This video just seems apt somehow. Jump for joy and then breathe a sigh of relief. It’s over for another year.
In my case three fairly high pressured days over Christmas. It goes something like this:
Drive from London to the home counties. A good journey might take 75 minutes. When you’re part of the London exodus don’t count on less than 2 hours. Very heavy traffic. It takes an hour just to reach the London / home counties border.
Arrive at family home to freshly baked sausage rolls and mince pies (I grew up never eating packaged or ready-made food, a foible of which I’m retrospectively very pleased as my parents are both foodies).
The booze starts flowing too. Prosecco. A big dinner – beef bourguignon. Brother’s school friend comes over. Totally grown up now, married with kids and has a hotshot job living abroad. He says to me “when we were kids you seemed sooo much older than us” (there was a 3 year age gap). I take that as a compliment, actually. I was the moody elder brother when we were younger who spent a lot of time shouting at my younger brother who has a right royal pain in the backside much of the time (no, we’ve never been close).
Our kid goes off down the pub reliving his misspent youth. Come 11.15pm, me and our mam, half-cut, decide it’s time to head to the church for midnight mass (done this every year for as long as I can remember). My mum’s side of the family are what I’d call old-school religious. They don’t run around praying or trying to convert people – but they have that inbuilt Church of England mentality that they’re not going to let go of having had a very strong CofE upbringing which they passed on to their offspring.
Brother meets us en route to the church. He was a tear away when younger but WAS confirmed into the church at 14, unlike me who wasn’t (didn’t go down well with family at the time). Consequently, I don’t take communion but have ‘a blessing at the altar rail’ whereas my mother/brother go on to take the body and the blood of Christ, as the Father calls it. The church is odd – it’s so close to Roman Catholic but isn’t, it’s very ‘high’ Anglican church but feels so like an RC church and service.
Service lasts just over an hour then we’re home by 12.45am or so. It’s now Christmas and time to celebrate with a drink. Finally we go to bed sometime after 1am.
I start by opening my stocking. Yeh, even in your early 30s you still get them in this household. Done by extended family (our closest relatives with whom we spend Boxing Day). This contains socks, an apron, a cook book, a small box of cereal and a few other very random items.
Breakfast cooked by our kid (who is a good cook). Smoked salmon scrambled eggs, coffee, bucks fizz (rather 80s but I’m never one to say no to champagne at breakfast time).
We do some present opening. Some bits from my brother who is back from Italy visiting his girlfriend. Lots from my mother which I really did not expect. Food processor, blu-ray movie, cufflinks, Italian glasses that are 100% perfect for drinking G&T from – wide rim, heavy ‘bullet’ base.
Visitors start arriving. Brother’s friends (with families) again. Then family friends who live up the road. Champagne gets opened but I’m driving so leave off it.
Finally we leave just after noon to my mum’s other half who lives in a village in a lovely old 18th century converted coach house. He’s also a gastronome so the food will be divine (which also means no turkey). There is a prime sirloin beef joint which is exquisite, with all the trimmings. Masses of champagne. I have a glass as I’m here for the duration. He has an open fire which I like. Lunch (started at 2.30pm or so) goes on hours. Lots of courses. There are 9 or so of us including his daughter, son-in-law and grand daughter from his first marriage. Know them quite well after all these years.
We finally leave early evening and I drive us home. Glad I was off the drink as the other adults all look like they’ve over-indulged.
Go to bed fairly late as I have a few drinks when I get home to make up for not having drunk in the day.
Boxing Day (26th Dec)
Our mam driving today to give me a day off. We’re off to our closest relatives who live by the sea. Our closest cousins, all our age.
14 of us for lunch including the two lit’luns. Really good to catch up with my cousins who are like old friends with whom we’re thick as thieves. A real family day but it’s our family (rather than mum’s other half’s family) so I feel more at home. We’ve spent most of our Christmases with these relatives since I was 5 years old. My mum is one of five and my dad is one of five but these are by far our closest relatives as my mum and this sister are extremely close.
Games after the main lunch. A quiz one cousin has devised, my team wins, surprisingly. Then on to the Wii for golf and bowling.
We also Skype my dad who lives far, far away on another continent. We hook it up to the 42″ TV in their second living room. He seems v.waspish that I hadn’t sent him a card (my brother had). I didn’t send any cards this year but I’ve been a bit remiss, especially with family.
An enjoyable day, back early evening. Have a few more drinks. Edit the photos from the day, pleased with how they’ve come out on my cheapy compact camera.
Last day of formal engagements. Lunch party at mum’s partner’s other grown up daughter’s house in the city we live near to.
We swing by Currys first and I pick up the 32″ flatscreen TV I’m buying myself as one of the Christmas presents from me to me.
On to the lunch party. I’m driving so lay off the sauce. Food OK. About 10 of us. They’re not gastronomes but the home-made soup at the beginning and the home-made Pavlova at the end both go down well.
We head home early afternoon.
Our kid leaves for London late afternoon.
I’m driving back to London after breakfast and am relishing the thought of a full week of R&R.
All in all it’s been a good Christmas. I reflect on how lucky I am to have the family (both immediate and extended) that I have.