9 December 2011

My Favourite Christmas... by Molly Hopkins

Welcome back to my Christmas 2011 feature! As you know, I've asked lots of authors to write something about their favourite Christmas, and I've been lucky to have a great response. Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming the lovely Molly Hopkins!

"I love Christmas, who doesn’t? For me Christmas begins mid November, when my daughter starts dragging me around Top Shop and River Island dropping enormous hints. She’s exceptionally good at hinting, and I’m brilliant at spotting the clues, it’s uncanny really, it’s like we have a telepathic chord pulling our trails of thought together.

Dressing Room River Island, a good starting point for any dedicated Christmas shopper.
    ‘Mum it’s freezing now!’ She complains forcefully, and gives a little shiver to prove her point. ‘You may as well buy me the hat early so that I can get the full benefit of it.’
    She’s not wrong it is freezing.
    ‘Mmmmmm.’ I ponder, peering in the mirror at said hat that she’s jamming on my head. 
    ‘The hat suits you mum! Why don’t you buy one?  Buy it in a different color from me . . . and we can share,’ she suggests thoughtfully and in a rush, and then scooters out of the dressing room.
    I have to admit, I like the hat.  And she’s right, I decide assertively and in a business-like-way, what is the point of buying winter clothes right at the end of winter? The sooner I buy the hat, the better value it will be. It can be a Christmas present to myself, everyone buys themselves presents at Christmas. 
    She’s back!  And panting, staggering under the weight of a pyramid of coat hangers in her arms and a couple of handbags over her shoulder.
    She dumps the whole lot on the floor and smiles broadly.
    ‘Mum, they’re got a scarf, gloves, jacket and handbag to match the hat;’ she tells me informatively, wiping a bead of sweat from her forehead. ‘Shall we try it all on?’
    ‘We might as well,’ I agree, ‘because I don’t have anything to go with this lilac hat,’ I tell her truthfully, patting the hat which I’ve grown quite fond of.
    ‘And I don’t have anything to go with the orange hat,’ she says, sounding hard done by.
She picks the orange hat up from the floor and tweaks it on her head, and splays her 18 inch clip-on hair extension over her shoulder.
 ‘Mum, d’you know what is missing here that would go really well with this hat?’
    ‘No. What?’ I ask, a little bewildered, because judging by the state of the dressing room we have absolutely everything to go with the hat.
    ‘Nars Chelsea Girl lip gloss,’ she tells me, looking a bit wounded.
    ‘We’ll get some,’ I say, thinking she’s absolutely right now that she mentions it.

On the pavement priming our new hats and scarves awkwardly, weighted down with five River Island bags between us.
    ‘OK, where’s our shopping list? What are we buying for Auntie Pauline and cousin Bex?’ She asks.
    I bite my glove off and fumble for my shopping list in my coat pocket.
    ‘I was thinking of buying Auntie Pauline a dress to wear on New Year’s Eve, and Bex wants a dressy blazer,’ I tell her.
    She gives a happy shopper sigh. 
    ‘OK, well that’s easy enough, we’ll go to Top Shop,’ she says, pointing a gloved finger Topshopwards.
    ‘Right, let’s go,’ I say, keen to get cracking.

 In the Changing Rooms at Top Shop. 
    ‘The problem is mum, now that you like that dress on yourself it’ll be hard to give it away, wont it? Even if you are giving the dress to your own sister and you can borrow it anytime,’ she says sorrowfully.  
    I do a twirl, she’s not wrong; I give a grimace in the mirror. 
    She brightened.
    ‘You could leave the label on the dress and wear it a couple of times before Christmas, then you won’t feel so bad about handing it over, because you’ll have had some wear out of it,’ she suggests helpfully. ‘But you might get captured on Facebook by some random invasive tagged picture, and Auntie Pauline would see the dress and know that you’ve been wearing it, that’s happened to me loads of times,’ she tells me, looking a little injured. 
    ‘Has it?’ I ask sympathetically.
    ‘Mmmm it has, so it’s best that you buy a dress for Auntie Pauline and the same one for yourself.’
    ‘That’s what I was thinking,’ I tell her.
    ‘Do you like this blazer on me?’ she asks, finger-tipping the lapel fondly. ‘It’s black, and so obviously Becky won’t want it, it’s too similar to her posh, show-offy Christies of London uniform,’ she says with splash of cousinly venom. ‘Why would she want a dressy blazer that looks exactly like her uniform?’
    ‘She won’t.’ I say, ‘you’re absolutely right.’
    ‘But the blazer needs to be bought, its 25% off. Can I have it . . . as an early Christmas present?’ she asks.
    I love this dress, I decide, palming the sleeve. Now that I think of it, my sister has one quite similar. I might buy the dress for me and buy her a Jo Malone candle instead, everyone loves Jo Malone candles.
    ‘Mum! Are you listening? Can I have this blazer? It’ll go with everything.’
    ‘I suppose so, but remember it’s for Christmas,’ I say sternly.
Actually, now that I think of it, I don’t have a black blazer. Surely a black blazer is a fundamental requirement to everyone’s wardrobe? Why don’t I have one?
 I smile but inside I’m irked.
 ‘Did you say the blazer was 25% off?  Did you notice if they had it in a size 12 for me?’ I ask, just out of interest. 
    ‘They did, we can pick one up on the way out.’

