My Christmas tree has turned itself off. Since this is the modern age and the consumer has to do what she is told, the transformer uses a timer setting you can’t change or override, which usually means it turns itself off during Christmas Dinner.
I tried to be elegant by restricting the decoration to a scheme of deep blue, silver and white baubles, but the baubles don’t even match… different sizes, different shades… it looked uneven, like a water-stained ballgown. So I threw the rest of the box of baubles at it… all colours, all styles. Didn’t matter. I don’t think there’s a single bare twig now, but it looks livelier, sparklier and less like I tried to do something and failed. The red baubles in particular seem to bring focus, unless it’s just that they’re distracting you from the rest of the chaos.
What I take from that is that things you throw together can succeed better than something intricately planned. There’s far more energy and joie de vivre when everything’s included, not just the specially chosen. Chaos and order…. you’re merely a part of it, repeating the experiences of generations upon generations of others in your own unique way. You retell the human story.
In your own life you get to ‘do over’ a lot, though occasionally you have to accept the loss of something that plummets from the tree… such as a friendship fragmenting into a thousand glass shards. You may wish it had turned out differently, but that particular bauble has now gone.
Now and then, however, the bauble disappears into shadow and you search around cautiously, trying to find it without cutting yourself. A little while goes by before it finally comes to light, amazingly still intact.
Some baubles break, others go missing for a while but survive. At times you aren’t sure which, and have to step carefully.
I expect you are sitting at the other side of the screen, frowning at my chaotic ramblings. You likely have a mug or glass at your side. I don’t know what you’re drinking… coffee or tea, or maybe hot chocolate, or beer or water. Or Bovril. Chicken Bovril is nice… I like that.
Probably you’re wondering why you’re reading this… you could be doing something nicer, such as weather-stripping the house, leaf-blowing the snow or cleaning the drains. It’d be more useful, but doubtless you’re the efficient sort who has done all that already. So you’re stuck.
I wonder where you live? Maybe New York in an apartment high up, and the lights sparkling all over the city? Or a cottage on thunderous dramatic moors, with a sluggish internet connection? Or across the road from me, even? Can you see me waving out the window? No, well, that’s all right. I wasn’t waving… my curtains are closely drawn.
So many things to do. I get confused and find myself standing still, looking over my shoulder…
…oh yes, I meant to change my wall calendar to December before it’s too late and the whole month blows over. What IS that, exactly? A warrior hobbit? I wish I could flip back to October, to that nice angry dragon. I could, really, but that would be cheating, and I won’t have got full use of the calendar. I don’t know why I got it — I never write anything in it.
Kind of like my blog.
I’m getting the déjà vu sensation an awful lot lately. I keep thinking I’ve read things before. I even feel I have written things before. Have I already written this blog post, word for word, and posted it maybe nine years ago? Bits of it, then? Or perhaps I’m catching glimpses into a closely parallel universe where I’ve done all this stuff alrea… but that is such a depressing thought I shied away from it. It’s bad enough to have done all this once, but twice…?
Do you remember reading any of this before; does any of it ring any bells? No, not this bit, but I have a funny feeling about my drawn curtains. Perhaps they’re the portal. Close them, shutting out the real world, and in swims the fantasy world… sorry, the parallel universe. That’s just the real world twice over, so it’s no wonder I hate the idea!
In this chaotic universe, anything can happen.
If that’s true, then perhaps it’s not a parallel universe, but a repeating one. We are doomed to retrace our steps over and over till we get them right. Don’t you get the feeling that most of the time absolutely nothing changes, and we just make the same mistakes over and over and over? Every so often someone thinks a little deeper or sees something a smidgeon of a different way and improves everything just a fraction. Even if it’s an incremental change by one person, it could have a remarkable effect on everyone else, like lights going on all over… and suddenly the latest round of existence is a whole lot better than the one before. And so it goes.
This has been difficult to write. For the past little while I’ve wanted to… no, it doesn’t feel like a ‘want’, it feels more like a ‘very much not want’, like I don’t even want to be here. I’d rather go back into space and be a simple star again, spinning a little, perhaps, whistling a happy tune, burning up any asteroids that wander too near. Who decided I should sit on this earth with an increasingly labouring heart, to blog, question why and… and edit?
Sometimes there’s good stuff, like… cats when they’re sleepy and purry and not killing things. Bears when they’re sleepy and furry and don’t have a headache. Family when you discover how to get along and aren’t torturing each other.
