natural history museum

At the Natural History Museum for a marine conservation dinner
hosted by Blancpain last week

Christmas has sneaked up on me in a way that it hasn’t really since I last had a full time job – and that was a long time ago. (I remember one year in my first demanding job having to stop off at Habitat outside Oxford to buy everyone’s presents on the way back to my parent’s home because I hadn’t had time to shop.)

By this time last year I was already in Thailand, on the island of Koh Samui. I wasn’t switching off, far from it,  – I was writing daily, there were still emails to deal with and ends to tie up, but basically my projects were done, my house was tidy, and it was vacation time for three weeks.

This year I am sticking straws in my hair. I haven’t stopped since the beginning of December, and I still have three projects to complete, thousands of images to edit, and umpteen posts I’d like to write. And don’t get me started on the state of my office. I haven’t written my Christmas cards, and my tree still doesn’t have any lights.

I feel a bit breathless contemplating the wreck of my December plans.

November was packed; I’ve noticed that lifestyle and fashion brands like to celebrate Christmas at least five weeks early these days, leaving December looking pretty quiet on the socialising front. So I had a dinner nearly every night, and felt extremely festive.

I entered December thinking how nice it was going to be, having pretty much finished all my festive activities. I would celebrate my birthday on the 4th, do loads of catch up blogging, get myself organised, and then WHOOF. A massive pile of really interesting projects came to fruition simultaneously, and I found myself variously in Chester, Milan (over my birthday) and Geneva. And, of course, it’s not just the time you spend in places, it’s the hours and hours of prep for the jobs, (in Milan, for example, I was chairing a tech conference), and the travel to and fro.

And then I got stranded in Geneva by the London snowmageddon for an extra 24hrs. There are worse places to be stuck, but it’s not so constructive on the getting things done front.

And then I got a cold a day after we returned. Last Wednesday my lymph nodes went pop, and by Saturday I was in bed, feeling very sorry for myself. I’m still sick, a running river of snot, and grumpiness. Oh and my sister had an MS episode and was whisked by ambulance to the Royal Free on Sunday which took up a day. Although, and I know this sounds odd, I never feel closer to her than when we are hanging out in A&E, eating snacks, eyeing doctors, and making bad jokes. (She’s home now.)

So, Christmas… well, it turns out it’s less than a week away. I have bought most of my presents, thank god for online shopping, but they still need wrapping. But more importantly,  I don’t even know what I am going to do on the day itself, as I haven’t had a moment to engage.

I know what I am not doing though  – I was supposed to be going to Thailand again last week, but work and Holly have meant I’ve had to postpone that trip until the New Year. That previously planned absence means my sister and mother are booked into a full hotel in Suffolk without me, and my father will be with his girlfriend.

I’ve had a bushel of delightful offers to spend Christmas with delightful friends and their families (thank you particularly my darlings Clare, and Hannah, and Emma) but I can’t help thinking that if I am eschewing my own family and their joyful ways, then I don’t think I want to spend it with someone else’s. (I’m glad to have been asked though.)

The point is, I think, if you are single and don’t have children, then celebrating a secular Christmas becomes a matter of choice not a must do. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve had the most glorious Christmases en famille for many, many years, for which I am truly thankful but, since my parents divorced in 2011, it doesn’t hold the same kind of meaning. Our family home was sold, and it became time to make new traditions.

I keep flip flopping on ideas – part of me thinks I’d like to wake up in a remote country house with Lettice, part of me thinks how glorious it would be to rise blinking in a gorgeous bed in smart London hotel. Or I could just be in my lovely own home by the park, and head to one of London’s great churches with Rach for wonderful music, and quiet contemplation and then have lunch somewhere lovely in town.

It’s rather a nice dilemma to have, an embarrassment of choice; I suppose I should really address it tomorrow. Anyway, all suggestions gratefully received for ways in which to spend Christmas Eve and Day either in London or elsewhere…I have realised that most places are booked, which does rather narrow down the possibilities…on the plus side my diary is now empty for the next three weeks which is a prospect filled with JOY.

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