Plankton Pre-Christmas Survival Tips
December 8, 2011 § 75 Comments
I remember the build up to Christmas in my youth. There were three or four parties a night for about a month and I used to chase round London like a wild thing (no, I wasn’t one of those brainless bloody It girls, I was just gregarious). Working effectively during the day was a less certain business but the buzz got me through. Today, it is not quite so intense but, true to my belief – and everyone else’s, it seems – that I should “go to everything”, I find myself going out, only slight exaggeration, about seventy-three nights on the trot, but it’s because I am not just going to the openings of envelopes but also to openings of an ants’ anuses (anuae?) too. Everything! My beloved children aren’t thanking me for it, but I am always here for them so I am not going to feel guilty, at least not very.
Last night it was a concert and really good friends came back for supper afterwards. I loved every minute of it. Sometimes, a husband makes an affectionate or loving remark to his wife – or even an ordinary remark, beginning with something like, “Do you remember when…?” – and I miss a beat or, when everyone has gone, I tune rather too sensitively into that particular silence of absence after cheerful noise which is only interrupted by the solitary splosh of washing up and my own loud sighs to blow out the candles. I am sure I have talked about this before and it doesn’t do to bang on too much (well, having said that… that’s why I am here), but you can be going along as a plankton, getting on with life – in this case a merry gathering of seven people round my little table – laughing like fruitcake and forgetting yourself, and suddenly a little thing can pull you up short. But you learn over the years to make small adjustments to deflect them. I wash up the odd pot during supper, very discreetly and surreptitiously, one at a time, dry it up, put it away, no one ever seems to notice or care. Part OCD, mainly self-protection. This, so I don’t have to face a huge filthy pile in the lollop after they’ve all left, seething with grease and the kind of midnight malice which gives rise to tedious self-pity. It helps because it means I only have a few glasses to whisk into the washing-up machine and several empty bottles for the bin before I am free to race up to bed and crash. If I go out in the evening, I like it, if I can, to get a lift with someone, so any loneliness I might feel (though far from always) can be deferred until the last possible moment, the key in the door.
But there are some things which cannot be averted. People kindly asking if I would like to bring someone? Or invitations which are addressed at the top to Plankton + Guest. Kind but grim when there is no Someone, when there ain’t no Guest. I laugh it off but think, if only.
I am deeply unfashionable I am sure, but I love Christmas and the all the fun before and during it despite the pitfalls. Last year I did think, I hope by this time next year…? But no. And here we go, another year under the belt and I suppose again I shall have to think, I hope by this time next year…?
It’s quite relentless, and on top of making Christmas lists and trying to resist Christmas chocolates and to embrace Christmas cheer, rather knackering too. But one has to keep at it, this business of hope, survival tips in place, otherwise one might as well stuff a tappen (look it up; quite the best word in the English language and discovered one family Christmas past when playing The Dictionary Game) up one’s arse, and hibernate for all the world like a socking great grisly bear.