Deborah Ross: The Non-Domestic Goddess at Christmas

Why get stressed this Christmas? Surviving the festive season with your sanity intact is a doddle, says Deborah Ross. All you have to do is follow her words of wisdom
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Christmas. Nothing to it. Getting stressed at Christmas is for losers. It's only, after all, a roast dinner and a few gifts. It's fine. Why do people get so het up? Come on, love, it happens every year. Same time, same place, nothing new in it, get a grip. The shopping is not that bad. It's only shopping.

Shopping, shopping, shopping. And then more shopping. And yet more shopping. And then just when you think, at last I have finished the shopping, there will be some more shopping. And that will be the last bit of shopping until the next bit of shopping, which will also be the last bit of shopping until the next bit of shopping, and so it's rather like a race to see which is going to give up first, your money or your feet? True, it's all very well when they expire together but it can turn ugly when your feet have had it, say, but your credit card is still criminally up for it and goes, "Come on, feet, it's only yet more shopping," and the feet say, "Look, why don't you just piss off?" and this can be very embarrassing, especially if it happens on the bus, because you then have to say to everybody, "Please excuse my feet. It's just that they're so bushed."

But none of it is anything to get stressed about: same time, same place; nothing new in it. Getting stressed at Christmas is for losers, although there is, of course, the waking at 4am with heart pounding and mind racing with all sorts of last-minute considerations like "Bread sauce? What is all that about then?", and "The turkey, I'm sure it's too small", and "The turkey, I'm sure it's too big to fit in the oven", and "Did I really need to spend 82 quid on an organic, free-range Kelly bird just because Nigella recommended it?" 82 quid, 82 quid! Oh, I'm all for free-range and organic and treating animals well, but what did these ones have? En suite with DVD? If I'd wanted to spend that much on a Kelly bird couldn't I have got Lorraine, who would probably feed 97 and look at the breast on it, for heaven's sake. Tuck in, everybody! Tuck in! AND WHO'S GOT THE SELLOTAPE? WHO'S GOT THE SCISSORS?

All I am saying is that these are the sorts of things some people can get quite worked up about.

Anyway, it's all about the kids, really, and Christmas is much better with kids because at least then you have someone to take the stress out on, if you are the sort of loser who gets stressed by this sort of thing. But you'd still like to give them something of a magical time so it's stocking fillers, stocking fillers, stocking fillers and damn the Scalextric which won't work unless you spend an hour fiddling with the little brushes under the cars and damn the MP3 with the instructions most loosely translated from the original Korean ("Pause now you are in shortly, stop") and damn the middle of the night, when you wake with your heart pounding and your mind racing and oh, God, I'd better get something for her because she might get something for me but then if she doesn't get something for me it will be embarrassing having gotten something for her but is that more embarrassing than her having got something for me when I haven't got anything for her and damn those kids with their questions like, "Mummy, why does Father Christmas always use the same wrapping paper as you?" because while all Non Domestic Goddesses are all for giving kids a magical time, can't they see how tired we are? That we are practically dropping? That we've had it? Oh no, carol singers at the door. "Look, just go away, you bobble-hatted loons. Can't you see how tired we are? That we're practically dropping? Do you want the dog set on you?" And then it's the wrapping, wrapping, wrapping and WHO'S GOT THE SELLOTAPE?

WHO'S GOT THE SCISSORS? And then it's your little nephew on the phone who is four and better on the phone than he used to be when your sister would say, "Oh, just talk to Fred a moment, he won't talk back but he will listen," and Fred says he is going to leave out a mince pie for Santa and so you say, "Oh no, Freddie, Santa is very fed up of mince pies but do you know what he'd really like? He'd like a barrel of hand-peeled shallots, that's what he'd really like... " and an hour later your sister phones back and shouts "Bitch!" and then hangs up, as anyone who has taken the morning off work to peel the one shallot will understand but then she shouldn't have put her littlest one on the phone before he could speak, should she? But the trouble with people who get stressed by Christmas is that they can turn quite nasty. Or so we have heard. And then there's yet more wrapping, wrapping, wrapping and WHO HAS GOT THE SCISSORS?

WHO HAS GOT THE SELLOTAPE? And the things from Amazon that haven't yet arrived and are there enough crackers and is there any point marzipanning the cake as everyone will just pick it off anyway and wouldn't it be nice if my feet and my credit card stopped fighting, fighting, fighting, if only for a minute Stop it, guys! and at what point is it acceptable to buy people any old rubbish just for the sheer relief of crossing them off your list and is it around now and what seven-year-old doesn't want a new mop anyway and I'm not crying, it's just that I've been up since dawn peeling the one shallot...

See? There's nothing to it. A cinch. Getting stressed at Christmas is for losers.

