Mr Young is not a fan of Christmas. Well, no, that’s not strictly fair, he is... he’s just not a fan of Christmas until it’s properly Christmas time.
“Guess what? Someone in the sales department rang me up and wished me Happy First Day of Christmas!” he says indignantly, coming into the kitchen this evening. “So I told her it wasn’t the first day of Christmas, it was the first day of December.”
“Well, you certainly told her, didn’t you?” I say, as he grunts with humbuggian satisfaction.
I shall be sleeping in the spare room until 26th December; Jacob Marley’s not catching me out.
I daren’t even look out of my kitchen window at the moment for fear that I’ll accidentally glimpse my hanging basket giving me a frosty – both figuratively and literally – stare. Oh, it was all so different in the first flush of summer, when our eyes met across a crowded garden centre, as I skipped about in my Fitflops, carelessly flinging brightly coloured bedding plants (3 for 2!) into my trolley, buying herbs I’d never heard of and tripping over those hosepipes that they always leave lying about.
I did water it daily for about a week – honestly! I did! - plus treated it to some mysterious stuff that looked like it might be plant food that I found in Mr Young’s shed (although the label had rotted away) and it flourished for a while. But not with the sort of lush growth that I was expecting.
Maybe it wasn’t plant food after all. Maybe it was because I forgot to water it.
Come September, while our neighbours’ geraniums and lobelia were still looking just as luxuriant as ever, my basket of horticultural affliction looked like a plague victim. Ironically, I’d made the mistake of hanging it just outside our bay window so it would cheer me up every time I looked outside.
So now I am hoist by my own petard, and reminded daily of my own inadequacy; I can’t even bear to go out and take it down - though that would be the kind thing to do for both our sakes - as it has just one bright little geranium flowering bravely as if to say, I’m still standing, in an Elton John sort of way.
I’m really not a gardener.
Now that we have a smart meter installed, it has become terrifyingly obvious how much gas and electricity we waste. Whenever Mr Young works at home, and happens to mention, in a casual sort of way, that it is chilly today, I bark at him to put a jumper on.
(I know that bark is the right descriptive term, too, as Ruby always raises her head and gives me a critical look when I use this tone of voice. And as Mr Young immediately obeys and puts a jumper on, I clearly do sound authoritative; I’m guessing, I’m probably a large, elegant, sleek sort of dog, rather than an old scratchy, scruffy-haired one. A Dalmation, say. Probably a Crufts prizewinner. Best of Breed.)
Obviously, I’m prowling about and turning lights off all over the place, so it’s slightly annoying that our smart meter is in the basement. Which is dark. Down a dark staircase. So I’ve had to stop checking the smart meter every half hour, as that’s proved to be rather counter-productive.
But it’s all going to be very beneficial in the long run, though, as I’m sure we’ll see our utility bills reduced significantly.
Then I can spend all the money we save on new jumpers for Mr Young.
We need supplies: Harry and Jonny are coming for Sunday lunch.
I suggest to Mr Young that he come with me to Waitrose. His face contorts interestingly as he tries to think of various plausible excuses, and comes up empty-handed. Or empty-headed. As is so often the case.
I am also making my Christmas Dundee cake today, so Mr Young has to rifle through the cupboards while I check ingredients off on my list. I have to tell him three times that half a bag of dried apricots will not do instead of currants, that flaked almonds are not the same as whole blanched almonds, and reassure him that the tiny fleck of something brown in the plain flour is not some sort of malevolent infestation.
At last we are ready to set off in my car... I realise too late that this is clearly so Mr Young can a) tell me that it's a rubbish tip inside and brandish old parking tickets under my nose from where they’ve been very carefully and chronologically piled on the floor b) melodramatically suck in his breath as I negotiate the roundabout c) point out parking spaces that I don't want d) tell me to watch out for reversing cars that I’ve already noticed.
I am so flustered at this point that I drive straight past my lucky parking space and end up having to park somewhere else entirely.
He then ignores my instructions and gets a trolley from the shelter in the car park, even though I tell him twice that I always get mine from just outside the store.
I watch Mr Young wheel his trolley triumphantly towards me, its little wheels crushing my vision of our Fun Couply Shopping Trip as this particular little dream lands defeatedly in a muddy puddle just outside the entrance to the store.
We march up and down the aisles together, and it’s definitely not fun at all because we just buy everything on the list and don’t browse or look at anything else. I have been investing new Christmas baubles lately – 3 for 2! – because ours are so old that they aren’t even spherical any more, and adding them to the weekly shop doesn’t really seem to count, but shopping with Mr Young has unnerved me so much that I forget to do this today.
I mention this to him at the checkout.
“What?” he says irritably.
“I was talking about the baubles,” I say.
“Baubles? What about the baubles?”
“I made a comment about them.”
“Ha! You said condiment.” This is ridiculous.
“Of course I didn’t say condiment. I said comment.”
“You didn’t. You said condiment.” He chuckles to himself, in an infuriating way.
I know what he’s doing, of course. He’s making himself as objectionable as possible so that I don’t take him shopping again.
So, because I am intelligent, and always win in our psychological battles, when we are back at home and unpacking the bags, I say, “Do you know what, I’d forgotten how much fun it could be, shopping together. Hey, let’s make it a weekly thing, darling!”
I watch his shoulders slump as he puts the blanched almonds away in the cupboard.
I nearly ask him if he's got any condiments to make about my suggestion, but I think I've made my point.
As my hair has decided to grow itself into a strange new abstract shape – maybe in readiness for next year’s Turner Prize exhibition? Who knows? – I book myself in to see Sarah, who is the only person now who won’t recoil in horror when faced with both the grey roots and the arbitrary random tufts.
“Yes, it has grown a lot, hasn’t it?” she says tactfully, as we both look at the flying buttresses of hair that are wilfully protruding just above my ears.
“I’ve found some pictures,” I tell her. “On Pinterest.” She tries to look interested, but I’m sure that all hairdressers die inside a little bit every time their clients produce photographs of women who are half their age, and ten times more beautiful, with hair and face shapes that are nothing like their own.
“Hmmm,” says Sarah. And cuts it more or less like she did last time, but a bit shorter, to teach the flying buttresses a lesson, and she also – very excitingly – puts some lowlights in to add some texture.
“Wow!” says Mr Young admiringly, when I get home. “You look beautiful!”
Now this is the response I want.
Good old Mr Young.
Just for that, I’ll make sure he won’t be facing Jacob Marley alone after all this Christmas.