Christmas Fun, circa 1968; an argument and having a gas by Geoff Le Pard
3rd Sunday of Advent, Day 17 Advent 2017
Maybe it’s a childhood thing but my memory of Christmas is of a happy day enjoyed by all. They were never spoilt by arguments or friction. They might be boring, they could be wacky, or hilarious, and sometimes eye opening but never was a voice raised in anger.
Apart that is, than the year my Gran, my mum’s mum, got a bit squiffy on the port and lemons, eat heartily, fell asleep during the Queen’s speech and woke up in a bit of a state.
To set the scene properly I should perhaps explain, for those reading this who gave up on the British Empire as a bad job 200 plus years ago and those others on whom the benefits of British dominion was never endowed, that this means listening to Queen Liz’s Christmas message to her subjects at 3 pm every Christmas Day. This was as much a Christmas ritual in our house, as was Mum up with the lark ‘to put the bird in’ (inserting a huge turkey in the oven at stupid o’clock so it might be ready before Christmas ended), satsumas in my Christmas stocking and Dad saying grace at Christmas dinner.
And there’s another quirk of Christmas. In our house, resolutely middle class and Southern, the meal in the middle of the day was lunch, unlike in working class households, or those north of an imaginary line between Bristol in the West and the Wash in the East where the middle of the day meal was dinner. Yet, at Christmas we passed on lunch and had Christmas dinner. I’ve never understood this other than as some sort of inverted snobbery on the part of my parents.
Where was I? Oh yes, Gran. She ate a hearty dinner, fell asleep and woke at 5 demanding food. She would only believe she’d had her turkey when she saw the destroyed carcass but swore we’d not been given her Christmas pudding…
Christmas pudding, if you’ve not enjoyed this most British of desserts is not so much prepared as evolves over several months. The ingredients, which oddly include beef suet, are mixed for the first time in about July. Over the following months the concoction is stirred – stirring is accompanied by wishes – and copious alcohol is added. On the day the pudding is steamed for hours until the outside would do Pirelli proud and the inside tastes of a pudding made over months that includes beef fat and alcohol and has been steamed for hours. It is served with rum custard and brandy butter which may explain its popularity.
On this particular day there was none left and the pudding plate had been washed so there was no evidence to show her that she had, indeed, eaten a significant portion. She was angry at what she saw as her daughter’s duplicity. She seethed and she scolded for what appeared to be hours, until my father refreshed her glass and she dozed until nearer midnight.
While Gran slept my uncle aunt and cousins came round for tea, sandwiches and games. Mostly charades. This was the time Mum and I were teamed for this ridiculous miming extravaganza but a problem was brewing. I was rather full of gas after the turkey feast and had bravely held it in check in front of my gorgeous cousins for a good hour. But there is only so much self-control a young man can be expected to maintain. As soon as we left the room to plot our team mime my muscles gave way to the seismic forces within. Mum was half a sentence into her plan when the guttering, choking bit of Wilfred Owen’s WW1 poem about Gas! Gas! got to her. She stopped, went pale and staggered back into the sitting room collapsing on the floor into a dead faint. When she had been dragged upright she pointed at me and said, ‘How can any human body convert good food to silage so quickly?’ I suppose the only thing that saved my shame was that, at that time, my cousins didn’t know what silage was.
And to cap my misery, we were disqualified as mum had spoken during our turn.
The archaeologist and me, forced to look happy…
Anyway, Christmases were and are and, I hope, will remain happy, pleasant if not often especially memorable family occasions. However Charli insists we take a different stance and this foreign air I’m imbibing has once again triggered two ideas.
First there is Mary. Here’s the link to her back story
Hanging the decorations
‘Let’s do the decorations today, mum.’ Penny rubbed her hands. She loved the tradition of dressing the tree.
While Mary fetched the box and Paul put the tree in the stand, Penny disappeared to her room. ‘Look,’ she said, ‘Uncle Rupert gave it to me. He got it from Grandpa.’
Mary googled at the hand carved Santa hanging from red string. Didn’t her half-brother realise how this much would hurt?
‘Let me,’ she said.
While Paul fixed the star and Penny the tinsel, Mary coiled the string into a noose, hiding the loop in a groove. ‘All done.’
And here’s an alternative
‘Reindeer? But we always have turkey.’
‘It’ll be a change.’ Patrick grinned. ‘Special offer.’
Marcie swallowed her anger. Always doing things on the cheap. ‘Patrick, it’s Christmas. Can’t we forget the cost…’
Patrick’s smug grin was almost too much to bear. ‘I know you hate waste so we’ll just have to go with it.’
Patrick was pleased when, later, Marcie began hunting for a recipe. ‘The stuffing,’ she said. ‘It has to be perfect.’
Patrick carved. Inside there was a roasting bag. ‘For you Patrick.’
He held the divorce papers in sticky fingers.
‘It won’t be cheap,’ she said.
Geoff was already a guest to this year’s calendar with “The Fourth Plinth“
Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.
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