They do say that procrastination is the thief of time; it is also the thief of sticky tape, the very last pack of decent Christmas cards anywhere within a 20-mile radius, and the only remaining non-naff teacher gift even further afield. Yes, the festive period is upon us once again and every year it creeps up on me like a charity mugger on roller skates and steroids.
As you know, I am not one to make resolutions, as they fly out of the window as soon as they fly out of my mouth. Yet every year I strive to be one of those cashmere clad, über organised women, who has all their seasonal gift-buying out of the way by the time the blossom is on the trees, and has written all the Christmas cards before the first sparkler is lit at Halloween – not to mention the ‘perfect’ Ocado delivery, with no errors or omissions, made at exactly 3.00pm on 24th December. This mystical paragon of womanly virtue will not only have written all the cards and included thoughtful messages, but will have had a bespoke one designed of the entire family doing something cool around a Yule log, charming pets included. Not one hair will be out of place, and all the children will be scrubbed and pristine, without even the faintest of chocolate smudges upon them.
This kind of woman exists in quite an alternate universe to mine, where crisp, cream linen upholstery is an option and clothes are beige by design, and not by default of a rather unusual washing machine mishap.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Reality where most of us exist, the Sunday colour supplement lifestyle is wishful thinking. Take, for instance, the usual helter-skelter scramble towards the holidays at Schloss Yeager; Christmas, like children’s birthdays, wedding anniversaries and filing your tax returns, happens on the same day EVERY year. There is no mystery, no hocus-pocus or subterfuge, yet these dates advance stealthily towards me on silent tiptoes until the actual day is upon me, and it is too late for me to do anything about it.
I know it is Christmas, the festive adverts have been on the TV since November, and the decorations have been up in-store since before Remembrance Sunday; yet I still cannot get my head around purchasing and packaging the myriad of gifts that are required not just for the family, but for all the others who play a supporting role annually. Every year it is the same. I strap my battle armour on the night before the school carol concert (which is always on the last day of term), and ride my chariot fearlessly to the local shopping mall. I have high hopes, and as I plunge headlong into the throng of shuffling shoppers, I know deep in my breast that I will triumph. I may not get the tasteful Christmas cards I saw, rather liked and ignored in November, but get some cards I will. The selection left is bound to be hideous, but if I purchase at least three bumper value boxes, I should come out with enough not-too-vile ones to pass muster. Weighed down with half a hundredweight of dead tree by-products, I plough on to the gifts.
School gifting is a minefield. If I buy teaching staff whisky, will they think I’m a lush? If I buy them any kind of bath product, does that mean I think they whiff? And if I buy them the dreaded smelly candle, will they think me totally unoriginal? A teacher friend of mine once came to the rescue when I had forgotten to buy the school secretary anything. I was stopping off after a festive shopping trip similar to the above, when I realised my omission; Sally said ‘no worries’ and led me to a cupboard that must have held at least 47 assorted smelly candles: one year’s haul alone. Sally then spends the rest of the year trying to off-load them. Scented candles really are the gift that keeps on giving, so do your teachers a favour and please — whatever you do, don’t give them one!
The glamorous Minxy always vows to be prepared in advance for Christmas – if only it was that easy