This morning I was helping a small granddaughter to unwrap coloured balls and partridges without pear trees and turtle doves a-perching and glass baubles from the Highgrove shop (Oh we do do a naice class of Christmas kitsch when we put our minds to it. How many people do you know with HRH's baubles on their plastic, sorry, ecological tree? In Rome?) when I suddenly recalled the one that she had missed, being born just too late in January.
I was in London holding a pregnant daughter's hand (and my wallet) whilst she and I, but mostly she, shopped big time for Christmas which, as everyone knows, starts three months earlier in London and is twice as jolly and colourful as anywhere else so that the gospel singers were already belting out Silent Night (no it wasn't, not at all, very noisy in fact,) up the Kings Road and the lights were sparkling and the windows were magical and a wonderful time was being had by all.
Well, we two were enjoying it anyway. The pair of us had flown over from Rome for a couple of days, much to Ms. Low Cost Air Hostess’s disapproval and scepticism (“How many weeks into her pregnancy did you say your daughter was? Do you have any documentation to prove that?”) Yes, we did, as a matter of fact. Some of us never go anywhere, it appears, without a copy of our latest uterine scan just in case the conversation runs out over the dinner table. How times have changed. Remember those floating tent like garments designed to hide even a triplet bulge? It’s all Flaunt It, now, and I for one am all for it. With a six month tummy literally in your face, it is hard to carry on swaying to your iPod or reading your newspaper from the depths of your comfortable seat on the Underground, so we were offered places to sit at every turn. And since I was her accompanying baggage, we both got priority boarded and help with our suitcases and permission to leave our shopping at strategic points right across London.
Not everyone was having such a merry, stress-free time, however.
“Well, I think we gained a lot of useful ideas there, darling, don’t you?” said a Yummy Mummy brightly as she tripped down Hamley’s escalator and prepared to hit Regent Street in her fashion boots and designer handbag.
Slowly, realisation dawned upon the child’s face. The escalator came to the end of its descent and she had to be hauled off by one arm as her whole little body froze in complete disbelief. Then the floodgates opened and a temper tantrum of epic proportions was released into the pre-Christmas not-so-Silent Night. To be allowed to visit Dreamland and to touch all those forbidden delights in the toyshop to end all toyshops and then be expected to go home empty handed? NONONONONOOOOOO......
Yummy Mummy smiled apologetically at the other harassed parents pulling their curious kiddies away from the fascinating sight of someone being naughtier than they. Someone who had dared to do what they had all been dying to do as soon as they had realised that this was merely a virtual shopping session and their burning desires were not about to be instantly gratified. A couple of grandmothers down from the North looked on most disapprovingly and went back to racking their brains for suitable gifts for their sons-in-law.
“I gave him a hot water bottle cover last year,” complained one, “but I’m not sure he ever used it. I’d ask for it back, for two pins. Real nice, it were, too.”
“Aye” sighed the other. ”I don’t understand mine half the time. This year I asked him if he’d like a nice new pair of pyjamas and do you know what he said?”
No, but we were about to.
She stopped abruptly in her tracks as she remembered the sheer effrontery of it. A group of Japanese tourists trotting up from behind in overtaking mode slammed into her immovable bulk. Toothy smiles. Solly. Velly solly.
“ ‘Moother’, ‘e said – I give ‘im that, ‘e does speak something loovly – ‘Moother’, ‘e said, ‘that is sooo not a priority.’ Do you ‘ave any idea what that means?”
They strutted off shaking their heads and pondering the mysteries of the south.
We headed, to my excited anticipation, towards Bond Street, but I was steered instead into my unfavourite shop where the sales staff (m) are naked to the waist and the girls have miniskirts the depth of curtain pelmets and you can't see anything because it is so dark which is just as well since the price tags are not exactly Primark and I proceeded to have a panic attack which cost me because no way could I leave my daughter in that den of iniquity without a credit card.
Perhaps we could have a full stop here somewhere.
So I left her to it and sauntered on up past all the luxury retailers whilst she sorted the entire family’s Abercrombie and Fitch Christmas presents.
And a very happy tartan-shirted, raggedy-jeansed, logo-plastered sweatshirt Christmas to you all, I thought.
Whatever happened to designer lingerie?