Celebrations will be diminished for everyone by Covid this year: we need to focus on the things we’d love. Like lobster for two
Who are you going to bubble with? Which households will you choose? At Christmas, I mean. It’s so difficult. I don’t know about you, but if my parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and assorted in-laws all went out for a walk en masse, it would probably be possible to see us from outer space. Like many modern families – which is to say, most normal families – this isn’t only a matter of generational expansion. No, it’s much more complex than that. As I like to tell people I’ve only just met, I have two extant stepmothers – which is naughty of me, because there are no dead ones. To my knowledge.
The point of this column isn’t family life, and how to survive it. The point is to consider what Christmas will be like this year, and how to survive that. My hunch is that whatever the rules, for all of us it will be sadly diminished: fewer people, less travelling, no parties. And while this might not be ideal, I also want to say that if there’s one thing life has taught me, it’s that it’s not as hard as you might imagine to ensure that small is beautiful. It definitely wasn’t much fun when the various sadists for whom I worked in my 20s used to insist for no good reason at all that I had to be in the office on Boxing Day (an edict that made it impossible for me to travel north). Even then, though, I was adept at the bijou ceremonies that can see a person through a gloomy day. If I was going to eat a leftover egg roll for my Christmas lunch, then I would at least wash it down with something fizzy (and I don’t mean Sprite). Looking back, some of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten at Christmas – a coronation chicken sandwich at an almost empty airport; a slice of my mother’s marzipaned cake taken from a tin at the end of a long shift – were scoffed in the loneliest of circumstances, the fun going on elsewhere, the warmth and the light flickering only in my mind’s eye.