AIDA AUSTIN: ”Christmas isn’t boring. Boredom is a luxury”

AT HOME, 8pm, and I am sitting by the fire when the land-line rings.

“Hey,” my sister says. “Gessi,” I say, throwing a dart in the dark, since all my sisters sound identical on the phone.

“Nope,” she says, “it’s the lesbian one from London. I’m still at work. Cheer me up. Tell me you’re not sitting all cosy by the fire.”

“I’m not sitting all cosy by the fire.” “Thank you. How are you?” “I was just thinking about Christmas.” “What about it?” “I’m thinking how… predictable it all is.” “But you’ve always loved Christmas,” she says, “how come all of a sudden it’s boring?”

“I didn’t say boring,” I explain with some forbearance. “Christmas isn’t boring. Boredom is a luxury; in order to be bored, you have to be relaxed and in order to be relaxed, you need to have little to do, and at Christmas …”

“So what are you saying then?” “I’m saying predictable. Christmas is about traditions and traditions are predictable. Barring major catastrophe, I’m able to predict with 100% accuracy what I’ll be doing this Christmas, when I’ll be doing it and how I will feel when I do it. I can prove it. Test me.”

“Test you?” “Ask me how I’m going to feel this Christmas, at any given point. Pick a time and date. Go on.”

“Okay,” she says, in patient social-worker voice, “how are you going to feel at… oh I dunno… 5.30pm on December 29?”

“Guilty, for wanting to take the Christmas tree down.”

“So you should. That’s way too early to…” “I know, but there it is.” “Ok, how about… December 20 at 3.30pm?” “Easy. I’ll be in Debenhams, feeling like there’s a nostalgic, Christmas-shaped hole inside me and wishing I could fill it up with starlight and snow, instead of things like standing in Debenhams, buying knickers for stocking- fillers.”

“Speaking as a lesbian with no children, what about your children?”

“What about them?” “They’re all back home this Christmas, aren’t they? I mean, won’t they fill up your Christmas-shaped hole?”

“Oh yes. Filling up their Christmas-shaped holes with knickers from Debenhams takes up a lot of space in my nostalgic Christmas-shaped hole.”

“You don’t sound yourself. You sound a bit… bleak.”

“I’m not feeling bleak. I’m feeling very cheerful. I like this game. Ask me another one.”

“Okay. December 25, 10.30am.” “Deeply, deeply happy. All the kids will be opening their stockings upstairs on our bed, and I’ll be thinking, ‘it doesn’t matter that they’re in their twenties and much too old for stockings when happiness feels this good’.”

“Aah, that’s nice… Christmas day, 2pm.” “Vicious.” “Why?” “I’ll be hating my oven because it hasn’t got enough shelves in it.”

“December 24 at 9pm?” “Making thyme and lemon stuffing and thinking that Christmas is just like Jenga.”

“Jenga?”

“Yes, you know — the game with the little wooden building blocks that you build into a tower, and then you take the blocks out one by one… but the whole tower can fall down if you take out the crucial one…

“Yes,” she says briskly, “I know Jenga.” “Well, lemon stuffing is just one of those little wooden building blocks and you wouldn’t think it, but if you take it out, then…”

What about December 30, 6pm?” “Doing battle with myself for being the kind of person who wants to see New Year in asleep.”

“I’m getting bored of this game,” my sister says.

“Me too.” “But I see what you mean by predictable.” “Yup. Anyway, what are you doing this Christmas?”

Actually, I won’t be here for Christmas. In fact, ask me how I’m going to feel on December 22.”

“Ok. How are you going to feel on December 22?”

“Ecstatic. “I’m going to India for three weeks.”


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