You know I said last week that I wouldn’t get angry? Want to know how that’s going? On the Thursday night before Christmas, my assistant Nic persuaded me to go to the carol service at our local luxury hotel. I got there early with the three collies, and we spent time by the tree while children petted the dogs, their faces shining with happiness. It started raining so the service was going to be held inside. A blonde with a clipboard was at the entrance.
‘Welcome!’ she said. ‘But I’m afraid no dogs are allowed.’
‘It’s a wedding venue and if a bride sees dogs inside on Instagram, well…’
‘My feeling is if a bride objects to three border collies inside a country hotel in North Yorkshire and calls it off, the man has had a narrow escape.’
‘It’s not my decision.’
‘But the children have been petting them. They are the highlight of your evening, if I’m honest, given the menu never changes. Claridge’s takes dogs. Have you not been to a nativity play? Donkeys, straw, border collies? Jesus was a vegetarian.’
‘I think you need to stay calm.’
‘I am quite calm, thank you. Christmas is a time for family, and my dogs are my family. You are discriminating against me.’
‘Can you step away from the area, please?’
It was like being outside the Victoria Beckham catwalk show in New York all over again.
David arrived on Christmas Eve. I’d bought a small table from the local junk shop and covered it in the lace tablecloth made by my Great Aunt Nel. She lost her fiancé in the trenches; her hair turned straight overnight at the news. She never married, but lived out her life embroidering – I really hope David goes nowhere near Great Aunt Nel’s tablecloth with a glass of red wine. He sat down and started texting. I read his missive surreptitiously. It was to the friend who would be feeding his cat: ‘I will be back on 6 January.’
‘Will you?’ I asked him. ‘Yes, I’m here for New Year’s Eve, too.’ I always find it weird when people decide these things without asking me.
We went for dinner with a neighbour, and despite being given a G&T in a glass as big as a goldfish bowl, he behaved himself. The hostess asked him how he copes with being written about. ‘It’s not great,’ is all he would say.
‘Well, I read you take ecstasy,’ she said and he turned pale. We got back to the cottage and went to bed. He managed to get under the duvet just before Gracie and Mini, although it was a close-run thing. Despite a long drive and longer evening, he wanted sex.
‘Aren’t you too tired?’
‘I am a bit,’ he said. ‘But I’m willing to give it a go.’
This is the difference between men and women. We want everything to be perfect, with fireworks, whereas men see sex as something commonplace, not special at all. I also don’t think you should have sex in front of pets. But I have to say it’s much easier without my very long hair: he no longer traps my tresses under an elbow, with me saying, ‘Ow!’ every five minutes.
A couple of days before Christmas I’d gone out with a group of horsey women. They showed me photos of themselves soaring over cross-country jumps. ‘I haven’t got beyond a walk yet,’ I told them; my fall from my horse Swirly at Easter set me back. ‘But you will start to enjoy riding again,’ Nic interjected.
‘I don’t have Swirly to enjoy her. I have her so that she has a nice life. I don’t enjoy anything.’
One of the women was incredulous. ‘But you have a great life! You write for a national paper!’
‘Yes, but I don’t enjoy it. Writing is stressful.’ Which was the wrong thing to say to a woman who has two jobs just so she can afford a horse. ‘You need to smile more,’ she said. I told her I was prescribed anti-anxiety medication, but have been too scared to take it. Everyone laughed.
David is currently making a vegan trifle and a mess. But now that I no longer have the perfect house I don’t care as much. I’ve invited my best friend for Christmas Day lunch. I break the news to David.
‘She still smokes, doesn’t she? Which will make me want to have one. Anyway, I need you all to myself. I have something I want to ask you.’
Oh God. What now?