Twelfth night, and the following day’s Epiphany, is a time of ancient traditions: the adrenalised juggling of overdrafts, a ritual squabble with my best friend about whether frangipane, star of French Epiphany cakes, is tasty or terrible, and the dreary stripping away of any remaining Christmassy bits. Time to take down our favourites: the entirely featureless loo roll tube (a relic of some abortive “craft” project), the blue papier-mache lightbulb, origins unknown, the pink plastic owl that sees into your soul, and the inexplicable army of ornamental Scottie dogs, none of them bought by me. My husband will carefully wrap the tangled fairy lights around the ancestral copy of Super Picsou Géant (a French comic about Scrooge McDuck), as he has since time immemorial, and that will be that, fun over.
There is, though, something invigorating about it. Sure, comfort and joy is nice, my inner zealot whispers, hairshirt rustling, smelling of bicarb and white vinegar, but have you seen this nice new broom? There are some seasonal things I am looking forward to putting away along with the decorations, and not all of them will be allowed out of the loft next year.
Not knowing which day it is
Listen, it’s time to get a grip. Today is definitely Wednesday, or maybe Thursday, or Friday. I have already missed one recycling collection, which ruined my entire (Tues?)day. From now on, I will just accept the verdict of whichever global corporation sold me the expensive device in my hand, even though, yes, it feels like Sunday for the ninth day running.
Obviously I won’t stop taking rapid tests, assuming they are ever easier to get hold of than a Christmas Tickle Me Elmo in 1996. And there’s a certain satisfaction to be derived from a whole new swathe of the population getting to experience the special trepidation formerly associated with taking a pregnancy test. But by this point I need a very good reason to poke another stick at my tonsils rather than staying home and unblocking the sink. I’m so unused to social situations now, it’s not as if my open-mouthed silent staring adds anything to the party anyway.
Wrapping paper is on the brink of seeming as mad as smoking in restaurants or pouring sewage into the sea (oh, hang on – we still do that). You covered gifts in virgin paper (227,00 miles of it annually in the UK, apparently), then threw it in the bin? Sure, Grandma. I said I wouldn’t wrap this Christmas, but in the end decided to finish my existing stock, cack-handedly defying geometry and good taste, sausage fingers fighting with the elusive split ends of the sticky tape. The end result was pitiful, and when I took my bag of de-taped non-foil papers to the dump, I was instructed to put it in landfill anyway. Next year it’s newspaper (the only way my family would see anything I write) or nothing.
A combination of Covid/Brexit scarcity and seasonal hysteria turned me into a shameful monster last month, not hoarding food for my family, but from them. Having snagged three bags of my favourite Lentil Waves crisps (yes, it’s all unbridled decadence chez Beddington), I hid them in my sock drawer. I also concealed the fancy olives behind a jar of piccalilli and the only promising clementines in my coat pocket. As I typed that, I remembered the chocolates hidden in my desk drawer (just checked – still there, still delicious). I have no idea what is wrong with me. I have never experienced scarcity; I am just a selfish, greedy pig deranged by 20 months of pictures of empty supermarket shelves. Enough.
I feel confident that a lot of dark, boring hours lie between us and whenever things get less bleak (2026? Never?), so I cannot just go on consuming television as if it was an infinite resource. I need to learn to consume entertainment sustainably. For every fresh episode of something prestigious with Olivia Colman or the joyfully silly Tina Fey sitcom Girls5Eva, I am committing to five repeats or even – gasp – a conversation. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
That sinking feeling when you hear the prime minister is holding a press conference
The clutching dread, the impotence, the fury – the minute most of us see that lectern we’re triggered. I want to take that feeling, wrap it in newspaper and slide it into the darkest, dampest, most spider-infested corner of the loft. But unlike the beloved loo roll tube and lightbulb, I’m praying it doesn’t come out again.