Woo, the festive season is upon us and, as always, my plans to spend it Scrooging away on my tod, practising my Christmas dinner, have been totalled. Mercifully, I was not booked to visit my Chestnut-haired Old Mother this year, because the London flights are looking incredibly ropey at the moment. (A whole half-centimetre of snow! Oh I shouldn’t grouse – we had that and we shut down under it too.) Nope, this year I am going twenty whole minutes down the road, (at the speed my wee bro drives), to the middle of nowhere. Where my wee bro lives, in a very big house with a very big heating bill.
I was a bit nervous about spending Christmas with my wee bro and his girlfriend, Sarsparilla – not because I don’t know them, but because Sarsparilla’s parents, my wee bro’s housemate and a host of other people I had never met would also be over for the duration. (Ooh, is one the only single chick at the party again? Yes, one is. Bugger. I wouldn’t mind, except as time goes by it probably makes it harder and harder for strangers to take one seriously.) These days, however, I can just about handle New People for, ooh, the length of a party, but it also becomes harder to make a decent impression as the Event continues; and this one is set to last four days. So some shite is bound to be wittered, even if I spent the whole time dry!
Also, for smeone who can go abroad for this length of time with nothing but a shoulder-bag, I have an embarrsing accumulation of goods – four times my own bodyweight in bags, having brought an unfeasible amount of nibbles, to offset the amount I haven’t spent on the homebrew I’ve brought; and then there’s the Sums, and the knitting, and the weights and the laptop, because I am perennially optimistic – no matter what my ex-flatmate says on the matter – and fondly believe that something useful will somehow be achieved in the middle of partying.
We were off to a promising start, however, when I was asked if I drink gin before I had even put down my case. Whee! And dear god, all the gin in the world dived to the bottom of my glass and Lurked there, possibly with the intention of choking me to death before I embarrassed myself further, so I should probably thank it. I did, however, pour my own drinks after that.
Despite this precaution, I then spent the next hour having Deal or No Deal explained to me, to no avail, so that probably means that my maths skills are truly gubbed (although in my defence, both the contestants and Noel Edmunds were wearing some pretty terrifyingly surreal costumes, which would put anyone off). And Sarsparilla made a beef wellington and we helped and there was much bonhomerie and I let my guard down, if not my hair.
Which was, of course, when I was suddenly manoeuvred aside by a succession of people who wanted to ask awkward and rather penetrating questions about my family, to which I simply had no idea what the answers should be. Or in some cases, could be. Ah crap. I swear, it is totally natural for my family to spend all their time in a state of Not Talking To Each Other – hell, to spend most of it Not Talking About Each Other, either; some of the questions were news to me there, QED.
But Sarsparilla’s family seem rather close-knit and quite upset about the state of my family. Being at a complete loss for how to handle this diplomatically, out of the blue, with folks I had only met a couple of hours previously, I assured them that being wildly dysfunctional is merely part of our schtick. It’s cute, y’all! I did manage to avoid drawing parallels with the lifestyles of different sorts of mammal at the last minute, since I’m sure I would have compared someone present to a wildebeast or a wolf or something, and that rarely endears me to people, especially after the bottle’s gone round a few times, but I’m still not sure how well it went over.
So I started Christmas Day rather cautiously, not because of the amount of gin (not to mention the raspberry wine) that disappeared, but because I wasn’t certain how successful my evasive manouvres had been. Did Not Cause Diplomatic Incident Already, please god. I did some weights and cardio as quietly as possible with the MP3 player on, then heard the sound of everyone else getting up and decided it was safe to go shower and enquire if something else needed to be made clean. Nobody said, You called me a water buffalo last night and I demand satisfaction! and we all settled in the lounge to open presents. Corks. I do hope I have brought sufficient to please. (See, this is why I hate socialising. To everyone else, it’s the opportunity to meet new people and exchange information, and it is that to me too – just, it’s undertaken in the middle of a minefield.)
