Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’
I have a strong dislike of blog posts apologising for not having posted, and promising renewed blogging enthusiasm. “Who,” I think, “do you think you are? Do you think we were all sitting around saying to ourselves, ‘I wonder why so-and-so has stopped writing her wonderful blog posts? Is she having a lot of sex, or has she been kidnapped? Or both? I do wish she’d return and share more of her scintillating insights with us.’”
With a little self-hate, therefore, I will give my excuses. I’ve been sick, horribly, horribly sick. It happened gradually, looking back, I can see the accommodations I made without realising, and as my reserves of energy drained, what I dropped, what I struggled on to do, and what became a roaring dragon of a task nesting in my life.
Blogging was one of the first things to go. It held on a little longer than sex and kink, but eroticism is, as Bataille points out, a supreme waste of energy. Writing is, too.* Driving long distances went a year ago, it gave me headaches that made getting home again was a terrifying and dangerous feat, so I get the train. Dancing, munches and kink events held on until about six months ago. Going out isn’t just tiring, it’s risky—what if I’m hit with extreme tiredness, nausea, a piercing headache, miles from home? So life whittled down and down. I sleep, sometimes I eat, I go to work and get sent home. I stop going to the supermarket, and order, sporadically, online. I don’t cook. I don’t wear pretty clothes, I wear the yoga trousers I no longer yoga in, even to bed, and I sleep eleven hours a night. I don’t read difficult books, and then I don’t read books at all. I sit in bed and watch films without subtitles. I get to level 21 in Skyrim. I develop a terror of my work email account. Now and again I go to work, and call the lover, crying, from the car park, because my head hurts so much I don’t know how to get home.
I’m deficient in B12. I don’t know why. I know injections are making me better. By which I mean, I worked for eleven hours this week, and only spent one day in a darkened room with a hellish headache. And I think I’ve told you the truth about my illness, but the memories are fuzzy. Apparently it’s something to do with lack of oxygen to the brain.
Then, in the middle of it all, came Christmas. When I’m not making enough money to pay the rent, when I’m shivering in my unheated house, and people expect presents. When I feel like throwing up, and life’s about shortbread and sprouts. And for the first time in my life, I was to host Christmas. On 2nd December I called the lover in tears, on a train from Leeds, unable to carry the Christmas decorations my father was going to throw out, if I didn’t give them a home. December days crept by, and lifting the hoover remained beyond me. I started gluing paper chain, it was repetitive, mindless, and hurt my muscles. The lover went away for a long weekend, I kept wandering to the fridge and away again, vaguely aware that I ought to eat, but with no idea how to solve the problem.
After my diagnosis—a very happy day—and my first few injections, I declared that I needed a Christmas tree. I was to be my main Christmas expense. It’s a moist day, mist clouds the windscreen and gathers in beads on the tree branches. There are shrubby trees with long, sprongly tops. There are fat green firs with short spikes, and thin ones that look like they grew up in a crowd, with their arms pinned to their sides. I like the grey-blue trees with long fronds and tiny fir cones. I run from one to another, getting the lover to stand them up so I can see their height and breadth, and check the branches behind. I choose one. I can’t see him behind it.
Do they deliver? Yes. But they don’t say anything more about it, and I’m suddenly so, so tired. The trees are now slightly wavy, slightly out of focus. It’ll fit in the car, they tell me, once it’s gone through the tree-trussing machine. I feel sick. The lover puts the car seats down and I try to put a blanket over the boot, but the tree man doesn’t listen. I don’t have the energy to fight. When the it’s in, I just want to get away. I scrape some tree sap off the mirror and return it to position. I can’t see the lover through the pine needles, but I grope underneath them for the handbrake, and ask him if there’s anyone coming from the left before I pull onto the main road. I drive a good fifty metres before I pull in and ask if we’re anywhere near the curb. I can’t drive home, I tell the tree. Everything’s gone wrong. There’s a rustling.
