Completing the Essex exodus

PUBLISHED: 16:00 08 December 2014 | UPDATED: 16:00 08 December 2014

Sybilla Hart

Sybilla Hart


Sybilla Hart reflects on her new life in the Essex countryside. This month she discusses how she is organising the run up to Christmas

The run up to Christmas in London is enough to inspire even the worst Scrooge among us. Who can’t get excited when everywhere you cast your eyes Christmas has scattered some of its sparkle. I always favoured spending up until about December 20 in London. This means that I have my son’s birthday and party under my belt and am just in time to pick up the worst virus in town, which has been exacerbated by the drinks party I really shouldn’t have attended.

So arriving in a heap at someone else’s house for Christmas in the country was, up until last year, the status quo. A year ago we did something crazy which proves anyone can move house in a week (completion permitting). We decided on December 5 to move out of our house in London and move to Essex on December 13.

We did it — or rather Hamilton’s removal company did. I’m not saying this is a particularly good idea — moving is stressful enough as it is without throwing Christmas into the mix. I recall finding box after box of broken crayons, pieces of Lego and old children’s magazines on Christmas Eve. How had they managed to move with us and since when is a ripped copy of The Monster Times any use to anyone? And more importantly these boxes of junk got in the way of the perfect Christmassy house you see gracing the pages of glossy magazines, such as this one. When I look at a shabby chic table adorned with glass reindeers and tasteful white bows, I can’t help but wonder where is their junk? Where did they put their stuff? I have tried to wage a war on stuff, but it keeps getting the better of me.

I’m hoping that this year, devoid as it will be of the stressful journey down either the M11 or M4 (and minus a house move), might inspire some more relaxed festive moments. My husband, the ever-enthusiastic gardener that he is, has pinpointed a very tall conifer in the garden as an outdoor Christmas tree. Inside the house I will be able to put all those beams to use and hang Christmas decorations from the ceilings. Very cosy.

A deliberate and steady stream of Internet transactions on my part should have the stockings sorted as this year is the first time I have started thinking Christmas in August. Yes, combining paddling pools with stocking fillers felt a little incongruous at the time. Last year, you see, the stockings were a bit on the lean side. I recall the husband sighing heavily in the present cupboard: he realised that he was going to have to do a last minute Christmas Eve dash to Smyths Toys in Colchester. Cue masses of Peppa Pig toys and all sorts of aliens which were no sooner unwrapped than they were discarded. I try to persuade my husband to adopt my American friend’s strategy of a three-stop-stocking (three nice, useful, wanted toys in the stocking as opposed to 20 annoying, superfluous ones), but he’s not having any of it.

And then there’s the question of Father Christmas. We have explained to the children that mummy and daddy help Father Christmas with his mammoth task.

After all, he’s got a lot of children to take care of these days. I remember how crestfallen I was when I discovered the Father Christmas secret. There is an up side though, when it comes to demythologising Father Christmas, in that it no longer distracts from the birth of Jesus Christ, which is no myth and leads us to the true meaning of Christmas.

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