by Julie Alpine-Crabtree
I am torn. I have approximately six minutes of unscheduled time to myself and it’s a toss-up between getting into a trance-like state over Brio railway track on eBay and eating chocolate baubles off the tree, being careful to pick those that will do the least amount of aesthetic damage, a festive art form in itself. Pippa Middleton’s party-planning tricks may famously include saving up months’ worth of chicken wishbones and painting them gold to use as… I forget what she suggests using them as, but it matters not. My point is that, around here, the party planning largely involves trying to limit the spending on pre-Christmas Quality Streets and edible tree decorations in order to leave ourselves something with which to buy the presents.
It’s not that I’m not a Christmas-loving kind of girl. I have been listening to seasonal Motown hits since late November, have whisked the kids to the library to take out an armful of books featuring red-nosed reindeer, magical elves and the little baby Jesus, have smothered them in kisses under the mistletoe while singing I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and have been to see the tree made entirely out of Lego at St Pancras International. Four times. (With each visit I take a step closer to correctly guessing the number of bricks it took to build it and winning the family holiday to Copenhagen. Which I plan to go on alone.)
No, the somewhat put-upon tone of this post is simply because my nine-month-old has developed a mild case of eczema and a severe case of detachment anxiety in the same week. The same week, that is, in which I have a work deadline and a pulled muscle in my shoulder (trying to reach the purple stacking cup from under the sofa). The same week in which one of my girlfriends has returned from a week-long holiday, sans kids, with friends in Hong Kong (her youngest having stopped breastfeeding some months ago), full of stories of fine dining, the wondrous properties of shellac and thrilling border crossings into China, where she indulged in a spot of back-room negotiation over top-class counterfeit luxury goods.
My case is surely strong enough to garner reader sympathy on the hilarious-sounding mfl (my fucking life) website. A website, incidentally, which I have been told about but have not yet found time to visit. In this regard, it joins Chris Rock’s film Good Hair, teen literary sensation The Hunger Games, the sit coms Rev and Fresh Meat, the Stack Magazines site and plenty more past and current cultural treats besides.
The eczema, it seems, responds quite well to Neal’s Yard calendula cream. The detachment anxiety, however, is only alleviated by attachment. Her mouth, my nipple. Goodbye super-speedy touch typing, hello jabbing away with one, faltering index finger while I cradle her in the other arm – the only way in which I have been able to get anything at all done this week. This is the downside of breastfeeding. And of being a pushover. I have turned into a human pacifier. (And because of the breastfeeding, my own choice of pacifier is severely restricted.)
Meanwhile, my chef gets home from another exhausting day at the coal face of modern British sustainable cuisine and, finding my nipples otherwise engaged, goes to make himself a cup of tea. He opens the cupboard, his eyes searching out a large, favourite mug. There, on the top shelf, in his peripheral vision, he spots a huge, bar of Toblerone, big enough to satisfy the burliest of mountain rangers, the weariest of restauranteurs (see picture).
Through his mind goes this thought: so what if my darling wife’s breasts are out of bounds (this being the one area in which his darling wife is categorically unable to multitask). So what if I’ve had another ball-breaking day at work and the Sky box is broken again for no apparent reason. I have Toblerone. I am happy. Hear me roar.
Until he reaches for the chocolate and realises that it is in fact a box of party poppers. Bought by me to remind me of Christmases long past – that smell, that little pile of streamers – before being hastily shoved in a cupboard after I discover that toddlers and cordite do not a good combination make (see picture again. See?).
The rest of the night, you will probably not be surprised to hear, does not go with a bang.
Indeed, it goes with a whimper. Every time I roll over in bed the baby, in her sleep, mewls and fights to get latched back on again.
You’d think we’d learn. Move the box of party poppers. Buy a fucking bar of Toblerone. Call Supernanny. But resignation and defeat do something to a couple. Not to mention sleep deprivation. On top of sexual frustration. Day after day, cup of tea after cup of tea, my chef’s hope is rekindled, only to die again, like the pigeon I saw on the pavement today following a collision with a high-rise building, blood slowly pooling around its neck, commuters stepping neatly around it.
What can I say? Never mind, my darling, there is always next year?
Until then, the chocolate fir cones around the back are the ones to go for.