Imagine my joy when I see Stella magazine in the garage today while I’m waiting for my car to be serviced, with a whole article about Christmas outfits. I am currently searching for something suitably glamorous, flattering, all-purpose, that won’t show the gravy/chocolate/Bailey’s stains so, for once, I genuinely hope that there is something complicated going on with my undercarriage* so that I have time to read this all the way through.
But I quickly remember why I don’t buy glossy magazines any more when, half-way down the first page, I see a shimmering double-breasted suit with tapered trousers made, apparently from tinfoil. Tone down a silver suit by wearing simple heels, the article helpfully suggests.
I imagine my family’s collective dropped jaw as I casually appear on Christmas morning dressed like a crew member of the Starship Enterprise with a tray of Buck’s Fizz and a festive greeting. I don’t think they would even notice that I’d bothered with the toning-down shoes.
A couple of pages further on, things become slightly more realistic. Aha, I think, nodding along as I read about a woman from the real world, who is talking about her own wardrobe; no shame in wearing something repeatedly, she says. How sensible, how true, I agree until I realise what she is actually saying… 20 times.
Up until this point, we were kindred spirits, even though she is clearly a London socialite millionaire businesswoman and I am in a Peterborough garage drinking watery coffee from a machine and listening to a customer have a heated debate with the manager about his oil filter. Just 20 times in total? I am so astonished that my flabber is noisily gasted – temporarily interrupting the oil-filter argument.
We are not kindred spirits at all, I realise. 20 times is nothing. It's a drop in the sartorial ocean. I wear some of my clothes for 20 years; my favourite coat, for example.
I start writing my own Stella article in my head.
Glam up that fifteen-year-old M&S dress with the Primark necklace that you had to mend this morning with a safety pin because the catch broke, and the earrings that bring you out in a rash…
Only had that winter coat a paltry twenty years? No need for a new one yet…just sew on the button that fell off ten years ago and it’ll be good as new!
Almost finished my Christmas shopping, which is pretty impressive for me.
“I just need to get my Secret Santa,” I tell Mr Young.
He looks at me guiltily. “I’ve forgotten who mine is,” he says. He then spends twenty minutes searching through his emails to find it again – Lucy is official Setter-Up of Secret Santas and uses a website that sends the names out to everyone.
“You should use this special app like me for your Christmas shopping,” I tell him, showing him my iPhone, “you just add all the people you’re buying for, and put down everything you’ve bought for them and how much it cost so you can budget, and you can even tick off when you wrapped them up…” I trail off as he looks at me blankly and I realise there is no point to this at all as Mr Young does no Christmas shopping whatsoever. Apart from my gift(s) and his Secret Santa.
And as he’s already forgotten the name of one of those people, it’s not looking good for me.
I’m in Waitrose again (again! One of these days I’m expecting the manager to greet me at the door with a bouquet and a brass band and thank me, with tears in his eyes, for my repeated custom) buying eggs, bread, and dog food, for which I expect they’re jolly grateful.
It’s not like other supermarkets; the longest queue is usually for the free coffee.
I’ve only taken advantage once of their complimentary cappuccinos while browsing the aisles. It did make me feel particularly chic and relaxed, sipping my coffee then resting it in my trolley in a stylish sort of way, meandering up and down the aisles, trying to look as if I was buying ingredients for something exotic like a shiitake mushroom risotto instead of a shepherd’s pie for supper.
I was just looking at a packet of reduced ham when there was a tap on my shoulder and a polite voice said, “I think your coffee is leaking.”
I turned to see an apologetic fellow shopper gesturing at a wavery brown line that had clearly followed me all the way up from the vegetable section. And possibly beyond. Other customers – too polite to say anything, in a middle-class sort of way – quickly busied themselves amongst the Lurpak and quiches as they saw my horrified expression. A Waitrose Partner (for yes, that's what they are, of course) hurried up, gently removed my now empty cardboard cup, and told me not to worry. Yellow cones and mops were produced and customers asked to stand clear.
It looked like a crime scene. Mortified, no longer feeling chic and relaxed, I stopped meandering, and left by the back entrance. We had beans on toast for supper.
No brass band treatment on the cards for me.
I am instructed to buy a Christmas jumper for Mr Young, who is wearing one for his office party next week. He was going to buy one for himself online, but made the mistake of showing me and Harriet his choices which were all so truly revoltingly unflattering, that we forbade him. No one deserves to have that sort of horror inflicted upon them at a party. It would just be cruel.
“Don’t get one that makes me look stupid,” he says, looking at me sternly over the top of his glasses. This mission is clearly going to be more tricky than I thought; I have yet to find a tasteful Christmas jumper, and I point this out to him. “I mean, just don’t make me look like a six-year-old,” he says. Again, not helpful.
The best I can find is a red sweater featuring a jolly reindeer in a Santa hat with pom-poms.
Although it does make Mr Young look, well, a little bit stupid, and I’m pretty sure that quite a few six-year-olds would be very happy to wear a jumper with pom-poms on the front, he seems inexplicably delighted with it. There is no rhyme nor reason to Mr Young sometimes.
There is still nothing in the shops that is jumping out at me (not literally, obviously, which is fortunate) as a potential Christmas outfit for myself.
Perhaps I should take Stella magazine's advice after all and invest in something completely frivolous, and surprise my family for once.
I'm just not sure that the toning-down-shoes effect would work with a reindeer sweater.
Especially with those distracting pom-poms
*Top tip: always make the most of those smutty double entendres.