“You think you will walk away untested?“
–Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), Saw IV
It was all going so well: my mother would be going into hospital this weekend for her operation, somewhere not far from here, and on Sunday her friend would drive us home, together with the vast array of presents I’d bought for her (which I couldn’t carry on the train), and I’d spend Christmas nursing her back to health, installing her new computer and basically being a dutiful son.
And what happened? Her operation was postponed due to a medical issue that somehow hadn’t been detected, like, ages ago. This left her despondent, as she’d wanted to get this over with. On the positive side, her friend was still able to drive her home together with the stuff I needed to send home, one day early, and I now have a reprieve from having to get up early on Sunday to go over there. In addition, she won’t need to convalesce during Christmas, and we can go climbing and basically not have to worry.
But that’s not the end of it: my pre-Christmas activities continue. Remember my friend from this post, the lady who takes me to plays and the opera but keeps criticising me over really little things? Well, I hadn’t spoken to her since that whole mess, but she still wants to be friends, so she arranged to meet up today. We were supposed to meet for lunch, but having to wait for my mother’s friend to make it through the traffic delayed my departure, and so we rearranged to have dinner together this evening, which obviously spared me having to cook. As a result, I thought I’d have the afternoon to myself…
At this point, I feel I should reiterate that I haven’t had to go Christmas shopping on Oxford Street this year: instead of going to Selfridges for my grandmother’s presents, I ordered them online, and the stuff I got for my mother came from other places. Thus I’ve been patting myself on the back that I escaped that horrible experience, and laughing, laughing at the poor saps who had left their Christmas shopping until the last minute.
So imagine my surprise when I found out this afternoon that I wouldn’t be sitting comfortably, watching Weekend at Bernie’s, but would instead be fighting my way along Oxford Street to help her carry some heavy Christmas shopping. The very thing I’d worked so hard to avoid would be the thing into which I would need to dive; I’d need to become one of the very saps that I’d counted so much on being better and more prepared than. Sorry, than whom I’d counted on… oh, never mind.
It seems I have to endure this madness every year, no matter where I’m living at the time. During my inter-university days in the early 21st century, when I’d lived with my mother and grandmother while trying to earn enough to do a post-grad degree, there was one Christmas when I was walking through the crowded pedestrianised shopping area of Worthing and was broadsided by a fat guy who had seemed to make the crowd part before him like the Red Sea. Being a non-confrontational sort, I just walked away without telling him off; I still remember him calling after me: “Sorry!… Sorry… oh, I’m not sorry either.” I felt like turning on him and yelling: “Yes, I’m sorry you walked into me as well!”, but thought better of it on that occasion.
So anyway, there I was, one of the dots of human agony flowing along Oxford Street, but fortunately my friend was rather nicer to me than she’s been before, and didn’t criticise me for anything — not my clothes, not my hat with earflaps (or my resulting hat-hair), not my bodily odour resulting from following her around surprisingly hot department stores, not even the fact that I was a bit later meeting her than I’d said I would be… but hey, if someone leaves their Christmas shopping until the last Saturday before Christmas, they can’t really have a go at someone else for being disorganised, can they? We had a nice meal in an Italian restaurant in Soho, and I helped her to her station home with her shopping (not including a dress she wanted that hadn’t even officially been released yet), and she gave me a Christmas present that rattles like a box of chocolates (I’ll be surprised if it turns out to be a DVD or something!), and I finally got to go home…
It seems my ordeals are finally over, though: even though I’ve had to face Oxford Street during the Christmas rush, now all I need to do is go home on the train, and I’ve even got the latest Private Eye to read. Moreover, now that Mumsy isn’t convalescing and needing looking after, I can come back to London whenever I want — even for New Year, assuming something more interesting and fun happens than last year, when I had to travel all the way to Essex for a house party that served only to waste my time. So maybe I’ll stay with my loving family instead… and instead of taking off the first week of 2013, maybe I’ll go back to w-w-wor… no, I can’t say it!