Outside on Oxford Street, backs pressed against the window of the Disney Store, contemplating our shopping list.
    ‘What do we need to buy for the uncles and boy cousins?’ she asks staring at the list avidly. 
    ‘I’ve written question marks beside their names,’ I admit with a doleful shrug. ‘I haven’t decided.’
    She looks meditative.
    ‘Why don’t we go into John Lewis and toss a load of random bottles of after shave in a basket? You can’t go wrong with after shave. And let’s be honest, most of what you buy for the boys and uncles ends up going back anyway, they’re so ungrateful,’ she quite rightly pointed out. ‘But we’ll go for lunch first because we haven’t stopped all day. I don’t know about you mum, but my feet are killing me.’

In the very nice Champagne Bar in Selfridges with a bird’s eye view of the handbag department.
    ‘Can you believe it? There’s a handbag sale! Mum hurry up with that drink! We should treat ourselves . . . for Christmas!’
    For a nano second I’m torn. I don’t’ really need a new handbag.     I take a morally challenged enormous gulp emptying my glass, and decide that it won’t hurt to look.
    ‘Come on then, what are you waiting for,’ I ask, jumping to my feet.

Sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by our shopping.
    ‘We done well today mum, didn’t we?’
 I’m sipping mulled wine and leafing through the Christmas advertising flyers that have been falling through the door for weeks, and what a load of rubbish it is. 
‘Mum! Did you hear me?’ she prods.
    ‘We didn’t do that well, because we haven’t actually bought any Christmas presents yet,’ I remind her.
    ‘But surely that’s totally irrelevant because we have six weeks to go before Christmas,’ she says.
    ‘Still it would’ve been nice to have made a start,’ I say.
    I’m systematically ripping the junk mail glossy pages to shreds. I look up; she’s studying a double page pamphlet.
‘I’m putting a sign on the door saying “Beware Dog with Rabies,” that’ll put a stop to all this dreary litter,’ I snap, ‘I’m not interested in any of it.’ 
‘Mum, have you seen this leaflet? Did you know that there’s a new Deli on Baker Street that cooks Christmas dinner and delivers it on the day?’ she asks.
 ‘What!? Give me that brochure!’

Last year I really pushed the boat out because the whole family came to me for Christmas dinner. An interior designer friend offered to help decorate the house.  The decorations looked amazing. And it didn’t cost much. The staircase was garlanded in holly, (I have two holly trees in the garden), and ribboned with red lights, it was beautiful. A floor to ceiling Christmas tree was bandaged in gold voile, which looked all shimmery and magical, and dressed with gold ornaments and white candle lights.  Six foot branches sprayed gold and white adorned every vase in the house, and the fire place was draped in holly with sporadic leaves painted gold and silver. It was a pictorial wonderland, in a Victorian Christmas kind of way. I was so proud of it.

‘What do you think?’ I asked my son when he came home from school.
I couldn’t stop smiling. Harrods front window was dull by comparison.
‘What about?’ he asked, and annoyingly cracked a piece of chewing gum.
‘Do you notice anything different?’ I asked, gesturing my arm around the room dramatically. 
Was he blind, I had an eight foot Christmas tree behind me?
He gave me a hard stare.
‘Have you had your hair done? Is that it?’ he asked, beaming. 
OK, now usually I would be pleased if someone asked me if I’d just my hair done, but not when I’d obviously NOT just had my hair done. I’d spent six hours chopping branches off a tree and spray painting them, and frankly my hair was a mess, and so was the rest of me.  
‘I have not had my hair done!’ I informed him, about turning and stomping off.  And wondering why the hell I bother because NO ONE APPRECIATES ME!
‘Is that a new dress mum!?’ he shouted after me and clutching at straws. ‘MUM I’VE GUESSED IT . . . YOU’RE NOT AS FAT AS YOU WERE YESTERDAY!’

Seriously . . . I love Christmas, writing can be quite lonely, and so it’s nice to have company, it makes a welcome change to have everyone at home. I love receiving cards from people I haven’t heard from in a while and I love watching all the old Christmas movies even though I’ve seen them a gazillion times before.  But for me Christmas is also a time for reflection, a time to absorb myself in albums of photographs and have a nostalgic sniff thinking of the people that are no longer here to enjoy Christmas with me. I think it’s important to take-stock every once in a while, and appreciate everything you have and everyone around you. But to finish on a cheerful note, Christmas is also the time to eat and drink too much and to look forward to the January Sales, (I already have my eye on some bedding from Bentalls).

Have a Merry Christmas everyone and a very Happy New Year!

You can buy Molly’s novel IT HAPPENED IN PARIS in paperback and on eBook now.
What’s up and coming—
IT HAPPENED AT BOOT CAMP publishes June 9th, 2012.
Give up men for 2 weeks? Impossible!

But Evie Dexter has challenged her flirtatious, man-addicted best friend Lulu to do just this. And Lulu never shirks a bet.

In a flash of deranged inspiration Lulu books them both on a week's stay at an all-female military-style Boot Camp in the boringly beautiful English countryside - surely a guaranteed man-free zone. But with one meagre gym visit between them, a shared passion for white wine, saturated fats and sitting in front of the television - just how long can Evie and Lulu stick it out?

This story is sooooo good it has three different endings, but there can only be one winner! You decide.

IT HAPPENED IN VENICE publishes July 5th, 2012. You can pre-order it in paperback now!

The hilarious much awaited racy sequel to IT HAPPENED IN PARIS."

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