24 Dec 2014 at 23:17
As a child I used to love Christmas. Like all families we had our Christmas rituals. We woke up to find stockings at the end of our beds, filled with things that nowadays children would no doubt turn their noses up at. A Mars Bar, an orange, a pencil sharpener and the like. We’d then have half a fresh grapefruit followed by sizzling sausages for breakfast. How that became a ritual, I do not know, because we’d never have either of those things on any other day of the year. I write this at 11pm on Christmas Eve, at my parents house near Saffron Walden, remembering those good times, wishing they could return, but knowing they never will. My inner child always rears its ugly head at this time of the year. I want to find the sitting room door locked, with us queuing up, desperate to be allowed in to each find a pillowcase stuffed full with presents. We all had to take it in turns to open a present and note down who it was from.
And then came the special Christmas lunch. My mother was the best cook in Britain. Anyone who ever tasted her roast dinners would tell you the same. She never weighed any ingredient. She just knew what to do and how much to put in. And everything was ready at the same time. And it always tasted perfect. Even in her latter years, when she was on crutches, she would want to personally dish everything up and deliver the various bowls of delicious food to the table herself. Her Christmas puddings were unique, and no one else’s will ever live up to them.
Then back we’d go into the sitting room, fire ablaze, to open yet more presents. I always wondered why Dad got fewer than anyone else. Now I’m his age, I know. Because once you become an adult, the presents become fewer and fewer. Not that I’m bitter, you understand.
In the week after Christmas we’d have relations to ours, or go to visit them. Some of these visits were looked forward to rather more than others. But one thing we all loved was the card games. We’d hold mini whist drives or play Newmarket, or Rummy or some other game. Racing Demons was a huge favourite of my sisters and mine. It was apparently the Queen Mother’s favourite card game. It can get rather violent. I remember not that long ago eight of us were playing including my two young nieces. I ended up shouting “bitch” at one of them, when she slammed down a card on the very pile I had been about to put one of my cards on! Guess you had to be there. Uncle Iain behaved himself for the rest of the evening.
When you grow up things change, and I always remember the first Christmas when we weren’t altogether. My sister Tracey spent Christmas Day with her boyfriend’s family. Somehow it was never the same after that. That’s not to say we didn’t all have a good time and enjoy ourselves. We absolutely did. But our childhood was over.
My partner John and I have been together for 20 Christmases, yet we have never yet spent a whole Christmas Day together. Neither of us could bring ourselves to let down our respective parents. Both of us had that terrible feeling that the very year we would break tradition would be the very year that one of our parents might die. I know it sounds stupid, but I suspect a lot of people feel like that if they honest. Both of our mothers have died in the last few years, but still we haven’t spent Christmas together. As I write, he’s with his Dad in Tunbridge Wells and I am with mine in Essex. He’s asleep, since you ask. I’ll stay here for breakfast and then drive back to Kent later in the morning.
Anyway, this is a rather long winded way of wishing all my readers and listeners a very Happy Christmas. I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings this year. I’ll be ramping up the frequency of the blogposts after Christmas. You have been warned.
Now where’s that mince pie? Did I tell you about the Christmas Day one year when I ate 36 mince pies in one go. Maybe I’ll save that one for later. And I wonder why I am now a diabetic…