Are you taking the kids to see Santa Claus? Plummy Mummy has another agenda …
I lost my faith aged 6. My sister and I were lying in bed on Christmas Eve pretending to be asleep. The door opened a crack, and we glimpsed the big man in red (though strangely barefoot and with a hint of white curly beard), tiptoe in with the heavy stockings. We held our breaths. He was finding his bearings in the pitch black.
BASH! CRASH! The sound of ankle bone connecting with cold, hard radiator.
“OW! For F**K’S sake!” shouted Santa in Dad’s voice.
Innocence ended right there.
After that, all visits to Father Christmas at Herrods, Selfishes and Harvey’s Nickers were tarnished forever.
Even more memorable though were the Christmases I spent playing the guitar and singing to long-suffering and captive audiences at a homeless shelter.
You know the X Factor isn’t going to call you back, when everyone goes and sits out in the snow rather than listen to yet another do-gooder accompanying herself to a medley of Christmas Carols. Even my visitor stats seem sky high compared to the number of bums on seats then. I can’t be there this year, but find out how you can help www.crisis.org.uk/ as a volunteer or donor. It’s a fantastic experience, though if you have young kids, maybe give the night time rotas a miss.
One year I finally got it together and invited three girlfriends to join me in a Pop-Up girl group. I’m not completely sure, but I think we were ‘The Rockettes’ as two of us had been rock climbing buddies and had a band with that name. That particular mate, Rosita, plays the guitar as well. She has an amazing voice and sings in a top Welsh choir. When she was a teenager, Brian Epstein wanted to represent her – yes that’s the same Brian Epstein who was the Beatles’ manager. But Rosita was at school and didn’t want to interrupt her A Levels studies which she loved. She turned him down.
I know what you’re thinking. Me too. But she’s had an interesting life all the same. Luckily for me Rosie’s also my sister’s sister-in-law, so we’re family as well as friends.
Another year, I set up a temporary art school at Crisis at Christmas for a week. About 30 guys came and sat at the trestle tables we set up. I wanted to create a piece of artwork by and for homeless people that would raise awareness and bring confidence and pride to those who made it.
The men designed their ideal images on hexagonal clay panels: a football team; a girlfriend; a favourite meal etc. which we then made into plaster casts. We’d begged and borrowed the materials from several art schools in London. Then we schlepped everything to the huge temporary shelter which was in the Olympia Exhibition Centre in London. A few months earlier, I’d met a man who drew a design that was going to incorporate these images into a 12ft bronze sculpture for Central London. Wimbledon school of Art said they would cast it for us. By the end of the week, the guys at the shelter felt good about their artwork and themselves. At least a couple of them were inspired to look for jobs based on their renewed self confidence. Their faces were brighter with hope as they walked off into their future.
If you’ve ever done this sort of volunteering I’d love to hear your stories.
So if you know or see a rough sleeper, please remember them especially when the weather’s cold outside. That includes the The Big Issue sellers too. My local one, Dan, says he prefers it if someone buys a copy (it’s a seriously good magazine with the hardest Sudoku puzzle ever), but a smile and chat go a long way. It’s a tedious and finger-numbing job on that pavement all week.
Me and the Mummies wish you a peaceful and happy holiday with those you love. May your children wake up on Christmas morning with smiles on their faces but, just in case, tie some Bubble Wrap® around the radiator pipe.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS and if I’m too knackered after shopping, wrapping and cooking to do another post this month, hope to see you next in 2017!
Oh, and the man who designed the 12ft bronze sculpture for me? Yes reader, I married him.