I had a girly night in last night – David was out at the cricket club’s Christmas do with Matthew and Saskia had planned a Council of War at my house: she’s got her eye on a handsome new buyer at work and she’s planning to get her claws into him at their Christmas party on Friday. Charlie came along to offer advice and exclusive use of her make-up kit. Lydia came along for the ride because she was on “taxi” duty for the party goers. I’d had a busy and productive afternoon sorting out the Cupboard at the Top of the Stairs which houses all of the junk that “will come in useful one day”. I counted fifteen photo frames, five Bibles and a complete set of “How to Play the Piano” circa 1972. And I threw away a couple of battered silver platters and a bag of dusty balls of wool.
By half past six we were all munching our way through Pizza Hut’s finest (my detox seems a long time ago now) when Mac came home from tea at friend Alex’s with his serious face on. “Mummy” said my tiny serious boy. “Alex’s mummy said that not everybody is lucky enough to get presents because Santa can’t afford to buy them for everyone”
“And, Alex’s mummy says that not everyone lives in a nice house with a fire and lots of food, some people live in boxes under railway bridges”. His bottom lip started trembling and I wanted to go outside to see if Joy was still revving up her Citroen 2CV so I could bash her brains out. I’m all for a social conscious but the boy is not yet four and still makes himself sick with excitement on Christmas Eve. “Is that true mummy? Do people live in boxes?”
Saskia snorted with laughter at this and he shot her A Look. I explained that yes, not everyone lives in a nice house or flat and has food and warmth and everything else that we all take for granted and that some people have to rely on the good will of others just to get through their day. Saskia’s snorts were getting louder. “Oh come on, what about that bloke! The one who assaults you and demands cash as you leave London Bridge station! I saw him once getting out of a BMW on Tower Bridge Road dressed in all manner of designer gear!”
Mac shot his godmother another Look and turned back to me, bottom lip still quivering. “Alex’s mummy said that there are lots of people in places that don’t even have Christmas because they’re poor. Mummy, that’s very sad isn’t it?” I was silently cursing Alex’s mummy. “Is this the happy clappy hippy that looks as if she’s tie-dyed her face?” Charlie asked as she covered Saskia’s cleavage in glitter.
Despite Mac’s claims that he “can’t live without that mummy”, the vast majority of the presents that he asked Santa for have gone by the wayside. He’s getting a bike and one or two other “main” presents, he’s not a spoilt brat by any stretch of the imagination but I could tell that he was struggling with himself. And possibly losing. “Mummy, I’m going to ask Santa to give all of my presents to the people who don’t have Christmas” he announced, his little chin set at a determined angle as he plonked himself down by the Christmas tree.
Logistically, this is a nightmare and, however proud I am of my little cherub for giving up his Christmas presents so happily, I didn’t relish explaining to everyone that they’ve got to now send their thoughtfully chosen gift via airmail somewhere. Anywhere. Lydia took control of the situation but somehow made it worse. “Nobody wants to take your Christmas away honey, even those who don’t have their own. Rather than send them one of your presents, why don’t you send them one of their own?” she said as she fiddled with a jar of olives.
“How would we do that?” Mac asked, eyes huge as he gazed across the room at Lydia. “Well, there are websites that you can, you know, buy, erm, stuff for villages and places like that and, oh, they’re all doing it at work. Malcolm bought a couple of mosquito nets for Uganda.” Like the rest of us, Lydia was beginning to wish she hadn’t started this. “Can I buy something for Ganda?” Mac asked.
Suffice to say, five minutes later we were all squashed around the computer and flicking through this. Mac was quite disappointed that there were no sheep for sale (as he put it) but settled on a goat. He also wanted to buy the vet care kit so that “if the goat isn’t well they can make him better”. I explained that we couldn’t guarantee that both the goat and the kit would end up in the same place which provoked another avalanche of questions. “How will we wrap him mummy?” he said as I entered my credit card details. “And how will he get there?”
Once we’d dissuaded him of neatly wrapped goats dropping into the Ugandan equivalent of the Post Office he was off on another trail “How will they know the goat’s from me, Lydiar?” he queried, having asked me to print off the picture of the goat and named him Alfred. “Well, they won’t really but you’ll know that you bought them a goat and that the goat is helping them” Lydia continued as the printer chugged out the picture. “So they won’t know that the goat is from me and my mummy paid for him and his name is Alfred?” he went on, peering at Lydia suspiciously. “Well, no, but that’s not the point. You’ve bought someone who doesn’t usually have Christmas a Christmas present. Just like you wanted to.” Lydia added, wrenching open the jar of olives in triumph.
Fortunately for her, Charlie distracted him by whisking him upstairs to the Cupboard On Top of The Stairs to find a nice frame to put Alfred in. “Never mind”, I told Lydia cheerfully as she threw olive after olive down her neck, “Alex’s mum would be proud of you”.