Many people hang festive foil-wrapped chocolate shapes off their Christmas tree, but this year I will be hanging sachets of Lemsip from mine...
Actually I won’t, because I wouldn’t want Freddie to get hold of them... But I do need to be more realistic when preparing for Christmas this year, which means embracing the fact that I will most likely be ill.
When Freddie was born just before Christmas eight years ago, the staff on the paediatric ward, where he spent three weeks after he ‘graduated’ the neonatal department, told us that we’d be getting to know them very well, that we’d be back every winter, as children with Down’s Syndrome are so much more susceptible to chest infections.
Touch wood, fingers crossed (and eyes, legs and toes), we haven’t been back since. Freddie’s stayed relatively healthy.
I’ve gone from having the constitution of an ox -- even when big brother and sister were little and bringing home all kinds of very lively germs from school, I never succumbed – to having the constitution of an oxo; I crumble at the slightest pressure on my immune system.
The last two Christmas Days have seen me prostrated by something obnoxiously flu-like, but even that is preferable to the Norovirus I had the year before.
Freddie’s arrival coincided with the advent of my fifth decade. Perhaps I’m just getting old.
So, how will I embrace being ill, especially when it’s me that everyone looks to, to make the magic happen (I don’t know why we talk about Father Christmas when everyone knows that without mother, there would be no Christmas)?
For a start, instead of planning for all the festive activities we will attend, and all the yummy food I will prepare, I will plan instead for all the activities we will NOT do, and all the food I WON’T feel up to preparing.
I will not actually festoon the tree with Lemsip sachets, but I am considering hanging little mini packs of tissues from it with bits of festive ribbon.
In my day there was only one kind – Disinfectant Flavour, but now they do several others, too (Bubble-bath, Drain Cleaner, and Embalming Fluid Flavours).
Actually, I may settle for stocking up on basic painkillers, vapo-rub, a few varieties of tea, some squeezy bottles of honey, and lots of fresh lemons, which also make a lovely display in the kitchen with the obligatory satsumas.
I shall get some blackcurrant cordial, too, for serving warm to cold-stricken tiddlers, and my favourite grown-up ‘cordial’ – brandy, to be served as a medicinal nip with hot water and sugar. That makes me very cordial indeed. I’m looking forward to it already
I will make a comprehensive Christmas playlist on the laptop, and we will listen to it whilst quaffing ready-made mulled wine (just zap in the microwave), or spiced apple juice.
I know the idea of carol concerts is to get together as a community and spread goodwill to all men (even if there is no actual figgy pudding involved), but, call me antisocial, I’m not sure I want to stand about in a drizzly shopping precinct or huddle into a church packed with so many coughing, sneezing bodies that no amount of votaries will burn off all the germs (though they do occasionally set fire to the Christmas decorations).
My daughter and I get together in the kitchen and whip up lots of ‘rustic-looking’ treats, whilst Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, and Father Christmas, and Muppet Christmas Carol play on a loop in the background.
This year I think I will suggest that we buy the goodies from a shop, and EAT them while we watch the films.
That way Freddie might be able to join in for a bit longer than usual, as he won’t have been evicted from the kitchen for throwing flour.
And there’ll be less washing up. Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner (or sausage rolls, at least).
Come to think of it, I shall need to get in as much low-prep food as possible – pre-washed, pre-peeled, pre-chopped, pre-cooked, everything except pre-chewed, preferably.
If something does need cooking, then it will be the sort of thing you can bung in a disposable foil tray and leave to the tender mercies of the oven until the timer/smoke alarm rings to let me know that it is thoroughly done.
I also need to get a copy of Radio Times nice and early, so I can set up the TV box thingy to record lots of great stuff to watch, and lay hands on a packet of formal invitation cards to summon the older children to join us downstairs, instead of skulking in their rooms.
If I drape a few artfully arranged fleecy throws on the couches to snuggle up in, it might even start to look like the kind of Christmas you see in a glossy magazine.
Unless I get Norovirus.
I think my preparations should begin now, with lots of disinfectant, antibacterial hand wash, and some of those little ‘now wash your hands’ notices to stick up by every sink, as a talisman against ‘Sods Law’.
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