Caroline Verdon: Christmas plans and why a belly button is never festive

PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.
PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.
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We’re in the throes of organising Christmas in our house. I know it’s only just November but we’ve got a gaggle of people coming to stay – there’ll be 12 of us in total, so the sleeping arrangements are going to be like a skilled game of Tetris with sofas, pull out beds and air mattresses squeezing into every available space there is.

Having this many people also means that it’s going to be expensive. With people arriving on Christmas Eve and staying until the 27th, the food bill is going to get pricey so we’re trying to plan ahead and budget where we can. Then there’s presents. Who do you buy for? How much do you spend?

Of course there are other options – you could make something or find a gift that is free and yet personal all at the same time. It doesn’t always work though. News this week told of a 23-year-old lady in Mexico called Paulina Casillas Landeros who decided to gift her boyfriend her own belly button.

She went to a surgeon to get it removed and was then surprised when the surgeon’s advice about wound care didn’t work out so well and it got infected. I imagine a surgeon with bad wound care advice is probably the only surgeon who’d remove a patient’s body part so she could re-gift it in the first place. How did she even decide on her belly button in the first place?

Did she start off with her ear but decide she needed it for hearing and then move onto her left breast but decide she’d miss it too much before finally stumbling across her navel? It’s all so strange.

Needless to say she gave her boyfriend her belly button and following on from that, he dumped her. She reckons he kept the body part though as a sign that he’ll always love her. I reckon he dumped it in the nearest bin as soon as possible (although what bin the council would recommend putting it in would be a minefield. Garden waste?)

Martin Lewis the Money Saving Expert released a video last month where he spoke about banning unnecessary Christmas presents and about making pacts with friends not to buy for each other.

Your nearest and dearest are one thing but he was talking about those people we all have in our lives whom we end up buying a random scarf for or a gift box of smellies. The gifts aren’t personal and we often get exactly the same back in reverse even though we didn’t want them either. He describes it as being a waste of money and even goes so far as to call it selfish.

If someone buys us a gift we feel compelled to buy them something too and quite often at Christmas you see people spending money on a set of bath bombs that they would have been better spending on food or heating bills or school shoes for the kids so bying for that person in the first place becomes a selfish gesture. He does have a point. A fiver here and a tenner there really does add up, especially at Christmas.

It fills me with loathing to have to give Ant credit but it has to be said, he has absolutely nailed Christmas presents this year. He shared the Martin Lewis video on Facebook and his mum saw it and was straight on the phone. She wanted to check they were still going to buy Christmas presents for each other because giving people a gift that they will love is one of her favourite parts of the festive season and she loves seeing their faces when they open the wrapping paper. Cue an absolute stroke of genius.

Ant came up with the idea of rather than all the adults in his family each buy a present for each person which is what would normally happen, they’d all each give his mum £50 instead. His mum would then go out and buy one present that costs £50 for each person. This way, he’s not spending £25+ on each person, his mum gets to buy presents and see people’s reactions and on top of that, rather than receive six or seven little novelty presents he’ll get one sizeable present that he actually wants – as will everyone else. I’ve got to hand it to him, it’s a stroke of genius. Gold star for Ant Arthur. 10/10. Plus it’s way better than having to slice off your belly button.

Pig poo and magic mud...

This week I told the biggest lie yet to my toddler. We’d heard of this place over in Scissett in Huddersfield that was doing Halloween walks. It’s a place called Pigs in the Wood and it’s literally that – woods with some massive friendly pigs in them!

For £2 you could turn up and be taken on a stroll complete with pigs, ghosts moving in trees, zombies coming back from the dead, large spiders and even a replica Highway Rat from Julia Donaldson’s books thrown in for good measure. It was utterly fantastic and every element had been well thought out with the actors changing their level of scariness dependant on the age of the person infront of them. Plus you got to stroke some friendly grunting pigs and watch them play with a football – what’s not to love? We’d gone with our little boy’s best friend Peter and Peter’s family and the events that caused me to lie so outrageously I blame solely on Peter’s dad.

As we started our walk he uttered the immortal line “let’s take bets on how long it takes Peter to fall over into a massive pile of mud”. At which point Arthur stacked it into not just a pile of mud, but a pile of pig poo. He was completely covered and he wasn’t sure what sort of reaction to have so as I scrambled to open a packet of wet wipes and to remove his coat I yelled excitedly “Wow! Aren’t you lucky, you got to land in the magic mud.” His response? “Is it still lucky when the magic mud is on your tongue?” “Oh yes,” I lied. “It’s definitely lucky when you get magic mud on your tongue”.

Halloween extravaganza

As I write this, I’m getting ready to head to Armley Mills for a Halloween extravaganza.

Ant reckons he isn’t scared of things that go bump in the night and claims to only be “logically scared”. If he saw a pram move across a room by itself, it wouldn’t scare him as there would be a logical explanation. If however he saw a burglar in his kitchen he’d run away screaming for the hills. This caused Rob Pyke from Gate Keepers Paranormal in Leeds to give us a ring and invite us on their Halloween excursion. They’re taking over Armley Mills armed with various bits of ghost hunting paraphernalia with a view to seeing if they can catch a glipse of anything from the spirit world. I’m so petrified that I’m too scared to drive home by myself so I’ve made Ant pick me up and drop me home. He’s just annoyed I’m adding an extra 15 minutes to his day. Fingers crossed we make it through the night. If not there’ll be someone else doing this column next week.

Caroline Verdon is one half of the breakfast show on Radio Aire. You can hear Caroline and Ant between 6-10am every weekday morning.