It’s Christmas! Welcome to Disaster Central!

Anyone feeling a bit stressed? Under pressure? Fretting that you have forgotten something vital? Or that with the holiday season upon us, something is surely bound to go wrong?

Well, here’s a thought. Despite the most meticulous planning, or maybe only haphazard planning, or no planning at all, disasters may well happen. The trick is, how to deal with them. Sink or swim. Rise above or drown in an eggnoggy mess. No matter how much we all run around, planning, making list after list, crossing things off, adding more to the bottom; no matter how many genuine and ‘emergency’ presents we buy; no matter how many cakes, cookies or pies we make; or extra rolls of gift wrap we buy and don’t even use; Something. Might. Go. Wrong. And guess what? It’ll still be FINE!!!

So, in the bloggy spirit, it occurred to me that if we share some Christmas disaster stories ahead of the big day, and if you are unfortunate enough to meet with a planning/gifting/cooking/family/whatever trauma, well maybe you will find a bit of solace by remembering that it is not only you, it does happen to everyone and it is not a big deal. I think I may have kinda stolen that last sentence from ‘Friends’, but changed it up a bit.

Anyway. I get to go first. These are some of my seasonal potential dramas, that in the end just become anecdotes. Some happened to me, some have been recounted by friends and family.

A former colleague, not a big fan of Christmas, or cooking, and with a family that were not big on tradition, told me how one year she was so ‘anti Christmas’ that she rebelled and just served food from whatever was left at the bottom of the freezer. I think I remember her mentioning curry, sausage rolls, savoury pancakes, garlic bread and smoked fish. Oh, and sandwiches. Maybe they were dessert. The following year she felt bad, so decided to be a bit more conventional. She ordered a turkey from the local butcher and collected it late on Christmas Eve. Imagine her surprise, on unwrapping it, to find the turkey only had one leg. Apparently it was really hard to balance it in the roasting tin and her family never believed she hadn‘t done it on purpose! Still, this is the woman who thought her budgie had died overnight because he was hanging upside down from the perch in his cage. Turned out the sandpaper they wrapped around the perch to give him a grip and keep his claws trim had just come loose…

My sister, about to spend a first Christmas with her boyfriend’s family, arrived on the day to find her prospective mother-in-law defrosting the turkey with boiling water, in the bath. Side dish of salmonella, anyone? I think they ate out.

Years ago my sister and I shared a flat for a while. We were keen to have Christmas dinner there, hoping to give our parents a treat as neither of them enjoyed cooking much. So we spent loads of money in a posh London butcher shop getting turkey and a ridiculously oversized ham (neither of us were good at working out how much was needed and the butcher clearly had the £ signs in his eyes). We had instructions to soak the ham in a bucket of some solution (I can’t remember what. Brine, maybe?). So we took out a second mortgage to buy a large enough bucket and followed instructions. On the day, our parents warily eyed the ham swimming in its watery world and looking like a half finished biology lab specimen. They asked us, carefully and kindly, what we had done. We happily assured them it was all under control, and the ham had been soaking in the required liquid, for the required time. Then one of our parents mentioned that it just might also need to be cooked….

I can’t remember exactly how old I was for this next one. I think mid-late teens. Dad got locked in the bathroom on Christmas Day. Now, for non-Brits reading this, you need to know that, certainly back then, most UK houses had only one toilet, and it was often in the same room as the bath and/or shower. Not many ‘en suite’, guest bathroom or downstairs cloakroom facilities were around. So, aside from our obvious concern about the dilemma Dad was in, we all had our own comfort break situations to consider. And of course teenage girls need mirror time too! Anyway, the lock was not budging, and could not be taken apart from the outside. A huge call-out fee was looking on the cards, but there was no guarantee you could even get anyone to turn up. Dad was pretty cross. But then, all those Enid Blyton books came to the rescue! We fed yards of string under the door and told Dad to hold the string out of the bathroom window. We tied a screwdriver onto the string, to be hauled back up through the window and escape achieved! Christmas, and comfort breaks, all saved!

And then, of course the surprise Christmas guests. My sister and I, and our other halves are at my parents and close to serving up lunch on Christmas Day. The kitchen is a hive of activity. The doorbell rings and a young couple appear, laden with port, stilton and champagne. Hmmmn, odd. Five of us have never seen them before in our lives. My dad, though, does seem to know them, brings them in and offers them a drink. Well, it is Christmas, right? Dad stays chatting to them for a few minutes, whilst there is an increasing amount of confused faces and stage whispering going on in the kitchen between us womenfolk. The other menfolk retired to the garden with beer and cigarettes to enjoy the unravelling pantomime through the windows. Dad eventually made it into the kitchen. The word ‘sheepish’ has never been more appropriate. It turned out, that as the couple didn’t have family in the UK, my dad had invited them to Christmas dinner weeks ago. A lovely thought. Except he had forgotten to mention it to mum, or anyone else, and had forgotten it himself too until they showed up!

