7 January 2011

Twelfth night

Do y'know? I am a complete softie.

I am also just a tiny bit superstitious. Superstitious enough to not walk under a ladder - because it feels quite unnatural to do so. I love it when I see two magpies, and chirp up with, 'one for sorrow, two for joy...' as I whoop and salute them on their way. I've pretty much outgrown hopping the gaps in the pavement by the side of the road - but I do tend to sing  'If you step on the gaps, then you'll fall and break your back!' in my head a few times after I accidentally tread on one.

There's also the one (I don't think this is a superstition, more me trying to get my little brother to pass out on road trips when we were young) where you hold your breath as you went through a tunnel, and you're not allowed to exhale until you reach the light at the other end. Thinking about it, I don't think it was unlucky if you exhaled, more than it was seriously cool to see our heads turn a bit purple. I do have a black cat who walks across my path - in fact, she pads across my path and under my feet quite a lot of the time, in and around the house. I can never quite remember if this is supposed to be lucky or not. Well, when you're heading for the bathroom, wandering down the hall in the middle of the night, it's certainly doesn't feel lucky, for me or the cat, I can tell you that for sure.

Wednesday evening was the time when all that was lovely about Christmas; the Christmas tree, the cards, the tinsel and fairy lights had to come down. Oh yes. I was most upset. Not more than L, however, who tried to persuade me that twelfth night was actually next Wednesday, all so he could have our Christmas tree up for his birthday weekend.

I got a £3.99 bottle of white wine on my way home from work Wednesday afternoon, thinking we could drown our Christmas sorrows, because the most beautiful corner of our living room would once again return to being completely bare and ordinary. This was my first mistake of the evening. Two glasses (maybe three if I was completely honest) later, L had put the film Che on, and I, who hadn't realised the whole two hour film was in Spanish (and so subtitled, requiring extreme concentration), had given up and fallen fast asleep, curled up on the sofa at 8:30pm in the evening - glasses all squiffy.

I woke up with an enormous indentation down the left side of my face and my eyes sort of stuck together. As usual it took me a while to realise I hadn't gone blind, but the arm of my glasses was resting on my nose, and I was looking through the left lens with my right eye - making everything in the living room look ridiculously tiny.  I adjusted my glasses and reached for my phone to check the time. Was it time to get up? The cat had been asleep, balancing precariously on my shoulder and upper arm whilst I lay sleeping on my side. I've got skinny little arms, so it couldn't have been easy. She always does this, and she's really heavy. My guess is, she feels an air of superiority at the chance to sit on me and simultaneously be taller than I am. I had sat up suddenly in my panic, causing her to fly off the sofa and stalk around the coffee table looking cross.

The first thing my puffy eyes could focus on, once the crunchy mascara had been rubbed off enough for me to open them, was the tree all lit up in the corner. Oh no. The bloody tree. All smug with it's mirrored baubles still whirring like little disco balls, shining tiny lights all around the room. Fairy light reflections. My phone lit up automatically, as if to rub it in that it really was 00:23 on Thursday 6th January.
And because, like I told you, I am only a tiny bit suspicious, I walked over to the socket in that corner of the room, flicked the switch to OFF, and all the fairy lights went pft. Turning my back on my not-so-smug-now Christmas tree, I pootled into the bedroom to get ready for bed.

I have to walk down what feels like the longest ever road on my walk to my tube in the morning. This morning was particularly bad as the rain splashed against the pavement, in my shoes and across my cheeks. I tried to tuck my long hair into my scarf, so it didn't go all frizzy at the ends. It's mornings like these, when the wind rips right through you, that I always decide to opt for the warmth rather than the fashion. First I slip on my smart pencil skirt, and my silky blue top. The clothes that say 'Yep. I'm a receptionist. I'm here to look good, and I work in Mayfair, don't you know...?'  Then, (because that is so not who I am normally) I throw on two grey hoodies, first my little one, then L's massive one. I slip on my converse, over 30 dernier silky black tights, and pop on my beanie hat, covering beautifully blow-dried hair. I grab my old leather jacket, because even though the zip has broken, it's waterproof, warm and me. Basically, I look a bit odd, and with my hoodie over my beanie - probably a little like a thug. But a warm thug, at that.

