Aimee Horton

A (slightly delayed) Christmas Fairy Tale – Part 2


Originally due to be published on Christmas Eve, I was struck down in the prime of life with coughing, spluttering, on-the-verge-of-death flu and have only just recovered enough in order to post.  Whilst sorry for the delay I hope you can now settle down with the dregs of the selection box and cast your mind back to just a few short weeks ago…


“How can you not know what Brio is?  Didn’t you ever go to the Early learning Centre when you were little?”


“No.  We went to the Cash & Carry.”


Listen carefully and you can actually hear his eyes roll.  You see his childhood was all wooden train sets; mine was training to set tables (we lived in a pub).  My small family and I never quite got the hang of decking the halls and fa la la la la-ing.  But then I met himself and I fell head over heels, right into a bucket of Christmas cheer sung loud for all to hear.  We’d only been together a few of months when I received my invite to his family Christmas.  I readily accepted, after all, it was July; there was plenty of time for circumstances to change and his enthusiasm to wane.  So on 25 December mum and I were duly collected from our grotto (the gargoyle had a Santa hat on) and taken to a family winter wonderland full of people.  Happy smiling ones.


Stood in the doorway I observed that this was all new; I’d not seen one of these before.  But looking closely I could see that this was most definitely one of those elusive family Christmases I’d heard whispers of.  All the components were there.  Wrapping paper strewn over a merrily decorated lounge, children playing with their toys (aged 27 and 25 respectively) and grandparents peacefully pickling in port.  Brussels were being peeled and bucks fizz was being poured.  Mince pies were baking and the beautifully decorated HANDMADE Christmas cake (they don’t all come from M&S, who knew?) took pride of place in the dining room.  Christmas songs filled the house and the fibres of my brand new Christmas jumper (pre requisite) vibrated along with Mariah’s high notes.  Yep, there was no denying it, this, this was Christmas.


We were bustled inside, sat down, exchanged pressies and within 5 minutes both mum and I felt wholly part of the fam.  It could have been the intoxicating festive spirits (port and brandy) or it could have been the huge festive family hug we were enveloped in, but our Christmas indifference started to evaporate.  Evidently it really was the season to be jolly and what previous experience had led us to believe (that it was the season to be friggin’ miserable) wasn’t the case.  If Christmas cheer was contagious, we caught the bug.  I was struck down with festive fever, Christmas pox and a chronic case of tinselistis*.  It utterly transformed me and my less than merry attitude.  I had my eyes opened to a happy family time where everyone got together to enjoy each other’s company, eat, drink and get pissed.  In contrast to previous Christmases where I wished I had a family to celebrate with, I realised that that was the celebration.  People, family, it’s what I’d been missing and now I had it.  It was my own little Tiny Tim Christmas miracle.


*courtesy of a cracker



A Christmas Fairy Tale – Part 1


So, Aimee loves Christmas.  LOVES it.  Me?  Well I struggle a little bit.


For the majority of my life Christmas was spent in a godforsaken town that my nanna had the misfortune of existing in.  Mum and I would set off on Christmas Eve with a bin bag full of presents, a few rapidly defrosting boxes of Marks and Sparks party food and, with the intention of keeping me entertained, an armful of Smash Hits magazines.  Forty minutes later we’d arrive in the arse end of nowhere, unpack our slightly rusty round the edges Micra and get ready to spend the foreseeable trying to be merry.  It was always just the three of us and it seemed no different to every Sunday we spent together the rest of the year. Christmas was simply one long weekend with paper hats and a vat of Bombay Mix.  My nanna would moan about the “old lady” foot spa / bean bag lap tray / dressing gown gifts my cousin and his wife had sent from America.  My mum would rush around like a blue arsed fly, peeling, chopping, cooking, serving, clearing, tidying and looking after us both.  I’d work my way through a jar of mint imperials whilst attempting to play Dream Phone on my own.  Inevitably I’d get three quarters of the way through Santa Claus The Movie before my nanna changed channels so she could watch the Queen’s speech.  I’d get bored, listen to my new Nick Berry cassette (child abuse) on my Walkman and get told off for not being patriotic.  By the end of the day, my cantankerous nanna would have offered the present I’d given her back to me and whilst hiding all the best Quality Street in her skirt, tell my mum off for reading Old Moore’s Capricorn Horoscope book Santa (me) had left her.  My mum would be shattered and in the absence of any proper booze, syphon some rum sauce and have a Bailey’s.  She’d then show willing by finding an antiquarian board game in the vain attempt of forging some family Christmas bond.  By midnight we were all ready for bed and for a bit of added excitement, I’d go upstairs on the Stannah stair lift.  It wasn’t horrible but it was quiet, predictable and a little subdued.  And when the television showed joyful family Christmases, we looked around and except for a Terry’s Chocolate Orange and a bit of tinsel, there wasn’t a lot to mark our occasion out as different to any other time of year.  Cheery family faces weren’t appearing at the door, Slade wasn’t blasting out of any orifice, and it wasn’t even bloody snowing.


For the few years when it was just mum and I, we still struggled.  Neither Heathernezer Scrooge (mum not a massive fan of December 25) nor I knew how to make the day feel different and putting on the free Daily Mail festive CD didn’t do a lot.  We both felt the pressure of having as wonderful a time as everyone else seemed to be having but we didn’t have a family of 38, a tree the size of our cottage or a golden turkey on the verge of making the beautifully decorated table collapse under its juicy goodness.  We had roast beef.  We had a nice day, but was it Christmas?  Come Boxing Day the relief that the pressure of HAVING A VERY MERRY TIME had passed was immense.  We were unsure of how to ‘do’ all this joyful and triumphant malarkey, neither of us felt any affinity to baubles and without the memory of a picture perfect one, we were a bit lost.  We were down on numbers and honestly?  That’s what we were both missing.