The lover called his in laws. We treated my dizziness with a kitkat and a coffee at the B&Q café, until they arrived like knights in a shining estate car. They carried the tree inside and lay it on the living room floor. It had grown at least a foot since we put it in the car. We stood around the prone tree and looked at the room: the curtains were closed and the heating was off. I could almost hear them thinking, “You want us to spend Christmas here?”
More people came to the recuse. The lover and his wife spent the evening cleaning, tying the tree to my bookshelves, hovering up its needles, and threatening me with canes when I got off the sofa and tried to join in. By Christmas, they had done my washing up, cleaned my house, done a supermarket shop with the in-laws, cooked a turkey, brought over a table and silver tableware, made hundreds of paper snowflakes, and God knows what else, because they sent me to bed.
Christmas worked. There was food and fizz and Christmas cocktails. The oven broke while we were making Christmas dinner, but that didn’t matter because I got more presents than anyone else. I can’t take responsibility for being a fabulous hostess at Christmas, but I can be amazed by my poly family, and my poly family’s family. They aren’t the type you expect to spend Christmas at their daughter’s husband’s girlfriend’s house. I don’t think they’ve ever been called dangerous free thinkers. I have to remind myself not to call them Mr. and Mrs., because they feel so strongly like schoolfriends’ parents, and not the ones who talked about being 60s radicals and wandered around the house nude. When I needed help with an oversized Christmas tree, they give it. I think that’s amazing.
I don’t know when I’m going to be better, but I do know I have help. For now, though, I have to go, because the lover’s in-laws are coming round to take away my tree. Maybe I’ll post again soon.
*I realise some people write for money, and therefore aren’t wasting their efforts but earning coffee tokens, but these people exist in negligible numbers.
It’s January, and the Christmas decorations have come down,* but I have ten advent calendar chocolates left, so I don’t think it’s too late to talk about Decembery things. Most importantly, about Spankvent, organised by Abel, of the Spanking Writers, which led to a beating for me.
I haven’t done much in the way of kinky play recently, mostly because I’ve had two broken bones. I managed to climb out of bed in November, and since then I’ve been working very hard at convincing myself that I’m healed. I’ve turned up at job interviews, having taken my sling off in the lift, congratulating myself on soldiering through until realising I wasn’t able to write. I’ve begun making candied peel for Christmas presents, understanding too late that I was physically unable to lift the pan. And last week I dragged myself down to London with a wheelie bag of outfits and presents for my friend’s hen party. My friends watched me carry it up and down flights of stairs, making no comment, and when, late that night, on the way to the third cocktail bar, I told one of them that my arm was aching, she said, “oh, why?” If the pain had been slightly less, I think I’d have punched her.
I’m moaning. I know that silence and forbearance would have more dignity. However, the problem is that no one admires forbearance if they don’t know you’re doing it, which provides an impetus to do it badly and get a bit of recognition. Or to go on about it in your blog and hope that some stranger tell you they think you’re doing terribly well, weeks after the fact, I suppose. I’ve been putting my life back together. The lover’s been helping, by fighting sheets and hoovers and property agents. There hasn’t been much time for kink, though, because I’ve been busy, exhausted and in pain. It’s not just that those prevent desire for kink forming, they also provide a perfect breeding ground for grumps. There’s a lot to go wrong in play** and the last thing either of us want is to be up half the night talking about our feelings.
With all that background (moaning) you’ll be able to imagine my reaction to the Lover’s suggestion that we take part in Abel’s twenty-five days of spanking. I wanted kink back in my life. I didn’t want pain and pressure. I said we could do it, as long as we kept it light. Maybe. And as long as we found a time when I wasn’t rushing off to prepare for tutoring, or attempt the washing up. For months we’d been planning an anti-Christmas holiday, a few days in a cottage somewhere remote where I could be hunted across the moors. I’d been a little optimistic about healing times when we picked a date, not only would my broken arm mean the hunting wouldn’t be much fun, but it would have given the Lover an unfair advantage. The holiday got slimmed and squeezed until it was a night away in Haworth. On the tenth, at Number 10, the Coffee House,*** and it was this day that we chose for my advent spanking.
