As I’m still stuck indoors with a coldâ€”my head finally cleared last night, at a feverish dream’s stressful climax, but my lungs and sinuses still itch like blazesâ€”I’ve been able to let my mind wander over all the bits and pieces I’ve meant to blog these past few weeks. Most of them seem rather pointless now, but I’d still like to mention this year’s makeshift advent calendar.
Last year, the local shops and supermarkets made it so difficult for us to buy an advent calendar without chocolate in it that we decided to make our own. We stuck together a collage of the year’s stars, plus George Foreman and Charlotte Church, and spent advent 2005 drawing shaky boxes over hilarious parts of their anatomy. So far I’ve not managed to take a photograph of it that does it justice, but there’ll be one eventually: the first law of making shift is that you should expect the temporary to hang around for some time, and we certainly don’t plan to throw it away any time yet.
Like any break from tradition, this has set a precedent that’s in danger of becoming its own tradition. And so this year we of course wanted to do the same, only different. A consignment of business cards at work had been printed incorrectly and written off, leaving us with dozens of plastic boxes. At the time (some eight months ago) I thought, I’ll have some of those, with no real idea of what I might do with them.
Early in November, I finally worked out how to put them to good use. K. and I would turn them into an advent calender: copying, in a way, the idea of the calendars that turned us into amateur artsandcrafters in the first place; but our spark of genius would be that we wouldn’t just put chocolate in them. Sounds mad, I know, extreme and distressing for those of you who like market homogeneity, but it’s visionaries like us that keep culture moving.
We took ten boxes and split them into twenty halves: slightly different sizes but not by much. The presents were put into the boxes, which were individually wrapped: if you wrap them upside down, all the sellotaped seams are eventually hidden behind the calendar. A coin-toss then made sure we numbered the boxes randomly, marking the presents for K. with a pink dot by the number. We’d have liked two more boxes (Dec 1â€“24) but twenty were to make a nice rectangular shape.
The boxes were stuck on backing card, and to each other, with loops of tape (we’d lost the double-sided tape). Finally, to add a bit more structure, we covered all the gaps between boxes with red and yellow masking tape. We hung it up rather badly and it eventually fell down, but was otherwise completely unharmed.
It now sits on the bedroom windowsill, and every morning makes this time of year a little bit less miserable. So far K. has had blackcurrant tea, spare earring butterflies and (yes) a chocolate for variety; I’ve had chewing-gum and a truffle. I know what’s in store for K, and I can’t wait for the rest of this advent to pan out. It’s all I can do to put the scissors down.