Merry nearly Christmas from the ol’ out-of-town chestnut of Devon. Mark said we couldn’t go away this year because, you know, finances being always a bit slim and the whole monthly “It’s RENT DAY! No one has paid their invoices again – can we transfer some tax money to pay for it?” panic, and I sulked a bit then remembered the power of a miserable pregnant woman and gave him this speech.
“By Christmas, I was be four weeks away from having another baby – I will be massive and unwieldy, with swollen ankles and a humourless demeanour. I won’t be cooking, or successfully bending over to accomplish tasks such as putting on mine or anyone else’s shoes or picking up tiny bits of rejected origami castoffs/cocopops/pencils with broken leads thrown in anger or dog fur balls and soon, sooner than you’d think, we will drown in childish spiky detritus. More than that, I actually won’t be doing anything but draining my water-retentioned extremities on the couch. You’ll have to do it all, for 18 days of the holidays with five turbulent little boys in a basement flat, chairing arguments over Fortnite, walking a thieving dog three times a day, thinking about meals and replacing toilet paper – all the while staring into the darkness out of our front window which is broken because the boys wrestled themselves into it during a fight over a hotly-contested piece of sparkly cardboard. Darling, there’s always the credit card.”
So Devon won. There’s a heated indoor pool here which they swim in for hours every day, and a spa pool which I dip in and out of, depending on my ability to moderate my body temperature. When I get a bit warm, I move to the side of the pool and read – read the papers, read one of four novels I have brought with me, read my phone, languishing in the holiday-ness of it all. Yes, there are fights over pool inflatables and yes, they screech a lot and dunk each other in and occasionally, when other people from the (mostly silent) other cottages are trying to swim lengths in a demure, polite way, my kids bang into them or lob balls very close to their heads. That stuff is awkward, but so much better than being at home attempting ‘festive’ when you can’t even fit your pyjamas any more.
Also – the food. Here, on holiday, you arrive at the cottage and they leave you milk, tea, a packet of mince pies and some instructions concerning fire escapes and wi fi passwords. You have to create Christmas from scratch, and that involves driving to the massive Sainsbury’s in an industrial complex ten minutes down the road. There, you buy all of your Christmas malarkey, knowing the fiddly stuff (like my imagined triumphs with homemade peppermint bark/gingerbread houses/attempts at stollen) just won’t be practical. So it’s a yes from me, Sainsbury’s Own Brand Pizza, and Taste The Difference All Butter Prosecco Panettone and some sort of random duck from the chiller and two types of Sainsbury’s trifle and also the weird things you would never buy at home, like Columbian hot chocolate flakes, tubs of clotted cream and Cornish Sea Salt with Roasted garlic. This sort of culinary abandon just wouldn’t swing in real life.
We’ve been down to Barnstaple town to hear the Salvation Army band play Christmas carols which always makes me weep, and the kids have spent £10 each on our family Secret Santa, which they can never keep secret. We split up and I took the three youngest with me and we honed in on the North Devon Hospice Charity Shop where Otis found Noah a metal detector for £3.45 and then they all fell in love with the weird dragon mystical tarot shop which had hideous glittery dragon figures with light-up crystals on sale for a tenner – they decided to buy them for each other. They are very, very ugly. I found Mark an 1880’s-era knife/scissor/letter opener relic from the Indian War – I’ve since googled and I really don’t know what “the Indian War” was, but I am hoping the historical accuracy aspect will fade away from him once he sets eyes on the wood and bronze contraption. He’s a tricky fellow to buy for – desiring new cars, deer-hunting rifles and fishing rods – and I don’t understand those things at all. I bought him a cashmere beanie as a pre-Christmas present but he just grabs the polyester kack-coloured ones he gets from building suppliers – he is a walking synthetic advertisement for Dremel Tools. Luxury is wasted on some people.
I, on the other hand, have made it very easy for everyone to buy for me – I have bought for myself, and they are all pretending it was their idea and their efforts. PSHAW, I say – best give me the credit card and forget this idea of ‘getting it right’. Zeitgeistly, I have bought into the sustainable fassssshun trend by spending months on eBay, Vestiaire Collective and TheRealReal, finding myself TWO second-hand Chanel things that I could afford (or that wouldn’t be noticed unduly). YES, TWO. One is a solid silver cocktail camelia ring and the other is a £5,500 runway jacket (ten years old and missing its detachable ostrich feather cuffs, but still) that I got for £240. Yes, it is a bit tweedy and yes, I am far too monstrous in size and temperament to wear it, but there will come a time, once I’ve knocked off the cinnamon rolls and double-portioned dinners, exited the baby, started to walk faster than a clueless pensioner navigating central London’s skinny pavements, breastfed a lot, cut out carbs and sugar, waited until my ribs contract and my inner organs find their correct anatomical positions again and the stomach deflates enough to become tuckable into jeans via constricting support underwear, that I might be able to wear it. It’ll be awesome.
But first! Here I am trying two weeks ago to get comfortable enough to finish Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine but finding all positions entirely unsuitable for comfort and OH the ITCHY SKIN!
Here in Devon I have fled the marital bed because it is too small for us both and Mark is back on the thunderous snoring thing. So I am on a child’s bottom bunk, underneath Noah, blissfully happy to have a bed to myself and a silent roommate. I do have to get up hourly for a pee, and it turns out that this isn’t just the baby’s head pressing on my bladder but is also an infection, which just adds to the glamour of my pregnant state. And now mark has decided he wants to call the baby Abel which is just – so – depressing, in a Sons Of Anarchy way.
Here Barnaby and I are, about to watch Hamilton. Controversially, we didn’t love it.
And here is Otis, eating a bafflingly yellow sponge cake from Lisbon Patisserie, which is how he often looks.
Merry Christmas, everyone!