Hilary Fannin: You can keep your perfect Christmas – I’m off for a bath
Where’s the point in beating yourself to a stiff brandy-cream peak wondering why your Christmas is teetering on the brink of mediocrity?
Perfect Christmases don’t grow on fir trees. Take it from someone who knows, someone who has spent years at the coalface of seasonal ennui, lying in a lukewarm bath, reading somebody else’s Christmas present, a glass of flat Prosecco balancing in the soap dish, a blue-veined, pink-blooded turkey snoozing in the inexplicably slow oven, while relatives, in various states of enthusiasm but all expecting their dinner some time this millennium, gather on the doorstep. I’m speaking from bitter experience here.
Christmases, even of the bog-standard, who-is-for-more-sprouts-has-anyone-seen-the corkscrew variety, require planning, commitment and organisation, I’ve finally come to appreciate.
Preparation is key. Yuletide is the season on which the unprepared flounder, crumpling like fallen figure-skaters on frozen ice.
I’m hosting nine people around my six-seater kitchen table this year, which, incidentally, has five unmatching chairs scattered around it – and no, I’ve no idea where the other one is either.
With diligence and a little bit of research, however, I’m hoping not to wake up this Christmas Day vaguely hungover and wishing I was on a Tibetan ashram. (Not, you understand, that I’ve never been on an ashram, Tibetan or otherwise, but the possibility holds more mystical promise than beating a lumpen bread sauce into submission or acquiring a shoehorn from a spent cracker.)
As I was saying, in anticipation of waking up on Christmas morning feeling failed and exhausted before the reindeer hoof prints have even dried in to the fireside rug, I decided to google “How to have a perfect Christmas”.
I thought I might share a distilled version of the answer with you shower of marzipan elves. Ready?
Six weeks before Christmas, plan your present-buying, start a party planner, begin your festive diary.
Forget it. Even the thought of thinking about Christmas six weeks in advance is enough to make me want to chuck up my eggnog.
Five weeks before Christmas: keep an eye out for special offers on drinks in your local supermarket.
Great idea. A half-price Sauvignon is never to be sniffed at. Hanging on to it for five weeks is another matter.
At this juncture, the guide also suggests taking a family photo to slip inside the cards that you’ll soon be sending to friends and relatives.
If friends and relatives need to be reminded what you look like, their hazy, distant memory is going to be far kinder than anything you can produce by photoshopping a Santa hat over your crumpling noggin.
Four weeks before Christmas: make your Christmas cake and pudding. Order turkey, ham, chicken and seafood. Put up your tree. Buy gifts and wrapping, including gifts for unexpected callers, items such as wine, chocolates and bath bombs.
(Note to self: call to other people’s houses unexpectedly, receive gifts such as wine, chocolates and bath bombs.)
Three weeks before Christmas: if you’re making shortbread or mince pies as gifts, make them now!
Nope. You will never, ever, receive gifts of home-made shortbread from me.
Also, the guide suggests, think about your table. Do you have enough napkins? Glasses? Cutlery? Plates? Nope, but that’s pretty minor compared to my chair conundrum. Can people sit on each other’s knees, I wonder? Or eat in shifts?
One week before Christmas . . .
Hold on. What happened to “two weeks before Christmas”?
I search the screen. But it seems the perfect Christmas guide is imperfect, leaping like an axe-struck turkey from week three to week one. Where are the two-weeks tips, when, traditionally, one lashes around yelling “Holy cow, it’s nearly Christmas; has anybody checked the credit-card balance?”
Are you beating yourself to a stiff brandy-cream peak, wondering why your Christmas is teetering on the brink of mediocrity? Give yourself a break. These online perfectionists can’t even count.
One week before Christmas: buy batteries.
For what? A tranquilliser gun? What about the shagging supermarket? What about all those hours cruising the aisles? What about the overflowing car parks? Other people’s raging toddlers? Snaking checkout lines? And Westlife on a permaloop, seasonal ballads being forcibly fed into your shell-likes? Eh?
Christmas Eve: think about a cheeseboard.
This is to stop yourself thinking about escaping to an ashram, or getting into the bath with the cut-price Sauvignon.
Get an early night, the guide finally advises. Oh, sure. Absolutely. Soon as I’ve peeled the potatoes, made the stuffing, wrapped the presents, watched Elf for the ninth time.
Goodnight, Irene. I’m perfected out. I’m heading to the bath with a book.