Christmas stress-busting tips for losers

* Quit your job before the office party. It will save time later.

* Get your stories straight. "Mummy, why does Father Christmas use the same wrapping paper as you?" "Because we share the same extremely good taste, darling."

* Avoid any gadgety shops unless you want your head sliced off by a demo helicopter.

* Goats and honeybees are nice thoughts, but hell to wrap and then hell to keep secret.

* Keep the scissors and Sellotape for your sole use only. If necessary, hide in pants.

* Try not to get too competitive about cards, always eyeing up how many others have received, but it's always sensible to send yourself a good number all the same.

* Gift tokens, gift tokens, gift tokens. Although they always seem like a feeble present to give in early December, by Christmas Eve they are beginning to look pretty cool.

* Should a sexual encounter come your way, remove scissors and Sellotape from pants.

Why not write a Christmas bestseller?

If you've yet to have a brilliant and original idea for a must-have book of the Christmas bestselling novelty kind, all is not lost. Sometimes the most brilliant and original ideas have already been done, so it's perfectly acceptable to have them long afterwards while passing them off as your own. A compilation of puzzling queries followed by informed answers fits the bill nicely. Our own is called Why Do Some People Take Forever at the Cashpoint?, although the following extract may lead to a puzzling query in itself: where are the informed answers? Well, in these instances, you, the readers, are expected to respond with them, thereby making this idea the most brilliant of brilliant ideas: in effect, you write the book, and Non-Domestic Goddess Company Publishing Ltd cashes in. Any informed answers to any of the following queries will be gratefully received, although you'd be foolish to expect a cut. Ill-informed answers are also acceptable.

* Why do some people take for ever at the cashpoint?

* Why do people who work in health-food shops always look so sickly?

* If I could somehow time-travel back to the Big Bang and the moment of creation, would I have anywhere to watch it from?

* If you put a humidifier and a dehumidifier in the same room and left them to fight it out, which one would win?

* While it is not uncommon to hear someone coughing in their sleep, how come I've never heard anybody sneeze?

* Why does bottled water have a "best by" date on it?

* Why are men who carry their change in little coin-purses always so spooky and impossible to take seriously?

* Why do two little white lines appear in the corner of a television programme just before the ad break?

* If you can't teach an old dog new tricks, how come Woofie, our lovely ancient Labrador, recently worked his way though Marvin's First Magic Box and put on a wonderful show?

* Why do poor people on benefits always have such big televisions?

* As a dog has a very developed sense of smell, and smell is linked to taste, does a dog also have a very developed sense of taste? (And if so, does it think: "Oh no, not the same bloody stuff from a tin again," at every meal?)

* Can lactose ever be people-intolerant?

* Who planted the first seedless grape?

* Why does the Inland Revenue pursue people even when they live by the seaside?

* What distinguishes a satsuma from a clementine, a clementine from a mandarin, and a mandarin from a tangerine? And which is the best?

* Why is the fluff in the tumble dryer always grey (no matter the colour of the wash)?

* Does that Kerry person ever look at her spread from Iceland and think: "Bloody hell, look at all the crap in that. I wish I'd spent the extra and gone to Marks."?

* If, in the TV show Quincy, when the DA said, "Suicide!" and Quincy said, "Murder!" and they then had a bit of a head-to-head that went as follows, without variation: Quincy, "Murder!" DA, "Suicide!" Quincy, "Murder!" DA, "Suicide!"... was Quincy always right or was he ever, ever wrong?

* Just one cow's milk but so many cheeses. How does that work?

* Share the magic this Christmas, my arse.

* Why does a teenager who finally wears his parents down begging for a mobile phone then never answer it?

* If the Earth spins on its axis and completes one rotation every 24 hours, it follows that people at the Equator will travel a far greater distance than those at the Poles, in which case: do people at the Equator say: "Are we there yet?" more often than those nearer the Poles?

* Why do washing machines come with so many programs when no one uses more than one maybe "D", which seems as good as any and to hell with the consequences?

* Why is it that the more clothes worn by a toddler coat, dungarees, jumper over dungarees, tights, pants, pants under tights, pants on top of tights the more likely they are to not only need to be taken to a public toilet but, after several hours spent disrobing them, will do one whispery fart, exclaim: "Finished!" and then wonder why you re-dress them so brusquely? (Don't get me started on snowsuits.)

* Would cows thrive on human breast milk?

* Why was a squirrel chosen as a symbol of the Tufty Club when its own road-safety record is hardly glowing?

* What sort of person is sad enough to read to the end of complete and utter nonsense such as this?

* Is this the perfect gift for someone you don't like very much? (You bet!)

This is an edited extract from Always Go to Bed on an Argument (Profile Books, 9.99). To order a copy (free P&P) call Independent Books Direct on 0870 079 8897, or visit