FOR complicated reasons I spent Christmas Day on my own this year. I do not wish you to feel sorry for me – unless it somehow leads to me gaining financially – and I know there are many people worse off. For example, I know there are those of you who had to spend Christmas with your relatives and loved ones.
I decided to make the best of it. On my way home on Christmas Eve I picked up the last chicken in Tesco, and I had a cracker left over from last year, so I was pretty much set for the best Christmas since the one before Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by the ghosts.
In the spirit of the season, I put a wash on just before noon, and started peeling some potatoes. Yes, I was a case study for some sort of charity and will probably appear, played by an actor, in an advert which is shown in the afternoon on one of the channels in the bottom half of the guide, but I was not going to let it stop me from having a good Christmas.
“This isn’t so bad,” I thought, the smell of a roasting chicken wafting from the oven, the Christmas tree lights twinkling by the window. It’s possible I hallucinated the carol singers carrying lanterns out in the street, we will never know. I am sure I saw Cliff Richard walking past.
I took a sip of sweet sherry, and started to wash up as I cooked. “Delia Smith never has to worry about this,” I thought. I ran the hot tap to fill up the bowl. “Hmm,” I thought, “This hot tap is taking a suspiciously long time to heat up. It is almost as if it is the cold tap.”
I waggled it to make sure. It was not. And so this Christmas became The Christmas I Spent On My Own With No Hot Water Or Central Heating.
Christmas Day is the very worst day of the year to have your boiler break down, even if you do not have a house full of people, because nobody wants to come out to fix a boiler when there are sprouts, purple Roses, and arguments on offer at home.
Then if the plumber does come out, the chance that he or she will have the part required to repair the boiler is so small that you could hide it behind the bit of Piers Morgan’s brain that deals with self-doubt. And there is no way he or she can obtain the part because nowhere is open for days, because it is Christmas.
The first thing that happens to you on Christmas Day when you have no hot water or central heating is that you immediately feel cold, even if you did not have the central heating switched on anyway.
The second thing that happens to you is you remember that 200 years ago, people managed perfectly well without hot water and central heating and modern day standards of sanitation, and they were all right apart from in the fact in those days if you were 20 you were considered middle-aged.
After my lunch – and one good thing about eating Christmas dinner alone is that you are guaranteed to win the paper hat in your cracker – I became overwhelmed by the need to have a bath, to prove I was not yet a barbarian. Surely that would be all right. I had boiled a kettle to wash the dishes. Admittedly I would probably need a few more kettles to warm up a bath, but how hard could it be, I wondered as I filled the bath with cold water…
I had my answer 56 minutes and 27 trips from the kitchen to the bathroom later. It turns out warming up a bath with kettles and pans is like taking out a jumbo jet with a peashooter.
Eventually I climbed in. It wasn’t really hot enough but I didn’t want to die in my own filth. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought, as I began to relax in the waters. “It’s not so cold outside, and I can manage for a few days. This is nice. I should have a bath instead of a shower more often.”
And with that, I decided the water was not warm enough. I leaned forward, and turned on the hot tap.
And that was why, on Christmas Day, just after the Queen’s speech, you heard that blood-curdling scream.