It’s a chaotic world, though, at least to our limited senses. You get both the nice and the nasty together, like the soothing sun on one level and icy deeps on the other. The velvety blue with hornets or jellyfish hanging in it. The yin and the yang and the sweet and the sour… you never know which it will be; can change so suddenly.
Or simply end.
And, after a long pause, like a bonus song, start up again when you weren’t listening any more, and go on for what seems like forever.
There’s a touch of blogger’s block going on here.
A couple of days ago a friend happened to mention it’s a good trick to write for yourself only, not for any particular audience, and to avoid editing as you write.
Today I’ll just write and see what happens.
Yesterday my sister replaced the broken old cat flap. When I checked it out, My boy cat (blog name Samson) sat bolt upright, ears straight up, staring brightly at me, one eye slowly closing in a quizzical wink. It looked like he was saying, “Well? What do you think?”
You would think he had bought and fitted it himself. And I was reminded of someone. Every so often I’ll look at him and be bothered by the feeling he’s like a character on TV, but I can never remember who. Eventually it hits me… it’s Toothless. Never anybody else. Just Toothless.
I don’t have Toothless in mind already and say “Toothless is like Samson”… I don’t do that. I can never remember who I’m being reminded of, but the resemblance… something in the expression and posture… is strong.
Although mostly silent, Samson seems to be communicating with every fibre of his being. He’ll sit and stare intently at you, and the minute you turn and catch his eye, he leans forward and his face is absolutely radiant.
Nothing cheers you up quicker. 🙂
My mother is unwell; eating very little these days. For supper last night she had three breaded scampi and an onion ring. Today she managed a poached egg on toast. When I brought a plate of food the other night, she courageously drew herself up to meet it. I said she looked like a contestant on I’m a Celebrity, about to eat something with sixteen legs.
Christmas will be a puzzle this year, as I’ve not been getting out to shop. I feel there’s not much time left online either. Still… As the citizens of Whoville found out in The Grinch, Christmas is Christmas all on its own. We still have our trappings… a six-foot silver tree, lights and decorations. The cats with their 3D superstar impressions. Sisterly visits. There will be turkey, roast potatoes and bread sauce on the day.
I’ve been avoiding Facebook for most of the year, but decided there would be no harm in checking in with people over Christmas. Was surprised to find some really lovely comments about one of my cats… two pages of them! Perhaps my friend is right when she said you can make Facebook work for you. Check your privacy settings. Choose who you want to interact with, and write about those things that are tongue-in-cheek and fun. Don’t get all serious, angry or political. If you’re not enjoying somebody’s statuses, quietly unfollow them.
Well, perhaps. It still feels to me like we’re shark-bait.
It’s nice to get away from the internet from time to time. Talking of which, I have a lot of DVDs and am in the mood to watch some. I don’t often get the chance to, but when I can, there are old favourites I have in mind.
How to Train Your Dragon
Horton Hears a Who
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Young Montalbano
Master and Commander
Those will be a good start.
*This was just an attempt to kick-start my failing blogging habit. Normal service will be resumed shortly.*
I ordered a gift voucher for someone. Was practically sitting beside the letterbox, waiting for the envelope to pop through… and it was delivered in a big 16″ x 10″ x 5″ cardboard box, stuffed with four metres of packing paper.
Sometimes I think I fell through a hole into the twilight zone without noticing. Are you in here with me? Or maybe you were always here. 🙂
One thing I do dislike about Christmas is how the prices go up and stay as inflated as possible. My mother was looking everywhere for the Susan Boyle CD but couldn’t find it. So she asked me to get her a copy from the internet. I ordered it a few days ago, then thought I would get another as a Christmas gift for someone, so I went back to the same site to get it, and it had gone up by a pound!!
Maybe it’s only a pound, but I find that completely off-putting, and won’t buy it now.
I read a recent newspaper article about how things in high street stores cost more here and there, depending on how much the locals can afford to shop elsewhere for it. They said it was some sort of Christmas scandal, but I said I bet it’s like that all the time, not just at Christmas. I know that it happens, as I was in the local branch of a department store one January, looking at a set of cheap frying pans. They were still at full price… but I had just bought that same set of pans in a bigger town nearby (same chain of stores) at half price. I doubt if these price differences are purely to do with Christmas.