So, quite a lot more stage whispering, extra vegetables deployed, frantic table laying adjustments and a rehash of a smoked salmon starter into a smaller ‘amuse bouche’ and we were fine. And hey, we have Irish heritage so had done enough roast potatoes to feed 20 people anyway. Actually the couple were great company, very entertaining and an absolute pleasure to meet. And afterwards they even named a racehorse they trained after my dad.

So, sometimes the disasters are really not that bad. They give you a story to tell at least!

Anyone else got a Christmas disaster or two they would like to share? C’mon! The stage is yours….

 

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39 thoughts on “It’s Christmas! Welcome to Disaster Central!

  1. Love your tales, Gillian! A little confused why a ham would need to soak in any sort of brine (hams here are salted or smoke cured (or come nastily in a can!), and the salted ones need to be soaked in water to reduce some of the saltiness). But, perhaps, hams are different on your side of the pond!

    I don’t really have any disaster stories. A few telling gift stories, maybe, but no actual disasters from the actual holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was probably to reduce the saltiness – or maybe we just got it even more wrong and were adding yet more salt!! You are lucky to have got through unscathed, or maybe you are just more organised and better prepared?!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha ha, love your stories. I had to laugh at your bathing ham.

    My Christmas disaster was last year and sadly nothing funny about it. My son (nearly 5 then) was taken to hospital on the 22nd December – he woke up to find he couldn’t walk, sit or even hold his head up. I spent 3 days in hospital with him whilst they tried to find if he had a brain tumour, thankfully he didn’t. With it being Christmas we were discharged late Christmas eve with medication and strict instructions to go back once Christmas was over. Ironically enough, despite having to carry him around, having to sit with Christmas dinner on my knee trying to get him to eat (he was generally very poorly) and being absolutely exhausted it was possibly one on the nicest Christmas days we had had.

    The year before he had Scarlet Fever. I dread to think what he has planned for this year! Hannah x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Some.very funny stories there. Mine is a new years one, as we had friends over for lunch. The main course went well, and we had mince pies and custard for pudding. Sadly I have a knack for ruining things and the custard (I can’t remember whether I made it or if it was from a carton) was burned. As in throw away the pan burned. I was mortified as our friends always make such lovely meals and yet I messed up so badly. We shipped out of the house to go to the park with the children as the smell of burning was unbearable. They’re still our friends so it’s not all bad!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmmn, I am familiar wit that smell! It is often the easiest bit of a meal that we manage to make a mess of, isn’t it? I have burnt peas before now. Takes great skill to do what we do, you know!

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  4. Hilarious and fantastic blog – so perfect for this time of the year. I can’t even begin to come up with a story that is meaningful after these…that said, these are the memories we cherish most and make up the chapters in our lives.

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  5. Luckily i havent managed to mess up actual christmas yet myself. But when I was a teen, my mums oven broke half way through cooking the bird (i think we had phesant that year) yet somehow none of us noticed until we cut into it and it was still pink. Then there was the year at uni when we cooked a christmas meal for ouf flatmates and friends. Over half were veggies so we just decided to do a veggie xmas dinner. We had those glamorgan sausages that are actually made of cheese. The only tray i had was a grill tray so I popped the sausages on there. When i took them out of the oven they had all melted straight through the grill tray into a sloppy cheese mess…

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  6. I do not have a Christmas disaster story mine is an Easter disaster story……Years ago we were going to celebrate Easter and my grandma’s birthday the same Sunday, after the church service, with a dinner and cake. My mom asked if I would make a decorated sheet cake (as I do that once in awhile). I told her sure. I also was bringing meatballs in my crockpot for my share of the “potluck” meal. As we lived out in the country I brought my crockpot to town and plugged it in at my mom’s house to cook the meatballs. After church we stopped by again to collect said crockpot and I put it in the trunk next to the decorated cake. I admonished my husband to drive carefully as we backed out of the driveway to head to my sister. My sons, on the other hand, urged their father to “peel out and burn some rubber.” He listened to them. About 1/2 a block further I looked at him and said I smell meatballs……Upon opening the trunk I discovered meatballs and gravy on top the cake, melting the frosting. I was not happy. The final straw was the four of them laughing about it! After scraping the meatballs off I fixed it as best as I could. Everyone thought it tasted great……we all survived. Years later the husband and sons, still discuss this in hushed tones and call it the meatball incident. In the grand scheme of things it did not matter….there is probably a life lesson here somewhere. Don’t stress over spilled meatballs and melted frosting?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Think about those restaurants that are so fashionable , but try to make you eat weird combinations, like sardine and chocolate, for example. Maybe they need your trunk meatball traybake ensemble?! You may be a fusion chef genius! Just saying…

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  7. Oh seriously hilarious and a great way to start my day with some laughter!! I love all the stories but the one of the ‘strangers’ arriving on Xmas Day and the thought of your dad’s ‘sheepish face’… just hilarious!! THANKS!! x

