Teacher. Mother. Wife of criminal barrister. Child of hippy publishers. Sister of incredible activist woman. Blogger. Eastern Daily Press columnist. Kent bred. Norfolk living. Loves: Kettle Chips, boats, equality and the first pint of the holidays.
At some point at Christmas you will have to drive somewhere. There are certain recognisable stages to every day of travel.
Stage one: planning
‘We should probably get going by lunchtime/after breakfast/before bedtime’. The hours prior to departure must be spent not-quite-relaxing. Advise moving listlessly around ‘doing jobs’.
Stage two: packing
A clear division of labour is important: one of you may want to pack both children’s clothes, all the medicine and bathroom bits and snacks for the journey. Another of you may want to use all your teenage Tetris training to fit it in the boot.
Stage three: exit
A rousing chorus of ‘can you just get your shoes on?!’ accompanies all major exits from the house- a cliche all parents enjoy. A pound for every time you say one of the following;
‘Did you pack the kids’ coats?’
‘Did you put the alarm on?’
‘ Why is this Sat Nav so f***ing slow?!’
Stage four: journey
Spirits may start high with Disney soundtracks and liberal distribution of snacks. Things usually deteriorate about mile 25. Bickering starts. Injustices happen. Snacks run dry. Spirits dampen. The footwell of your seat is up to your knees in wrapper, bribes, and maps and your right bum cheek has gone to sleep.
Stage five: arrival
Relief. Then dread. You have to unpack the car. Unpacking is the absolute pits. Try and provoke as hissing disagreement by being in opposite camps- ‘Let’s have a cuppa and unpack once the kids are settled’ versus the ‘Let’s just get it done and get a wash on’. Always fun.
Unpacking Christmas is always fun and may provoke a need to ‘have a sort out’ on a major scaleand you may make wild promises to streamline, organise and reject capitalism. It will be short lived. You will do this all again next year.
Hot morning breath whispers ‘mummy, shall we go downstairs and open some presents?’
Feel like expectations need readjusting…
I’m in charge of ‘using up the turkey’ today so pop out in the car to get puff pastry to make a pie.
Chap on till: ‘Have a nice Christmas?’
Me: ‘This is the first time I’ve been on my own for what feels like months! I’m going to drive home very slowly!’
Clutching my two-pack of puff pastry, I feel a bit silly for my outburst until I see a man in his car in the Co-Op car park – there are kids’ presents all over the backseat and he’s sitting behind the steering wheel listlessly cleaning it with a wet wipe and staring off in to the distance. I feel a deep sense of understanding.
Back home, the kids and in-laws have gone to the park so I listen to Desert Island Discs and make a turkey pie. It’s lovely.
The days between Christmas and New Year – fondly called Twixtmas by some or the Merrynium by others- are beloved days where your only deadlines are dictated by The Radio Times. The hubbub has reduced to a hum and it’s like all the good bits of an apocalypse.
Here are some more reasons why these days are the best.
The kids will still be up at 6am but they have a surplus of new, lusted-for toys to play with so you can snooze on the sofa and occasionally break open an eye to throw batteries at them. Basically a lie in.
Quality Streets and trifle.
Having spent the last fortnight in a frenzy of social events and school nativities, you can luxuriate in endless empty hours.
‘What shall we do today?’
‘Watch a film?’
Pressure Is Off
The emotional labour is done and the weight of expectations have lifted. You’ve opened your presents and they’re actually quite nice/useful/thoughtful. The kids are lolling or building Lego sets or nosing through books. The hype has peaked. The relief is palpable.
Bubble and Squeak. Cold bread sauce. Pork pies. Slabs of cheese everyone was too full to eat on Christmas Day. Popping cold pigs in blankets like they’re grapes. So darn good.
The ‘Bit of Fresh Air’
A nice round walk. The last outing for the Christmas jumpers. A hearty ‘Good afternoon’ to fellow survivors with the last wafts of goodwill.
They are indulged and funny and surprisingly good at Charades and look endearing in novelty jumpers and wonky paper crowns and curl up on your lap and cover your face with chocolate kisses and breathy disbelief that ‘Santa’s been’.
If Christmas Day is for them, these days are for you.
For various reasons, we are having a dry-run Christmas Day on 24th so we had to pretend today was Christmas Eve and then entangle everyone we bumped it to in our web of lies. So the plan for the day was to keep on the DL and watch a lot of telly.
Mum and dad left in the morning but not before my devine mother gifted us both a lay-in- glory be!
Then I needed horizons and some fresh air so we zipped out to Gorlestone.
Funnily enough, there weren’t many people on the beach…but it was very good for the spirits.
Then we came home and mooched about and had a few people drop by and we diddled about before doing Santa Admin: carrot, milk and a jam tart because ‘Santa must get sick of mince pies’ and absolutely nothing to do with the fact we had none in the house.
As soon as the boys were asleep, Alex woke up. Nothing like trying to calmly get a child back to sleep whilst doing a panicked mental inventory of ALL THE WRAPPING you have to do still. Off and on, it took until 1.30am to get Alex to sleep which got Christmas Day: Mark One off to a flying start.