Monday, 22 December 2014

Permission not to be Christmassy.

There are several reasons that I do not go away in December and ruthlessly refuse all invitations. One is that I worry about the weather, and have horrid visions of being stuck in the south whilst Red the Mare and Stanley the Dog pine for their human. One of the roads home was in fact closed on my return, but the other one was clear, and I managed to scoot over the hills without too much trouble, despite the so-called weather bomb which had exploded in my absence.

The other reason is that I love the Christmas season, and like to have plenty of time to prepare for it. As the Dear Readers already know, organisation is not my strong suit, so I need prairies of time otherwise I get panicky and cross.

This time, I broke my December rule and went south and had a very sweet and happy time indeed. But when I got back from my antic trip, I crashed straight into the pincer jaws of anti-climax and a hideous cold. I should be able to deal with anti-climax by now. I’ve even lately written a little essay on the subject. However, my besetting weakness is an inability to bridge the gap between paper and life. I can write something wise and sensible, I can even think quite coherent and philosophical thoughts, but I often can’t translate them to real life action. So I found myself crashing like a little girl who has been to a party and eaten too much cake and done too much tap-dancing and then spends the next three days wailing inconsolably. The cold, which has laid low half the village, was an absolute brute and is still chugging away. It left me weak and cross and unable to think clearly, as my head was filled with gunk.

Instead of doing my usual Yuletide dance round the butcher and the flower shop and the two general stores where all kinds of delightful Christmassy objects can be found, I sullenly bought an armful of eucalyptus and had done with it. In an absurd fit of throwing out the poor little baby with the stone cold bathwater, I’m so cross about not getting ready in time that I’m refusing even to listen to Christmas carols on the radio. I’m furiously catching up on old episodes of the Rachel Maddow Show instead. (I must admit that the politics geek in me regards this as a tremendous festive treat. Crazy Republicans! Confused Democrats! Sarah Palin goin’ rogue! Hillary vs Jeb for 2016? The majestic sight of Elizabeth Warren in full flight! Hog heaven.)

The family has gone away, so this year it is just me and the Mother and the Stepfather. This quite enchants me in some ways, as I can really concentrate on cooking them the most delicious Christmas lunch ever. But it means that the usual pre-Christmas atmosphere is muted. The compound is silent and empty, with the felled giant that is the old horse chestnut lying on the ground like a gloomy metaphor.

I started to get very doleful about not being in my usual celebratory mood. I began to castigate myself for mucking up my schedule and giving in to germs (germs??? How dare the fuckers march in and ruin the day???) when I suddenly realised something quite profound.

This is:

It does not matter.

None of it matters. Some Christmasses are very Christmassy, and some aren’t. It’s not written somewhere, in stone, with turgid Sermon on the Mount flourishes. I’ve had a very long year, writing two books and desperately trying to get my career back on track after a fairly spectacular derailment, and doing the HorseBack work as well. I love that work, but it consumes a lot of time and thought and emotion. I’m quite tired in spirit. Maybe it’s not a bad thing to have a slightly non-Christmassy Christmas. I’ll just cook the lovely lunch and watch Silviniaco Conti in the King George on Boxing Day and eat some stollen and find Stanley an extra big stick and give the mare some special carrots. It doesn’t always have to be a huge festival with dancing girls and a brass section.

I’m giving myself permission not to feel Christmassy this year. Not at all in a bah humbug way, but in an it’s all right to be ordinary way. It’s a vast relief. And I must admit, the eucalyptus does look very pretty.


