Sunday, 21 November 2010

Season's Bleatings

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.

2. Birthday

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.

3. Christmas

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.


Anonymous said...

Maybe travel somewhere you've always wanted to go or somewhere that you have happy memories of? Book yourself into a lovely hotel for a few days, bring some books you really want to read...maybe spend the actual festivity with your family or friends and then head off for a few days on your own?

ParisBobo said...

I completely agree about Father Christmas getting the credit for stockings and nothing else. In our house, stockings are done on a strict budget, meaning that everyone ends up with windscreen de-icer, tweezers, tissues, socks and complimentary perfume testers. Last year I received a packet of Cock Soup, found in a Jamaican food store, which made me chuckle for days but was entirely misunderstood by elderly relatives. Still, it all adds to the hilarity, and makes the 'real' presents look a million times better by comparison!

cruella said...

I think I'd go for Sir Waffle despite the shop of horrors, but perhaps that's only my hopeless romantization of all things British at Yuletide.

In Sweden we open the presents on the 24th while Christmas Day is spent in jimjams eating leftovers. True bliss.

Horrifying prospect: My daughter has just reminded me that I've promised a present calendar this year. That means coming up with 24 presents fois trois (yes, the boys are in for it too). What does St Nick say to that?

Anonymous said...

In keeping with the weirdness of St. Nicholas, perhaps he will only bring fruit and socks, you know, nothing terribly fun, but nothing terribly bad.

Christmas at your house = Christmas your way, which is to say, you do it how you want to do it when you have your boys. There's nothing wrong with two ways of doing things, and it might be more fun for the kids to have two things to look forward to.

Waffle Christmas? Do whatever you want! (I have no great suggestions beyond having lots of bacon and biscuits for breakfast on the blessed day).


PS Word verification is "budamis," which is Flemmish turnip Christmas pudding, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

whatever you do dear Ms.Waffle, please don't spend Christmas in Spa. Maybe a spa. But not the Spa. I was there in February last year and its just a thoroughly depressing place in Winter.

Cruella, what on earth is the 26th for except sitting around in jimjams eating leftovers?

Anonymous said...

On the birthday front, I have always refused to make myself a cake and insisted on going out to eat instead. As the girls got old enough to cotton on to a good idea they forswore birthday cakes in favour of choosing the restaurant where we all had to eat. Fortunately they also grew out of bloody MacDonalds fairly quickly too, so now it is all relatively civilised.

Why not start with Prog Rock - plenty of tea and books and you'll presumably see the Space Cadette too. Then you can visit Sir Waffle on the way back down south.

irretrievably broken said...

Cross the pond. We'll eke out post-separation holiday newness together, with whatever motley assortment of friends I will have hanging around. One should have company for these sorts of things. My kids will be gone, too, for the first time, ever. I am a bit wavery at the thought of it.

Anonymous said...

I've avoided New years at a spa, but not christmas. It is a viable (expensive) option... must be 'away' though, and a warm place if at all possible...


Anonymous said...

You should definitely have a birthday cake, but just buy one! Tell the boys you deserve a cake but because it's your birthday you don't have to make it. Re Christmas, head off somewhere fun (not sure about Spa....).

And as another lapsed lawyer, I can tell you that you have to be very firm with yourself in withstanding those sudden legalistic urges - you obviously have the right idea!

Jane said...

Absolutely agree with anon 04:36. You deserve a cake, and I think it's great for the kids to celebrate your birthday too. But gee, draw the line at making it. And that Pere Noel thing is a total piss off.

Mya said...

You MUST have a birthday cake - are you mad? Get self-igniting candles.
And definitely Prog Rock for Chrimble.

Mya x

Anonymous said...

The good thing about having both St Nicholas and Pere Noel hanging about, is that the children very quickly get wise to the ridiculousness of it all("but they look the same!" "Yes darling, but when he has a pointy hat with a cross on, it is St Nicholas, and when he has a plain hat, it is Father Christmas...") - this means that you can enjoy secretly jeering together (from age 9 in our case), while the grandparents are still being po-faced and serious about it all... one of the few saving joys of christmas

Bath Bun said...

