Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'Christmas is not a time for laughter, it's a time for pain. The house is a tip and no one really likes the food'
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The Independent Online

A survey has been done. Apparently one in four Britons would prefer to spend Christmas quietly with friends rather than with their whole family.

"What is the world coming to, my dear?" asked my husband when he absorbed this new fact last week. I, uh, should point out he doesn't actually speak like this, him not being 92-years-old and all that. But the point was the same.

He continued: "If Christmas isn't a time for family, then what is? Mind? What? I mean, come on, it's a time for sharing and caring and laughter. Those people must just hate their families and they are all obviously missing the point of Christmas. I mean, where's the joy? Where's the mirth? Well bah humbug to them all."

Laughter? That's what it's time for? Says he with the big grin and the big presents and the big tummy full of turkey. Says he with the new cashmere sweater and the smiling children and the clean windows and the sparkly tree. Says he with the happy uncle and the content niece and nephew. Says he, the man who turned up at his own Christmas party and handed his wife (that'll be me) his coat to put away in a cupboard. Laughter? Laughter? Is he mad? Christmas is not a time for laughter. Christmas is a time for pain.

In the last seven days I have done the following:

a) Ordered a Christmas tree.

b) Bought 964 presents.

c) Collected a Christmas tree.

d) Written 812 lists of things to do.

e) Bought seven rolls of wrapping paper.

f) Lugged said Christmas tree all the way up a million stairs (OK, OK, I'm not Rapunzel. One flight of stairs).

g) Bought enough sticky tape to cover Cardiff.

h) Managed to get a ladder out from behind four old baby car seats and a dozen thick cobwebs.

i) Made 85 small and amusing gift tags with a toddler (this is fun for exactly the first three-and-a-half minutes).

j) Put up a ladder (and stubbed toe).

k) Cleared all work surfaces to start a "wrapping session".

l) Put whole set of twinkly white lights on Christmas tree before realising that one light was dicky and throwing whole set in the bin.

m) Realised Christmas tree looks a bit bare and twig-like.

*) Ordered a salmon (don't ask it's a Danish thing).

o) Bought 10 bunches of white tulips.

p) Emptied out 12 tubes of Pringles.

q) Cooked five different meals.

r) Stuffed two different birds.

s) Exchanged Christmas trees.

t) Put up the ladder (again).

u) Queued outside Hamleys for the last Iggle Piggle on the planet (oh, and just missed out to a mother who pretended to faint).

v) Bought Christmas crackers.

w) Laid the table (five times).

x) Made smoked salmon sandwiches.

y) Cleaned out fridge...

z) Made stockings for the children.

...And back to a) again.

a) Put flowers in vases.

b) Had windows cleaned by nice man at the last minute after discovering small "pictures" of snow scenes that had been finger-drawn by husband and kids.

c) Written this.

d) Had a fake tan (trust me, I needed it).

e) Nailed up mistletoe.

f) Bought a dress for New Year's Eve.

g) Written thank-you cards for all Christmas presents.

h) Have explained to baby that Iggle Piggles don't grow on trees and that Mummy has to buy one from eBay in a couple of weeks when some other child has got bored of theirs.

My husband, meanwhile, has put on a CD of carols, hummed to "Baby It's Cold Outside" and poured four glasses of wine. He has basically sat and marvelled at the wonder of Christmas.

Midway through yesterday my best friend called me.

Lucy: Jesus.

Me: Well, quite.

Lucy: Jesus.

Me: Well, it is His birthday.

Lucy: Do you think He knows how stressful it is?

Me: How's your day going so far?

Lucy: Ted told me that Father Christmas bought him the wrong Lego kit.

Me: Oops.

Lucy: Ruby ate some stuffing and then threw up on Uncle George.

Me: Wow.

Lucy: I had to change her. While setting the Christmas pudding alight.

Me: OK.

Lucy: And Simon says I look flushed and asked me whether I really needed an extra glass of port.

Me: Nice.

Lucy: You?

Me: The house is a tip and no one is really saying the food tastes nice. The sink could be filled five times with the amount of washing-up that needs to be done. The presents seem to have gone down well and I have another three sets of burgundy leather gloves to add to my growing "winter accessory" pile.

Lucy: Simon can't find the fudge. I've got to go. Merry Christmas.

Anyway, so I know who those one in four are. They're not terrible people who have gone off their families. They're just women. Women who want to go to a cafe and order a toasted sandwich. Women who are juggling and any minute now a ball is going to crash to the ground. Women who are glad it's all over and who know they have 364 days to go before it starts all again. They're not choosing their friends. They're just choosing a sit down and a chat. Bah humbug.

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