Welcome to your new home. I hope you enjoy Christmas here. Two people live in this house most of the time. Let’s call them the vicar (or minister) and the woman (a girl with old skin). It occurred to me that it might be good to flag up a few things to help you during your stay. These are partly related to your imminent death. You like tropical temperatures. The house is cold. Your leaves are sensitive. The cat is not. Why then, I hear you ask – not unreasonably – did they buy you? Well.
Every year, when the woman sees you in the supermarket, all bold and smiley between blushing pinks and shy lilies, she has a rush of joy. You’re just so festive. You defy English winters. You shine.
She instantly forgets previous Christmases of dropped leaves and death. In other words, she just can’t help herself.
However, she has
not always never been successful with poinsettias. She doesn’t know why. I think it might be one (or all) of the following: – She buys them too early; the rooms are too cold at night; she overwaters/underwaters/forgets that water is a thing. Sometimes they’ve sat on display near the supermarket doors and are already half-frozen. Sometimes they fall over in the car on the way home and never recover. I need to warn you that although your future is guaranteed, it’s in the wrong direction.
You should also be aware that, at Christmas, things in the house get messy. You know those adverts where people waft around in floaty dresses, serving canapes and decorating trees? Well, we all know that rarely happens, but just to be clear, it NEVER happens here. They both work full-time; she over-commits; he is over-responsible; church-wise, it’s the biggest gig of the year. That is to say, December can be a strange other-worldly month where they run like rats in a wheel. Then, barring evening commitments, they light the fire and lie on the sofa like slugs, playing Tractor (who can wake who with their snoring) until bedtime.
Christmas itself will be far from perfect. There’ll be some badly wrapped gifts and over-cooked food – the main chef will disappear from time to time, after which manic typing will be heard followed by the smell of burning and a small scream. Baubles hung with care on a glowing tree, will, overnight, unaccountably plunge to the floor and break. The clear-up will be a nightmare.
An air of martyrdom will hit the main chef at some point or other, which will be entirely of her own making (she will have insisted ‘No, it’s fine. You relax!’ when offered help). The vicar will be pre-occupied right up until lunchtime on Christmas day after which the poor man will be so tired he’ll struggle to stay conscious. An important family member/friend/colleague will have been completely forgotten regarding a gift. Various nail-ripping operations will have to be performed to produce viable alternatives – removing a label, reattaching a label, erasing written greetings on boxed edibles.
The humans have decided to give less stuff and more experiences this year. They also plan to eat less meat and wrap gifts in brown paper with reusable ribbon (but the woman may weaken as she is cack-handed enough, and finds brown paper depressing.) Last year she tried to enliven it with festive prints. The results were awesome (-ly bad)
Other things you should know: someone may accidentally put a cheque/new address/£50 note, in the rubbish and the entire outside bin will need to be emptied onto the garage floor and dissected with rubber gloves and a nose-peg. Much lamenting and foaming at the mouth will ensue before it is found in an obvious place. E.g. a desk drawer.
Putting up the outside lights will be a spectacle. From your position near the window, you will see that the humans will use a ladder. The lights are threaded on white LED strings -and are wound through trees at the front of the house. It will be complicated and necessitate lengthy discussions despite the fact the humans do it every year. The vicar, a mild-mannered and patient man 99% of the time, may shout. This will be because the woman, in at attempt to stop him falling, will accidentally grab him by an arm tenderised by the recent Covid booster. Afterwards, they will console themselves over a cup of tea and a box of caramel-filled truffles intended as a present. (This could explain missing gifts. See above.)
At some point, the batteries on the outside lights will go. No new batteries will be found in the house. They will have to be removed from the radio/tongs/a rarely used remote. At some point, someone will need to use the latter and no one will remember where the batteries went.
But there’ll be delight too: when the children get home; when darkness falls and stars float in trees; when the community gathers. There’ll be Hark the Herald and coloured lights and voices lifted on quiet air, clear and strong, young and old, trembling with memory or relief. At church, believers of all ages will gather, reflecting on the year with wonder or pain or, most likely, both. But they will share this: a longing. There’ll be carols and communion: a holding out of hands, smooth and wrinkled, cupped and waiting, for a fresh touch from the Christmas baby.
And it will trump the messy, all of it. Just like the first Christmas did.
Dear Poinsettia, you may not see any of this because your end will be nigh. But perhaps this year it will be different?
Wishing you, faithful reader, a very Happy Christmas. In the messy, may you find delight.
Thanks for reading this post. You never know, you might enjoy my novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an amazon ebook and now also in paperback. It’s the story of what happens when a woman buys a house without telling her husband.
My full length novel, Braver, will be published by Fairlight Books in the summer of 2022. This tells a tale of unlikely friendships and heart-breaking decisions. With themes around mental health, identity and the need to belong, Braver explores how a local community responds when something threatens its very heart.
For more details, please read the press release in The Bookseller. You can find it under the Books tab.