On the way there, we came up with a role play scene which would play into the Victorian atmosphere of our visit. We were nearly swayed when the lover found a shop selling ration cards and carbolic soap, but I convinced him to save that for another time (I also ended up with the soap—my overnight bag stinks!). Late in the evening, after a painful reminder of what it’s like looking for veggie food in the country, I demolished a packet of shortbread from beside the kettle as we finalised the details. We also discussed doing part of the scene—the part that involved speaking not spanking—downstairs in the coffee shop for a bit more authenticity. Reflecting on the CCTV cameras and the fact that we really did like the place and may want to return, we decided against. It would have made for a better story, though.
The coffee parlour, transported back in time, was owned by Mr. Taylor, who’d been on a trip to Manchester or Liverpool—my knowledge of historical coffee shops comes almost entirely from Habermas and French novels, so I’m a little hazy on the details—to source beans. Whenever he went on one of these trips, the housekeeper, Nelly, always made sure the parlour fire was warm and put out a meal before the servants went to bed, in case Mr. Taylor came home late. Since Emily, the newest maid, had started, he’d never got home in time to eat a single one of those meals, and she was often asked to throw them away in the morning, not long before Mr. Taylor would clatter into the yard, talking about late nights or bad weather detaining him overnight in the city.
When Emily woke in the night, cold and shivery, she knew there’d be a nice fire in the parlour. And when she stood there in her nightgown warming herself, and found that she felt slightly peckish, she didn’t think there’d be much harm in nibbling a biscuit, since she was the one who’d be throwing them away in the morning. And when she became curious about how her master’s special cheese and pickle sandwich tasted, she didn’t think there’d be any serious repercussions. It was nasty, anyway.
Emily heard a noise downstairs. She was mindful enough to make it to the kitchen with a tray, but then she was trapped in the basement, far from her room, hearing footsteps cross the parlour and then descend toward the kitchen. She stood in the dark, clutching the tray, until her master found her there, with the crumbs of his biscuits and dismembered sandwich. He was hungry, he was cold, and he’d ridden a long way through the frosty night. He told her she had five minutes to bring him another tray. Unfortunately, looking for the pickles and the biscuits in the dark pantry, it took her fifteen.
When Emily got to her master’s room, he told her to put down the tray. He told her that she had a choice between a punishment, one stroke for every minute she was late, or dismissal without a reference. Seeing her indecision, he threatened to increase her punishment for every minute she kept him waiting, and instructed her again to bend over his bed. He drew her nightdress up, and she tugged it down. He pulled it up again, more firmly, and she blushed at the thought of what he saw. Emily squirmed through five strokes of the strap, and bit her lip through five burning cane strokes, afraid of waking the housekeeper, who wouldn’t go as far as to give her options.
I imagine that Mr. Taylor then went on to eat his sandwich, but we stopped the scene there. I do know, however, that Emily was so humiliated by the experience that she left Mr. Taylor’s service, and indeed the village. I’ve some photographs of her walking through the heather and the misty rain on the moors, setting out to seek her fortune.
We left, too, the next day. I think we were quiet enough, based on the fact that the family sleeping upstairs were very friendly as they served breakfast. And my kink? I’m working on it. I’d like more of it in my life. Based on December’s experiences, all I need is a few people to take me on holidays to picturesque villages. Tops in rural locations, apply within.
*Christmas decorations in general, not mine. Decorating my flat would have been dismal and depressing, and most Christmassy colours would have clashed with my walls.
**Emotionally, not physically. And just in case anyone was wondering, “were you doing something kinky?” is not an appropriate response to, “I have a broken collar bone.” I’ve yet to meet a kinkster into broken bones. Presumably some vanillas are. Vanillas are weird.
***Ten, The Coffee House was a fabulous place to stay. The room was lovely, the bath was half-Jacuzzi, and when we sent down for coffee they discussed beans and put the most delicious biscotti I’ve ever had on the tray. Every time the Lover called about availability or booking the owner was baking. There were raspberries in the fruit salad at breakfast. That’s my kind of place.
