mother whinged about the children’s manners; my brother routinely arrived 2 hours late without apology or explanation, thus fecking up my meal planning and the Shah played the Hindu card, claiming (conveniently) not to understand any of the fuss.

At the risk of blowing my own brass instrument, I would also like to add that I am a genius shopper for Christmas presents.  I run lists all year.  Stand near me from January to October and declare an interest in an item and you will most likely find it in your stocking come December.  I have an elephantine memory for wish lists; so much so that people have been known to cry “gosh! I’d forgotten I ever wanted one of those”....come to think about it, maybe that’s not such a good thing and I could have saved myself £££ over the years, had I let sleeping dogs lie on that front.

The Shah, however, as I hope he would be the first to admit, is shite at present-buying.  Be it Christmas, Birthdays or Barmitzvahs, do not look to him for any kind of inspirational gift-giving.  Allow me to elucidate.  There was the famous time that he claimed my birthday presents had failed to arrive because Amazon had let him down.  Now, I have dealt with Amazon for donkey’s years and it has never once let me down.  Also, in another life, I briefly worked for Brian McBride, now the MD of Amazon UK and he was a really good bloke and I am quite sure that he is down in the depot, wielding a tape gun with the rest of them if there is the slightest likelihood of a delay in my deliveries, so I was a little suspicious to put it mildly, especially given the Shah’s atrocious track record in this department.  When the parcel finally arrived, I could see from the receipt (the Shah has never quite got the hang of the gift receipt idea) that it had actually been ordered ON my birthday....ahem. 

Then there was the Christmas that we foolishly invited some family members to share our day.  I was full in the mania of attempting to create the perfect Christmas, especially as the children were quite small at that point, and had fashioned a table centrepiece from some wood, holly, candles, ribbons – all the usual crap.  Rellies arrived.  “Oh we don't need that!” they cried, spotting my lovingly-crafted if slightly wonky decor.  “We’ve brought this!” and they produced a massive square candle with about 73 wicks which they plonked on the table, my creation having been peremptorily sidelined.  I wanted to cry.

That was the year that the Shah really excelled himself with the Santa act.  For some reason (and he has never been able to explain exactly why) he decided that a good, nay a GREAT, Christmas present for me would be a lime green afro wig like this….

 and a set of witchy false nails, attached to witchy false fingers, like this….

I seem to remember (but only hazily) that I drank my way through that Christmas until all my woes took on a lovely, rosy glow.

Then there was the Christmas that we bought the children a trampoline.  I insisted that the Shah (unwillingly accompanied by my brother) set the thing up in the garden at around midnight on Christmas Eve, fondly imagining the delighted faces of our offspring the following morning.  There were a few hurdles to over come:-

·       It was about -5ÂșC
·       It was sleeting like a bastard
·       The Shah was pissed
·       My brother was pissed off
·       It was dark and the torch batteries were low

Naturally, being a man and being the Shah, the Shah didn’t bother with a minor consideration like reading the feckin’ instructions.  So he and my bro started attaching the springs to the frame and the springy bit.  Because they were doing it all wrong, the tension became harder and harder as they went round.  Eventually, the inevitable happened and the Shah managed to rip one of his fingers wide open with a sharp metal hook.  Oh fab.  There was me, half cut also, trying desperately to steri-strip this finger which was bleeding like a stuck pig.  Meanwhile, the Shah was simultaneously trying to hold his hand up in the air to reduce the bleeding and hold his head between his knees as he was feeling faint.

Come the morning, the children were lukewarm in their appreciation.  It turned out they had heard the commotion and the incessant swearing and had got up out of bed to witness their lovely “surprise” being fecked up by the Shah and their uncle.  Oh goody.  Another successful Christmastide.  So, it’s fair to say that I don’t approach Christmas with very high expectations.

I’m a bit behind this year and did my first Amazon order only a couple of days ago.  It won’t be delivered until mid-December.  I warned the Shah of same, knowing full well that he hasn’t given Christmas a single thought as yet.  “Uh, what?” was all he had to say.

I don't hold out all that much hope for this year either.

Friday, 19 November 2010

I do!

Hooray for Prince William and Kate Middleton!  How noble of them to finally drag themselves up the aisle in order to boost a flagging economy and cheer up the huddled masses queuing round the block to buy their Daily Mail Souvenir Wedding Editions, china commemorative mugs and poorly printed t-shirts (a bargain at £19.99 a pop).