I paced it up Replington Road. I passed rows and rows of terraced Victorian houses with different coloured doors; some with the paint flecked off, some with the number sprayed casually on the wall. One or two of the houses had window boxes. It was 7:30am, and I passed the whistling street cleaner with his luminous jacket and wooden broom, who nodded my way then quickly looked away, just the same as he did everyday. It was still quite dark and the cars had their headlights on. I pulled my leather jacket around me, holding it tight together.

I was dodging puddles, hopping from one foot to the next, simultaneously avoiding the odd gap in the pavement - which was actually proving to be quite a difficult feat - when I came across the first one.

Lying unloved to the side of the pavement, partly in the road, it looked so sad and bare. Pine needles scattered the street around where it lay. The softer part of me wanted to pick it up, all dripping wet and soggy and take it home to stand next to mine. This little one had clearly seen better days. I looked just a few metres up the street, and saw the next one, and the next. One after the other of balding Christmas trees propped up against each other, stripped of their glory and slumped against dustbins ready for someone to come and take them away.

I felt like a nutter. There was I, on a quiet street, in the pissing rain feeling guilty for just having stared at a naked Christmas tree and walked on by. Right now, turning my Christmas Tree's lights off last night, didn't seem too mean after all. I was hugely relieved I'd opted for the plastic tree from Asda, and not chosen the authentic, chubby, pine-dropping, Christmassy smelling, beautiful tree, that now lay here in the gutter. I don't think I could have put it outside and left. Lucky, or unlucky, it wasn't Christmas anymore. It was time for my tree to go back in it's box.

Not wanting to miss my train, with relief my thoughts occupied themselves with the prospect of catching the 7:52 train to Earls Court. The one where I might just get a seat, and not have to stand squashed up to strangers. I'd pick up a paper at the station.  I don't think there's time to buy a coffee. I didn't want to miss it.


  1. I'm glad it's not just me that feels sad for the Christmas trees left out for the rubbish. My brother committed the ultimate sin this year of having a real tree - so not only did his gorgeously realistic synthetic tree not escape its box this Christmas, but he finally stripped and discarded his real tree a few days ago.

    I've got an image of his fake tree sitting in its box sighing over how unfair it all is.

  2. I don't know if I'd sound crazy but I actually felt bad for those they'd really be feeling bad about being abandoned at the end of the Holiday season....

  3. Love the imagery in this - you layered up in the middle of the rain swept street mourning these poor dead trees. Beautiful.

    Love cats too but that's just me.

  4. Haven't taken mine roadside yet. I don't know if I can after reading this!

  5. Beautiful. I love the flow of this story it's perfect.

    Like Cat (no Cat, you're not crazy) I felt bad for those trees. If there's any consolation for you - I've heard that some man in UK is pick up Christmas trees from the streets and makes furniture from them.

  6. Beautiful story, I feel a little less nutty now knowing someone else also feel this way about Christmas trees. :)

  7. Thank you for this beautiful story. Holidays bring such interesting passages into our life routines. They evoke transparent and fragile feelings that would never take place in our daily life.

  8. That's a lovely bit of writing. You get better each time. Thank you.

  9. light208 - Aww. Your mean brother! When I finally did take my fake tree down, I made sure I put the lights in the box with him, so he didn't get lonely. Now, really, that is silly.

    caterpillar - Absolutely! No. Definately not crazy. Just have a big heart, that's all.

    Bag Lady - Thank you! And me too - cats are brilliant.

    Jayne - Did you manage to take yours out? Maybe you could stick him in a pot, and see if he'll grow? My Mum always tried to buy trees with roots...One for next year maybe!

    Starlight - Ooh. That is a feel-good consolation! Yes. I feel better now! Thank you!

    Shopgirl - Thank you! (We are all nutty really.)

    Olga - Oh, definately. I'm slightly relieved to be in January - let normality ensue! Thank you.

    Philip - How lovely of you to say. Thank you. :)

  10. Very well told. :-) I'll be back.


  11. I am not the only person who feels sorry for inanimate objects? Good to know.

  12. Bth, Stylish Blogger...who? You, of course..,I have passed on the Stylish Blogger award to you...Congrats... :)