Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Four in a bed.

“And will you be spending Christmas at your house with your parents in your bed again this year?” asks my friend Karen when she rings for a chat on Saturday morning, which really makes me laugh. She’s referring to the year my parents over-stepped the mark not only coming into our bedroom to open their stockings from Father Christmas with us, but into the marital bed too, without a by your leave. We looked like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We’re a close family and all that, but there are limits.

Eight feet in a bed.

I’ve been in denial about Christmas and done nothing about it except throw myself into a guest room redecorating programme - in the hope that they might actually stay in there - and buy a new double bed for Eldest. Karen’s question forces me to address it.

In the absence of a plan to the contrary I guess we’ll be doing what we usually do. I have a theory it’s the wife who dictates Christmas traditions in most families based on what her own family did, because most men aren’t that fussed and generally do what they’re told. In no particular order then here are some of the things we usually do, because I say so...

Hold the line please caller.

Some kind of wonderful - I always wrap the many hundreds of presents it is apparently my sole responsibility as a woman to wrap while standing at the ironing board to save my back, watching It’s a Wonderful Life. It's my wrapping backing track (boom boom). I have to look up for that bit when she's on the phone and he's trying to not to be in love with her, though. Call me a soppy old romantic... cos it's true.

Movie me - I always book an old movie for Eldest and me to go to. Having a son doing a film degree is a Godsend. I drag him to all sorts of girly stuff and he has to take it like a man. Last year it was Dr Zhivago at the BFI and I cried all the way through. This year it’s Meet Me in St. Louis.

Chinatown - for a dim sum lunch with friends. We used to go skating first too but this year we're giving that a miss. We reckon we've chanced our collective arms not breaking any between us too many times before. Plus, it’s damn pricey.

Get ready to party - I'm not talking about a drinks party here like the sort we usually go to, you know: a plastic cup of mulled wine and a Marks and Sparks party snack, imprisoned in a corner by a guy in a comedy Christmas jumper who does some kind of job in computing. Oh no, this year we've been invited to a proper one, with a vodka luge and dancing. Actual dancing. I'll be that loony on that dance floor all night. In my new boots.

Stew on it - Christmas Eve I cook a beef stew like my mother did, and before that my grandmother did. Husband would rather it was a pie, which he reckons is "only a stew with a hat," but I’m refusing to put the lid on it because... it's my prerogative (what is it with men and pies?).

Mr Postman.

Spin that record - I have Happy Xmas (war is over) on the kitchen speakers very loud on Christmas morning. “And so this is Christmas and what have you done?” sings John. It always gives me goosebumps. I can think of plenty of things I haven’t done. I haven’t applied to do that MA. I haven’t finished that novel, the one I was enthusiastically writing and abruptly stopped writing mid-December last year. I haven’t sent back the boys’ fencing kit bought last Christmas that was all the wrong sizes, although I did just put it on eBay and so far there are five watchers.

Bit of a show - we always go to a show or a panto with my brother, sister-in-law and their girls (Oh yes we do). This time it’s School of Rock, which I also know by heart because with two guitar-playing boys in the house that film has been played A LOT, that and the other Jack Black classic: Be Kind Rewind, which if you haven’t seen I highly recommend, cos he’s funny.

Opening the stockings - it's the first thing we do Christmas morning, then we open all the other presents mid-morning. One year in Canada we had a family staying whose tradition was to open everything the minute they woke up. My mother thought this common. I remember their mother pointedly saying, “well, we have do it the way they do it in THIS house children, and that's all there is to it."

Bit of a puzzle.

Puzzling - my dad likes to do a jigsaw because that’s what his father did. If pieces don’t quite fit he shoves them in to complete it and my friend Fiona pops round and sorts it out later. She’s an architect. This year it’s a 1,000 piece map of London so it'll be interesting to see if he tries to jam Cockfosters where Chelsea should be. They'll be riots.

Getting pissed and falling out - there was the year my mother and I had a whopper about a trifle, literally about a trifle, I’m not even saying it was trifling. We appear to have reached some sort of entente cordiale lately though and haven’t rowed in ages, a year at least. I can't explain. Could it be my new zen approach? Could it be because - at the grand age I am now - I realise I’m lucky to have her? Dunno. Either which way it's only three days of biting my tongue. How hard can that be? Just so long as she doesn't climb into bed with me on Christmas morning.

Love E x


P.S. I didn't say all that to Karen by the way, I just said of course.

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