Various tiny thoughts. I have washed the kitchen floor, which I consider sufficient achievement for the day. The week stretches out ahead of me, paved with paperwork (that would be soggy in Belgium) and I am thinking about the festivities of the coming weeks, which are approaching at alarming speed.
1. St Nicolas
It is with sweaty and slightly resentful terror that I realise that St Nicolas is just around the corner. Perhaps that's an unfortunate turn of phrase. The thought that a terrifying Greek bishop armed with a sharp stick and a too-close for comfort association to dismembered, salted children might be in my hallway, about to shove me in a sack, is all I need right now. I don't object to anyone else celebrating St Nicolas. I'm not some kind of Calvinist killjoy. But coming to it with no cultural attachment to the tradition, it's like a weird amuse-bouche Christmas that spoils my appetite for the main event. Presents on the 6th? Surely, as a child, you should be crazed with longing and deprivation for the whole of Advent, with barely a clementine and a bowl of ReadyBrek to call your own? That's how it was for me, before the dawn of decadent apocrypha like chocolate advent calendars (presbyterian cat's arse face), a rising pitch of excitement so vertiginous through December that by Christmas Eve I was actually crazed with anticipation and delirious with lack of sleep.
Surely it should be either St Nicolas OR Christmas? It should, but of course I come from the pathetic modern tradition of appeasement parenting, and do not have the balls to tell my children that 'St Nicolas doesn't come to our house, because he and Father Christmas have agreed between then who goes to whose house, and Father Christmas got us*'. Thus I end up with some shabby compromise, where they get "little presents" for St Nicolas and "big presents", plus stocking of course, for Christmas. O tempora, o mores, o spoilt children and o, so overdrawn mother.
Even before the creepy saint and his malevolent sidekick rock up, there's my birthday to contend with. The threshold for what it has to live up to is not, admittedly, high compared to last year, when I lost my wallet. Since the kids are with me this week, I will once more be facing the question of whether I should make myself a birthday cake. Advise me, single parents. It seems to me that it's probably important for the children to be able to blow out candles with me, or at least in some way mark the event, and that this should override my distaste for Making A Fuss about my own birthday, but I don't really see how to manage it. We could buy one, I suppose, but who lights the candles since I'm the only one old enough to play with matches? I do not know. This is not a veiled request for any real life friend readers to come round with balloons and jelly, by the way, I am genuinely wondering.
After my birthday and St Nicolas, Christmas will be horribly close and I have made no progress whatsoever on that score. The boys are with their Papa having a Big Old French Knees Up, with all the barbaric traditions that come with it, and I don't mean the foie gras. I mean no stockings, no crackers, presents opened - horror of horrors - on the night of the 24th and an insistence that every present that appears is from "Père Noël". "Oh, le Père Noël t'a gâté!" NO. THAT WAS ME, HIS MOTHER. I hate all of these, but especially the last. I mean, as a parent, your opportunities for wholehearted wins are very limited. With the exception of the amaretti papers trick, I can't think of the last time my children were properly excited by something I did. So why should Père Noël get all the kudos for present selection? Pah. Père Noël didn't queue up in the La Grande Récré to buy Boring But Seemingly Essential and Terrifyingly Dear Electrical Item With Meaningless Letters After Its Name XJY, listening to Johnny Halliday's Christmas album until he bled from the ears. I did and I want the credit, dammit. In our household, Father Christmas was credited with stockings and nothing more, which seems to me a very enlightened approach, but it may be that we were in the minority with this. You never know how eccentric your Christmas traditions are until your thrown up against someone else's, do you?
"What, you DON'T rub the turkey's saliva on your left earlobe to bring you good luck for the coming year? I thought everyone did that".
Anyway. I will not have the boys, which will be strange, like Christmas with the una corda pedal on. I haven't decided what to do about it. Prog Rock has offered me a very quiet York Christmas where nothing happens. Sir Waffle said I was welcome at his country residence, in the full knowledge that I would be more likely to join a contemplative order than voluntarily exile myself to somewhere where broadband is viewed with all the suspicion normally attributed to satanism and the nearest shop is a Spar a ten minute drive away. An extraordinarily lovely lady offered me her flat in London, a gesture so kind I could weep. The Assassin, mysteriously, offered to drive me to Ostende. I don't know. I just don't know. I'm not actually dreading it; I don't see myself, whatever I end up doing, collapsed in a sorrowful pile of discarded paper hats and tinsel. It's just, what? I quite fancy going to Spa to take the waters and walking around swathed in scarves looking cadaverous, yet lustful, like thingy, Von Aschenbach, from Death in Venice. I would be great at that.
Does anyone have any better ideas?
* The legal side of my brain looked at that and giggled to itself dweebily saying "oh, market partitioning and customer allocation, very bad". Then the normal side of my brain kicked it hard in the shins.