I had to have stern words with myself this week. I apologise to anyone in the supermarket who was near enough and, as a result, slightly unnerved, by the sight of me, standing with a packet of mince pies in my hand and mumbling: "Catch yourself on!"
The reason for such self-admonishment in the biscuit aisle was because I suddenly realised that I'd let a rising sense of panic overwhelm me, something that we've all have to fight hard to prevent in recent months. This particular panic had its roots in Christmas and a conversation I had with a stranger on the beach.
It wasn't until I had a dog of my own that I realised what a great conversation starter they are. Even in these weird times, complete strangers will still stop for a safe, socially distanced natter over the heads of our furry charges. We'll comment on each other's fur babies, noting how gorgeous they are, how well behaved or how "exuberant" their personalities are.
Have you noticed how reluctant dog lovers are to call out naughty behaviour in ours or other people's four-legged friends? Instead we use euphemisms like the aforementioned "exuberant", or "high-spirited", or "puppy-like".
I was recently knocked off my feet and on to the sand by someone's hyperactive, gorgeous Labrador, a beautiful, chocolate coloured boy who then proceeded to climb all over me and lick my head. His owner came rushing up to check that I was okay, which I was, with only my pride slightly bruised from landing on my bottom. She apologised for the dog being "overly-bouncy". I responded by calling him "very friendly". We both knew what we really meant.
On Monday I went to the beach with my dog and got talking, at a distance, to an older woman whose two dachshunds, clad in matching, spotty coats were too elderly to ever be described as bouncy. Instead, they looked at best reluctantly resigned to having to exercise and didn't appear overly pleased when their owner stopped for a chat.
Our conversation quickly turned to Covid-19, as most conversations seem to these days, and this lady told me how she had all her Christmas food shopping completed, including everything necessary for Christmas dinner. I must have looked shocked because she went on to explain her reasoning. She said that in the last few years she's loved relinquishing the preparation of the turkey and trimmings to her daughter with whom she spends the big day. But this year she was fearful of a lockdown occurring over the festive holidays, preventing her from going to her daughter's house, even though she's in a bubble with her. Her frozen Christmas lunch was in case she ended up spending the day on her own.
My heart really went out to this lovely lady and the more I thought about her the more my own sense of worry grew. For the last few weeks, I've been obsessing about Christmas, viewing it as a bit of a beacon, a shining light at the end of a terrible year. The thought of not being able to celebrate it in the normal way filled me with dread, which is how I came to find myself in the biscuit aisle, with a trolley full of Christmas puddings, pigs in blankets and Brussels sprouts in the first week of November.
Luckily, as I was checking the expiration date on the mince pies, to see if they'd last until December 25, I had a moment of clarity. I realised that I'm lucky enough to live in a tightly packed bubble with my husband, our three children and my mum, so even if we can't get our hands on a turkey or a packet of crackers on the 25th of next month, I still have everything - or rather, everyone - I need to enjoy the festive season.
It dawned on me that the only thing that's going to ruin Christmas is me getting in a panic and making everyone around me stressed. I may have no control over events but I can control my reaction to them. So, I have decided that for now, all thoughts of Christmas shall remain safely packed away with the very strict instruction: "Do Not Open Until December."