I’m feeling a little bit tearful. It must be the time of year: almost Christmas, and being female we all want it to be perfect, when it’s far from that.
I’ve managed to get heating installed in the cottage in Yorkshire. I’ve ordered a new fridge and a dishwasher. Unfortunately, John Lewis has told me I can’t have my new sofa until January. It’s like the final straw. I start crying. Stupid, I know.
David texts, asks if I’m OK.
‘No. I’m not OK. I think I will have heating in time for when you come for Christmas, and a fridge and a dishwasher, and the oven will be mended. But I don’t think there will be anything to sit on.’
When I owned my Georgian house in Swaledale, I saved for two years to buy a cooker, fridge and dishwasher: until then, I kept my Crémant in a bucket of water outside the back door – priorities, ladies, priorities. I was so excited when all the appliances finally turned up. To be able to make something to eat. I felt like a grown-up, that my life was back on track. Then I was made bankrupt and lost everything. I paid eight grand for my two huge pink velvet chesterfields from the Conran Shop, but sold them for £400 each on Ebay, as they wouldn’t fit in the cottage. I texted David, ‘It’s so hard. Having to start from scratch. All over again.’
‘I know,’ he replied. ‘It’s heartbreaking. Why don’t we get your mum’s sofa and chair out of the garage… use them?’
‘Yes, OK. They need repairing. The springs and backs have gone. I could cover them with cushions – that is, unless Gracie has eaten them.’
‘It will be fine.’
It’s so nice having someone on my side. When I announced my new book and my tour in this column, I had hundreds and hundreds of emails from readers. But just one solitary text from a member of my own family. How is that possible? I suppose it’s Christmas that makes me think of my family: my dear departed mum, endlessly stirring dried fruit, worrying about what she could afford to buy her seven children. What she’d feed us on. But she always managed: we feasted on a mysterious creature called a capon, never a turkey. The best gift I ever received was, aged 13 or 14, a cardboard stocking containing No7 make-up. Foundation! Make-up meant I could at last leave the house, look boys in the eye. Cover up the acne. Blot out my features. I never gave a thought to what my mum must have sacrificed to buy that gift set for me (we were a family who bought shampoo and conditioner in sachets, never bottles).
Christmas is a time when we inevitably take stock. How many people love us? How many people want to spend time with us? How happy will we be? How many gifts will we have to open? How, exactly, is life going? Weirdly, at this time of year I always think of George Michael, who died on Christmas Day. I’d known him for years, attended his very first outing as Wham! in a theatre on the Strand. His publicist – I think she was Greek, too – used to call me up and say, ‘George says, “How’s Leeez?!”’ I met up with him a few years ago. He knew I’d been through the mill. He told me, ‘When we had dinner in Hampstead, when I was just becoming a star, you were the only person who got out her cheque book. Everyone else let me pick up the tab.’ Poor George. I know exactly how he felt.
I remember, a few years ago, sitting in my office and two of my sisters came in. They liked to gang up on me. ‘You are going to die a lonely old woman,’ one of them said to me.
But you know what? I might not be lucky enough to have children or a husband or a sofa. But I have my animals. I have David. He really loves me, you know, though God knows why he stuck around during the bankruptcy and my holding up his failures for all to see. The airing of our dirty linen (I do now have a tumble dryer – yay!). I was a bitch. Fear does that to you. But David has held on like a limpet. Continuing the nautical analogy, I refuse to drown. I am going to not just float but swim the English Channel. I am determined to have a wonderful holiday season.
I hope you do, too.
Please feel free to contact Liz via lizjonesgoddess.com