Get a grip Waffle - you're English, therefore account whatsoever need to be paid to St. Nicolas. I have stolidly ignored him and his ghastly sidekick for years and merely congratulated my off-spring on any St. Nic booty they've managed to acquire elsewhere. And stick to your guns, presents are opened on the 25th, and Santa only gets credit for stocking.
Your birthday cake - bake and set fire to it yourself and make it exactly how you want it.

Mother Theresa said...

We used to have St. Nicolas and Santa, and nothing terribly bad came of it. We did only get small things on the 6th, like a chocolate letter and some other edible things, and the "real" presents were saved for the 2th. Now I live in Spain and we chose for the Three Wise Men, which is tradition here, but we don't stick to the traditional day (the 6th of January. We either have presents on Christmas Day or on New Years, and we tell the kids that The Wise Men are very busy, so they distribute the delivery days. Of course now they know the truth, but we still play the game. I'd say, just go with what makes you feel good...and that goes for the birthday too. And on Christmas...maybe go somewhere tropical, you know, to get away from the Belgian weather. Come to think of it, I wouldn't mind a trip to a nice beach somewhere myself. :D

Imogene said...

I dunno - after 30 years in Switzerland I've become assimilated enough to not mind Crimbo proper being on the 24th. We have a mishmash of 'continental' and Anglo traditions at our house: We open pressies on both days (the best bit!) and still do roast turkey et al. And then we sit bloated around the remains of the feast, grumbling to one another about how we hate Crimbo and would like to see it abolished. Every bloody year.

Re Saint Nic: our kids were utterly indifferent to him from around the age of ten.

I'd order a birthday cake. I'd make sure the booze-to-cake ratio was heavily weighted in the booze's favour and eat every single crumb myself. In front of a roaring log fire.

bbonthebrink said...

Could you bake a birthday cake and ice it, and then leave the boys with a selection of cake decorations/bonbons/fondants(no-no-no), and let them do 'la touche finale'?
That way they can be conspiratorial together and you can have a surprise.

Or would the kitchen be irretrievably trashed?


cruella said...

Anonymous: The 26th is Big Boxing Turkey Day since hubbie is half English AND also have a birthday.

Thus no jimjams but a lot of running around basting and frying a thousand things.

Knackered Mother said...

Oh Emma, let them eat cake. And as for you: drink dirty Prosecco. Happy Birthday x

Anonymous said...

For the birthday cake: Buy some of those sponge cake layer things what's-it-called-in-English that you use as bricks to make a cake + chocolate smeerpasta or jam + Smarties + whipped cream foam and shut your boys in the kitchen and don't let them watch telly until they've made you a cake? And surely your eldest is old enough to light a candle or two under supervision?


magpie said...

It just seems wrong for you to make your own birthday cake. At least buy one. I'm sure we would all club together and send you one, but that seems like a lot of organisation and fuss.
Also would entail giving your address to strangers - not a good idea generally.
As for Christmas, traditionally we have egg and chips for Christmas lunch in my family. As Jews, we do tend to do resentment really well, so it was a special time for us growing up. I think we made my mum feel pretty bad. And now you are telling me that there is a second present-giving day that I was excluded from throughout my childhood...?
Of course, you are more than welcome to join us for egg and chips and swearing at Mary Poppins. As I've grown older I have really begun to enjoy it.

HotFudgeNubbins said...

hi em. love the blog from southern california! oddly growing up (american) we would celebrate st. nic day. to make it not as big of a deal, we would put of shoes outside the bedroom door. upon waking there would be a couple small treat- al la stocking stuffer style. may a matchbox car & chocolates/crisps? my good friend moved to ghent 2 mths ago, so hopefully some day we'll get overseas :)

Iheartfashion said...

This will be my first foray into single-mom holidays as well. My plan is to do something completely different than usual, so we are going to spend Christmas week in Portugal with a good friend and her family. I'm actually looking forward to it.

the polish chick said...

hm, we always had our big presents on st. nicholas' day, and the smaller presents on christmas, and yes, we always opened them on christmas eve. after moving to north america, i found the idea of opening presents in the cold grey light of a winter's morning and not by the gentle flickering candlelight to be utterly dreadful. you're right, every one has a very different view of the perfect christmas.

i think yours should be spent somewhere that'll keep you from sitting and thinking, because that's never done anybody an good.

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