It started when the much-awaited decree absolute arrived a little early. I had planned to be in my best frock, with washed hair and half a day of starvation under a tightened belt. Instead it found me with biscuit- stuffing PMT, in dirty jeans, sitting at my desk wondering whether I'd picked up nits from the kids again. So that when I ran to tell the glad tidings to my new Very Nice Chap, I had oatmeal stuck to my teeth, an attack of the does-my-bum-look-big's and a Serengeti of wildlife on my head. A celebratory snog seemed out of the question.

I was still suffering from having received great news whilst looking terminally ugly when we dropped VNC off at the station. I was so busy thinking about how hideously revolting I was, and how all the presents I'd bought were disastrous, that I managed to say goodbye to him as though he were a Tesco's receipt. And all the way home in the car I knew that by the time he reached York he would be completely over me, and in love with someone beautiful in the next seat. And that it would be my fault. Again.

Then the children revolted about the messiness of our Christmas arrangements. Two days here, two days there, a week with Beloved. Arrangements that a month ago they found unbearably wonderful and exciting were now so objectionable to them that they swore they didn't want to be with their cousins, they didn't want to see Granny and they didn't want to see their dad. All they wanted was to cling to my legs all Christmas and New Year and be fed chocolate and presents until they fell asleep. And they demonstrated their love for me by fighting, throwing things and having to be sent upstairs.

Then in the afternoon we got lost on the way back from dropping the dog off at the kennels (very traumatic: "Why are you leaving me in this awful place/ Are you ever coming back?") We entered some Alain Fournier domain where the lanes changed shape and direction and there weren't any road signs. And as I frantically did three-point turns in muddy cartways, spraying liquid clay all over the windscreens with my madly spinning wheels, the radio played a selection of tunes for the Recently Divorced and the Soon- To-Be-Dumped-For-Being-Ugly. At least my snarling and whimpering by turns made the kids shut up.

And when I got home to cram presents, mountains of laundered clothes and children into the car to escape to my sister's for Christmas Day, I found that the sofa-delivery people had been. And my new sofa is much bigger than I expected, so asking them to put it on the landing upstairs wasn't a great idea. You need mountaineering equipment now to get between bathroom and bedrooms, and nothing, this side of the San Andreas Fault going live, will shift it.

Climbing over that sofa for the fifth time, ferrying fish tanks, wall- sized posters of waterlilies and egg incubators (presents, OK - I know my family aren't normal) down to the car, I felt very negative indeed. What happy ending could possibly be in store for a person like me, I thought. How does any handsome prince get a sofa bed, two quarrelling children and a bum the size of Mount Rushmore on to the back of his white charger, or even into the boot of his red Triumph? It's just not possible. He's probably snogging the leggy blonde backpacker from Adelaide already.

So that was Christmas Eve.

Can't say I remember a great deal of Christmas Day. I know Donner and Blitzen came bursting through the front doors of the wood-burning stove as planned, because seeing Buster and Bunny up to their arms in woolly climbing socks was the last image on my retina before I started putting chablis on my cornflakes. I drank on Christmas Day, shamelessly and with great purpose, to drown out the year and all my sins and failings with it: my failure to keep husbands, believe in Happy Endings, and get sofas in the right place.

And that, dear readers, was the consequence of having Christmas on day twenty-bloody-eight. And if you don't understand, boys, get a girl, without PMT, to explain. All right?