KOOL-AID: christmas is all around

It’s been a very Christmassy twenty-four hours, really.

Started with yesterday afternoon. Went for a walk just as was getting dark. Had planned it that way as fancied a walk through the village and don’t like doing that in daylight. The curtain twitching can be rather annoying. Feel like an alien at times. Honestly.

Just wanted something different on my walk, and quite enjoy walking past people’s homes. Always like to imagine what they’re doing. Who they are. How their lives are. People in England much more inclined to leave curtains open, even in winter, it seems. Is the central heating. So you always get a full-on show of folks sitting down in front of the telly, or sat around the kitchen table, drinking tea.

Yesterday, thought, there was the addition of Christmas trees. As the light outside darkened, trees in windows lit up like, well, Christmas trees. I could just mark out the wreaths on the door, and some folks have taken to wrapping thick red tulle around trees and gateposts. So this is Christmas. And what have you done? Cripes, do you think Yoko will come after me for copyright? I can’t afford it. Please, Yoko, please don’t come after me. She probably won’t. She’s into peace and love and all that. I remember back in the Myspace days (which were amazing! What the fuck happened to Myspace?) She was so active and if you messaged her she would tell you ‘I love you.’ Made my day.

Anyway. So it’s Christmas. But it doesn’t feel like Christmas. Why doesn’t it feel like Christmas? One word for you: cherries.

Yup. Those little red morsels are what we Australians associate with Christmas. The season happens just before and every Christmas table has a bowl of cherries. So being cherry-less does not feel Christmassy.

It’s weird when you grow up in one country and then move to another — holidays never really feel the same. Like for us Australians, Christmas means hot weather and being able to go for a walk in a t-shirt and shorts to look at the Christmas lights. Carols by Candle light are a relief more than anything else, because it’s nice being outside at night as the temperatures (only sometimes) start to cool.

I make it sound like my Christmases growing up were brilliant. They weren’t. They were shit. Properly shit. My dad would travel for work every Christmas and so Mum and I would have to go and be with him every year. Christmas isn’t the same when you’re not at home. And Christmas isn’t the same when you’re spending it in a hotel function room with twenty other families you have to pretend to like because your dad works with them. I didn’t like any of the buggers. Okay, that’s a lie, too. I liked some of them. Certainly didn’t like their kids. And that’s who I’d get lumped with; the kids. If you were the oldest of the ‘kids’ it was kind of your responsibility to look after the other ones while the parents all got ‘jovial’ at the adults table. I may not have been an adult but Mum always treated me like one so suddenly being forced to be a kid on Christmas day sucked big time.

Dad’s work would give out token gifts to the ‘kids’ and they never really thought about the age of kids. So I always got stupid plastic gifts which were not age appropriate. Because it was such a pain for Mum to take all of our presents with her, we didn’t really have a lot to open Christmas day, so it just didn’t feel like Christmas. Plus, the whole day was sooo regimented. We had to be up at a certain time. Had to be in the function room at a certain time. Had to eat the gob-shite food. Yup. Shit.

When Mum and I moved to London, there was a small improvement on Christmas. Well, a fast improvement, if truth be told. But then, it didn’t feel like it. Like the sensation of a dewy night after a hot day and that eucalyptus smell which always seemed to hang in the air at around Christmas time. The cherries, Watermelon and other such seasonal fruits which finished every year. The cold ham and cucumber sandwiches we would eat for the entire summer holidays until finally the only thing left of the ham was the bone. Pavlova. Prawns. BBQ’s. Christmas in London was traditional, and traditional freaked me the fuck out.

I suppose the other reason why it hans’t felt like Christmas at the moment is the lack of decorations. I mean, I could have ordered some on line but life is so in-between at the moment, I didn’t think there was any point.

But today, all of that changed.

Landlord arrived at my door this morning. Early. Had just got out the shower. Thankfully, was dressed. He didn’t come inside.

‘Get your coat on,’ he said to me.

‘Why.’

Rolled his eyes. ‘Just get your coat on.’

So, probably because have spent the last few years being told what to do, I complied. When I got outside, Wellies on, I noticed Landlord not in his usual vehicle. Was an older version of what he has. A much older version. Almost looked like an army tank. When I got in and he started the engine, I couldn’t believe how I hadn’t heard it when he arrived. The sound of it! Guess must have still been in the shower.

