It was Christmas Day, babe, On the sea front, The wind was bitter cold, And cut right through me…
My apologies to The Pogues and Fairytale of New York, but it was. Bitter cold.
Seven-thirty on Christmas morning: when else was I going to walk the dog?
But never mind, I’d be home soon – back in the warm, welcoming embrace of my family. My children’s beaming faces to greet me, my beloved wife making me a cup of tea…
They were all still asleep. Yes. All of them.
“Ho, ho, ho,” I said to the dog as we shared some toast and I reminisced about wide-eyed little children bursting into the lounge yelling, “He’s been! He’s been!” Now they were still a-bed: and likely to stay that way for some time…
But no matter. Ten minutes later my wife was awake and issuing orders. Take the children’s presents downstairs and put them under the tree. And, “There’s no point bothering with the Christmas sacks this year.”
“No. They’ve had them for twenty years. Tom has anyway. Must have grown out of Santa sacks by now.”
“Ben’s presents are so small – well, DVD size – they’d be lost at the bottom of a sack.”
“Can’t see they’ll want smoked salmon and scrambled eggs either. At this rate we’ll have to wake them up to eat some turkey…”
Half an hour later I was in the kitchen scrambling a dozen eggs. “We always have smoked salmon on Christmas morning…” Tom said.
“And where’s my sack?” Ben demanded.
“What next?” Jessica wanted to know, “No clues on the presents?” She shook her head sadly. “Standards have slipped since I left home…”
Well, there were clues on the presents, a tradition handed down from my Dad.
And here was my wife handing me a DVD. Or a computer game.
I am fed up of telling you to watch this, the clue said.
“I am fed up of telling you to watch this,” I said out loud.
There was a moment’s silence…
“Your weight,” Ben said, to widespread mirth.
He might be right I thought, as I tasted a remarkably fine starter an hour later.
“I wouldn’t try that pate,” I said to Tom. “Not very nice at all. Red or white?”
“I’ll have white,” he said, just as I poured some of my best red into his glass.
“My apologies, sir,” I said. “I’ll have the waitress bring you a clean glass.”
He moved smoothly from my white to my red. My fast-diminishing and rather good red. So good that I’d thought I might keep the second bottle back for a special occasion. When Tom and Jessica were back at university…
We had a little rest before the pudding. Just time for Tom to marshal his troops.
“Any dessert wine, Dad?”
Barely five minutes ago the boy would eat nothing but Spaghetti Bolognese.
Now he was demanding dessert wine? “Sadly, no. I drank it all last year.”
“We do have some port.” What? Who said that? My wife! Betrayed by the woman I’ve been married to for nearly a quarter of a century.
“Oh good,” Tom said. “I’ll have some of that.”
“1997,” I said, pulling the cork out as slowly as possible and trying not to weep.
“Older than your little brother.”
Across the table Jane was also on the receiving end. “Honestly, Mum, I don’t know why you make such a fuss. I did Christmas dinner for nine at uni. And it was a proper turkey. None of this crown nonsense.”
“We’ll look forward to coming to your house, darling.”
“And to yours, Tom” I said. “And make sure you’ve got some vintage port…”