In 2007 I had the second-most depressing Christmas of my life – so far. It was the year I got married. We got married on 22 December and decided that it would be romantic to spend our first Christmas as a couple, by ourselves. Afterwards, we agreed that it was a stupid plan. Christmas is not a time to be romantic. Christmas is a time to spend with family. If you are used to having a big family feast, with a lot of decorations and a whole lot of food and laughter, just the two of you quietly exchanging presents in a half-empty restaurant, where all the staff are praying that you would hurry and go home so that they can spend it with their families, just doesn’t feel festive at all.
The most depressing Christmas of my life (so far) was the year my daughter was born. She was still in hospital on Christmas. I was bone-tired and spent every free moment in the hospital with her. That was also the year both my husband and I forgot our anniversary. Our priorities were elsewhere. And I believe we never straightened them after that. Things just unraveled really slowly and now we are where we are.
2018 has not been kind to me. Two days ago, I should have been married 11 years. The date is now engraved in my mind forever as a sign of failure. This year’s Christmas may well move into first place as the most depressing Christmas of my life – so far.
It is “fire season” here in the Western Cape of South Africa. The grass is dead. Everything is dry and most days it is windy. A little spark can spell absolute disaster. On Friday I had a very happy evening with friends, laughing, joking and generally having a lot of fun. The whole day however had been a little tense as we were on high alert, watching a fire on the other side of the mountain. It never came to a crisis and I left feeling light-hearted and in high spirits. It was not to last.
I had barely got on the road when I received a phone call from someone in the yard where my horse is kept, telling me that our farm was now on fire and we had to go and evacuate horses. I got to the stables first and managed to get headcollars on the horses nearest the fire. Three fire engines were already working hard and a fourth soon arrived. The fire was very close, but the wind was blowing away from us, so there was no immediate danger. I called Mrs W-M, who had called me to try and tell her that everything was under control. I don’t think she got that message.
Other people started arriving, but not Mrs W-M. I finally saw her storming towards the stables and trying to tell her that it was OK, we were just waiting and seeing, got told that she had crashed her car on the way there. In her hurry to get to the stables, she had abandoned her crashed car on the side of the road and managed to lose her phone as the car was flying through the air. Miraculously, she only had a bump or two on the head and a sore knee. One of our fellow livery owners was behind her and picked her up.
It turned out to be all for nothing as the fire swept past (albeit uncomfortably close to the stables) and we never even moved the horses out. After two hours of watching and waiting, the fire chief told us that it would OK and we could go home. And this is where the adventure really started.
We made our way back to the smashed-up car to find it abandoned, apart form one lone tow-truck driver waiting in the moonlight. He informed us that not only had the police been and gone, removed everything from inside the car, but also that they had sent someone to her house, where of course they found no-one as we were all busy watching a fire threaten the lives of our precious ponies.
It was past midnight by this time and the nearly-full moon was glowing brightly in the night sky. Although Mrs W-M’s husband (currently on the other side of the country) had managed to arrange a different tow-truck to come and remove the car, the one that was already there, insisted on keeping us company because we were on such a dangerous road. All roads in South Africa are damn dangerous after dark, but at this point we were feeling pretty invincible and this woman kept on confusing the poor guy by complaining about having lost a dead horse off the back of her bakkie. (She kept the skull of one of her horses that had died -she is pretty weird like that, but we still love her!)
The arranged tow-truck driver quickly arrived and it was decided that we would take the car back to the farm as it was the closest. He insisted on speaking in Afrikaans to this hysterical, slightly concussed woman that hails from the UK. It was quite funny to watch. For a bit she thought she had lost the entire English language…But we managed to get everything sorted out and with the car dropped off, off we tootled to the Police Station, because aside from the equine skull flung from the back of the car, all she was worried about, was her saddle, which was now in police custody!
Pulling into the police station a strange duvet-clad youth decided to try and get in the car, causing me to nearly run over a policeman in the road as I tried to get him back out of my car. Turns out he was waiting for an Uber. (Don’t you know you should check the registration number of your Uber driver, dude? This is how people get killed – by just getting into any bloody car that pulls up! We may be two little blonde women, but we are pretty bat-shit-crazy!)
Upon entering said police station we were informed that we could only collect the things on Monday, as some form had to be filled in and could only be released by the Captain. We must have looked like damsels in distress because the warrant officer took pity on us and gave back everything right there – the Captain did give us some very stern looks. We were looking pretty scraggly by this time; covered in soot, mud, cuts and bruises. Apart from the actual car accident, the only other injuries were sustained by me tripping over a steel pipe in the dark, causing me to fall on my hands and knees in the dirt. So now I had skinned knees and palms, like a four-year-old, instead of the nearly forty-year-old that I am. There is just no way to look dignified with skinned knees, bloody hands and muddy flip-flop-clad feet!
Madame W-M refused to go see a medical professional and I took her home. It was half past two in the morning and we were both really tired. But as yet, this was not the end of our adventure!
I went back the next day to check that she was alive and we went out to get a bite to eat. In the restaurant, a bloody tree decided to attack us out of the blue! Ok, it was only a pot plant that blew over in the wind and it didn’t hurt, but we were still pretty wired from the night before, making it much funnier than the rest of the spectators thought.
I left and went home for a much-needed nap only to be woken up by Mrs W-M’s husband, saying that her phone was turned off and the tow-truck driver wanted to bring the car to the house. Could I please go over and see that she opens for them? I drove back, admittedly grumpy about the request and the infringement on my nap. Trying to move my car out of her drive-way, being halfway blocked by the tow truck, I managed to hit a tree. While looking at it in my rear-view mirror! It seems that no good deed goes unpunished after all!
The tow-truck driver piped up and asked if I needed a tow. I was not amused by his quick wit just at that moment. And I was tired of being attacked by trees!
So now I am sitting here at 10pm on Christmas Eve, all alone. I have opened the single present I received this year – from my x-mother-in-law no less – unless you count the four half-alive cockroaches my cats brought me last night…with the prospect of having to fix a car early in the new year. I would say that is pretty sad – in every conceivable way.
But, lest you think me ungrateful, let me just say: Mrs W-M is alive. Our horses are safe. And we have a great story to tell! I think I have had quite enough excitement for one year. I hope that 2019 is a quiet one….
The fire sweeping within 100m of our stables
The car, rolled and landed on an embankment
My car, having met with the tree