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha – I’m still smiling at the thought of what must have gone through his mind when he remembered that he’d forgotten to tell your mum! Yikes.. all’s well that ends well and the true ‘spirit of Xmas’ was in your dad’s heart! x

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  8. I’m laughing so much I almost fell out of my chair! LOL! Thanks so much for sharing your families “experiences”. They are adorable and memories you will always have. Growing up in a large family (I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters) there was always great family fun at all holidays, and often throughout the year. I can’t remember any “disasters” as such as we always just had so much fun. One Christmas that sticks in my mind is when we were all together one of the last times at Christmas. I think four of us were married at the time and one of my sister’s was engaged, so our spouses/fiancees were there two. My oldest brother and one sister also had some “rugrats” as my oldest brother called them. Both my Mom’s and my Dad’s parents were there too. So, you can imagine a lot of commotion going on. Well, my 2nd oldest brother and his wife decided to “short sheet” all of the beds in the house. While they were doing this, another sister and her husband rigged the kitchen faucet so that when you turned it on, the water came out of the spray…straight to your face. We were all laughing so hard when my Mom got a face full of water when she came into the kitchen. My husband was leaning against our portable dish washer which just happened to have an angel food cake on it….well, the dishwasher suddenly moved causing my husband to start to fall, which pushed the dishwasher across the room, and yes, the angel food cake (that was frosted by the way) flew off the dishwasher and landed upside down on the floor…a chocolate gooey mess! Of course, this made us all laugh that much harder. Later that night when my parents went upstairs to bed, we heard my Dad call out each one of our names….Tom! Art! Nancee! Shirley! Debbie! Mary! Donnie! One of you are in deep sh**! Of course we all just started laughing! Oh what great times we had!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The role call of names is like The Waltons! Sounds like you have great fun. Big families often seem to have great prank stories like this. When there is only two of you it is always 50/50 that you will get the blame! Shame about the cake though… Thanks for sharing such a fun story!

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  9. Oh, my goodness, when I first read your post, I really didn’t think I had any disasters to report, but just when you feel like everything is under control, that’s when you’d better watch out! My oven stopped working before Christmas, and we went shopping for a new one, settling on a General Electric from Best Buy in rather a hurry, but since they promised delivery on Thursday, 12/22 we were all in. My first inkling of something amiss was when, back home, I looked at the bill of sale and realized that instead of our info as the buyers, my daughter’s name and phone # had been listed. I told her, “You’re going to get the reminder phone call about our oven delivery.” She did, and she told me when the call came in, and I said, “and they said it would be coming between 1-4 p.m. right? She agreed. So I did some last-minute Christmas shopping on Thursday morning but made sure I was back by 12:45. I waited all afternoon, but no deliverymen. I finally called Best Buy at 4:15 to inquire, and was told that delivery would have to be rescheduled because I hadn’t been home when they came. “But I’ve been here all afternoon!” said I, with a hint of panic creeping into my voice. As it turned out, delivery was to be between 12-4 p.m. and I had indeed missed it when they came at 12:15. At this point I was redirected to the warehouse two hours away where my oven would be going next if it wasn’t intercepted. But, too late, they had already headed back, and now they would not be able to bring it until Tuesday, December 27th! Just at this moment, my friend came to the door, delivering a plate of cookies, and I told her my sad story. She and I debated whether or not my spiral sliced ham would be cookable on our charcoal grill, and deciding not, she said, “Why don’t you go to Lowe’s and see if you can get another oven in time?” So as soon as my husband got home, we jumped in the pickup and backed out of the driveway, but rolled down the window to get the house key from our across-the-street neighbor who was leaving town, since we would be feeding her cats. At the same time, I explained our plight, and asked if we couldn’t get an oven in time, could we please use hers? She said yes, so that was now Plan C, since going to Lowe’s was Plan B after Plan A’s failure at Best Buy. But, happily, that was unnecessary since we found the same oven at Lowe’s and they would deliver on December 24th! As we were leaving the parking lot after the purchase, Reggie said, “Well, this has been a cluster____, but we will be able to laugh about it someday!” (or write about it on PaperPuff’s blog, I thought.) So, the ham was cooked and served at Christmas dinner, and you’d think that nothing more could possibly happen! But after cutting all of the leftover ham slices off the bone and putting them on a plate while looking for Tupperware to store them in, my back was turned for just a moment and our cat Eddie jumped up on the counter and snatched off a huge piece of ham in his teeth and ran out of the room, with Reggie in hot pursuit. Reggie came back with a mangled piece of meat between his fingers, saying “This was all I could wrestle away from him and he wasn’t too happy with me so I let him keep what was between his jaws. But he’s probably going to throw up tonight.” So, I’ll say it again, just when you think everything is under control, that’s when you’d better watch out!

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