Bryony’s getting worried and Jane goes on a first date
Bryony Gordon 38 Married to a very patient husband Harry, and mother to Edie, five
Something strange is happening. Not with the guinea pigs, though Harry and I are convinced they are plotting to overthrow us and lock us in their hutch. Not with my continued commitment to cooking, though the fact I now cook five nights a week must have caused Deliveroo’s profits to plummet. And not with Mum’s breathless accounts of dates in coffee shops, as if she were a millennial living in east London and not a grandmother in a Home County. No, the strange thing that is happening is something that is not actually happening. Because even though we are now well into December, Mum has not once mentioned what we are doing for Christmas.
My mum loves Christmas. She is obsessed with organising every last moment of it, then cries under the stairs if the slightest thing goes wrong (to wit: the infamous Christmas of 2015 when the power went and she dropped the turkey on the kitchen floor, then Rufus accidentally upended the trestle table and with it all the posh red wine Dad had provided). She takes it badly whenever it is our turn to spend Christmas with Harry’s family, as if this was a personal attack and not a normal obligation. (To be fair to Mum, she never had to go to her in-laws because they didn’t celebrate Christmas – and also because they refused to talk to her for several years because of religious differences. But that’s another column entirely. In fact, that’s about 20 columns.)
I digress. My concern is that Mum seems to have forgotten Christmas. It’s as if she’s got fed up with having to do everything and so has decided to give the subject the silent treatment in the hope that someone else will take charge. But every time I call my siblings or my father, they fail to mention it too. Which means one of two things: they’re hoping I will take charge; or they’ve got something planned and are hoping
I won’t be involved at all.
Jane Gordon Age unknown Mother, grandmother and 24/7 childminder
What on earth am I doing, I think to myself as I sit down next to a strange man on a plump sofa in the latest coffee house to open in my native town. Why, oh why, have I allowed myself to go along with another one of my BFF Belle’s cunning (but kind) plans to find me ‘a potential partner’?
The difference this time, though, is that I am not facing this date-with-destiny alone because sitting opposite me on another plump sofa in the part of the café that looks like a soft-furnishing showroom are Belle herself and two other members of our book club.
To be fair to my BFF, it wasn’t her idea to have a group date, it was the brainwave of Lucy (aka Backpacking Granny), who suggested I might need backup when I met Nicholas, a retired 60-something widower Belle had found online.
The plan was hatched last week at a hilarious supper and, fuelled by alcohol, I agreed. But now we are all here – Lucy moving over to sit on the other side of Nicholas – I wish I wasn’t. Because even with the support of my book club (most of whom are happily married), I am incapable of engaging in the flirtatious chatter that is called for in these circumstances. Meanwhile Lucy, married and divorced four times but currently single, is offering me a masterclass in how to charm a member of the opposite sex. While
I sit with my arms crossed tightly in front of me, she has thrown one long leg tantalisingly over the other and is laughing at everything Nicholas says. With Belle too at her magnetic best (in a fetchingly festive bright-red outfit), it’s not surprising that Nicholas looks as if his Christmas has come a couple of weeks early.
In fact, I am not sure any of them notice when, on the pretext of going to the loo, I instead leave the building. Half an hour later I get a WhatsApp message from Belle telling me that ‘lovely’ Nicholas is joining our book club ‘so you will HAVE to see him again’. Will she never give up?
Mum takes it badly whenever it is our turn to spend Christmas with Harry’s family
Iam incapable of engaging in the flirtatious chatter that is called for