I kinda scored, I thought – I have a book on Do Not Fear The Sums (which I thought was most considerate of my wee bro, until I said so with great praise and he told me it had actually languished on my amazon wishlist for a year and I should update the thing already) and some rather sturdier trowels than my previous trowels. Then I saw someone else had been given a bloody great meat-cleaver. Why I not get weapons for Christmas?
I suppose I still could – I also scored a brace of fat cheques. To go with the, er, other fat cheques I already scored. Wow, when I cash the lot I will be… overdrawn. Ha, and payday was yesterday. Mission for 2011: spend nothing, ever.
Nobody, I was pleased to see, felt like having dinner ready by a set time, which meant we were probably spared an ungodly amount of stress. I certainly was – my duties were restricted to peeling a few sprouts, washing some tatties and generally standing around looking amiable. It was a good atmosphere, actually, everyone slagging each other off in a playful manner and nobody attacking anyone with the cleaver. Would have been better with some Christmas carols, in my humble, of which I had brought stacks, but it turns out the one thing my wee bro does not own is a CD player. Go figure. I could probably use his telly to shield me from nuclear war.
The booze came out to play by early afternoon, the dinner came out to play by late afternoon and featured six courses, so by evening I had gone back to bed in case I exploded in public. All this corsetry has turned me into a grazing animal, not a gorging one.
And this set the tone for the whole, long weekend; people arrived, we got up in the middle-morning and cleaned and cooked and then had to clean everything again (at one point we ran out of wine glasses, which was odd because there were twice as many of them as us) and then it was generally time for more cooking.
It was all really lovely, after an admittedly rather terrifying start. I had mulled wine in the kitchen with Sarsparilla’s mum and her mate while preparing starters on Boxing Day, I had normal wine while we did a Christmas quiz Sarsparilla’s mum’s mate had brought and she read us home-composed poems of Christmasses past (which was all rather sweet), I had port with Sarsparilla on Monday while making fire and watching a Hitchcock marathon (hee, as soon as everyone else had said their goodbyes and my wee bro had gone to work, we were all, Woo! The adults have gone! Let us make fire! We are thirty-five. Each. And then I practically peed myself with fear when my wee bro’s housemate appeared while we were doing so, because I had entirely forgotten she was there) and I was back to the normal wine with Sarsparilla while me, her and my wee bro played Rock Band.
Badly, in the case of her and me – he was on the one with the wonky button, giving it laldy on expert setting, while we took turns failing to play bass at the rate of one note every two seconds. Hee, and that was how we met – and we both confessed to being terrified at the time that the other would hate and pity us for failing to extract a fake tune from a plastic toy guitar. Because that is totally what we both pick our friends based on.
And then suddenly it was Tuesday and it was my turn to leave. Woe! I have had a really excellent time! I haven’t left the house since Christmas Eve! Still, we squeezed in a round of Tropic Thunder, accompanied by coffee, there we go, a sane and sober activity was accomplished at last.
Then I had to pack… even more stuff than I arrived with, for some reason (my wee bro turned round and enquired what the fuck all that was when Sarsparilla started pulling the food I’d brought out of the cupboard. I split it with her and still have several kilos of chocolate).
Sarsparilla kindly drove me home, through all the fog and rain – oh glorious, we are back to the standard Scottish winter already – and I swear, I was unpacked and had the laundry on before she ever got back again.
And suddenly became inordinately clumsy – I dropped everything and failed to do any maths because I thought my head would explode. Good thing all that didn’t happen when I packed and unpacked the dishwasher three times that morning (what in the name of God?) And I suppose I got in a couple of hours of maths and a couple of rows of knitting. I don’t know what the hell has happened to me – though I think I put in about six times more housework than it takes to keep the flat ticking over, and that was about a quarter of the total activity!
In conclusion: that was fab. And now, Reality beckons. Bugger.