Illustration: Kelsey Davenport

DESPATCHES FROM THE SCHOOL GATE

Oh, yes, I’m winning at Christmas

Life generally, maybe not so much. But the festive season is the one time of year when the disorganised Liz Dashwood gets her act together

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Please don’t hate me, but – I’m ready for Christmas. It’s the only thing I get right all year.

I do my best with everything, but it’s never enough. We live in perpetual chaos. Lego everywhere, bills paid late, homework done over breakfast (“What the fuck’s a number bond, Thomas?”), piles of laundry everywhere (“Is this stuff clean or dirty?” “Yes”) and a fridge that looks empty, but is actually full of my moral failings. And remember how I sent him back to school a day late after Easter?

But, somehow, I manage Christmas. I think it’s because the very structure of it gives you a year’s head start on the next one, which is the minimum lead time I need to accomplish anything these days.

On Boxing Day, I head to the shops with my sister and start buying next year’s cards, presents and wrapping paper in the sales. Over the next few gloriously work-free days, I pack the stocking, calendar and as many decorations as I can get away with into a big box and park it next to the Christmas tree, awaiting Twelfth Night and the return of baubles to hibernation.

Over the next 11 months, I pick up bits and bobs, including a shedload of generic presents, so I am never caught out, and as soon as October hits, I put an emergency beef Wellington from Iceland in the freezer (as back-up Christmas dinner in case of poultry-based disaster), start stockpiling booze (just prosecco and Baileys. You can never have enough prosecco and Baileys. This is scientific fact) and chocolates, and buying and freezing all the food I can. I order the chicken (turkey is chicken made of sand. Give it up) as soon as anyone anywhere will let me, make a batch of soup and freeze that so I can divest myself of the last shreds of the old year’s guilt by providing a homemade starter on Christmas Day.

Somehow, I manage Christmas. I think it’s because the very structure of it gives you a year’s head start on the next one, which is the minimum lead time I need to accomplish anything these days

Once advent starts, I spend every evening writing cards (in front of the television, because after the six you actually want to send it is a soul-destroying job. This year I’m watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, on the grounds that if she can survive 15 years in the Reverend Wayne Gary Wayne’s bunker, I can find it in me to write cordial messages to racist uncles 1-thru-6, wishing them a happy Brexit) and wrapping gifts. And labelling. Forgot that one year. Ended up surrounded by a sea of utterly unidentifiable presents and had to start all over again. And restock the prosecco swiftly thereafter.

Husband and son dispatched to post all the cards, buy and set up tree, which is then decorated in accordance with the family’s Christmas axiom “More is more”, which means that while we are unlikely to be featured in Homes & Gardens magazine, no one has an aneurysm when the cat decides what we’ve actually provided is a lametta-strewn scratching post and BAUBLE FUNTIMES.

And I’m on schedule. It is the one thing big enough, important enough and regular enough to overcome my customary ineptitude, disorganisation and sloth, and although I’m not smug – because of, you know, the rest of the entire year – I am proud of myself for managing to pull it all together once more. It’s the only piece of advice I can genuinely offer people – break the back of next Christmas this Boxing Day. Because December 25 will come again. And cometh right soon.

@LizDashwood

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Illustration: Kelsey Davenport
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despatches from the school gate
PARENTING HONESTLY
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