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….