Jess of the dairy fields
By Jessica Miller; the illustration is by Becky Blake
Published in January ’14
I have always adored the festive period, especially since Lily’s birth, but I no longer possess the same stamina that I did in my twenties. By the end of last Christmas, Jasper and I were both feeling somewhat frazzled by the relentless merry-go-round of socialising. Lily, of course, had risen to the occasion as only a child can: by eating her body weight in Christmas confectionery. With a presence of mind that belies her tender years, she hoarded her stash in several undisclosed locations, to where she skulked off to stuff her face whenever she pleased.
Daily, we watched impotently as she rode the sugar-level rollercoaster; we witnessed our polite, sweet-natured child turn into a truculent whirling dervish who veered wildly from bouts of pale-faced torpid lethargy to manic hyperactivity to tearful listlessness, randomly punctuated by temper tantrums of Old Testament proportions.
On the morning of 5 January, things came to a head. We came downstairs to discover that she had polished off a box of fruit jellies for breakfast. Emboldened by sugar-powered super strength, she was wrestling with a confused-looking dog in front of the Aga. Closer inspection revealed that she was trying to spray Bandit’s white hairy armpits with deodorant while the other household dogs, Frog and Trevor, watched from the sidelines, grinning like idiots.
‘Keep still, Bandit. You’ve got dreadful BO,’ chided Lily bossily, tightening the half-Nelson as he tried to wriggle free.
Jasper confiscated the pressurised container just in time, before Lily started to let out uncharacteristic shrieks of rage that filled the kitchen.
‘Enough is enough,’ I said purposefully, as she sobbed and wailed into Bandit’s fur. ‘She’s going to have to go cold turkey.’
Jasper nodded grimly and we headed upstairs to search for her hidden bounty. She had eaten most of it, but we seized a packet of Mars bars from underneath her mattress and a half-eaten box of Thornton’s champagne truffles emerged from the back of the airing cupboard.
There was hell to pay when she realised that we’d looted her hiding places, but after we had dragged her out, literally kicking and screaming, for a long bracing walk with the dogs in the fresh air, followed by turkey soup and toasted soldiers in front of the fire and a warm bubble bath, she had lost the demonic glint in her eye and once again resembled the child we know and love. By the time she was snuggled up in bed in her new reindeer pyjamas (present from Granny Jill), her eyelids were drooping and she was yawning. I sighed contentedly and contemplated the delicious prospect of an evening spent reading one of my Christmas books and dozing in front of the wood burner.
I ran myself a deep hot bath with my new Jo Malone bath oil (present from Jasper). As I put down my book, then closed my eyes and sank into the bath’s luxurious depths, I suddenly realised that we hadn’t got to bed before midnight for almost two weeks. After my bath, I found Jasper in the bedroom trying on the new suit I had bought him. It was beautifully cut and a perfect fit. ‘Very handsome. Try this on with it.’ I said, passing him his velvet bow tie. At that moment Lily wandered in to the room: ‘Mummy, I’m thirsty.’
I was in the kitchen getting her a glass of water and checking it against the light to see if we needed a new water filter fitting, when the dogs started growling. Footsteps echoed ominously outside – then our friends Kate and Chris burst into the kitchen, clinking bottles, trailing overnight bags and closely followed by their three boys.
I, meanwhile, cut a rather incongruous figure in my dressing gown and turban, my still-unread book clasped under one arm, thrusting a glass of water ceilingwards in the other and blinking uncomprehendingly at the new arrivals. It was as if the Statue of Liberty had been surprised by paparazzi at a spa.
‘WOO-HOOO! Get ready to party!’ bellowed Chris, our own Sir Toby Belch, brandishing two bottles of Moët.
‘Jess, my darling!’ exclaimed Kate, teetering towards me in a little black dress and six-inch heels, then enveloping me in her trademark Diorissimo-scented embrace.
Lily and Jasper appeared in the doorway. Six-year-old Rufus promptly presented Lily with a giant packet of strawberry laces. Ah well, at least she’d be able to run around with the boys for a bit.
‘Nice black tie,’ said Chris with a smile as he expertly popped a champagne cork. ‘I would have worn my dinner jacket if I’d known.’
Jasper, the hero of the hour, didn’t miss a beat. ‘One has to make an effort. After all, we’ve been looking forward to tonight for ages, haven’t we, Jess?’
‘Oh yes, so looking forward,’ I concurred, nodding perhaps a little too vigorously.
‘You’re hopeless at returning text messages,’ teased Kate, taking a long swig of champagne. Ah, so I wasn’t going mad, I just hadn’t used that pay-as-you-go mobile for months.
As I got dressed, listening to the sound of music and laughter, I remembered Jasper’s saying that the best parties are always the impromptu ones.
My own little epiphany: he was absolutely right.