Saturday, 3 January 2015

Christmas Tantrums

So, how was your Christmas?  Was it the perfect festive moment?  Or, did it suffer a blip or two?  I have yet to meet anybody who has had the perfect Christmas.  If you know somebody who has said it was perfect, they’re either lying through their teeth, or else they’re very lucky.  And if YOU happened to have the perfect Christmas, treasure it forever, because the perfect Christmas doesn’t happen very often.
          Regarding my latest Christmas, for the purposes of diplomacy and not falling out with anybody, all names shall be changed.  In fact, I’ll even change my own name.  Tell you what, I’ll go one step further and convert the whole experience into a short story.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I’ll begin.

For Laura and Tom it had been a fairly decent year.  The kids were grown-up and almost off their hands.  The eldest, Sarah, was at uni.  The youngest, Jake, was still at home but revving up to leave the nest.  Periodically he’d treat his parents to a spectacular display of hormonal havoc that constantly fizzed and popped beneath the surface, but apart from that life was good.
          ‘I can’t wait for Christmas and some time off work,’ said Tom one evening.  He flopped onto the sofa.  ‘If you don’t mind, love, I’ll have dinner in front of the telly.’
          ‘Sure,’ said Laura.
          Moments later Tom was happily risking his teeth on cremated sausage and concrete chips.  Laura sighed.  Thank goodness she wouldn’t be doing the cooking this Christmas.  Instead the family were descending on her sister-in-law, Jemma, and Jemma’s husband, Alf.  Laura couldn’t wait. But then disaster struck.  Three days before Christmas the family pooch was suddenly taken ill and had to be put to sleep.  The family were devastated.
          ‘I’m so glad we’re going to Jemma’s and Alf’s for Christmas,’ Laura sobbed.  ‘Dishing up a turkey dinner at home without the dog salivating and trying to mug everybody just wouldn’t be the same.’
          The big day dawned and the family set off, glad to shut the door on their too-quiet house devoid of a waggy tail and doggy parps.
          ‘Happy Christmas!’ Jemma greeted the family.  Her face was flushed from standing over a vast range on which every vegetable known to mankind was steaming away. ‘Come in, come in.  Alf?  ALF!  Get that champagne uncorked.’
          Alf appeared in the hall doorway, a paper crown from a Christmas cracker upon his balding head.  ‘Hello,’ he squeaked.  Laura often wondered if Alf’s voice had ever completely broken.  ‘Come through into the lounge.’  Alf proceeded to pass around glasses of chilled bubbly.  ‘Now you know everybody here, don’t you?  Great-Aunty June and Great-Uncle John. And the in-laws, George and Muriel.’
          ‘Did you say something, Alf?’ Great-Aunty June boomed.
          ‘God, she’s deafer than ever,’ Alf muttered to Laura and Tom.  ‘I was just saying,’ he turned to Great-Aunty June, ‘that it’s Laura and Tom who are here, Aunty.’
          ‘Yes, I can see that,’ Great-Aunty June tutted.  ‘There’s nothing wrong with my eyesight you know.’
          Laura smiled and gravitated towards Great-Aunty June.  Like her, June was a doggy person, and Laura found it of some comfort to listen to the old lady waxing lyrical about her two terriers, Jock and Vikki.
          ‘I’m so sorry, dear, to hear about your poor little doggy.’ Great-Aunty June patted Laura’s hand.
          ‘Thank you,’ Laura whispered, and took a slug of champers.  Booze was great at numbing the pain.  ‘How’s Jock and Vikki?’
          ‘Oh same as ever, dear, same as ever.’
          ‘Still good at playing Fetch?’
          ‘Absolutely,’ Great-Aunty June nodded.  ‘Jock in particular loves playing with his balls.  He has quite a collection now.  He sits in his basket licking them, much to Vikki’s annoyance.’
          Laura nearly choked on her champagne.  Great-Aunty June had a way with words.
          ‘Everybody sit up,’ said Jemma.  She set upon the table a huge turkey cooked to perfection.
          ‘You must have been up since dawn cooking this lot,’ said Laura admiringly as she sat down at the table.
          ‘I made the gravy,’ said Alf importantly.
          The teenagers exchanged furtive glances.  They secretly thought Alf a prize berk.  
          ‘Oh, Muriel, no, no, no!’ said Alf petulantly.  He looked extremely put out.  ‘You can’t sit there.’
          ‘Why ever not?’ Muriel asked.  It had taken her ages to creak over to this particular chair and now she was ensconced, she didn’t want to get up.
          ‘Leave her,’ Gemma said, ‘she can sit there if she wants to.’
          ‘But it’s not a comfortable chair,’ protested Alf, switching on the smarm.  ‘I’m just thinking of you, Muriel,’ he smiled patronisingly, ‘and your dear little bony bottom.’
          ‘I’m fine, thanks,’ said Muriel stiffly.
          ‘I want you to move,’ said Alf, asserting himself.
          ‘But I don’t want to,’ Muriel protested.
          ‘Move!’ Alf’s squeaky voice shot up an octave.  ‘I mean it, Muriel.  Just do as you’re told.’
          ‘I really don’t want to,’ Muriel repeated.  ‘I’m fine sitting here.  Honest.’
          But it seemed to have turned into a battle of wills and Alf was having none of it.
          ‘For the last time, Muriel, get off that chair!’
          ‘Here,’ said Jake jumping up.  ‘Have my cushion, Muriel.’
          Suddenly Alf was incandescent with rage.  ‘Back off, Jake!’
          ‘Eh?’ said the hapless teenager.
          ‘I said back off!’
          ‘But I only wanted to give Muriel a cush–’
          Suddenly two hands were pushing Jake backwards.
          ‘I said BACK OFF!’
          Jake, irked at being shouted at in front of an audience, not to mention pushed, experienced a rush of teenage hormones.  What he really wanted to do was shove Alf into the turkey and pelt him with Brussel sprouts.  Instead he glared at Alf and hissed, ‘Don’t touch me.’
          ‘How DARE you speak to me like that,’ squeaked Alf.  He glared at both Jake and Muriel before turning on his heel.  Grabbing Jemma by the wrist, he tried to drag her into the kitchen.
          ‘Stop it!’ Jemma cried, pulling away.
          ‘TO HELL WITH THE LOT OF YOU!’ roared Alf.  It was at that point that Laura wondered if Alf’s voice had finally broken.  Picking up a paperweight, Alf hurled it at the dining room door before stomping out into the cold afternoon air, slamming the door behind him.  There was the sound of an engine turning over, followed by an embarrassed silence.  Great-Aunty June was the first to break it.
          ‘As I was saying, Jock loves his balls.  And he’s certainly got more than that chap.’
          Nobody saw Alf for the rest of the day.  Which brings me to the moral of this tale.  You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. Which reminds me. 
What do you call an obnoxious reindeer?  RUDEolph…

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