We’ve been in Devon again, colonising the pool and hot tub, making too much noise during the Christmas Day prayers at the Tawstock church, spending all our money buying three types of Christmas bird and two hams and pretty much just lying down for extended unhealthy hours on separate couches, spurning the massive play area (ft. tennis courts and life-sized tin giraffe) and fighting over what to watch on the telly. So far, so everyone’s Christmas, right?
There was a bit of musical-bed-chairs thing because Mark and I are simply TOO MASSIVE to sleep together in a double bed…he turns to face me in the night and *actually dares* to mouth breathe in my direction and I am overcome with rage and disgust, or he places a crooked elbow under my pillow citing his preference for my pillow’s cooler temperature, but my head then rises up on an angle and I am similarly filled with rage and disgust, and so we had to rearrange things – by that I mean children – so that we could sleep and not hate each other in the groggy waking hours. So we had turns sleeping underneath Ned in a tiny kid’s bunk, the kind where you sit up and bash your head on the rails above you when you hear some little kid (that would be Otis) coming to find you at 2am and wailing softly about how he just fell out of his shared double bed with Barnaby and that his arm hurt. It was a dry-eyed slump-jawed aching-limbs and bruised-forehead kind of week. But then CHRISTMAS!
A false 4am start, a second false 4:40 start, then we were all go at 8am to open presents and mostly be very gracious, except for Noah who was a little underwhelmed to find that Santa had given him identical presents for two years. In his defence, I think that Santa is quite busy, and perhaps forgot to notice Noah a little, because he is quite well-behaved (except for shoegate and for the whole bunking off at school pretending he has some chronic illness to do with symptomless stomachaches and unwitnessed ‘vomiting’ thing) and so Santa kind of shopped Noah out for an obvious but actually quite thoughtless doubled-up present. I feel sorry for Santa, really – he has a lot on his plate. So I took Noah’s crestfallen little betrayed face in my wizened horny fingers and told him not to worry – I would give him a fiver and buy the Ten Ways To Prank Your Friends tin off him. Crisis averted, but perhaps the wound runs deep.
So we then went to church and asked the children not to be dickheads but they couldn’t help themselves, especially Otis, who did very loud mock high-pitched nonsense singing to go along with the carols and then just filled in the spaces when everyone was quietly praying or contemplating the Savour’s birth. He then went through the pews and made a tower of those lovingly crocheted kneeling cushions, and then song books, and, obviously feeling very comfortable at this point just sashayed up and down the aisle telling everyone who gave him a look to ‘SHHHHHHHHHHH’. I had to ask Barnaby to take him out to run around the graveyard and look for zombies. Here they are contributing to the service before things got too bad, and then outside running around in total glee, making up violent stories about mummified people exiting the graves and chasing them:
You can’t help but notice that *someone* has gotten all puberty-ish and now dons a leather jacket everywhere he goes. He makes no eye contact, talks in a low dismissive whisper because PEOPLE ARE SO EXASPERATING to him that he just can’t summon up any sound, and he punches smaller people as he walks past them. He listens to music constantly, spends a lot of time (and waxy product) on his hair, and he needs deodorant. All of this is new, and quite sweet, if it wasn’t so awful.
We went to the beach twice – once when it was raining and cold and they all just whined and moaned and touched rotten bits of crab and then chased each other around with the Rotten Fish Touch. Notice, too, Casper wearing his mother’s leather jacket in a sad, sweet homage to Barnaby. He hates him, but he loves him, and anything Barnaby does he will do too, but pretends he came up with the idea.
More beach here, but better:
And then we drove home.
New Years Eve
We had a party, but only about half the people we invited actually turned up which made playing our shit parlour games a lot easier but I felt a bit sad and rejected. The preparation for our parties is immense – I did my usual ‘bake all day, shout in a grandiose manner at the children to get out of the kitchen/walk the dog/move the furniture around’ overachieving thing from the morning until right before people were supposed to turn up, and while I fuss about in the kitchen getting upset because we have no Nigella seeds, everyone just lolls about not helping. Mark became a weird day-long absentee whereby he urgently needed to get a haircut and he suddenly took an interest in setting up his previously-ignored electronic Christmas presents which meant various trips to Maplins for HDMI cables instead of supervising the shoving of things into cupboards and hasty toilet-seat wiping. It was a trial, I tell you. And now we have to try to get through another bloody leftover turkey in a creative way, because food waste is for Bad People.
In the flash of an eye, we will have been married for 20 years tomorrow. We are going to the movies to watch that one about the circus, and I will drink three cocktails and probably eat some curry. It will be tres romantique.
These are my words of marital advice for the young and unjaded on this auspicious eve:
- Don’t get married too young, obviously. Do what my dad said to do – hang out with a little bit of everyone. I don’t think he meant ‘try everyone out’ but I’m going to extend his message to just that. Try everyone out, a little bit.
- When they say marriage is hard work, I don’t think they mean like ploughing a field or being homeless or doing extreme sports. I think they mean that it isn’t always much fun and it wears you down. It gets a bit boring and disappointing sometimes, although it is fun and comforting when it works. People will turn out a bit differently to how you thought they would – and this includes you. The hanging on despite this is perhaps part of the hard work.
- Recalibrate often. That’s what Esther Perel says, and she is spot-on about everything, so she’s probably right about this one too. The marriage will change as well as the people inside it, so be open to that.
- Find out what your love language is. I know it sounds kooky but everyone has different ways to both feel love and to show it, so find out which of the five broad ways that works for you (I think they are: touch, gifts, time spent, words, acts of kindness) and whoever you are going to hitch your wagon to. It is weirdly good and explains a lot.
- Go out together every week and don’t forget to have sex frequently, even if you cannot be arsed.
- Be kind, and sometimes don’t say the thing you want to say. Tell it to the bottom of a wine glass, or your friends. Don’t say mean stuff to each other because it doesn’t actually go away, but hangs around like a bad fairy.
- You won’t get everything you need from your partner, so go fill the gaps wisely with friends. Ideally clever, book-reading, food-appreciating, joyful, generous, kind women. When you find them, weave them into your life and look after them. Kids grow up and leave, husbands/wives/marriages end or morph into something else entirely but friends remain (er, I ripped that off Jo Brand in her Desert Island Disc thing, but she’s right), like that wooly-headed darling in the photo below. Get yourself more of these:
That’s it. I’m off to fashion the turkey into something jazzy. Wish me luck and happy new year!