They tell us we should support our high street shops, but it’s hardly fair if some are having to pay more, and have more trouble finding things (like Mum couldn’t get her CD).
Whether online or in the high street, wouldn’t it be nice if Christmas got the reputation as a month for real bargains and not just fake ones? Still shopping around for gifts, I found The Colour of Magic DVD. It claimed to have been reduced from £20 to £12. And I’m thinking “£12 is the full price for the CD, isn’t it?” I don’t believe it’s been reduced at all. Surely DVDs aren’t £20 now? Have I fallen behind the times?
Perhaps I’m just a cheapskate.
Hooray. 🙂 Someone up there must have heard me say I loved Christmas — there is snow on my blog.
I hope you all enjoyed Christmas and are looking forward to the new year! (Why do we have to put these words in capital letters? I don’t just want you to have a Happy New Year’s Celebration, I want you to have a happy all-of 2009).
Christmas Chez Diddums was very boring. I had a weevily headache all day because I spent the last two days doing housework I should have done a week earlier. On Christmas Day we watched The Golden Compass on DVD (my turkey went cold while I was struggling to remove the DVD from its case)… I thought I would enjoy it, but I hated it. I didn’t like the book either.
Mum broke my cafetiere in the morning by dropping a mug on it, so I had no coffee to alleviate my headache, and got a bit snappish.
Samson received a cat water fountain from my sister. I welcomed it with cries of joy, as he asks us to turn the tap on for him every ten minutes. She also gave him a reflective cat collar, which he is much less keen on.
I gave Mum Chanel No 5 and CK One (the first because she loves it, and the second as a trendy surprise). I said if she didn’t want the CK One, I would trade it in for something she liked better… but she said she liked it, and sprayed it generously on herself and on one of my bears, after which I wasn’t sure if I liked it myself any more. Nobody gave me any Jennifer Lopez perfume, and I see it’s gone up in price again.
I didn’t write any Christmas cards, except for neighbours and immediate family! That wasn’t intentional; it was pure disorganization. Many thanks to those better-organized friends who sent me cards despite my lapse; I loved the small one with a comical ginger cat face, which Mum grabbed and attached near the door as a decoration. You who sent it, you know who you are (unless you’ve already forgotten and think you sent a robin in the snow instead. That would be understandable, at our advanced grumpy old age).
I will try to do better next year.
A couple of days ago I showed Mum a Garfield cartoon I tore out of the newspaper. It concerned his voracious eating habits. We chuckled over it and then the phone rang. While Mum answered, I looked outside at the hot sun beating down on the parched Scottish earth.
Scotland is usually considered to be rainy, damp and misty – in fact it hasn’t rained for I don’t know how long. The burn is very low and the grass dying.
Mum put the phone down and raised an eyebrow.
“That was about the Christmas lunch,” she said.
That got my funny bone as much as the cartoon strip did. “I’m more like Garfield than I thought,” I said. “Even on a hot day like today I would really enjoy a hot Christmas dinner.”
I wish she hadn’t got me thinking about it now. Five months to go.
On the 23rd of December I was in the middle of wrapping my presents, thinking about people, events, the past, my relationships etc etc. I started feeling sad, and it seemed wrong to me that I was wrapping gifts in gaily coloured paper for family and friends in this kind of mood.
What set me off was reading a note that reminded me of a person no longer in my life. It was hardly a great tragedy – but I started thinking about failed relationships and how difficult it is to compete with the rest of the world, or to live up to people’s expectations. Getting things right seems to come naturally to some, but others are constantly on the wrong foot or a little bit lost.
My heart grew heavier and heavier – finally I left the rest of the gift-wrapping till Christmas Eve. I’m glad to say I was a lot more cheerful by then and had zapped such depressing thoughts!
The thing is, I have a feeling this has happened before. I was wrapping Christmas presents and got pretty depressed. Mixed up with all the gift labels and cards are old ones from Christmases past, so you pick up a card that says (for example) “To Diddums with lots of love from Tom and family.” Then you pick up an old card from a completely different person, and your thoughts charge off in another direction, not much happier. Eventually gloom descends. And yet I love Christmas. It’s hard to make sense of those two opposing reactions.
“Christmas is a time for family and friends.” I suppose that’s a double-edged sword, as family and friends can bring mixed feelings, especially when you’re thinking about all of them at once, in combination with people you never even met, like Tom’s family – and yet somehow here you are writing Christmas cards to them every year.
