After a weekend of traffic jams caused by spruce-laden trailers clogging up the transport arteries of South London ….plus the shamefaced embarrassment of being almost two hours late for lunch with a friend due to a last minute decision to wrestle with a roof rack and get our own….the tree is up. Accompanied by steaming glasses of overly pungent mulled wine and with Arthur Christmas downloaded for atmospheric background, we were ready to commence what I hoped might become its ritualistic dressing. It wasn’t long before our scene of domestic bliss evaporated into the inevitable battle with lights and spikes however and with the humerous Arthur aborted in favour of our irritating-yet-all-too-familiar friend Peppa, S and I found ourselves joining in with her squeaks as time and again we were pricked and jabbed by our un-accommodating tree. Subsequently left underdressed in terms of fairylights and neither stylishly decked in, say, contemporary silver and lilac nor traditional in red and gold, our tree is instead rather a jumbled mix of the entire contents of our annually expanding decoration box. Reminiscent, I like to think, of the tree I used to spend goggle-eyed hours staring at as a child in absolute adoration of its beauty. Coordinated ‘themes’ were never adopted in our house when I was growing up….rather my mum would add a few new decorations to our clashing collection each year which is a tradition I plan to uphold. I like the thought of O clutching a handful of coins and picking out a few of his own favourites from shelves sagging from the weight of their sparkling wares …but that will wait until next year. This time around we have opted for a more handmade approach. Stars, baubles and….er….angels (if you have a vivid imagination) have been pressed from clay with biscuit cutters and painted with unwavering concentration in glorious swirling metallics by O…..endearingly dip-dip-dipping his brush into every colour in the palette before applying the now-slightly-grey mix carefully to both front, back and sides. Admittedly, despite these beautiful additions, our tree requires a few more years before reaching the glittering maturity of the version of my childhood…but we are well on our way…..
So with the scent of Christmas thus in the air, Rudolph noses adorning our hallway stag coathooks, Ameretto-soaked cake taking pride of place on the island awaiting its icing (a process which has never come anywhere close to Great British Bake Off standards but my planned excuse this year being the involvement of a toddler) and strings of pound shop lights wrapped around the (more accommodatingly gentle) houseplants, the Pebbledashed Pad is beginning to feel festive. We may yet have some work to do on the self-named Bah Humbug S, but his miniature is rather captivated by it all….
“O has a Christmas tree in his house….” I heard O quietly remind himself this week as we approached home. Having made his artistic contribution in the form of both the above mentioned decorations and an armful of tinsel plonked unceremoniously on a single branch, he has taken to showing it off excitedly to all visitors….virtual (via Skype) or otherwise. The notion of Father Christmas appears to have been taught by Peppa…Christmas episodes involving lots of falling over in the snow currently being watched on a loop to raucous appreciative cackles …and we have been told in no uncertain terms in answer to the question “what would you like Father Christmas to bring you?” that he’d like “one two presents.” However its the easy access he now has to confectionary which appears to be the most appealing aspect of Christmas thus far. With Quality Street tucked into a felt advent calendar hung, foolishly I now accept, at toddler height from the larder door he has perfected a deft swipe almost imperceptible to the adult eye whilst scooting innocently past. His Wallace shaped grin as a toffee finger props open his cheeks to reveal milk teeth dripping in chocolate give him away fairly soon afterwards, however. By which point, of course, the damage (to dinner) has already been done…
But back to the Bah Humbug….who, it would turn out, might not be so bah after all. He has some secret project going on for which he needs a Black and Decker workmate, an empty house and the answer to O’s question when greeted a few hours later at the door dressed in work clothes of “Are you painting daddy?” Is “yes son, a bit” …..all very exciting……
But I digress.
S had not, up until a week ago, appeared to have done any Christmas shopping.
“What do you want for Christmas pet?” He asked as we sipped coffee in bed, the little one not having yet arisen.
“Oh noth…..chairs.” I said optimistically.
“For the cosy corner. I’d love that to be done for Christmas…”
“What kind of chairs?”
“Oh I dont know. I send you pictures from eBay asking if you like them and you never respond either way. Is that because you hate them all….?”
He sipped at his coffee in a telling silence.