Today’s pictures:

Actually, now I look at the pictures, I think – not too dusty:

22 Dec 6

22 Dec 4

22 Dec 7

22 Dec 10

22 Dec 11

The felled tree:

22 Dec 1222 Dec 1422 Dec 15

22 Dec 16

Stan the Man does not care about any of it, because HE HAS A STICK. Also, Santa Baby has left him an early delivery of some very, very special treats, hand-made by people who have clearly never had a common thought or mean:


And the red mare is happy as twenty-seven grigs, because the weather has turned mild and she can mooch around with her rug off and get perfectly filthy. I used to have angst when there were weeks I could not work her, for whatever reason. A lot of horses really want a job. You often hear people getting perfectly furious at the idea of some old chaser just being ‘thrown in a muddy field’. It turns out that my dear old duchess, useless at racing, useless at polo, adores nothing more than chilling out in her field, the muddier the better. She will kindly consent to work when I ask her, but her default delight is doing absolutely bugger all. You can see the contentment coming off her like smoke in this picture, as she has a nice graze out in the set-aside:

22 Dec 1

Sometimes it really is quite hard to believe that she goes straight back to the Byerley Turk.


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I must have needed permission to feel this way and you have just given it. Very wise words. Enjoy your Christmas, and the best to Stanley and Red.


  2. Thank you! I'm right there with you feeling as cross as the girl who are too much cake. Love to feel I'm not alone. The germs are attacking and it's not Christmassy at all; just logistical and hard. I lov your house pictures. It looks like cosiest place ever. L x

  3. Everything needed was just delivered. Thank you! Feel better soon and enjoy your day with your lovely loves. The house looks so pretty and warm and if you lived closer I could deliver you some eucalyptus for every room. :)

  4. This is a balm for me as well. Thanks so much for putting this into words. It is okay. And, in that acceptance, there is so much beauty to find as I look around. Joy to you Tania.

  5. I would love to have that whole tree. when I look at it I do no see an old broken down tree. I see beautiful bowls and table lamps. i see a tree that has given up it life to make people happy when receiving its beauty in other forms.

  6. Get better soon Tanya ! Wish you all the best.
    My comment got lost while I was looking for a translation for german wurst and potato salad that we will have on Christmas eve. I don't like all the humdrum around Christmas - but love the feeling that we've got it all.
    Whatever makes us happy, we already have that: happy animals, dog and cat, who get their favorite treats, beautiful landscape, rolling hills, big old trees (part of that felled giant as you wrote, would make a great table ! ) - where was I - oh, yes, I believe we are happy ! Christiane

  7. The stuff you wrote about here has always been my pet peeve about holidays in general. It's like the media and the "world out there" (ie: inside our own heads) sets us up for these impossibly perfect, hugely meaningful experiences of the holidays, and we let ourselves get bent out of shape by not performing the way we think we're expected to.

    Even though I live in a cottage and thus can never throw a proper dinner party, I still find myself caving in to the pressures that I allow myself to buy into. When I feel that happening, I go back to my tried and true:

    1. Stop watching television. The advertisements lie - they are selling you something, not showing what real people are like. No one is actually going to have a horrible holiday if they don't receive the most expensive new tech toy on the market.

    2. There are people on the 25th of December, just like the other 364 days of the year, who have no place to live. Or no family and friends. Or not enough to pay the bills, never mind buy Christmas presents. Any pouting or stomping of feet on my part because I am not "being Christmassy enough" dishonors those people who are REALLY not enjoying Christmas, and not because they didn't manage to fit in all the activities or shopping trips they had meant to.

    3. The day, as such, is really just another 24 hours. It isn't anything about that date that makes the meaning of Christmas true. Having a charitable and giving spirit means just as much on July 18th, to the person on the receiving end. Most of my life, including now, I've worked jobs that required me to be on duty during every holiday. So it's not the day - relax, you can make Christmas any time you like.

    4. Usually it's the unplanned thing that you enjoy and remember most. Don't get so hung up on controlling everything down to the last detail that you crowd out the magical moment, the candid experience, the unexpected joy that might come at an odd moment, not the "proper" way, from an unlikely source. In short, roll with it.

    I hope your Christmas is wonderful, Tania, and I'm glad you are home with your folks, your Red, and your Stanley. That time together is a gift in itself! Enjoy it (and a hot toddy).


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