And so, twas the April before Christmas, and all through the bar, there were whispers from matchmakers, that me and him would go far.  And they were right.  Almost three years ago we began by pulling pints, then each other and every December, crackers.  A billion of them.  Reader, I met him, the love of my life and Buddy the chuffin’ Elf.


We’d only be together 7 months when 1 December 2010 hit and despite 98% of me knowing I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man, the other 2% was questioning how often a grown man could say “I LOVE CHRISTMAS”.   There was mulled wine pumping through his veins, Mariah belting from his lungs and festive cheer oozing out of every pore.  Mum and I had been welcomed into his family very early on but as Christmas neared we were engulfed in fairy lights, soaked in brandy and dusted with icing sugar.  Wide eyed with horror wonder we realised that this, this was Christmas.


To be continued…





Friends.  Now there’s a contentious issue.  And I’m not talking about whether or not they were on a break.  Nope, I’m talking about best friends, worst ‘friends’, real ones, pretend ones, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Not to mention Facebook.  Friends come in all different guises and it never fails to shock me about how amazing the unexpected are and how shitty the supposed best are.  You win some, you lose some, some cut you out whilst others claw their way in, friendship really is an absolute bloody minefield.

When I was younger I wanted lots, it was all about the numbers.  After all, how many friends you’ve got is a clear indicator on how wonderful you are as a human being, no?  Look at my numbers, just look!  I’ve got over 200 friends on Facebook ergo I am incredibly popular and therefore wonderful.  Bollocks.  I’ve just happened to meet, go to school with, work with and socialise with a grand total of 246 people since I was born, which in those terms seems pretty sad.  Even sadder that I’d say I can count my real friends on my fingers.  But now I’m older I’ve realised viewing friends in the same way as sweets is needless and equally as bad for my health. I’ve always wanted as many as I can, not caring about the quality and even putting up with the sour ones.  Whilst my Haribo addiction is going strong, I’m starting to feel a little sick of the ersatz ones.

This year there has been a giant friendship shift.  One of my best (I use the term loosely, very loosely) friends has decided that we are no longer such.  I only discovered this little nugget of information when she and my other three ‘best’ friends met up and posted pictures online of the whale of a time they were having together.  Minus moi.  Ouch.  I’m 28 and was immediately transported to year 4 when again; my ‘best’ friend told my successor that she hated me in the girls toilets.  “No she didn’t,” I said smugly, “she wouldn’t say that, she’s my best friend!  You wouldn’t say that, would you?”  Looking me square in the eye she answered calmly, “YES”.  At least she was honest.  This time there was no such explanation, I was back at school and my supposed best uni pals had decided that the individual feud I was unaware of was worthy of some classic cutting out bitchiness.  Yes there’d been a slight chill in the air between me and she, but I’d spoken to her and she bluntly said she was irritable, I was irritating and it was just one of those things.  We’d been friends for five years; of course it was just one of those things, no biggy, right?  Wrong.  The fog didn’t lift, so I spoke to the others and each one said the same, “it’ll be fine, she’s done it with us all, you know what she’s like”.  Yes!  Yes I do!  And so do you, so why am I the one getting the big heave ho? I asked.  Something meek was muttered, there was a lone apology and the stark realisation hit me, I didn’t really care.  If they were truly my friends would they have followed the forceful ringleader just for that reason?  Had we all kept in touch because of some imagined duty founded just because we’d shared the same lectures?  We were growing up and apart yet were determined to cling on for dear life despite personalities and geography getting in the way.  For a while I felt bereft and, honestly, a little embarrassed.  It made me feel unpopular, humiliated and disliked, it hurt my feelings.  I was disappointed because whilst I was aware of the tension in one camp I thought the others knew better and it was a shock to be dropped quite so brutally.

Once I’d recovered from the initial jolt of friendship from playgrounds past, I looked around and noticed that I was surrounded by people concerned about my glumness.  It was then I realised that these were all the girls who’d called me the second they heard I’d been made redundant and who organised a surprise chocolate cake on my birthday.  These were the girls who text to see how my mum was getting on when she moved house and pointed him in the direction of my favourite jewellery at Christmas.  Scary thing was, I’d not known them since school or bonded with at university, we’d met, we’d got on and a friendship grew from a mutual like for each other.   Sheesh, this was new.  It had been instilled in me that friends were made when you were young and it is those you hold on to through thick and thin, through irritability and irritation.  But what if the only bond was the same course, same class or penchant for eating play dough?  What happens as we get older and the very thing on which the relationship was established no longer exists?  It falls apart, and trying not to feel like a big fat (and not to mention unpopular) friendship failure is hard.  So much focus had been put on keeping duty friends; I hadn’t noticed how many other pals I had around me.  Of course I have friends that I grew up with and who I have a genuine bond with.  But looking around at the grand old age of 28 I realise my best buddies are those not forged from family or educational institution.  Scary but true.  Part of me is a little sad that I haven’t grown up with my best group of friends and can’t reminisce about that time in the sandpit, common room or SU.  But the other part can’t wait to make more memories with the greatest gang a girl could ask for.