Apart from that short spell of depression, I have really enjoyed my Christmas. Maybe I should remove all those old Christmas cards from my Christmas box; in future I won’t be triggered to these gloomy thoughts!
On Christmas Eve, as usual, I was rushed off my feet, having left everything to the last minute. Except the tree, for a wonder – that went up good and early. Still, I was on the go constantly, washing things, hoovering, checking lists, nipping out for must-haves, feeding pets as part of my small pet-minding business (I have four cat households under my wing this Christmas). The thing with Christmas is that we don’t just have to do these large sweeping things, we have to do all the small niggly things too – it’s the fairy on the tree; the pretty home-made gift labels; the icing on the cake.
I expect we all have different niggly little details that we feel should be a part of Christmas Day. There will be a particular lovely decoration that has gone up in the same place every year, a particular food or sweet that must be on the table, a particular record that must be played (or film that must be watched).
And above all, everything must be perfect. Nothing must burn. Nothing must undercook, otherwise we get the same stupid TV advert every year. It shows a man dressed as a turkey attacking someone sitting quietly on the sofa watching a Christmas film. “Don’t let your turkey ruin your Christmas.” Presumably if people stop undercooking their turkeys, we will not have to watch these ads. The lights must twinkle, the presents must be liked (preferably marvelled at) and the icing certainly shouldn’t slide off the cake.
This is the time of year when, planning ahead, we see ourselves writing flowery messages to our loved ones, hand-crafting our own greetings cards. I know exactly what I’m going to say. I’m going to slip a note inside this parcel or that, saying something like “to keep my favourite XXX warm.” I decide on these cosy details a month or more ahead of Christmas.
Somehow there’s always something more pressing that has to be sorted out first – and when Christmas Eve arrives, it’s midnight and you’re exhausted, and you still have to do things like change your bed linen and stick the rest of the cards on the doors and (aargh) you still have half your parcels to wrap.
So you settle down with some sherry (for energy) and a cat immediately jumps on the table, coming close to upsetting the required drink. The cat wants to curl up where you have to wrap the presents, so you put him out of the room, ignoring the look of hurt affront on his face. Turning to the matter in hand, you find you don’t have any fancy home-crafted gift tags or cards, and your ribbons are all scrounged from the parcels you received last year.
When it comes to the crunch, you can’t remember all those little finishing touches you were set on – the loving notes and flourishing signatures in gilt pen. (What gilt pen?) Above all, you’re so tired that your hands are shaking and your creative imagination has curled up and died.
Instead of changing from one gift paper to another to keep the heap of gifts bright and interesting, you find yourself drawing on the same roll of thin but goes-on-forever giftwrap for all the gifts. You write a gift label that should have been important – “To XXX with lots of ocean-deep, transcend-the-boundaries-of-time love from Diddums, please have the best Christmas yet,” and you find yourself scrawling untidily “To XxX, MeRrY ChRiStMaS fRoM DiDdleoopsUms.” Then you draw a sad little doodle that goes wrong. Well, sometimes the doodles work, but not at 2 a.m. in the morning.
“Well,” you think comfortingly to yourself, “people who love me won’t care – anything I do will be beautiful, because I did it for them.”
Christmas Day comes, and you are receiving gifts… many are done beautifully, much better than your own, but a few have gift labels in wobbly hand-writing. “tO dIDdumS with loVe fROm xXX.”
“Awww”, you think, smiling fondly. “I wasn’t the only one wrapping gifts at two in the morning.”
It’s Christmas Eve. Today in town, Mum overheard little boy saying to man (or vice versa) “But what am I getting Mummy?”
I’m sure the same pair passed me a couple of times during the morning, getting more and more panicky looking.
I doubt if they would find it any easier in the nearest big city – I remember one Christmas going there to shop, and not finding anything. Went home and went round the small town shops, and found several good things! A fluke, perhaps, though my little town is better than a lot of places I’ve been. When we go on holiday, we’re used to shopping in an old and popular town in England, and their charity shops have very little of interest. We think that’s because of the antique centres; traders hit the charity shops early and get all the good things before the rest of us even get up. Then they flog them for more than most people can afford.
Merry Christmas from me and the cats. I hope you beat the early birds to the best worms! I got the last tin of cashew nuts next door, heh heh.