This year I’ve decided to opt out of Christmas with family, but I don’t get out of buying presents or receiving them. I find the two equally dispiriting. It’s not that there isn’t anything I want, on the contrary, when your income exceeds your rent by only £20 a week, it’s easy to come up with a long list very quickly. This is what I thought of in the shower this morning: an electric blanket, Microsoft Word, an apple corer, woolly Wolford hold ups, a gymslip, a pair of winter boots, a warm winter dress, books about Bluebeard and books from Persephone press, a yarn swift, a haircut, fabric for new living room curtains, silk for French knickers and fur for stoles, a winter coat and five new sets of lingerie. If you’re looking for a theme, it’s cold. No one has seen my list, dear readers, except you, and much as you light up my life, I don’t think we’re at the stage where we exchange presents.
I will get presents, and I won’t be able to help mourning each unwanted gift. Last year my father spent forty pounds on a wooden box of tea bags for me. His girlfriend’s packages contained more tea bags (in cardboard boxes), film-themed bread mix and jewellery of purest green. Each expensive item seems like a gigantic missed opportunity to make a significant difference to my life. Yes, I know I’m being ungrateful and that a well brought up young lady would be happy to have been remembered at all, but every time a guest picks a teabag from the chest (such special teabags can’t be frittered on everyday consumption, after all), I’m reminded of the chasm of misunderstanding between my father and me, and wish at least for the lesser warmth of an electric blanket.
It goes both ways, of course, as friends and family open their presents from me this Christmas they’ll be wondering where in the house they can store them until enough time has elapsed for it to be acceptable to throw them out. In my family no points are given for effort: the year I learned that my father’s girlfriend needed new gloves and suggested knitting some, I was told in no uncertain terms that she wanted the branded ones with science woven into the fabric. The year before, when I spent all day making a gingerbread house to present to my hosts on Christmas Eve, it ended up in their bin by New Year. Since they’ve already moved from bemusement to derision of my making things, I don’t want to see what comes next. Fortunately, my friends are a little more forgiving, so I think they’re likely to be polite about my efforts, even if they don’t exactly understand why I thought they needed a jar of lemon curd for Christmas.
A lot of people tell me that Christmas is about materialism. Reading my list, and guiltily considering my ungratefulness about unwanted presents, I feel that’s true. I want of those things, not as an idle fancy, but in many cases a daily wish. That, however, is to overlook the way I’m touched when a friend buys me something I didn’t even know I wanted, because they know me better than I know myself. One friend still chides me for looking so downhearted as I thanked her for a grater which turned out to be one of the most useful items in my kitchen. I only wish I could pull of such a feat myself; I’m a rotten present-buyer.
To make it worse, the people I most need to buy for this year are the ones I hardly know. They’re the people who did my shopping, cooked me meals, cleaned my kitchen and told me repeatedly to get back into bed after I broke my collar bone. One of them was a friend’s boyfriend, a man I haven’t met before or since. And the lover, of course—how do you reconcile a low income with expressing appreciation to the person who slept on your floor and fed you painkillers when you weren’t even able to wash yourself? What present would ever manage that?
So, dearest readers, since I suspect we’re all spending the month going over and over the same dilemmas, I’m asking if you’ve come to any better conclusions than I have. Do I gaily distribute jars of lemon curd around my acquaintance, or aim to divine their true desires, as I wish others would do with me? Is it reasonable to aim for a fuller opt-out from Christmas, perhaps by moving to a hermitage by next year? Or do I need to find inner peace and come to terms with the colossal wastage of money and effort that present giving entails? Ideas on the back of a Christmas card. Meanwhile, I’ll be making curd, and adding ‘heat proof bowl’ to my secret Christmas wish list.
I was browsing in a bookshop in Belfast, once, when I noticed a blonde woman in an intimidating suit walking around the store with a shop assistant in tow. She went from display to display quizzing him about how the set up, and it became clear that she had come from head office to standardise the shop’s marketing. They worked their way around the tables near me:
“What’s this one?” she snapped.
“And this one?”
The man slouched, put his hands in his pockets and then mumbled, “Books I think my ex-girlfriend should’ve read.” The woman looked horrified.