“I don’t like anything which looks like it should be in a care home or a staff room.” He replied eventually.
“I know what I’d like” I said, changing the subject quickly as two of my Ebay bids on chairs which could be described thus were coming to an end within the hour. “But I don’t think you can get it. It’s that stag lamp. It’s been in the shopping pages of magazines recently but it’s been sold out for ages.”
“I’ve told you this before” he said with a warning look “we are in danger of becoming like those old people that end up collecting things they didn’t mean to…..people will come round and say “why is their house so full of stags….?”
“Shall we get one of those corner cabinets and fill it with cut glass figurines?” I asked
He shook his head, his face shrouded in seriousness.
“I mean it. We are already in danger of everyone buying us something with a stag on for Christmas….and we only have two stags.”
Not quite true. We have eight. Five in the downstairs hallway and three in the bathroom….all hooks but admittedly they are of only two styles. I shrugged. Bring it on, I thought. An opinion I demonstrated later this week in the selection of biscuits on the basis not of flavour or price but the stag picture on the tin and the purchase of cosy new stag-print pyjamas in preparation for present wrapping on Christmas Eve. I showed S my purchases proudly.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you…” He said before pulling me up on the authenticity of my chosen animals. “I think you’ll find that’s a moose” he said pointing to one “and that’s a reindeer.”
“What’s the difference?” I asked and a conversation involving such trivialities as continent of origin ensued.
But back to the chairs. It turns out I didn’t need to worry about telling S that the cosy corner would look like a staff room after all as the pair of Parker Knoll chairs I’d been hopefully bidding on were swiped from under my nose in the last twenty seconds of the auction. A similar situation had occurred a week or so previously when I lost out on a battered leather Sixties swivel chair in an identical way.
“I give up” I said to a friend in exasperation. “Its impossible to buy a chair! We may as well ditch the whole ‘being green’ thing and go to Habitat” (cough. Or West Elm….newly opened in Tottenham Court Road…looks amazing….)
“Do you not use a sniper app?” She asked
“A sniper app. I use Gixen. You put in the eBay number and your maximum bid and it bids for you in the last few seconds.”
I stared dumbfounded. I had envisioned a seedy Steptoe type sat, arthritic finger poised, watching as the clock ticked down before rushing through his bid at the last possible moment. More than likely the perpetrator was a blow-dried, vintique shop owner dressed head to toe in Jigsaw kicking back with a glass of wine whilst technology did her dirty deed.
“Hmmm” I thought. “Get mad or get even…..”
Without the need for sniping I was alerted by an email to say a bid I had placed on a discontinued Ikea chair had been successful. Wednesday evening, clearing away the dinner, I dropped my clanger.
“By the way….a chair is arriving tonight”
S looked aghast.
“It was only twenty quid…..” I promised hurriedly.
“How much work does it need?” He asked.
“Not much. Maybe recovering at some point… but I think its ok for now….”
“Where is it going?”
“Please don’t tell me you bought a chair and you don’t know where it’s going…” He pleaded.
“It may go in the cosy corner….or possibly the snug…..or failing that O’s room….”
A knock at the door signalled the chairs arrival. Manhandling it into position I looked at him for approval.
“What do you think?”
“Ok” came the sighed reply.
The addition of the chair, I like to think, suddenly seems to make sense of the corner. With the toy pile edited and the addition of a rug stolen temporarily from O’s room even the blue sofa, which I’ve felt up until now has looked so awkwardly out of place, doesn’t seem so bad after all. Might it stay?
I asked S his thoughts.
“I don’t like the blue” he said “but I like the sofa. And having a rug looks good…”
S has promised he will look at chairs with me in the January sales so we’ll take a view on the sofas fate then. It may yet get shifted to the snug but for now, for Christmas, I think this little corner works rather nicely. No Ebay sniping yet required…..but perhaps a stag cushion would be a final touch…….?
The chair in situ with no rug….oooo….so cold on your bottom when playing with the trainset…
With a rug…..not necessarily this one but used to illustrate a point. The big cardboard looking things are our framed coffee sacks awaiting re-hanging but the secret project is delaying, for good reason, picture hanging for the moment….