The Corona Chronicles: Week 35: The elves are early

I/t’s Christmaaaaaaas!  Well at least for me it is. And for a significant number of the population too, it seems.

I’ve held off as long as I can in deference to my ‘bah humbug’ husband. He froths at the mouth if anything festive greets him before the day itself. And woe betide any attempt to steer him towards present buying before Christmas Eve and his last-minute shopping blitz at the local petrol station.

In fact, he was delighted by the recent lockdown as he didn’t have to be assaulted by a winter wonderland of tinsel and snowflakes in the shops. But he did stomp through the door the other day, raging and pointing at the neighbour’s window. ‘They’ve put their tree up already’, he stormed. ‘In November!’

And whilst normally I share his attitude that an out-of-season Saint Nicholas is not to be encouraged, I am secretly delighted the elves have been working their magic early this year and bringing us some much-needed joy.

Local radio has already canvassed its listeners to jump-start yo-ho-ho jingles. So, for the last few weeks, as soon as Grunting Teen and his Grinch father leave the house, I’ve been jingle-bell-rocking around the kitchen in my Santa hat and reindeer sunglasses. And it appears that my daily wailing of ‘All I want for Christmas is you’ has finally paid off with the announcement of a five-day festive amnesty.

I had resigned myself to a not-so-merry turkey dinner in our lockdown trio but, if all goes well, at least two more family members will be able to pull a cracker with me. Grunting Teen, whilst keen to see his sister in person, suddenly seems concerned that I stock up on supplies since there’ll now be competition for the pigs-in-blanket and tins of chocolates.

As for other, more vulnerable loved ones, the jury’s still out on what’s best to do. We all yearn to see our relatives. It’s just we have to think carefully of what we want to give them – a much-needed visit or the gift of covid… Maybe the British public are not quite as gung-ho as we’re led to believe. Maybe, judging by the premature queues at the post office, they’re concentrating on spreading the love, not just over one day, but over twenty-five.

For 2020 is the year that the advent calendar has come into its own. It certainly has for me. If face-to-face meet-ups are increasingly difficult to achieve because of our doors being closed, then at least we can open some windows and bring a breath of fresh surprise into our lives. Will today’s highlight be a sprig of holly, a red-breasted robin or the prized, beaming snowman?

Grunting Teen may well roll his eyes and tell me I’m being ‘lame’ but the moment he’s hoovered up his second bowl of cornflakes, then he’s rushing to open his own number 3 and demolish the chocolate wreath inside.

As for canny marketeers, they’ve obviously cottoned on to our craving for a daily dose of pleasure to counter this year’s sombre mood. A new era of advent calendars has hit the high street. Nativity pictures and confectionery are no longer enough to lift us out of pandemic pessimism. But give us miniature beauty products, handcrafted marshmallows and artisan teas and the world seems a brighter place full of mind-teasing puzzles and pocket-sized perfumes. Yes, everyday can be Christmas now.

But something’s not quite right.

I’ve done my online orders and all that’s called for is to click and collect once local shops have re-opened. But why then is there no spring in my stocking, no brandy on my pudding? For as much as I hate having to brave the usual madding hordes in Reindeer-retail-land, I miss the bustle and excitement of browsing the shelves in search of that ideal gift for that special someone.

Returning home, with my Santa-sack over my shoulder, the boys are caught unawares.

‘What? You’ve been gift-shopping. It’s not Christmas Eve yet, is it?’ panics the Nearly-Beloved, hurriedly checking the closing times of the nearest garage.

‘Mum, why haven’t you got any snacks in these bags? And why have you bought baby books, jigsaws for little kids and make-up sets for tweenagers?’ asks Grunting Teen in confusion.

What neither of them realise is that the ‘Cash for Kids Mission Christmas’ is on, making sure that no child in South Yorkshire goes without a present from Santa. You can donate online or, like me, enjoy a nostalgic wander through toy-heaven before handing in your stocking fillers at the nearest drop-off point. Because, after all, this is the true spirit of Christmaaaaaaas!

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