Friday, 21 December 2007

Christmas Tips

1. Never leave your only winter coat in your partner's car on a Sunday night

2. With your keys in it

I was still drowsy on Monday morning when The Australian whipped out his wallet, bizarrely Del-Boy-like, and produced a tenner:
'Do you want to give this to the bin men?' he said.
'Umm, do I?' said I. Despite having thought about my bin men tip dilemma approximately every half hour since the previous Monday, I'd failed to work out a definite strategy. The Australian and I hadn't discussed it, since these days he mainly finds out how I am by reading my blog, and I mainly find out how he is by . . . yes, I must ask him later. His assertive offer made me feel all 1950s and I decided to let him take charge of the situation. (Unfortunately he put his wallet away again without giving me a few more notes to 'buy myself something pretty'.)
An hour or so later, when I was properly awake, I realised that he'd driven off with my coat/keys in his car. Stranded! I called my dad to ask if he could take The Girl to nursery.
'I'm in Yorkshire at a funeral,' he replied.
I took that as a 'no' and broke the news to The Girl that she wouldn't be going to nursery today because we'd be locked out in the cold if we left the house. Her little legs crumpled underneath her like newborn Bambi and she sobbed her little heart out. 
'Oh no! Okay! I'll take you!' I said, and grabbed everything I'd need for an arduous tube journey to retrieve my keys from The Australian accompanied by a teething, will-only-sit-in-pushchair-for-bribes, one year old: aka The Boy.
Anyone who's taken a large pushchair on the tube will sympathise with me - while anyone who's been smacked in the leg by a large pushchair on the tube will wonder why people like me don't just stay home and keep out of the way of the important commuting folk. Two hours later, The Boy had finally eaten his weight in rusks, thrown every toy we own out of his pram, forced me to put on a show that would make Mr Tumble jealous, and fallen asleep - I'd collected the keys and was dashing back to fetch The Girl, and I was so worn out and pissed off that when I reached into my jeans pocket and felt something papery, I thought: 'Sod the bin men, I'm using their Christmas tip to buy a latte.'
Ironically, the local council saw to it that it wasn't possible for me to commit such a crime against Yule by putting so many roadworks outside Cafe Nero that I couldn't get near it. And so it was that I found myself back home, weary but basking in the afterglow of martyrdom . . . 
DING DONG! I leapt up. It was them! I could hear the grinding of the wheelies. I stood up and danced about a bit. 
'Who's that?' said The Girl.
'Um, err, it's the bin men, err . . .' I reached for the tenner and stuffed it in a small brown envelope and scrawled Happy Christmas! on it, and then added our house number and fretted over whether or not I'd done that for purely cynical reasons. Then I danced around a bit more, while both children looked at me as if what little respect they had was finally fading away. It would have been so very Me to go through all this only to let the moment pass.
I opened the front door - sod it, the truck had passed by at least ten houses! I waved the envelope about a bit and shivered, and said 'Hi!' very very quietly, and jiggled on my doorstep. Then I saw an old man in a white vest opposite - he had come out with his Christmas tip, too, and calmly handed it to the approaching bin man as if it really were perfectly normal and expected. I felt vindicated and started shouting 'EXCUSE ME!' over the roar of the truck.
After several of these, one of the crew looked over and I waved my little envelope. It seemed to take him about a week to walk over to my front door, which obviously called for more jiggly-dancing, but finally he got there and I said 'Merry Christmas!' and there were smiles all round and it felt good and festive and nicely old-fashioned, and just as I was shutting the door:

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