I am writing this in mid-December. You are probably completely over Christmas and your tree is now as bald as I am*, but I’m afraid I am going to torture you with my misery. I will be making Christmas lunch for my friend Isobel, but she is insisting I take a PCR test first (I’m reminded of my first proper boyfriend, Trevor, who always made sure he wore two condoms before having sex with me; I imagine Isobel will turn up in a hazmat suit). I’m responsible for my signature nut roast, vegan gravy and vegetables. I told her she could bring dessert. ‘I wonder if I’m capable of making a sorbet,’ she wrote. ‘I might Google it. You do know I’m allergic to walnuts.’
This doesn’t bode well.
Then my New Year mini-break at a high-end spa cottage in the Cotswolds got cancelled, as I casually told them I’m bringing a fourth collie. An extra foible that seemed to break the camel’s back, given my earlier missive that I’m vegan, allergic to mushrooms and anything in a stack, teetotal, Gracie now needs a nappy at night, and that my ex-boyfriend, who has mainly been drafted in to hang on to a couple of dog leads, is coeliac and will complain if his cappuccino isn’t mouth-blisteringly hot.
The ex is spending Christmas incognito with friends on the south coast. They’re the ones who won’t allow him to reveal their names or exact location in case I write about them; let’s hope for a very high tide. I was about to break it to him that the high-end spa cottage is off when he sent me this!
‘I’ve had your Christmas gift engraved with my feelings for you. You know I love you. Xxx’
Engraved! What can it be? A pewter tankard? A Rolex? He must have read I sold my lovely watch to buy my husband food. Aw, that’s kind. Another engagement ring? I hope it’s not something awful, like a bangle. I hope he can spell. An apostrophe out of place could send me into a rage. And what exactly are his feelings for me? What?
Oh no. He hasn’t had the c-word engraved, surely? Wouldn’t that be against the jeweller’s Hippocratic oath?
Anyway, I am now trying to buy him a Christmas gift. He broke his phone, I sent him my old iPhone, then he lost the tray for the Sim card. He thinks it is ‘under a table’. I surreptitiously ask if his Sim is still active. ‘I don’t really miss not having a phone,’ he said. Honestly!
He has gone into a decline without me. I think he said to me the penultimate time I saw him, when he announced we should no longer see each other as he finds it too upsetting, that – and I can’t be sure given I’m deaf, it was dark and he has a northern accent – he just wants to ‘ride out’ his time until he shuffles off his ‘mortal coil’. I can’t leave him like this, especially given the engraving, so I have an online chat with Apple, and meet a nice man called Pardeep. He types that giving my ex an iPhone 13 and case and charger (!) is ‘a really sweet gesture. He is lucky to have you in his life.’ You see? Some men are nice. Then I start to wonder whether I was flirting with a robot.
My ex, or friend with not many benefits as I am now going to call him, needs a phone. I remember before I gave my mobile to my husband, when I upgraded to a Blackberry (he still has my very rare, original, early 07710 number; I want it back!), that I lost him in Barnes & Noble in New York and had to have him paged over a Tannoy. The staff assumed he was about six, and all fell about laughing when a great big 30-year-old lump emerged from the self-help section looking put upon.
So I press purchase. Oh dear god. What if he has just bought me an engraved tankard?
*Turns out it’s a side-effect of the diuretics.