Every time a family member asks me what I want for Christmas, I am thrown back into childhood - but not in a good way.
Being the youngest of four - by up to ten years - I could never afford to buy presents. I just didn't have any money. My sisters always said that it didn't matter and they didn't expect anything from me, but they made such a huge deal about gifts that I thought it must matter. To add to the humiliation, my sisters - meaning well - would buy things on my behalf, then the recipient would pretend to believe that he/she thought I had chosen and payed for them. I was supposed to go along with this 'face-saving' charade, which only added to my sense of obligation.
Shortly after I left home, there was one Christmas when the entire family came to me one by one, and vowed never to have a family Christmas again, and I vowed the same. Next year, they all got together again, but without me. I meant what I said and I stuck to it.
All those Christmasses spent on my own were wonderful. One year, I booked myself into a hotel in Penzance on Christmas Eve in order to pick up a block of wild Cornish stone the next day, having hired a pick-up truck to do so.
That night in the restaurant, the waitress would not believe me when I told her that I didn't care that they had run out of pre-booked turkey and all I wanted was something - anything - to eat. There was one man on his own in the same restaurant, dressed in a suit and looking a bit serious.
His dinner was laid out in front of him, and he pulled the cracker on the table with both hands, took out the paper crown, put it on his head without a smile, then opened a small bottle of Champagne and poured himself a glass. The scene was more ridiculous than sad. He was deliberately soliciting sympathy, but got none.
The next day, I located a suitable block of the lovely Cornish Serpentine which formed one of many bollards on a cliff-edge car park to prevent people from driving 200 feet into the sea to their deaths, asked permission to take it away (on the strict condition I replaced it with another, plainer block!) then rolled it uphill for half a mile to where my truck was inconveniently parked.
I had to get a man from one of the many families out for a walk to help me lift it into the truck, but there it was, ready for me to drive home with it.
I really enjoyed that Christmas.