I imagine that the assistant and I would share an approach to Christmas shopping. It isn’t so much a case of what you think people might like, as what they ought to have in their lives: The text that will influence their thinking, the novel set in a world you’re sure they would love to inhabit. If that’s difficult to determine, and you’re cohabiting, a book which will influence your own thinking is a viable alternative. Do consider the possibility of break-ups if it is a romantic relationship, though. There’s a lovely dictionary out there, and a hardback book of fairy tales, both of which I suspect are unused and neither of which I felt I could take when I left.*
Choosing becomes difficult with people whose tastes you don’t know, but in this circumstance something with wide appeal, or, more properly, something you think everyone should read, is a good choice. And the receipt. If they really wanted a book on building model aeroplanes the shop will probably give them one. The impossible challenge, I have discovered, is buying a gift for someone who doesn’t read. Not someone who can’t read, as in the case of the blind grandmother for whom I’ve purchased many audio books, but someone who has the ability to read and chooses not to. This is the case with my father’s girlfriend. I just don’t know what to do.
My father’s girlfriend is a lovely woman. She’s successful, tall (I approve strongly of tall women) and glamorous. She also used to read her science textbooks during English class. From this I can infer that she likes science text books, but I don’t think she needs any more of those. She doesn’t need much of anything, and I have yet to fathom what she wants.
Before the first Christmas I spent at her house, I rang my father and asked if he had any suggestions for what I could get her. A book, perhaps? No, he said, he had the perfect answer. He was buying her an amplifier and speakers. Why didn’t I purchase the wires to connect them? “No,” I tutted at his masculine ineptitude, “you can’t get someone wires for Christmas!” He had no further suggestions, so I chose and wrapped a bottle of perfume. On Christmas day I received a hi-fi from my father, and some prettily packaged wires from his girlfriend.
It’s been no better since. I’ve given her garishly coloured pashminas and she’s bestowed costume jewellery upon me. Last year I received a box of Wallace and Gromit themed bread mix (I put it in the cupboard with the twenty or so bread flours I already possessed) and Harvey Nichols fruit tea bags. I took her an architecturally unstable gingerbread house which was binned after a few days of dereliction, due to staleness.
What do you buy the woman who doesn’t read? There must be an answer. If you know it, save me, please, from giving the soulless gift of candles or bath bubbles. One of us has to change, or soon we’ll spiral down as far as socks. I can see them marching towards me, with a sense of impending doom.
*I’m not bitter, though, I think I make a net gain on books in most relationships. My last boyfriend packed a 1901 edition of ‘Psychopathia Sexualis’ in with my things. Perhaps he was trying to make a statement, but I’m rather pleased.
Christmas is over and the presents are in. I received some very thoughtful gifts from those who know me well, and some rather odd gifts from those who don’t. The oddest may be the handful of mismatched cutlery one friend kindly presented me with (her mother was going to throw it out and she objected to eating lasagne with chopsticks last time she visited) but it was certainly not the least considered. I have boxes of chocolates in flavours I hate, lip gloss in a shade I would never consider and, most strangely, a box of Wallace and Gromit themed bread mix. So, for future reference, here is a list of things I actually want. Those who have acted abominably towards me recently could do worse than sending one of these as an apologetic gift.
‘Winter Blooms’ by Kim Hargreaves, a book of beautiful knitting patterns.
Very nice knitting needles in 4mm. I hear rosewood is a rather good material.
Earthenware soup bowls, to withstand temperatures of up to 240 degrees.
‘The Victorian Chaise-Lounge’ by Marghanita Laski, which is available in a lovely edition by Persephone Books.
‘Hard core: the power and the frenzy of the visible’ by Linda Williams, because I like porn.
‘The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood: Versions of the Tale in Sociocultural Context’ by Jack Zipes, because I like fairytales mixed in with my porn.
‘Burlesque and the Art of the Teese / Fetish and the Art of the Teese’ by Dita von Teese, see above remark about porn.
Gosh, that turned out to be a rather feminine list, didn’t it? Should I ask for a power drill, too?