Christmas…. it’s officially over, but not in Cazmania.
I only haven’t taken my tree down yet because the first green waste collection of the year isn’t until Thursday, and both me and the tree would much rather it stayed in the living room feeling loved and lit up until Wednesday night, rather than sitting out in the cold for over a fortnight just because superstition or tradition dictate. It’s far more atmospheric to watch Midsomer Murder with a Christmas tree in the corner, and that way it feels more acceptable to plough my way through my collection of Christmas chocolates rather than limiting myself to just one chocolate per every dead body which is what I do for the rest of the year.
Obviously if you’re not taking your tree down until Wednesday, then there’s no point taking down the cards, tinsel or fairy lights either, although I have recently stopped turning on the fairy lights in the front windows to send Christmas cheer to the people passing by. I haven’t got any neighbours, but if I did I wouldn’t want them to think I was crazy.
It’s not just the house that still thinks it’s Christmas. My body is still in Christmas mode too. Every Christmas I take a leaf out of the Pizza Hut menu and allow myself unlimited Coca Cola refills and so there is Coca Cola aplenty sloshing around my body, along with the extra layer of chocolate that has taken residence around the top of my jeans and shows no signs of going anywhere any time soon. The fact that I’m sitting here eating Christmas Wine Gums as I write this is only going to worsen the situation. Too bad the brussel sprout tree has turned yellow, the sprouts don’t look nearly as appetising as the Wine Gums and chocolate Santas.
I received a Christmas present from Australia yesterday, and my window cleaner put a Christmas stamp on the letter he recently posted to me (Great Aunty Rosemary take note!) so all things considered it’s not too unreasonable that Cazmania has not yet completed the transition out of Christmas mode.
And as well as the coke, the tree, the chocolate and the tinsel, I still have my Festive Nails.
I’m not really a Festive Nails kind of girl. Previously Nail Bars existed in the same sort of category as sushi bars, saunas and carrot cake, things that I am happy to exist in the same world as, but would never have any desire to interact with. However in the weeks leading up to Christmas, more and more of my colleagues were coming into work with the most beautiful sparkly and glittery nails you ever did see, and so one Thursday night, caught up in the atmosphere of late night shopping, I found myself venturing where no Cazmanian has gone before and wandered into a Nail Bar.
In my head, I was going to be served by a kind and patient nail technician who would give me a beginner’s guide to getting my nails done because until that Thursday night I thought that a refill was something you got at Pizza Hut, takeoffs happened on airport runways, and acrylic coffin nails were found only at an undertakers.
My Nail Technician would have a name like Helen or Kim and she would give me her undivided attention, explain about all the different tools and potions she was going to use on my nails and help me to decide what sort of shape, colour and design I wanted to have without laughing at my complete lack of knowledge. We’d chat as she worked on my nails and then when I left, we’d wish each other a Merry Christmas, and whenever I wanted to get my nails done in the future I’d always ask for Helen because she’d been so helpful.
Sadly Helen was not working on that Thursday night, or if she was, she certainly wasn’t in the Nail Bar that I went to.
Instead I was greeted – if that’s the right word – by the polar opposite of Helen. She was so incredulous that I’d never had my nails done before, and didn’t know what I actually wanted, that she broadcast it to the entire salon. All customers and nail technicians stopped and looked at me as if I was some kind of sub-species, and then I was seated in front of a monotonous young man who didn’t speak to me the whole time I was there, instead we communicated via the incredulous lady, who despite her incredulity still wasn’t prepared to talk me through my options and seemed to think I should be pre-programmed to know exactly what I wanted to happen to my nails.
Nevertheless, by asking the same dumb questions over and over again until I got an answer that made sense, I was able to get what I wanted, despite not even having the most basic grasp of Nailspeak. “Yuck, that will look horrible,” said the Polar Opposite of Helen when I picked my colours, but at the end she conceded that they did look nice after all.
And I absolutely loved them…. until I got home and tried to continue with my life.
So for those of you that speak the lingo, I had acrylic rounded nails, for those of you who don’t speak the lingo, I had fake nails superglued onto my existing nails. My fake nails were long and beautiful…. and completely useless for completing everyday tasks.
Here is a list of just some of the things you can’t do if you’ve got festive nails:
- Peel satsumas
- Find the end of the sellotape
- Open the doors of your advent calendar
- Put on a necklace
- Open packaging
- Wrap presents
- Tie a knot in a balloon
- Unscrew the valves to put air in the tyres of your Renault Clio
- Pick up the letter tiles when playing Scrabble
- Use clingfilm without it sticking to your nails
- Take the motor out of the filter when cleaning out the goldfish tank
- Use predictive text with any degree of accuracy
- Zip up your jeans
- Operate a belt
- Open a ring pull
- Peel back the foil tab on a new carton of apple juice
Nobody explains to you that once you’ve got new nails you will no longer be able to do things that you originally learned to do before you were five. I had a traumatic experience at the supermarket check out where the cashier had scanned all of my shopping long before I had even managed to open the first bag to start packing. Then, feeling flustered by the long queue of people all glaring at me because I was holding them up, I dropped my credit card onto the metal counter and discovered that it was impossible to slide my false nails under the card to pick it up.
