I think we are coming to the end of an era. Bonnie marched up to me on Christmas Eve and fixed me with a glare somewhere between scorn, victory and disappointment. ‘I’ve got something very serious to tell you, Mummy: I’ve found the presents: You are Father Christmas!’ and she led me to a stack of presents in Alan’s wardrobe. ‘I think those are Daddy’s surprise presents for me!’ I whispered ‘Can you keep it a secret?’
It was a long night: ‘You can’t send me to bed; Christmas is a time to be with your family!’ (10pm); ‘I’m indigesting my food’ (11pm); ‘I don’t know whether I believe in father Christmas or not!’ (midnight, weeping); ‘I’m still awake!’ (1.30am).
At some point in the dead of night there was a commotion in the cellar, the crash of falling bottles, a muffled ‘OW! SH*T!!’…but there on Christmas Morning, set before the fireplace, were four piles of presents – magical!
The front room was transformed quickly into a trash can of wrappings, bells and bows, presents small and large tossed aside for the next one, and children lying down on top of the clutter, tapping and stroking their various squillion shmegabite this, that and the others. Alan made grateful noises about his (yes, his) stocking fillers, ‘ah, this edition of Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable…I don’t suppose the new one is much different…’ and tried to understand why the fridge magnet I chose for him ‘Fridge Pickers wear Large Knickers’ made me howl quite so uncontrollably. But soon I was getting twitchy about the mess so disappeared into the kitchen to get down and dirty with Jamie Oliver and ‘pack a punch’ into the maris pipers (‘smash those little babies (garlic) and chuck’em in with the big boys’), speed-peel the apples for a crumble, and of course teach Bonnie to knit right now (‘Father Christmas gets me the best presents’).
Alan was upstairs reading the ingredients on the toothpaste, in fact everyone was relaxing while I was doing my usual clockwork mouse impression, so I roared ‘What exactly are you all doing? Cathy and Johnny (neighbours) are coming in a minute, get dressed all of you, tidy up, teeth, hair, MOVE!!’ (Happy Christmas!), and funnily enough, Alan shot down the stairs a second later looking like that was exactly what he was about to say, and started yelling at the children who bawled: ‘I DIDN’T MAKE THE MESS - YOU’RE SO MEAN’ . Soon it sounded like he might ‘pack a punch’ into something else…
But just then our lovely neighbours arrived for a Christmas Drink, controversially arranged by Alan to start half an hour before we were due at my sisters for Christmas Dinner. ‘We can be flexible’ he’d remonstrated, meaning I should give in and ask her to stall the roast: ‘it’s Christmas – there’s no timetable’ he said (Oh?). I put it to him that he might not feel quite so flexible if he was the one with a duck in the oven already at the crispy stage and no guests in sight. But according to him, my inclination to show up before Ducky was cinders was anal rather than courteous so I delivered my own off-the-air Christmas Lecture, (and this one did ‘pack a punch’) on the subject of ‘I AM EXTREMELY ANGRY*!!*’ in the car on the way to my sisters, switching seamlessly to ‘Hello! Merry Christmas!’ upon arrival. We passed a very pleasant family day, all our lovely children getting a bit of the limelight - mine for stretching the hamster, hers for making the desserts, one a piece. A Merry Christmas To One and All!