December 22, 2007

My favourite time of year is the period between Christmas and New Year. It's like a week of Sundays.

No one expects any work to get done, the streets are empty, the pressure is off. Just getting dressed feels like an accomplishment.

Sometimes during this period I will agree to leave the house and meet up with a friend. But only if food is involved. If I'm going to interrupt doing nothing with taking a shower, there has to be an incentive. Conversation isn't enough.

That's what the phone is for. It allows me to continue to engage with the outside world without ever having to look in a mirror.

But no matter how much I try to convince people I'm happy not going out, there will always be those who don't believe me. They can't fathom how being alone and staying in is preferable to being with strangers making small talk while at the same time wondering how I'll get home.

And that's always the main concern. Getting around is such a deterrent. I would go out a lot more if everything took place in my building. The other day a friend invited me to a Christmas party and I decided to be honest. I told her I didn't want to face the hassle of traveling there and back.

"But you travel all the time," she said.

Exactly. The last thing I want is to go outside my two-block radius if I don't have to.

Nevertheless, a few nights ago I ventured out to the work party, which was at a venue that couldn't have been further away. Walking to the tube, (a walk considerably extended because of inappropriate footwear), waiting for the tube, taking the tube, walking to the venue, getting lost, and stopping at a newsagent for directions; they could have had the party in Paris and I would have got there sooner.

Within the first five minutes of arriving I was already putting into motion the exit plan. I got the name of a mini-cab company from the bartender and arranged for a pick-up so I didn't have to worry. But then the whole time I was checking my watch to make sure I didn't miss the ride.

Anticipating wanting to leave early, I'd booked the car too soon. For the first time in ages I'm actually at a party I would have liked to stay at but I can't. I have to leave because the meter's running. This is why I don't go out at the holidays. It's too stressful.

On Christmas Day in London, there is no public transport. What could be better?

Expectations are low. There is no obligation to go anywhere or do anything because there is no way to get around. If only it could be like this every day.

No public transport limits the people you see to whoever lives in the neighbourhood. Recently I was on the phone to someone I work with when we discovered we live 5 minutes away from each other. She's around - I'm around - the obligation for coffee hung in the air. "We should meet up," I said. And then, to my delight, she replied: "Nothing personal, but no."

She told me she'd rather be alone. Finally, I'd found the ideal friend to have in the neighborhood: someone I'll never see.

New Year's Eve is a whole other story. If you're over the age of 35, unless you're Kate Moss, no one will question your decision to stay home.

But this year, I got the perfect invitation from my friend, Oliver. The e-mail arrived with the subject heading: New Year Sadsters.

"I hereby invite you discerning types to drop in at my under furnished flat on the 31st in the mid or late afternoon.I would arrange for there to be some food.and then you could go. Or stay as you wished."

He then goes on to say he might change his mind about meeting at his flat but we could meet at a nearby pub or restaurant instead. And, we can let him know by the 29th.

What I found so pleasing about the invitation was the ambivalence. It kind of sounded like he was hoping we'd decline. So with the pressure off, I accepted.

Of course now I'm worried he'll cancel.