Monday, 15 December 2008

A Kind Of Christmas Tree

We got into the car and went in search of a Real Christmas Tree. It had been raining for three days solid. We didn't know what to expect. The Australian had warned me not to get my hopes up. The Boy was articulating his extreme displeasure at being in the car by screaming. The Girl was shouting over him that she wanted THE BIGGEST TREE EVER IN THE WORLD. I just wanted to feel Christmassy, that's all.

There was a sign: XMAS TREES. It looked promising, mostly because we'd only been driving for three minutes and the screaming wasn't abating. A surfy-type sat nonchalantly on a chair with five Christmas trees around him. "Not many to choose from," said The Australian. "THAT ONE!" said The Girl. The Australian looked my way nervously. I was breezy: "Sure, why not? Great!" As the tree was forced into the boot I gave it my best false smile and fingered its long, feathery needles. What kind of tree are you? I thought.

We got home, but then waited for hours and hours while The Australian nipped out to buy a suitable pot for the "tree". Or it may have been only twenty minutes but I was anxious to get the trinkets on the "tree" as quickly as possible, to disguise it's true identity.

"It's a bit wonky," said Super House Guest (kind of like our third child, 'cept he cooks).
"It's fine! I don't mind!" I said, nudging him out of the way.
"But I could fix that," he implored.
I banished him to the sofa so I could hurry up and get those trinkets on.

I tried my best not to stop The Girl from putting all the decorations at her eye-level. But when she wasn't looking I moved some of them. As a small consolation we went with her idea of putting a giant sparkly snowflake on the top instead of the traditional star. I'd always believed that less was more when it came to real trees, but I was even starting to think that *gasp* TINSEL might be an idea (sorry, Mum).

The Australian mainly kept his head down, but when we'd finished he looked at me sheepishly and said: "I think it's a fir tree or something."

I smiled, and put a little extra in the eggnog.

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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Faking It

It promises to be a very different Christmas for us this year. As usual I am syphoning out the doom and gloom of the situation and gargling with it.

For a start, the unofficial weather prediction for Melbourne is fine and 30 degrees. Does that sound like Christmas to you? How does anyone have the energy to pull crackers and argue about politics in that kind of heat? Even more bizarre is the thought of putting up all the wintery Christmas cards and decorations - and then switching on the fan to cool the stifling air and watching them blow all over the bloody place.

More serious is the fact that I cannot find any clementines. Clementines always put me in the mood for Christmas. Watermelon just doesn't do the job. Even seedless, despite the obvious joy that brings.

I am insisting on a real tree, though The Australian tells me I must brace myself as it will not be what I'm used to. But there will be no turning on the fairy lights for the children when it goes dark in the late afternoon, or sitting around it with hot chocolates, counting the sleeps until Father Christmas comes down the chimney. We'll be too busy applying factor 60 and swatting mosquitoes. We could hold Christmas in the under-the-stairs cupboard, I suppose; it's pretty dark and cold in there.

The other problem is my legs. I always looked deathly pale during a British summer but at least they were mercifully short. My arms and chest go a funny sort of reddish colour overlaid with freckles which almost looks like a tan, but my legs will not budge. I don't think they contain any pigment. They are alarming. They've got to go.

I will be attempting to solve the hot Christmas / white legs issue with two purchases guaranteed to help me Fake It: 1. body lotion which claims to build up a gradual tan (so far my legs look a little jaundiced but we are only 3 days in, give them time); 2. about enough fake snow to fill a bath tub.

So where will you find me this Christmas? Yes, in the fake-snow-filled bath, admiring my yellowish legs, with the lights out.

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Monday, 1 December 2008

The Wet Shoe Shuffle

I can't remember when it was that I became so hopeless at the basics. I was always a capable girl - irritatingly so, even. But now I struggle. We're talking Mr Bean territory here.

As you may know, I could write a book entitled Inappropriate Adventures With My Ugg Boots. Or a pamphlet at least. And then there was the incident with the size 9s and my plan to stuff them with cotton wool to get over the sizing issue. And then there were the 70s platform sandals, which were fortunately easy-peasy to walk in once I'd had seven glasses of wine.

In London I fared no better. A few days into our trip, the non-stop rain had revealed a slight fault in my trusty sneakers. Holes in the bottom of both shoes. When the day of my first meeting with my publisher arrived I was frantic because it was raining and the only other shoes I'd bought over from Oz were black patent high-heels (which, incidentally, The Australian chose and paid for, and bizarrely they are now my only 'sensible shoes'). Do black patent high heels say 'successful teen fiction writer' to you? My only option was to borrow my (young, beautiful, slim, young, we'll talk about this another day) sister's slouch boots. And then all I had to do was curl the toes of my right foot for the entire tube journey and 3-hour meeting, as her feet are a size smaller.

Surely the meeting with my agent the following week would hold no such problems. The morning was fine - great, I popped on my sneakers! Five minutes down the road - pissing down. I'm talking sheets of rain. By the time I reached the tube station both socks were sopping wet. The carriage was full so I couldn't take them off and wring them out. Surely the rain would stop once I reached Tottenham Court Road.

Nope! Soon there were sizable fountains squirting out of each sneaker with every step I made. My socks could not have been more wet. My toes could not have been more cold. I didn't want my agent to feel that the advance she'd got me for my novel was so low as to make it necessary for me to dress like a vagrant, so I decided to pop into the nearest shoe shop, make a quick purchase and change before the meeting. With five minutes till the meeting was due to begin. The resulting purchase was a little bit less than sensible. Like buying flip-flops for a skiing trip, say. Later on my father would say: "Why didn't you just spend longer looking for the shoes and turn up a bit late for the meeting? Aren't authors notoriously flaky with time-keeping?" Honestly, I would like to be able to turn up late, but I have a built-in mechanism that prevents it. I would need years of therapy to achieve that level of laid-backness.

During the meeting, I decided that the pinchiness of the shoes was merely due to the combination of wet feet and brand-newness. By the time I got home, I had rubbed two blisters so sore and raw that my family all winced in turn, and looked at me as if their once bright and capable daughter/sister/partner had be replaced by Muriel (It's Mariel!).

And where were my Uggs when I needed them? In sunny Australia, of course. Why would I take my warm sheepskin boots to chilly old England?

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