Ready for the guests
Saturday, saw Santa and know we'll see him again, writes Pat Veltkamp Smith in And Another Thing..
Same with a few others.
Frankly, what the Santa parade announces is the start of a tough time of the year, the toughest in fact.
It is not the carols, cards and cake - none of that.
The festive season's greatest threat, people coming to stay.
Nothing, but nothing, galvanises action, a call to arms, like the news that visitors are coming. I doubt that the approach of war planes would be as effective in getting everyone moving.
Maybe it is a childhood influence - quick tidy the toys away, visitors are coming - or the natural indolence that suggests all's well when it's just us, but certainly less favourable when viewed by others.
Whatever - it is the hazard of the so-called festive season, that ever-present threat of people coming, just for a few days, or overnight, maybe the second weekend or "just when we do get south, just to see how you are all going way down there".
It might be a long way but distance doesn't deter, if anything, it enhances the prospect.
Time of the year, people drive distances, think nothing of it, land on you for days, think nothing of that either.
There's an atavistic fear already that we aren't up to scratch so before the end of the month, last day tomorrow, we aimed to have the garden pruned and planted, windows mended, cleaned and painted, everything else from carpets to paintwork given, in Aunt Daisy speak, a good going over.
All this effort we disguise as belated spring cleaning but it is less for us than for the visitors, for the most important of whom, Santa Claus, my mother would freshly wash the whole of a big front veranda on Christmas Eve. And strangely that did work, Santa always leaving just what was required and no questions asked. But that veranda freshen-up was the last of a month's worth of tasks preparing for the visitors whose arrival is part of Christmas - much as the arrival of the Three Wise Men set the scene for that first Christmas over 2000 years ago.
Only one day left in the month?
Cool. We'll make it.
The Southland Times