I'm normally a stickler for not getting into the festive swing of things until I'm drunk on Christmas Eve and on the cusp of crying at practically anything. By then I'm usually surrounded by people I was at school with, and my London tough girl act has slipped as much as my make-up. "Whaddayou mean you'll buy me a drink?" I blub at faces I dimly recall laughing at me as I fruitlessly tried to whack a rounders ball back to them 10 years ago. "Whaddayou mean a bottle of wine is only four pounds?" I wail. "Let me buy you one!" And so on.
But this year, I'm well into the Christmas spirit already, thanks to a romantic weekend spent shivering in empty pubs that were playing Christmas songs back to back. Braving the elements, my boyfriend and I spent a weekend away in the picturesque town of Rye, East Sussex. "What snow?" we hubristically laughed at the sorry piles of receding slush in Kentish Town as we set off. "Oh, that snow," we demurred, nodding sagely at mounds of the stuff covering fields, hills, trees and, more importantly, trainlines outside of the capital.
The final stage of our journey was in a taxi so cold it began freezing from the inside, topped off with a slippery thud down the icy high street, my executive wheelie case skittering coyly to a halt outside our chichi hotel.
By the next day the snow had all gone, disappeared by the rain like a red-wine stain soaked with white wine. But the spirit was still there, and a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator was in town to switch on the Christmas lights.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" cried the town crier to the gathered masses. And, in possible contravention of the trade descriptions act: "Please welcome Captain Johnny Depp!" After two false starts, the lights sputtered into action to a round of applause and wet, choked sobs from the baby in front of us.
"Lucy wouldn't even go out to see the lights," one mother confided in me as we queued for mulled wine later on. "She got terribly anxious about that Johnny Depp man. She said he smelt of alcohol." I shrugged in what I hoped was an 'Oh, those naughty pirates' sort of way. "Just wait till Lucy's 18," I said, with what I thought was a rakish wink. The mother looked horrified and moved away. "Whaddayou mean a mulled wine is four pounds?" I snarled at the barman.
It seems my (Christmas) spirit is more akin to the one in Poltergeist than It's a Wonderful Life. So I've resolved not to try to make merry with strangers again, just to stick to tradition and bawl at people I used to know instead.