In the classroom my students were handing me their cheesestrings and satsumas at snack time, faithfully believing that I’d be able to open them for them because that’s what I’d been doing for them every day since September. They were very dismayed to find that Caroline was no longer able to provide them with their personal fruit and packet opening service. In the staff room my lunch time friends laughed at me trying to peel my own satsumas and taught me how to stab my thumb into the centre of the fruit and work on it from there.
I use predictive text on my phone by swiping from letter to letter, it’s always worked very well in the past but with Festive Nails, my phone had no idea what my fingertips were trying to say. I had to abandon predictive text and start spelling each word out slowly and carefully and it still takes several attempts before I get each word right. The games I play on my phone are usually games that require speed and accuracy like Boggle and since getting Festive Nails my scores got dramatically worse because my nails are hitting the wrong part of the screen. “Feeling a big sluggish today?” asked the phone in what I felt to be quite a patronizing manner when my Brain Train Score had dropped by 16% in the space of two days “Don’t worry. We all have our off-days.”
“I’m not having an off-day,” I retorted. “I’ve just got Festive Nails!”
Festive Nails do not do a lot for your state of mind. As well as shouting at the phone, I found myself hurling an unopened packet of celery across the room, because I was getting hungry and having absolutely no luck with opening any of the packets of food I’d just bought. Once I had opened all the packets I didn’t have the dexterity to close them again, so I tried to wrap things in cling film to keep them airtight, but the cling film stuck to my nails instead of the food packets which meant that the cling film soon found itself being hurled across the room in the same direction as the celery.
Ironically the absolute worst time to have Festive Nails is at Christmas. There are three very necessary steps when it comes to opening an Advent Calendar – sliding your nail into the perforation to open the door, using your nail to pierce the foil to reach the chocolate, and then digging your nail under the chocolate so that you can extract it and eat it. If you’ve got Festive Nails, you can’t do any of these things. This is another reason why Christmas is not yet over in Cazmania, I’ve got 12 Advent Calendar doors left to open once my Festive Nails come off.
I’ve had to take my necklaces and bracelets to Christmas parties and ask other people to put them on for me, because I haven’t got the fine motor skills to do it myself. Jelly aside, my favourite party snack is Wotsits, but when you pick up a Wotsit with a false nail, it digs into the Wotsit and bits of Wotsit get stuck behind the nail. The only way to eat Wotsits with Festive Nails is to make everyone play that game where you put your hands behind your back and try to eat your Wotsits straight from the bowl like a horse, but not every Christmas party has the sort of atmosphere where people are going to want to do that. Certainly not the party they threw at my Grandmother’s residential home.
But the absolute worst thing to do when you’ve got Festive Nails is to wrap Christmas presents. You literally can’t do it. Real nails have enough of a struggle to find the end of a sellotape, Festive Nails have no chance. I had to get my Mum round to act as a human sellotape dispenser, if we still lived three hours apart, instead of three minutes, then nobody would have got their presents wrapped this year.
Everyone said I’d get used to them. All the Serial Nail Ladies out there who get their nails infilled and shellacked on a regular basis have all learnt to adapt to life without Fine Motor Skills, and to some extent I did too. I started using my teeth to open packets of celery instead of throwing them across the room in a rage. I threw bird seed on the patio floor for the birds because I could no longer open the bird feeder, I ate apples instead of satsumas.
But now they’ve grown too long. And apart from making a brilliant sound when I drum them on the table, they really aren’t good for anything. They still look sparkly but the real nails have been growing steadily over the past five weeks so now there’s a very obvious non-sparkly gap of normal nail between the Festive Nail and my finger. And the more my real nail grows, the longer the Festive Nail gets making it even harder to do anything that involves using my fingers. Writing to friends on What’sApp and Messenger takes even longer than when I first got the nails, and incurs even more mistakes. The phone regularly asks me if I’m feeling sluggish today because my Brain Train Score has gone into minus figures, and there’s a whole bowlful of satsumas growing old and growing mould because peeling them takes too much effort. It’s my Mum’s birthday next month and I can hardly invite her round to wrap up her own presents.
And so tomorrow, they are coming off. I’m going to have to tell the Incredulous Lady that I don’t want refills or infills or coffins. I just want my nails restored back to their boring but brilliant old selves so that I can pick up a coin when I drop it on the floor, make a salad without getting angry and clean out the goldfish tank.
Then I will sit with my Christmas tree and polish off the last 12 chocolates from the Advent Calendar whilst enjoying my fairy lights and watching Midsomer Murder. Perhaps I’ll even get a can of coke to add to the occasion… it’s been weeks since I’ve been able to use a ringpull.
Next year, when people start arriving at work with festive nails, I will no doubt look back fondly on this Festive Nail Era of my life. My head will say “Remember sellotapegate? Remember celerygate? Don’t you want to eat any satsumas this Christmas?” But then I’ll buy myself a sparkly new top to wear to Christmas parties and I’ll start thinking about how much better that top would look with matching glittering nails, and no doubt I’ll wander into a Nail Salon and pay good money to have my dexterity removed for the whole of the festive period.
Let’s hope I remember to wrap all the presents first.
NOTE FROM EDITOR: Whilst we have made every attempt to ensure we have represented Miss Gough’s views as accurately as possible, we cannot guarantee that we have translated her manuscript properly. It was difficult to decipher her words, due to the limited dexterity brought about by her Festive Nails.