Whilst we don’t yet seem to be indulging in the kind of hysteria that surrounded Charles and Di’s nuptials, there is no doubt that this will occupy some sections of the press for months to come.  Let’s face it, there’s only a limited window for this event to dominate our every waking thought, so you can’t really blame them for trying to make the most of it.

It seems incredible that, in the space of a generation, we have moved on so radically in our attitudes to the Royal Family.  Back when Charles and Di got spliced, there was intense media speculation (albeit couched in euphemistic terms) as to the virginity of the blushing bride.  Now, we are all quite comfortable with the knowledge that Wills and Kate have been at it like rabbits for years on end.  And why not – at least they’ve had a chance to get to know each other which is far more than his unfortunate parents were allowed.  As someone remarked on Have I Got News for You last night, this year would have marked the 30th anniversary of Charles and Diana’s marriage and the 37th of Charles’s affair with Camilla.  BTW, just what was Camilla thinking describing the news of the engagement as ‘wicked’ to a reporter who caught her on the street?  Was she intending to follow it up with ‘Yo, dat Katie is like a sick mutha, innit?’ Or maybe ‘Now I is not de only Royal Ho’.

BBC Breakfast News yesterday took itself off to the Royal Derby factory or Royal Worcester or somewhere where they had warehouses full of pre-prepared wedding paraphernalia, just waiting for a final date stamp and a bit of a dusting off.  The Creative Director was interviewed and was clearly thrilled with her 15 minutes, bless her.  She was asked about whether they would print ‘Kate’ or ‘Catherine’ on their products.  “Oh, it will be Catherine,” she breezed, smiling from ear to ear. “Although we were a bit worried about the WC aspect.”

Laugh?  I nearly choked on my organic, hand-milled Granola and Yak milk.  Feck me!  The woman has, in one sentence, managed to reduce the whole of the Royal Wedding to toilet humour.  WC?  FFS!  Now every time I go to the Ladies in a restaurant or cinema, does she seriously think I will be struck by our patriotism in putting the Royal initials on the door of every khazi?   An object lesson in the need for media training, if ever I saw one.

After this little nugget, the presenters asked people to contact them with details of any Royal Wedding memorabilia they had.  What soon became clear is that the cupboards of Britain are stuffed with heaps of dusty crap.  WHY would someone keep a Charles ‘n Camilla mug with the wrong wedding date on it?  Apparently the confusion arose because the date of the wedding was changed at the last minute.  Was it?  Gosh, that event has adhered so firmly to my memory, ahem.  In fact all I can remember is catching a nanosecond’s worth of the TV coverage and a reporter saying in worried tones that, far from the massed hordes of screaming Royal groupies that were expected, the whole of the south of England had sighed a collective “meh” , turned over and gone back to sleep.

Then Mildred Mills-Boon from Milton Keynes rang in to say that, when Charles ‘n Di got married, she had collected a range of milk bottle tops with their faces printed on them, pressed them flat and still has them stuck into an album.  Unfortunately that still makes me laugh so much that I could barely type the words and you were almost treated to a paragraph detailing how Mildred collected milk bottle tops with Royal faeces on them….

Perhaps we could have a competition for the naffest Royal Memorabilia?  The trouble is America would win hands down.  We happened to be in the US on the first anniversary of Diana’s death – a time when the events around it were still quite shocking for the majority of us Brits.  What did we see on a giant hoarding?  An ad which read “Get your Diana Anniversary Beanie Doll here!”   So appropriate, so respectful!  You could almost imagine it was sold with a side order of a heap of tangled metal and a dead boyfriend doll.

Meanwhile, the tacky souvenir roadshow rolls on.  Apparently there is a revived market for copies of Kate Middleton's engagement ring - the one which once belonged to princess Diana.  How many brides will be tripping down the aisle this summer sporting copies of Kate's dress, Kate's ring, Kate's hair style, Kate's wedding makeup....Don't you think you'll be sick of it all before long? 

I do!

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Clear Out

It’s impossible to miss the current trend for paring down, clearing out and divesting ourselves of all that is unnecessary, cumbersome and gratuitous in our lives.  Frugal is the new watchword for our times.  We are all now upcycling like mad, not to mention reducing, reusing and recycling.  Greed is no longer viewed as good – it still exists, it’s just greed for vintage stuff now which makes it somehow more acceptable than greed for new goods.

