Excitement – and tension – about Christmas are mounting in equal measure at Dixon Mansions.
With less than two weeks to go, little has been done in the way of preparation by yours truly, who has instead hidden under a cushion and watched through a half-closed eye as Nativity play costumes are sewn, card lists are written and lost, and teddy bear grottos are artfully contrived out of last year’s tinsel.
No, your columnist’s only contribution so far has been the traditional task of Untangling The Outdoor Lights, a task he thought he had made simple for himself when he put them away so carefully and tidily last Twelfth Night.
Infuriatingly though, while we were away in August a gang of mice had a five-day rave in the loft and tangled them all up, and it’s taken several hours of choice cursing to straighten them out again.
Special mention at this point must go to the cat, who had a good stab at turning herself into an endangered species during the untangling procedure, and now knows more rude words than a sailor on shore leave.
These lights aren’t your ordinary Christmas tree jobs, either, though the bulbs are the same size.
There are eight strands (or at least there were until muggins here cut through one of them last year – now we’re down to seven) and each stretches some 40 feet: long enough to reach out of the back window and across the rolling acres that extend behind the mansion, with cable to spare to wrap several times around the mighty shrubs that proudly wave their heads at the bottom.
Ho, ho, ho, all very festive. Or at least it would be if half the bulbs hadn’t failed since last Christmas – presumably while the mice were having that party.
All of which presents us with something of a dilemma: do we attempt to track down 47 replacement bulbs (the distinct noise of teeth-sucking from electrical suppliers across the city persuades us not) or do we chuck the lot and start again?
Never mind: Christmas is a time of music and song, too, although the tunes – and the lyrics – have been changed.
In the Good Old Days we were quite happy with a slightly off-colour version of We Three Kings of Leicester Square.
Sadly, the modern child is a bit too cool for such traditional pleasures, although it will still laugh raucously for a good half-an-hour at the bit about knicker elastic.
No, these days nothing short of a smutty reworking of the entire “Give a Garmin” TV and radio advert will suffice for our lot’s musical fun.
Once you’ve heard it three or four times, you’ll know exactly what to do if somebody gives you one on December 25.
And if you need a clue, it doesn’t have anything to do with GPS.
Questions abound, and it is right that they should, for Christmas is a time of magic and mystery as well as music.
“Father, father,” cry the children (we insist on formality even at this festive time of year). “How will Santa get down the chimney with the gas fire blocking up the hearth?”
Don’t worry, little ones, we’ll leave a window open: who cares if we spend half our energy budget heating the sky?
“How will Dancer, Prancer, Mincer and all the other reindeer guide his sleigh round the skip in Weston Lane?”
Much more difficult – answers on a postcard, please.
“Why are there so many bottles in the recycling box?”
Because Mummy and Daddy have been doing lots and lots of washing up, OK?
“Who’s Uncle Roderick?”
Damn, damn, damn. He’s the rich one we forgot to send a card to and the last posting date for the Cayman Islands was the middle of November. Bang goes your inheritance, my darlings.
“And are we really getting those iPhones you told the nice readers about last week?”
Probably not, as it happens: last week’s column was a mere tissue of fantasy.
But it’s hard explaining that sort of thing to kids.
This column was first published in The Bath Chronicle on December 13 2007. Copyright Bath News & Media 2007.