I’m starting out this week with a little Christmas humour, for no reason other than that I need it myself. When four of Santa’s elves got sick, and the trainee elves did not produce the toys as fast as the regular ones, Santa was beginning to feel the pressure of being behind schedule. Then Mrs. Claus told Santa that her Mother was coming to visit and this stressed Santa even more. When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two had jumped the fence and were missing. More stress. He started to load the sleigh and one of the boards cracked, a toy bag fell to the ground and scattered the toys everywhere. Feeling very frustrated, Santa went into the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered that the elves had hidden the drink. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the glass in his hand and it broke into hundreds of little pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found that mice had eaten the straw end of it. Just then the doorbell rang, and a very irritable Santa trudged to the door. He opened the door and there was a little angel with a great big Christmas tree. The angel said, very cheerfully, “Merry Christmas, Santa. Isn’t it a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to put it?” And so began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree!

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! Stress levels are rising, time is running out rapidly and the ‘to do’ list is growing longer by the minute, punctuated by phone calls and invitations to various gatherings promising Christmas Cheer. Something has gone horribly wrong, I was going to be fully organised this year. We were going to have a TV life for December. What I mean by that is a clean and tidy house with tasteful Christmas decorations like the ads on television, a fridge full of festive treats and tasty nibbles, evenings spent lounging by the fire in ironed pyjamas with the presents all wrapped in coordinating paper under the Christmas tree. A fully ironed wardrobe of clothes was planned so that a late invitation could be fulfilled in an instant. In my head it was going to be great, a celebration of my Superwoman status. I can hold down a fulltime job, have a beautiful home, be a wonderful daughter, aunt, niece, grand daughter, choose perfect gifts, keep a tidy car and remain perfectly groomed, calm and immaculate throughout!

As a child and pet-less grown woman the pressure is even greater. I don’t have the excuse of having to look after one, never mind several children. I have no dog or cat that ‘needs his shots at the vet’ or his ‘winter coat groomed at the dog parlour’. At least two weeks ago I felt physically ill as I read some footballer’s wife’s comments in a Sunday paper claiming, ‘I don’t want to make everyone feel bad, but I have all the presents bought, wrapped and ready to go – no stress for me this festive season’. Well you did make me feel bad. Smugness is so unattractive, particularly when it is coming from someone who probably lives in an all white house, drives a sports car and looks gorgeous to boot!

Meanwhile back at my house the scene is slightly less serene. There are no Christmas decorations yet because there hasn’t been time to put them up. The other reason is that I’m a little bit of a perfectionist and there is no way that the decorations are being pulled out and erected unless the room has had its annual winter spring clean. I have bought quite a few of the presents but instead of being beautifully wrapped and bowed they are still in the various bags and are accumulating nicely behind one of the dining room chairs in front of a cabinet. As the pile is growing ominously it is difficult to get to the cabinet and even more difficult to sit on the nearest dining room chair. Of course the glasses that should have been put back in the obstructed cabinet are now gathering on the table. I have attempted to wrap some presents but I had forgotten how long it takes to actually do it (the perfectionist in me again, I’m afraid). Out came the wrapping paper, the scissors, the sellotape, the fancy ribbons (it’s a major operation) and I got through six parcels when I had to stop. I couldn’t find the gift tags that I am sure I have bought so I had to substitute post it notes for the time being until I can remedy that situation. There was no point in putting the wrapping stuff away as I’ll need it again, so now that has gathered with the glasses on the table alongside the pile of Christmas cards waiting to be written. We now have several piles of presents on the floor by the cabinet – wrapped, un-wrapped and the ‘who the hell did I buy that for again!?’ pile. The room is gradually being taken over. My partner jokes every now and then, “what about that child in outer Mongolia, what did you get him?” This is his supposed humourous attempt to say I buy too many presents.

As for the ridiculously romantic notion of my groomed self lounging in cream silk pyjamas with pedicured feet, tumbling curls and a glass of wine? Well that has been replaced with the reality of bleach stained yoga pants, a clean but scruffy t-shirt, and little bits of sellotape in my hair as I try once more to get through this wrapping nightmare. Maybe I should just add the glass of wine or seven anyway!

The laundry is mounting in the basket – wasn’t that meant to be empty? The ironing is tumbling out of the hall closet – surely that was all done and put away? And the fridge boasts butter, milk, half a bag of grated cheese, and some out of date pate. So much for the gourmet festive treats and Nigella inspired home cooked fancies!

I realise I have two choices. I can continue to be harassed by my own inadequacies and feel immensely stressed and useless or I can embrace the Christmas merry-go-round. I could erect the tree anyway, (who cares if there’s dust behind it), and does it really matter if the baubles and garlands don’t match the room décor? Of course it doesn’t. I may have broken my resolution to be organised but I can still keep the one about being stress free. Christmas will come and go whether I enjoy it or not and I finally realise the choice is entirely mine. Now where in God’s name did I put those gift tags?