This week’s rhubarb becomes very self-indulgent and very soppy… very quickly! It’s certainly not in-keeping with the usual crap I write. So think of it as a lighter side to a usually Snarky Tuesday. You have been warned.
So, here we go again!
It’s that most wonderful time of the year. We all get a chance to take a break and unwind for a few days. In the company of good friends, bad family members and various dead animals – all cooked and stuffed with sage. Barracked into your sofa with a healthy supply of booze, snacks and broken stuff from China, it’s a time that is embraced by many, tolerated by a few, and sneered at by those too miserable to just go with the flow!
I’m a lover of Christmas, and make no excuses for it. Decorations are up the first week of December, experimentation with mulled cider begins in earnest around the same time, and jars of seasonal mincemeat have already been aging for a good few weeks before that.
It’s a strange juxtaposition towards the misanthropic shit-bag I usually am for the rest of the year, and the happy-go-lucky, spend-thrift that Ebenezer Scrooge becomes by the fifth chapter (yes, it’s actually a book, not a fucking Disney cartoon!).
I guess I have my Mother to thank for my “keeping of the season”. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that went all out for Christmas. Every room shone with gollups of tinsel and twinkle lights of all colours.
The ceilings were home to highly flammable paper-chains and slow-leaking balloons. And every mantelpiece and window sill was flourished with some kind of festive ornament or seasonal depiction.
Mum always kept the excitement building throughout the month. Secret shopping trips, and rumours of parcels hidden around the house, were common. Any chance I had to sweep the place, for a hint of what was to come, was taken. Think CSI Miami, minus the pretentious twattery and sunglasses!
A few days before the “big show”, and bowls of sweets would appear like little diabetic time-bombs of joy! Nuts, crisps, and the obligatory tray of dates, would all be laid out in readiness for any passing mouths.
The kitchen was in a constant flux of being used for some kind of preparation. Boiling ham, trays of mince pies, that glorious smell of a tea towel on fire, all was available throughout the day – and usually long into the night.
Christmas Eve, and the pace built to new levels of bat-shit insanity!
Relatives would come – some with the intention of staying for the entire duration.
Armed with suitcases and mysterious black bin liners, my grandparents would usually arrive on the 23rd December, and leave sometime after Easter! Nan and my great aunt would immediately slip into the guise of soux chefs, and my grandfather into the guise of a talking armchair.
At various points throughout the day, people would pop-in for a drink and a moan about how much they have to do. Sweet wrappers would be hidden, Christmas movies would be watched, and presents slowly started to appear under the tree – courtesy of said bin liners.
My sisters were unmatched in their skills at unpeeling selotape, and finding gaps just big enough to discover what lies beneath the bows and ribbons. For this reason, my parents became too shrewd to leave gifts under the tree anytime before Christmas Eve. As a result, the great Christmas present delivery all added to the tradition of the time, and excitement of the occasion.
A sleepless night later, and all hell was breaking loose by 6am!
My father marshalled the reams of torn wrapping paper, my mother contemplated the first Baileys of the day, and my Nan and Auntie looked on with a knowing smile, and words of encouragement… and for the record, my Grandfather had still not moved from the armchair!
It was glorious!
It was also a time before the arrival of affordable video cameras, and smart phones with HD recording. Sadly, only a few photos now remain of those moments. As a family, we often reminisce about Christmases past. It’s a conversation I’m always happy to start. I guess it’s an attempt to ensure the memories don’t fade completely.
Now I’m a father, and in the throes of making new Christmas memories. I can only hope to achieve the same levels of excitement and wonder for my own son!
I think I’m up to the challenge, and I’m sure that in years to come, my son will be able to write a very similar depiction to the one I have provided above.
Let’s be honest, I have a pretty good template to work from!
Thanks Mum. Merry Christmas.
Paul Millard 2014