I am in a complaining mood. Christmas does it to me. Pre-Christmas, a parcel company tried to deliver three different parcels, otherwise known as presents, to me. I use the word "tried" loosely. They gave it one go, stuck a scrap of paper on the front door, indicating no other possible delivery time, and just a number to call. When I rang to get them to re-deliver, my call was answered by an automated machine that didn't even have the decency to suggest it was going to put me through to a human being; it just said: "We don't take calls in person, leave a message and we'll call you back."
Screw them, I thought, then left a plaintive message. No one called. But I was powerless in anticipation of some good booty (the pirate kind, not the ass kind), so I had to trudge out to some godforsaken depot and pick them up for myself. Which, to me, fundamentally undermines the very essence of a company whose only job is to deliver parcels. Their job is not to alert you to parcels, to keep them cosy and warm in an industrial park (aka the Bermuda Triangle) and give people the pleasure of taking three hours out of their day to do their job for them.
Judging by the long, irate queue, lots of people had fallen into their trap. We did a lot of bah-humbugging and loud complaining, which made us all feel better, but generally I find Christmas a trying time. Everything is so hard to get. Holidays, presents, turkeys; whatever I look for, someone else has booked the airline seat I'm after, bought the present I'm desperate to get, or stuffed the turkey that had my name on it.
Who are these people? Why is everyone so much better organised than me? I was supposed to be away now. That is, in my head I was. Maybe it's because I don't have children that I haven't learnt the art of forward thinking, but I work on a last-minute basis. Always. And it's pretty disappointing when the very website designed for last-minuters like me tells you that no flights and no hotels in the world are available. I just wanted to go somewhere hot and holiday-ish, and the hottest place I can get to is Sweden. So I'm in London, with too many DVDs and too much stomach.
I've thought about going to a country house hotel, the kind where, by walking through the door, you officially declare that you are a grown-up. But my husband and I don't have a good track-record in those places. He's a bona fide Londoner who couldn't look more out of place in a field if he were Eros, and I'm not much better. We went for a country walk once and when he heard gunshots he dived for cover, thinking they were shooting at him. Very gangland - and considering that he was brought up in Ruislip, that's quite a stretch.
For dinner, he wore his most expensive, most cashmere, most fancy jumper - for him, it was top hat and tails - but the hotel's chichi restaurant required a jacket. We sat down to have a drink while they sought one out. Opposite us, a somewhat pickled women of a certain age was pickling herself all the more. She was thin as a whippet, dressed in shocking pink, and wore a jaunty pink beret bedecked with sequins. Let's just say she looked like she could give it some. Her rather more dignified "Miss Marple" friend sat drinking sherry.
With great pomp and circumstance, a waiter brought over the jacket for my husband to try on. She leapt up with excitement and hurried over to us. "Is that jacket for you?" she asked. "Yes," he replied. "Quite right too. I have been looking at you and your jumper is disgusting. It is revolting. What on earth were you thinking? Terrible taste, so gauche, and very un... [name of hotel]."
We stared at her, stunned. Then, as she pitched and rolled, I couldn't help myself. "That'd be OK if you were dressed like Lauren bloody Bacall, but since you're giving Abba a run for their money, it's a bit rich." She stared at me icily, and said: "And you... you are just ugly." Which is sort of hard to come back from, particularly when I'd just thought re husband's jumper: "Maybe, in vino veritas." I gulped, he smirked and she turned on her heel, tripped over someone's bag and tottered back to her seat. Not much more to be said on that one.
Which is why I find myself here, and watching TV. He can wear his ugly jumper, and I can wear my ugly face and at least there's no one to point it out. Which suits me fine.
Claudia Winkleman is awayReuse content