This Side of the Pond
Notes from an Uprooted Englishwoman
December 9, 2021
Something sinister is happening and I don't know what to do about it. Every time I walk into my office, there's a new piece of holiday detritus staring at me.
It started with a cardboard snowflake, leaning nonchalantly on a shelf as though it had always been there. I should have known better even at that early stage.
Innocent that I am, I left it where it was because I assumed someone had forgotten where they left it while planning out the office decorations for the year.
But then a length of plastic holly attached itself to my wall, followed by a ring of bells and a fuzzy light-up snowman. Santa appeared in a corner, and I finally began to get worried.
The crux of the problem, you see, is that we only have a limited number of seasonal baubles in this building. If you're thinking I must be concerned that we'll run out before the building is appropriately decorated, let me reassure you that the problem is much worse than that.
To explain why, we must rewind to the beginning of this saga, several Decembers ago, when my dear boss had an idea I would come to regret. He decided that all the Christmas decorations – every single one of them – should go in my little room.
While we really are limited on the amount of tinsel available, it's still too much for one room. I now know this from personal experience.
I was blissfully aware of his plan until it was too late. One afternoon just after Thanksgiving, I headed out to cover the usual monthly meetings in the courthouse.
I came back a few hours later, notes clutched in my hand, and walked into a nightmare before Christmas.
My office was overflowing with decorative items, some more tasteful than others. There was tinsel across every window and picture frame; Santas and snowmen on every surface. There were light-up decorations blinking merrily, but not in unison, and some that were making jingling noises, but not in a pattern that I'd describe as creating an overall tune.
There was even a full-sized Christmas tree looming on a table in the corner, making it difficult to get to my chair. Not that there was much point fighting my way past it, considering that my entire desk had been wrapped in festive paper.
It looked like Santa had crashed into my office and his sack of Christmas delights had exploded. It was uncoordinated, noisy and distracting. It was exactly as he wanted it to be.
He might have been thrilled with the results, but I was going to have to live with this for weeks. I could have coped with limbo dancing past the tree, but I was concerned that the community would think I'd gone mad.
Perhaps the worst moment was the very next day, when a distinguished local gentleman popped in unexpectedly to discuss the possibility of collaborating on an article.
He walked through the door into an austere building that lacked a single sign of merriment. But as he reached my office, there I was, sitting in the middle of the most extravagant Christmas display in human history.
I don't know what the poor man wanted, only that I deeply wished I'd known he was coming. I could have escorted him to the table in the main part of the building, where there wasn't even a reindeer to be seen.
I watched the apprehension pass over his face before he was able to compose himself. To his eternal credit (but not to my boss's), he entered as though there was nothing strange going on at all.
For the next hour, we were forced to interact as though neither of us had noticed all the lights and sounds around us. He couldn't even sit up straight, because the tree branches hung over the only chair.
Your kind and thoughtful newspaper editor thought this was the funniest thing he'd ever seen. Naturally, he was excited for the next Christmas to roll around, and then the next one.
This year, he didn't even wait for me to leave the office. Once the first snowflake had broken the dam, he rarely passed by my door without a decoration in hand.
Some of those decorations are starting to show wear and tear after years of abuse in creating "imaginative" Christmas scenes for my office. An elf turned up without a head one morning, later followed by the Leaning Tree of Pisa.
None of this prepared me for the Christmas monster. I don't even know how to explain the existence of this year's main atrocity.
I think it began as a star made out of old Christmas tree branches, with tinsel on each point. Because the tinsel somehow managed to make it look like it had arms and legs, the remaining point was given a giant red bauble for a head.
Apparently, this was not lifelike enough, so the white gloves used to carefully turn the pages of our century-old back issues were repurposed as Christmas monster hands. The whole thing was hung from my door, and let me tell you it was a terrifying sight.
I managed to wrangle a situation in which the Christmas monster needed to be somewhere else, and then arranged for a small child to remove his head. I thought this would be enough to ensure my safety, but he's still lurking somewhere there at the back of the office.
As I write this column, I am preparing to leave the office for my Disney vacation. If you don't hear from me in next week's issue, please send help, because the chances are high that I was taken hostage by the Christmas monster when I tried to come back to work.