Advent Day 21

James has a little car, a single fingernail with which he clings to life pre-children. It gets very little use, partly because James works hard and doesn’t actually like going out without the children, and partly is battery is mostly flat, so taking it out involves an hour or two locating the jump leads, manoeuvering the family car into position, cursing the family car because the engine’s in an awkward place and trying to remember what to do with all the dangly bits. It reminds me of the first time we were faced with a baby and a babygro and had to popper the one into the other. James asks me to please, please give it a little run now and then, but it only has two seats and it’s left hand drive. Also, James loves this car. He loves it like I love my piano, and I know that, under his pleading smile, he’s feeling the way I do whenever anyone walks near my piano with a hot drink.
So the car sits decoratively in the garage where no one can see it, and every now and then I venture to suggest that its room would be more welcome than its company, and James points out that if I gave it a run every now and then, it would work when he came to drive it, and I tell him it’s his car and he needs to feed it and take it for walks, and we are back to square one. Until, once a year, the MOT falls due and the whole system falls apart. For the MOT cannot be done locally. Oh no. The MOT must be done in the only place that loves the car almost as much as James does – a small garage ON THE OTHER SIDE OF LONDON.
I’ll leave that there for a moment while I bang on about cheese. I’ve been banging on about cheese for about a month, for cheese is an important part of the Christmas festivities in this house. Basically, we eat turkey on Christmas day, and then cheese for the rest of the holidays. The station through which James commutes once had a wonderful cheese-shop, so the cheese was James’ responsibility. Granted, this usually a daily conversation that went, ‘Did you get the cheese?’ ‘Oh no – never mind, I’ll do it tomorrow,’ and then a mercy dash into London on Christmas Eve, but at least we knew where we stood. And then this year, the cheese shop closed.
Fear not, I said to James as the season approached, I have, thanks to fellow W&N author Simon Wroe, whose new novel Here Comes Trouble is out next year, found an alternative source of cheese. You must go to La Fromagerie on Marylebone High Street, here is the address, you will love it, for it is an Aladdin’s cave of cheese. This is your Christmas task. Do it, and all shall be well.
You can guess the rest. The twin pincer movement of the emergency MOT and the Need for Cheese culminated in the Worst Plan Ever, cunningly disguised as a Really Good Idea, namely that James should take his car to the Kind Garage early in the morning, then go into town where the children and I would meet him and have a Day In London (cheese purchasing included). Cue seething resentment on my part because why-can’t-people-just-do-the-thing-without-dragging-in-other-people-who-also-have-things-yes-I-am-looking-at-you, met with well-if-you-don’t-want-to-I’ll-just-go-on-my-own, and me wondering, really, really wondering, why a man who had the guilt-free chance of a solo day in London would turn that down.
I almost stamped my pretty little feet and refused. I almost said I’d take the car to the Kind Garage myself, on the condition that I got to go to the Wilfredo Lam exhibition at the Tate Modern alone. But because this is Advent, and because I am thinking a great deal about how nothing is simply good, or simply bad, but all folded together like an enormous Eton Mess of motive, intention and execution, I said yes.
And so today I’m simply offering willingness. I’m taking the joy of James’ desire to include the children and leaving behind the exhaustion-in-advance of making it work. I’m trying not to mind that I won’t be as ahead as I wanted to be on the Christmas preparations, or that this has come about so quickly that I haven’t been able to plan as I usually would. Maybe it’ll be wonderful; maybe it’ll be a disaster. But for once, I’m going to try trusting the motivation and the raw ingredients and give up control over the results.

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