Come, reader, take a seat at my festive dinner table. I will give you the best chair, the one which doesn’t have a wonky leg, from which you can survey our family revelries.
On top of sprouts (by the time you read this, I will have peeled and Chrissy-crossed 65), stuffed turkey (sausagemeat will still be sitting under my cheerily painted fingernails on December 27), a mountain of roasties and all the other seasonal sundries that the chief cook and bottle-washer busy from daybreak on Christmas Eve ‘til 2am on Christmas morn, I will also treat you to something else; a veritable Slice Of Life.
Tomorrow, fool that I am, there will be eleven of us, maybe a round dozen if Boy’s Jewish friend decides he wants to break Warburton’s breadrolls with the Gentiles. The guest list reads like something out of an Alan Bennett play. Or a Royle Family Christmas Special. Allow me to introduce them; top left, squeezed into a corner so we can all keep an eye on him, we have a very smiley elderly person with Alzheimer’s, and his wife who is currently teetering, despite her sensible new Hotters, on the edge of the precipice which looks suspiciously like a nervous breakdown. Particularly as I have her on pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce and Christmas pud duty.
By their side will be Boy, who I hope has rushed back from London to shower his dear mama with fripperies from Harvey Nicks, and Gorgeous Girlfriend of Boy (task: hand-made brandy truffles).
My M-I-L, currently crippled by knee problems and in a wheelchair (task: M&S canapes) will be nearest the door so she can get to the loo (temporarily fitted with a seat that looks like it’s made by Shackleton’s). Next to her will be Frazzled F-I-L, now a full-time carer, who is, to coin that phrase your grandma used, Not A Well Man Himself. Plus a spinal nerve problem means his leg can go from under him without warning. We will not be tasking him with anything. Least of all carrying in the flaming pud. Another of our guests, in remission from cancer, is bringing loads of vino. My step-sister will be drinking loads of vino, making the starter and being forcibly removed from gravy-making (I get very proprietorial about gravy). Last but not least, we have an utterly delightful teenager on the autistic spectrum (task: handing out presents and pulling crackers).
Why have I invited them all, when Bloke and I could have had peace, quiet and joy and a three-bird roast from Aldi? Because this eclectic gathering is my weird, falling to bits, wonderful family. And I’m the only one with a big enough table.