I’ve done as much as the next person in cutting a swathe through the piles of hoarded crap, secretly carting mountains of slightly Shah-soiled clothing to the local charity shops.  Indeed, the Shah is an accumulator par excellence.  The other day, I unearthed an old photograph album and the kids were leafing through it – roaring with unkind laughter at their parents’ 80’s haircuts and fashions.  TS came across a photo of the Shah, (young, slim and dark of hair) and made some unkind comments about waistlines and wrinkles and Grecian 2000 and then said, “hold on a minute – see that shirt Dad’s wearing in the photo –he’s got it on today!” And sure enough, the same old polo shirt, now not holding its shape quite so well (for which read ‘stretched to fit’) and somewhat faded in colour but undeniably the same item as was in the photo, was taut across the torso of the Shah. 

My boy was disgusted.  “How could you?”  he berated his father.  “That bloody shirt’s older than me!” (He wasn’t wrong).  But the Shah knows no shame where clothing is concerned (or where hoarding is concerned, or anything else for that matter.)  What the children view as an embarrassing predilection for skanky old clothing, the Shah sees as a parsimony to be applauded and encouraged.  If he wants to come out anywhere with me on a weekend, his outfit has to be examined first and I am likely to remark “oh good, got the gardening clothes on again have we?” such is his love of baggy, shapeless trackie bottoms and 20 year old polo shirts.

I meant it when I said he knows no shame.  He is one of those lucky souls who trolls through life, completely unconcerned by what others think of him.  I feel I should illustrate this trait with a vignette or sixty two. (Oh God, there are so many, where shall I start?)

Let us backtrack a few years to a Summer Ball.  This was an eagerly anticipated fundraising event in aid of the PTA at our kids’ school and it was serendipitously held at a hotel which was literally round the corner from where we then lived.  The Shah took this as an immensely good omen and laid his plans accordingly.  Sadly, there were some people on the PTA of whom the Shah was not particularly fond – the husband in one couple in particular – let’s call him William.  (NB the Shah has just read this over my shoulder and suggested that Willy would be a better see what I have to contend with?)

Anyway, we were all tarted up and about to leave when I found the Shah rummaging through the kitchen cupboards like a man possessed.  “What are you doing now?” I asked, impatient to leave.  “I’m looking for a bottle,” came the reply as if it was entirely normal.  “Er, what for?”  I asked.  “Why, I’m going to spike that tosser’s drink,” quoth he and finding a small brown medicine bottle (God knows what had been in it before) he filled it with vodka and happily slipped it into his pocket.  From then on, he spent the entire evening, (while getting drunker and drunker and consequently less and less subtle) cack-handedly attempting to slop half a gallon of voddie into William’s glass of wine.  William (who was of much more temperate habits than the Shah) easily avoided his clumsy attentions. 

Thwarted, the Shah turned his attention to the disposable cameras that had been put on each table, the better to capture the revelry.  By this time, we had reached the Disco stage of the evening and the dance floor was heaving.  One of the other parents there was a tall Scotsman who was sporting a kilt.  Never having seen or spoken to this bloke before, the Shah decided it would not only be a good idea, but wholly acceptable to shove said camera up said kilt and try to take photos of whatever there was to see.  This guy was presumably as drunk as the Shah as he didn’t seem to be in the slightest bit bothered by this drunken bum and his ridiculous antics and laughed happily as the Shah staggered about the floor, cannoning off the other dancers, waving a camera around with about as much efficiency as Inspector Clouseau..

Some weeks later, having staggered home on the evening, holding each other up and screaming with laughter, I found the camera and took it to be developed just for a laugh.  Every picture was a blur of swirling colours – not a discernible image in sight.

In the continuing spirit of the clear out, I chucked the photos away.  Perhaps I should have binned the Shah as well!

Monday, 1 November 2010


The last thing I said last night as I went off to bed to the Shah and TD was 'don't forget to re-set your alarm clocks'.  'Oh yes,' they cried confidently.  

I'm now sooo tired, I can hardly see to type.  The reason?  At 5.15 this morning, I was woken up by the Shah lumbering around the bedroom.  He tried his best not to wake me (all together now, aaah!) but kept tripping over things in the dark and muttering oaths under his breath.

'S'funny', I thought through a haze of exhaustion, 'he must be getting the first train.'

Eventually he stumbled off downstairs and a short while later, I stumbled after him.  'I thought you were asleep?' he said accusingly.  'WTF?' I replied in a ladylike manner. 'Why the hell are you up so early?'

'Um, I thought it was 6.15' sez the Shah producing the puppy face.

Is there such a term as spousicide?