Ah, Christmas. The crackle of chestnuts on an open fire, the jingling of sleigh bells, sweet singing in the choir… that’s the dream, but reality can sometimes have very different plans. Whether it’s the kids squealing all day in the flat upstairs or a broken boiler on the day your family flies in to visit, the potential for Christmas crises lurks at every corner. Though we can’t provide you with a succulent, steaming turkey when yours has burnt to a crisp, we can at least provide the following survival tips to have up your sleeve come C-day. Trust us, it pays to think ahead.
Prepare for transport nightmares: National transport meltdowns do not make for a good Christmas getaway. The last thing you want is to be squeezed onto a rail replacement coach on Christmas Eve, checking into your romantic country hotel at some unholy hour with no time to enjoy dinner and finish off your last-minute wrapping. Ride-sharing is a good way to save yourself this agony, as well as a little Christmas cash.
Choose a good book: Christmas is a brilliant opportunity to relax and spend time with your friends and loved ones. Nevertheless, after a few hours of intensive bonding, it’s never long until you remember that you also enjoy spending time on your own. After losing Trivial Pursuit to your fiercely competitive flatmate and enduring probing questions on your love life from your parents, you’ll soon need an escape plan. Quietly disappear into your bedroom, cosy up with a book and regain your will to live. We recommend David Sedaris’s wry, hilarious – and seasonal – vignettes from the time he worked as a Christmas Elf in New York. You’ll find that while your Christmas is stressful, it could be so much worse.
Make a shopping list: Just do it. Though the essentials are fairly obvious – turkey, sprouts, potatoes – it’s highly likely you’ll get distracted in the booze aisle and forget about that roll of wrapping paper you needed to pick up before the shops close. It would be a shame to have to resort to wrapping that special gift in last week’s Big Issue – again. Fighting your way through a festive supermarket is akin to completing a military assault course, particularly when everyone else in London is at it too. A shopping list may be boring, but it will guarantee your survival.
Wrap an emergency gift: Save yourself from social disaster by wrapping an emergency present and keeping it on standby. It doesn’t have to be big – chocolates should have the desired effect. They’re also gender neutral. When your brother turns up on Christmas day with the new girlfriend you knew nothing about, you’ll be cool as a cucumber. Whip out the gift, and make like you were prepared. Just don’t call her Julie – that was his last girlfriend.
Download some films: While we expect you’ll be tuning in to watch our boys duff up the Poms in Melbourne on Boxing Day, it would be a shame to leave it to the last minute to discover that the rest of this year’s Christmas television schedule is an enormous disappointment. We can tell you now that it probably will be. A winning strategy is to line up a few alternatives ahead of time, ready to deploy during a spate of dull broadcasting. This will save you from arguments about the least boring documentary to settle with, and will also provide reliable filler-material should anyone start to get bored with charades.
Step away from the Chardonnay: On Christmas day, your main objectives are to remain charming. Remember to log in to your family Skype call, and make it through the cracker-pulling without knocking red wine over the tablecloth. You’ll do swimmingly if you remember to pace your drinking. Try not to start too early, and make sure your apéritifs are taken with snacks so you’re not drinking on an empty stomach. Pacing your eating is also wise. Your English friend spent months preparing that traditional Christmas cake, and will be most disappointed if you can’t find the room to give it a try.
www.blablacar.com is a car-sharing community that connects drivers with paying passengers, cutting the cost of travel for both.
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