My Perfect Christmas A festive story for the fed-up and frazzled
25thJuly 7.30am. Christmas Day. God I hate Christmas.
9.15am. Arrive at the house. One of those big white town houses you get in west London. The interiors stylist, Polly, is already here. In fact, she tells me from her step ladder as she fixes an oversize star to the top of an oversize tree, she has been here since 5.30 this morning. OK, she has transformed the house. Fake frost icing the windows. Fairy lights round every doorway, bowls of chestnuts and mandarins, artfully scattered snowflake patterned cushions. The lounge is a triumph. It’s totally Scandi – grey walls, white fluffy rugs and pale leather sofas. Polly has amassed a forest of white candles in glass holders along the marble mantelpiece while the huge mirror reflects tinsel and garlands everywhere in shades of orange. Orange? ‘It’s this year’s colour!’ she snaps. ‘Who’s the featured celeb?’ It’s Carly Pinkerton, I say. Have you brought baking stuff? We want her making her famous mint choc-chip Christmas pudding. ‘Yeah yeah,’ says Polly. ‘I’ll get the kitchen set up.’
11am. Carly Pinkerton is an hour late. Leon, the photographer, has set up the X-box in the lounge and is playing Zombie Apocalypse with Gary, the hair and make-up guy. Polly is drenching packs of economy apple pies in icing sugar to make them look like mince pies. Carly Pinkerton is our December issue cover. Celebrity homebody, winner of ‘I’m a Master Pastry Chef Get Me Out Of Here’. Glamorous mother of four and designer of the Belle Maman range of whimsical tableware.
11.40am. A taxi pulls up. Out steps Carly Pinkerton. I say steps. Falls would be a better word. She totters into the kitchen on five inch heels. Glassy eyed, lank haired. ‘Better get to work Gary,’ I say. Carly is followed by her publicist, a hawklike woman in black leather trousers. It’s 28 degrees today – she must be roasting.
12.05. I ring my features editor. ‘She’s here but nobody else is’. ‘Is there a problem?’ says the eavesdropping leather-trousered publicist. Well actually yes. This is supposed to be Carly Pinkerton at home with her charming family. Where’s the family? Husband, kids, sister, kids. We were promised. ‘Of course her sister isn’t here,’ says the publicist. ‘They haven’t spoken for five years, they just troll each other on Twitter.’ Features editor says Jonno, the husband, is on his way with the four kids. But that’s only six – we’ve got a groaning dinner table laid for 12! We need extended family. I’ll get you people, features editor promises.
1.30pm. Gary is trowelling another layer of make-up on to Carly. The sun is beating down outside and Polly has lit a blazing fire. The publicist arranges Belle Maman plates on the dining table and sniffs the glasses of red wine. ‘Is this real?’ she demands. ‘Are you mad? You want red food colouring in water. Now.’
1.40pm. Carly staggers into the dining room. She is not happy about her dress (white cashmere with reindeers). ‘I’m too hot. Oh God it’s even hotter in here!’ She picks up a wine glass and downs the red liquid in one. Her face screws up in disgust. Jonno arrives. ‘Hello Dumpling!’ he yells. ‘Brought the sprogs. God it’s hot in here!’ He picks up a wine glass and downs the red liquid in one. His face screws up in disgust.
2.30pm. I round up the kids. The four year old and six year old are playing Call of Duty Black Ops on the X-box. I find the older ones down the bottom of the garden, smoking dope. I order them inside.
3.40pm. Features editor rings to say supplementary family are on their way. The publicist says let’s do the interview while we wait. She starts dictating.
4.10pm. Six people turn up, a nice-looking man and woman and four children ranging from eight to 13. They look remarkably like Carly, except that they are smiling. I wonder if they’re a real family. ‘No way,’ says the man, Ben.
5.45pm. Leon is finally happy with the Christmas dinner shots. Next we do the lounge, unwrapping presents under the tree. Carly is completely plastered. The publicist missed the bottle of vodka in her handbag. The kids are gone. I find them all down the garden, the older ones giving the younger ones a smoke for one pound a puff. I shriek at them. Children dash into the kitchen and scoff the economy pies.
5.55pm. Everyone in place. Jonno and older kids in comedy Christmas jumpers, Ben and fake family smiling, little kids clutching presents. Little kids clutching stomachs. Smallest one looks green. Where the hell is Carly? Carly lurches in, followed by publicist yelling ‘Do you want to sell your pointless plates or not?’ The combination of cheap pastry and weed proves too much and the smallest child is horribly sick. Carly slips on the puke in her Louboutins, grabs the orange tinsel on the mantlepiece and brings down 20 candles in glass holders. The white fluffy rug goes up in flames.
9.30pm. The last fire engine leaves. I reach for a glass of red wine…no…!! On the up side, I did exchange phone numbers with Ben. And Gary exchanged numbers with Jonno.
11.30 am. 30th July. Editorial meeting to choose the pics. Carly looks gorgeous in them, radiating Christmas joy in her perfect home, at the head of a table of mouthwatering food, her adoring husband, children, sister, sister’s handsome husband and sister’s children at her side. The features editor reads Carly’s interview: ‘I love Christmas. It is absolutely my favourite time of year. I go overboard with the tree and decorations and presents. We always sit round and sing ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ before anyone is allowed to open the first parcel. My house is always packed at Christmas. You never know who’s going to turn up! It’s all quite mad but it works! I don’t know how – that’s the magic of Christmas.’ ‘Our best ever,’ says the features editor. Christmas. Thank God it’s over for another year.