‘Steamy windows, zero visibility’. The immortal words of Tina Turner there from her 1989 hit Steamy Windows, presumably an ode to this time of year when colder temperatures mean you are finally forced to turn on the heating, but only after you have covered every radiator in the house in wet clothes. The resulting effect being that your house now enjoys the same humidity as a zoological tropical house, only instead of being filled with geckos and poisonous frogs it’s filled with damp children.
pside: We have eliminated croup. Downside: We need to build Dune-style water reclamation suits out of our battered Miele hoover and Brita water filter jug to manage the amount of water we now have in our air. Tina would be well jealous if she could see just how steamy our windows, walls, doorframes and ceilings are now.
Of course, the dip in temperatures also means we are on the home stretch to Christmas, which means it is finally time for spouses across the land to start negotiations on what to get — or perhaps more accurately what not to get — each other.
I made the tragic error early in our relationship of making grand gestures: mounds of Veblen goods left ‘neath the tree, a Celtic tiger cornucopia of luxury brands, and a sprinkling of vouchers and cash ‘for the sales’. All this was before I gifted her with a brace of children and a broken spirit.
More recently I have been forced by my reduced means to redefine what constitutes a present, so that what many might call basic necessities now fall under the banner of Christmas gifts. Skincare — Christmas present. She needs glasses — that’s a Christmas present. Medical intervention of any kind — Merry Christmas baby, love ya xx oo. This year her incredibly generous gift includes a €1,600 worth of servicing (ooo-er) and parts (oh…) as her people carrier is, like everything else in our lives, falling to pieces.
Obviously, my attempts to rebrand any of this expenditure as any kind of romance is really more of a joke than anything, but it does beg the question — does showing love require a few quid? Does romance always have to cost money? Or have we just fallen into capitalism’s trap, whereby the very continuation of our species requires that we spend, spend, spend, in order to land and keep a mate. Perhaps I should explain to my wife that buying gifts for each other is precisely what the capitalist pigs want us to do, so we should go the other way and make each other presents. She is already on the case as, having gotten tired of letting my pants out repeatedly, she is now talking about making me some clothes which no doubt will go really well and will not end in either her in tears or me trying to carry off a floral shacket from her spring-summer 2023 line when strutting down the bottle bank.
As for me, there will be no crafted gifts. I already mentioned that technically writing about her in the national press could, in some cultures, be considered a romantic handmade gift, but she pointed out that as I usually make her sound like Toni Collette’s character in About A Boy (homemade clothes, health foods, crying), she really should be suing me for defamation.
We have spent a lot of the last decade making plans for us. There is an ever-growing list of places we were meant to visit, from weekend mini-breaks to European capitals to simply getting out for a bite to eat at a local restaurant. None of the plans ever materialised, as there was always a car service that turned into a few grand of works, or a utilities bill from throttling the tumble dryer so the house wouldn’t collapse like papier-mache from all the wet clothes on radiators, which meant our time, our little treat for just us, would get kicked down the road.
Everything has been replaced with a stack of IOUs — IOU flowers and music and moonlight and love and romance — but in the meantime we face the music and plan, even though I’m going to need a gold-plated pension to make up for all the lost time, all the anniversaries unmarked and all the discount flowers that died within 12 hours of receipt.
But as Tina once sang, “Love and compassion, their day is coming… and all we want is life beyond the Thunderdome… that is our steamy home.”