The ‘who’ and not the ‘what’ at Christmas

Carole uses the festive period as an excuse to hang up her ‘women and investing’ hat and talk instead about why Christmas makes her think of throwing wine down the walls…

The annual vacuum

Our lounge is a weird shape. There is a corner that is wider than a right angle (that’s as far as my geometric powers of description go, I’m afraid) and it is the perfect place for a Christmas tree. Installing the tree entails a bit of furniture moving, which means that the area gets an annual vacuum (apologies to any cleaning-obsessives who are appalled that this doesn’t happen more than once a year). It is at this point that I come across the bit of crusty, slightly darker carpet and compromised skirting board which, for the other 50 weeks of the year, are hidden by a small table. And every time I do, it makes me laugh.

A misjudged movement

I’ll explain. Some years ago we redecorated this room – we went the whole hog and bought new sofas, new curtains and had bookshelves especially made. We also had a new carpet. In terms of money spent, let’s just say it wasn’t nothing. A mere matter of days after its completion I was lying on one of the new sofas and enjoying the view. A glass of red wine was placed on the table in the ‘corner-that-is-not-a-corner’ in smug celebration of a job well done. So smug was the smugness in fact that I didn’t even think it necessary to sit myself in an upright position to reach said glass of wine – preferring to extend an arm behind me in a gesture of pure nonchalance to bring it round to where I, Queen Carole, could take a well-earned mouthful. And all of that would have been fine except that in putting it back again I misjudged the movement and sloshed the not-quite-full glass all down the wall where it both dribbled behind the woodwork and puddled proudly on the new carpet.

Feeling your synapses snapping

What I remember most vividly about the incident are not the frantic attempts to reverse the situation (I do remember that we put salt down – rightly or wrongly – hence the crustiness; and I think I may have repainted that bit of the wall at some point). No, what I recall is what happened in the immediate aftermath – in those fractions of a second when your senses are heightened to the point that you can actually feel your synapses snap while your brain takes in what has happened. My body froze briefly but my eyes darted across to the place where Husband was sitting. He looked at me before the tiniest of wry smiles twitched at his mouth and then made a heartfelt utterance that comes back to me year after year:

“I can’t tell you how relieved I am that wasn’t me!”

It’s the ‘who’ not the ‘what’ that is important

The whole thing makes me laugh, because it says so much about the people we are. I grew up in a family that was careful with money – things that cost a lot were to be respected and not wasted. I carry this with me (it’s true, I would not have reacted well if Husband had been the wine thrower) but have learned also that trying to keep things perfect rarely turns out well. It was my instinct to be horrified that I had ‘spoilt’ our new room – something that we had spent a lot of money on – but his flippant reaction gave me permission to place more importance on the ‘who’ and not the ‘what’ in the room.

Money is a facilitator, not the main act

And I love the fact that I get a reminder of The Wine Incident at just the right time every year. Many of us overspend at Christmas in an attempt to live up to our expectations and make things perfect – for ourselves and for others – but if I think back on the very many festive periods that I have lived through, it is not the ‘stuff’ that I did or didn’t get that I remember but the ‘times’ that I’ve had. As long as basic needs are covered, money is a facilitator, not the end result: the MC rather than the main act.

Still (just about) functioning

Businesses and individuals might normally reflect at this time of year on whether or not they have had a ‘successful’ 12 months – which they would undoubtedly measure in terms of money made. After the year we’ve had, however, I consider it a success that, despite the unhealthy amount of time we have spent in each other’s company, my family is still intact and remains (just about) a functioning unit.

Christmas won’t be perfect

Like many of our Christmas-celebrating neighbours we’ve gone early this year and the tree is already in place (let’s face it, no-one’s coming round so who cares if the foliage is a tad droopy come the Big Day). Christmas 2020 won’t be perfect – but then, nothing ever is, which is just as well because life’s joy can invariably be found in the wine-sloshing misjudgements and imperfections that stain the best of us.

Happy Christmas! (And a big fat ‘laters’ to 2020…)


14 December 2020

Talking Finances is a trading name of Talking Finances Ltd. Talking Finances Ltd is an appointed representative of Beaufort Financial Planning Limited, Kingsgate, 62 High Street, Redhill, Surrey, RH1 1SH, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, FCA Registration No. 583233

All opinions are those of Carole Haswell and do not constitute financial advice