We drove back through the gates and only went half-way up the driveway before Landlord went off-road. We bumped along the fields with such severity a sports-bra would have been appropriate, until arriving at the crop of woods ‘west’ of the property. Landlord stopped the car and we got out. He went to the boot which was kind of open to the elements and pulled out a chainsaw.

A chainsaw.

I was all like, ‘ah, what’s going on?’

‘Christmas tree,’ he said bluntly.

Christmas tree? Fair enough then.

We trudged into the forest, our eyes searching for pine. Landlord saw a large one for his house he said he’s had his eye on all year. Too high for my little cottage with its low ceilings. I didn’t want anything too big. Would look ridiculous enough with an un-decorated tree in my house, let alone a large one. So found a small little fucker which had wonky branches — Landlord thought it not uniformed enough but I saw it as a bit of a metaphor.

Landlord got cutting. All very masculine, chain saws. Bicep-rippling kind of exercise. It looked pretty easy, mind. The trunks aren’t exactly thick. Landlord gave me a glove and together we dragged the trees (me the little one; he the big one) to the car. We lifted them with easy onto the back, one on top of the other. Would have put them side-by-side but there were several cardboard boxes in the way.

Which turned out to be Christmas decorations. Landlord drove us back to the gatehouse and without a word, we just set about decorating my tree. I made a cuppa for us both as Landlord popped the tree into the basin. I didn’t understand the whole process as have never, ever had a real tree in my life. Have had many a scented candle which tried to replicate the smell of a real-life Christmas tree but nothing, honestly, can compare.

I decorated rather sparingly as remembered we still had Landlord’s tree to do in the main house. But he was all like, no, is fine, we used to have three Christmas trees when I was a child, so I don’t need that many.

Three?

Yes, as it turns out. One in the entrance hall, which reached as high as the top of the stairs. Apparently you’d have to go up onto the balcony to put the star on it. The other would be in the drawing room, the third in the dining room. A shit load of work, when you think about it. But, ah, no. They had help for that kind of thing.

When we finished my tree Landlord asked me coyly if I wanted to help him with his. But of course! Because, to be frank, was thoroughly enjoying myself. Landlord’s ornaments are proper antiques and fascinating. Beautiful, traditional designs all seemingly hand-painted.

So it was in the car and up to the main house. Took us ages to debate where to put the tree. Decided on the drawing room because of the large windows there. It would be nice lit up at night. Pity no one one see it.

Landlord decided to make eggnog. Have never had eggnog before. Too eggy I always thought. Turns out, if you put enough alcohol in it, you can’t taste the eggyness. Also make you drunk. Very, very drunk.

Ended up with tinsel around my neck singing Christmas carols. You have to understand — wasn’t even lunch yet. Whether the eggnog made the say more entertaining or not, is hard to say. Did kind of end in a sad note when Landlord took out the Christmas stockings as he bent over the decoration box. He was just kind of crouched there, stockings in hand, frozen. Finally he looked at me and said, ‘ah, there’s not really much of a point, I think…’

I wondered why he had two. And then I realised. One of them belonged to his wife.

I had to think fast. Hard to do when you’re pissed (as in drunk, for you un-Australians.)

‘Um, well, I can have one,’ I said.

Landlord looked at me with wide eyes. They clouded over a bit in a misty way. And then he got all Hugh Grant on me. ‘Yes, well, that would do nicely. You can take it with you. Yes.’

‘Why don’t we just leave it here?’ I asked. Please rememvber. Was slightly drunk. ‘I am coming over Christmas day, yes?’

‘Yes, of course.’

‘Good. Because didn’t fancy sitting in the gatehouse by myself while you and Policeman had a party up here.’

‘It’s never a party.’

Cripes. The bitterness in his voice.

‘Well, let’s make it one this year.’

The festive cheer wore off after that. Was time to go. Am not sure what it is but whenever things get too personal with Landlord I have to high-tail it out of there.

I declined his invitation for a lift back because, though cold, I fancied the walk. Landlord came with me to the door, opening it for me. His body stiffened.

‘It’s been a delightful day, _______, thank you.’

And yes, he really did say ‘delightful.’

‘Yes, I’ve enjoyed myself.’

And then, obviously quite uncomfortable with the act, Landlord bent down and kissed me on the cheek, very, very close to my lips. I could smell the eggnog on his breath as he probably could on mind. It was such a slow, measured gesture I froze momentarily afterwards.

And then, perhaps, became a little Hugh Grant myself. ‘Right-o then’ (have never used that phrase in my life until today) ‘yes. Thank you. Good day to you.’

I practically ran out of the door.

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