Deck the cellar by Barbara Nadel

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So it’s Christmas week again. Oh Lord. It was in Christmas week last year that I fell down the cellar steps and broke my leg. Amid pieces of cold Turkey and broken ginger biscuits that had been destined for the freezer, I lay for several hours waiting for someone to rescue me, contemplating the sight of my foot at an impossible angle to my calf. Fun it was not and was followed by months of pain that still hasn’t really gone away.

Since my accident, I’ve only been down to the cellar three times. Once in the summer, when I went down there with my husband and ended up weeping hysterically. The second time I went down alone but with someone else in the house, the third time I went down I was entirely alone and it was nighttime. That was a bit mad.

Why did I go down the cellar on my own, in an empty house in the middle of the night, I hear you ask? Well, it’s for the same reason that the virgin always goes down into the crypt where the vampires are said to have their coffins in old horror films. It’s because it’s what you have to do. Going down into the cellar with your whole family holding your hands is very nice but it’s about as hard, street and gutsy as a guinea pig in a tiara. Falling down there was ridiculously stupid. Being hauled out by a team from Mountain Rescue was, if not humiliating, not what Jean Claude van Damm would want and, being a bit of a soldier, as I am, it was tough to bear. I don’t do being helped very well at all and so I had to prove to myself that I could go down there and then get back out again with no help from anyone else.

I’ve not been back down there since. I’ve proved I can do it if I want to, but I’m in no hurry for a repeat performance. The freezer isn’t used that much these days and we’re going out for Christmas Dinner this year and so we won’t need to stow loads of uneaten food down in the depths. For all sorts of reasons, this is going to be a rather frugal Christmas and I think that it will probably not be bad because of it. Via a combination of empty pockets, shed-loads of snow and a general ‘can’t be arsed’ demeanour, I have so far almost completely managed to avoid Christmas preparations. We’ve no tree, few presents, no decorations and no wild, festive lights all over the front of the house. But then epic displays of Christmas lights on people’s houses do seem to be down this year. Maybe it’s the recession or whatever the government are calling whatever economic thingy we are supposed to be in at the moment?

Five years ago, when I think that the whole outdoor lights thing was at it’s height, you could barely move for illuminated snowmen and life sized model reindeer. My personal favourite was the inflatable Santas you could buy to perch on your roof. The slightest gust of wind sent these hurtling towards the ground, stopped only by the cords that held them to the guttering which eventually ended up suspending poor Santa by his neck. Suicidal Santas. I could relate to them. If you do really do Christmas to the maximum of the commercial incarnation, you end up more than a little bit crazy. Wandering around soulless shopping centres looking for something that Auntie Mary a) would like, b) isn’t allergic to, c) hasn’t got or d) won’t fling back at you in a fit of insanity is a mission worthy of any astronaut/cosmonaut. Not that any of the above is relevant to me in any way.

This year no one is ‘decking’ anything and we’re all going to just lurk around the house pleasing ourselves for a few days with no pressure at all. Devoid of Christmas Dinner and elaborate present anxiety, hopefully we will be able to relax and, possibly even avoid accidents and upsets for a few days. It will make a nice change. Whatever you’re doing, I hope it’s no strain or pain on any of you either.

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