Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Cookies, Lego & The Wizard Of Oz!

So, here it comes… the first Christmas of my new life!

Actually, that’s not strictly true. Last year was my first Christmas as a single woman again, but if I can get my hands on the video evidence of me singing with my sisters in pyjamas and a sombrero I’m hoping no one will remember it – I certainly don’t. Judging by how I felt on Boxing Day, I’m fairly sure there was a large amount of wine consumed. I’m not proud of it. This year, I think I’ll be favouring the Becks Blue!

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about Christmas traditions and wondering what to do this year.

My first instinct was to hang on to as many traditions as possible that the kids and I were used to. I wanted to show them, and myself, that the divorce hadn’t changed our world that much after all.

That meant doing lovely things like baking lemon cookies together with all my nieces and nephews, making a table centrepiece and, of course, me staying up until 3am on the lounge floor wrapping presents whilst watching Love Actually on DVD, then being unable to stand upright for the next week. Oh the joys of Christmas!

It also meant an afternoon at Winter Wonderland dodging other Bambiesque patrons on the ice rink, getting soaked in the 4D cinema and risking serious injury on the bumper cars and slides… Two years ago my son ignored the sign telling him not to jump on the mammoth bouncy slide saying he thought it was one of those warnings they didn’t really mean. He ended up with a nasty friction burn. It’s the health and safety equivalent of crying wolf. Too many warnings about the dangers of monkey bars, perils of conkers and certain death associated with frolicking on trampolines mean that kids today understandably become a little blasé about such signs.

Moving on, whilst planning the traditional Christmas jollies, I had a small internal crisis. Maybe I’d got it wrong? Maybe this was the time for fresh beginnings and starting new traditions - replacing the Christmas pudding no one ever eats with a Malteser chocolate cake version and getting the kids to make a table centerpiece of their own. I was thinking along the lines of pinecones, twigs, leaves, berries and all things natural. They, on the other hand, chose Lego. I’m trying so hard not to at least suggest a colour scheme! I have, however, specified it needs to accommodate a candle. Health and safety wise it’s a much better option than mine.

Then I got thinking about old traditions from my childhood – Dad saving the tips he got from his second job to buy a Christmas board game, Mum putting raffle prizes in a hollow Father Christmas to be drawn at the dinner table, and not forgetting watching The Wizard Of Oz on television.

If you haven’t seen it… how have you managed that? Anyway, here’s the gist. During a tornado Dorothy bangs her head and dreams she’s lost, trying to get home. The Good Witch Of The North tells her to follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City and get help from the Wizard of Oz. On the way she fends off the Wicked Witch Of The West and meets up with three likely lads – the Tin Man who wants a heart, the Cowardly Lion who wants courage and the Scarecrow who wants a brain. The Wizard grants all their wishes but disappears before he can return Dorothy home. However, on the advice of the Good Witch, she closes her eyes and clicks the heels of her ruby shoes together three times whilst uttering the words “there’s no place like home”. Soon she’s back where she belongs.

That’s definitely the abridged version and I’ve missed out a stack of detail with more symbolism than you’ll ever believe. Seriously, type “symbolism in The Wizard of Oz” into Google and you’ll get entries as far apart as feminism, conspiracy theory, Jung’s psychoanalytic theories, religion, atheism, the collapse of the US populist movement and American monetary policy! I kid you not.

I’m going for a slightly less highbrow interpretation if I may. I believe, and I think my psychotherapist would agree with me here, that this is just about life.

Life is a journey – yes, I said the “j” word! We’re following our own Yellow Brick Road in search of the person who can give us the answers. We think there’s a Wizard out there that can make it right but actually, we have the power within ourselves to get to where we want to be. We just have to believe we can do it.

And the three travelling companions are really all parts of us. We beat ourselves up if we feel we’ve been lacking in heart just because we snapped at the kids when we didn’t mean to or ran out of time to visit a friend we planned to catch up with. We chastise ourselves for being too scared to take a risk in work, home or love. Then we punish ourselves for being brainless and making a mistake.

But we’re only human, just like everyone else. Our heart is only so big, not all risks are worth taking and mistakes are how we learn. Plus, it’s useful for our kids to see that we’re not perfect so they don’t grow up expecting too much of themselves.

As for the Wicked Witch Of The West, we’re always going to encounter people working against us. Although they generally won’t set a hoard of flying monkeys on us as in the film, they have the potential to make our life tricky and we just have to manage them as best we can. On the other hand, if they do attempt the monkey thing, I’d go with some sort of banana distraction.

And what about the sparkly red shoes? Who wouldn’t want a pair of those? Where do you think Christian Louboutin got the idea for red soles?

Despite the imperfections of her home life, all Dorothy really wanted was to get back to her family. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for? So what if our family isn’t the traditional format? Neither was Dorothy’s. She was an orphaned teen living with her aunt and uncle. No one has the perfect, normal life. There’s no such thing. Home and family are defined by us - kids, partners, pets, extended family, friends, hangers on… and you.

Whether you want to anaylse the film’s intentions in depth or just kick your shoes off and escape to Oz for a while, it’s a classic worthy of its place in the traditional Christmas television schedule. For info, that’s 3.10pm, Christmas Day, Channel 5.

But, maybe we don’t have to choose between the new, the old and the very old traditions. Perhaps it’s time to merge them all, selecting our favourite traditions and creating our Christmas, our way.

So, I’ll enjoy the new Malteser Christmas Pudding and marvel at the ultra modern Lego centrepiece but I’ll also relish baking lemon cookies, sitting on the floor playing a family board game and maybe snuggling up with the kids to watch The Wizard of Oz too.

Close your eyes ladies, click those heels together and say to yourselves three times “there’s no place like home”. Never doubt that you have the heart, courage and brain to make it the best Christmas ever for you and your family.

Merry Christmas!




  1. SPB sorry but you did make me cry again....only in a good way though. It was exactly the reminder of what's important that I needed to hear this morning before I propel myself into a Christmas frenzy trying to make it perfect for everyone. Merry Christmas to you and your gorgeous family x

    1. Lovely Clare! I'm glad they were good tears. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful Christmas. xxx