‘How can it be Christmas? Again? It was Christmas about 20 minutes ago, wasn’t it?’
They’re not joking about time speeding up the older you get
Time; sleazy, unreliable, malicious, surreptitious time. When you were a child, you couldn’t give the stuff away.
They say that time speeds up the older you get. They aren’t joking. Time shrivels, not unlike yesterday’s collagen deposits or a forgotten cocktail sausage. I cannot believe we’re already hurtling into another new year.
Remember rainy December afternoons when you were about six, leaning your forehead against the window frame, watching raindrops limping down the pane, your knobbly winter tights bagging around your knees? Remember how it seemed to take an eternity for one of God’s tears to win the race?
(“The angels are doing their washing,” my Granny would say whenever there was a downpour. I didn’t think they had top-loaders in heaven. I didn’t know angels rolled up their gossamer sleeves and fed saintly sheets into the wringer. Whose sheets were those weepy angels washing anyway? God’s? I thought he slept on a brace of cherubs.)
Time; sleazy, unreliable, malicious, surreptitious time. When you were a child, you couldn’t give the stuff away. Back then, in that sparky era of back-combs and bellbottoms and raindrop races, time crawled. Christmas seemed to take years to come around, years of saving up your shillings and saucer-sized pennies in your piggybank to buy your mysteriously knowledgeable, angel-whispering Granny a tin of lavender-scented talcum powder.
I saved up my fat pennies to buy my father an Imperial Leather gift set. It was in the window of the chemist’s shop at the top of our road. The box was red and glittery, the epitome of luxury. One good scrub with that baby and you too could be chartering a luxury plane to Tahiti. The price tag on the set read 31p. Somewhat numerically challenged, I doggedly saved up 13p and skipped up the avenue to claim my trophy.
Listen to Róisín Meets
There was no such thing as dyscalculia in those groovy old days, just numbers that danced around like Lionel Blair and spores of mortification that settled on my prepubescent cheeks, and grown-ups shaking their heads in disapproval.
I bought my father a bar of soap instead. I planned to stand guard over it in the bathroom and brandish my kilt pin at my teenage siblings if they tried to use said tablet rather than the big green block of napalm olive that also doubled as a pot scourer.
I was hoping that, in return for my lather loyalty, I might receive a baby doll for Christmas. I wanted a doll called Bettina, who cried real tears and regularly dampened her plastic nappy. I’d had a yearning for that white-blonde bundle of lachrymosity ever since my friend Karen got one. Bettina may have been a barely continent weeper, but she was made of stern stuff; you could smother her in affection or a toy box full of broken promises and one-armed Sindys, and she still came out gamely weeping.
It wasn’t to be. Incontinent dollies don’t come cheap. I did get a lovely doll in a box though, a doll with long brown hair and a rather demure countenance who wore a pair of knee-high white “wet-look” boots and a thigh-high black-and-white-striped plastic mac, underneath which she was as naked as the day she was mass-manufactured.
She was a vaguely unsettling presence in my childhood bedroom. She looked a little bit out of her depth, like a trainee accountant with the hots for the married MD or a former head girl with big ambitions who hitched her wagon to her mild-mannered childhood sweetheart, moved to the suburbs and started hitting the gin.
I can’t have been the only little girl who found that dolly underneath the Christmas tree back in the dying embers of the 1960s. Indeed, it’s tempting to suspect that the doll’s sartorial sensibilities may have had a profound effect on many a psychosexual development. Mind you, there are times in this ragged life when we could all use a thigh-high mackintosh and a pair of wet-look boots.
I don’t know what I want for Christmas this year. Rhinoplasty maybe, or a tattoo. If Santa Claus was really ready to apply his superior powers of attainment to my particular needs, I’d also like longer legs, world peace, an office with a sea view and a recount in Florida.
Mainly, though, I’d like time to slow down, to hold its whinnying horses and allow us catch our breaths for five minutes.
Christmas? How can it be Christmas? Again? It was Christmas about 20 minutes ago, wasn’t it? Where does all the time go? And what do you do with the past when there’s barely enough time for the present?