I sincerely hope you had an enjoyable Christmas. I suspect, like mine, there were highlights, lowlights, and bits that were downright surreal...
THE BEST BITS
1 Not having any shopping or wrapping to do thanks to my 19-yearold daughter being home from dance school for the holidays. In return for a tenner she did the lot and gave me a stress-free pre-Christmas.
2 Going out on Christmas Eve to do my annual Santa Claus routine and being told by my wife and children that I needed a pillow stuffing up my cloak because I wasn’t fat enough. This may well be the nicest thing they’ve said to me all year.
3 Going to a house in Croft-on-Tees in my Father Christmas costume and asking the gathering of children if they’d been good, only for Jenna, four, to reply: “Well, I have but Daddy’s been very naughty. He’s always spilling drinks and not wiping it up.”
4 The shed key, which has been missing for a year, turning up at the bottom of Jack’s stocking on Christmas morning. Don’t ask me how it got there – all I know is that I’ve searched high and low for that bloomin’ key. I put its discovery down to a Christmas miracle.
5 Getting a ticket to see one of my heroes, Billy Connolly, at Newcastle City Hall on January 20. If I’m honest, I was expecting socks and shirts. Billy was a very, very pleasant surprise.
6 Having another of my heroes, my dear old Uncle Don, drive up from London for Christmas Day. It was lovely to see him and hear him play everything from Christmas carols to Beatles classics on his large organ which he’d somehow managed to pack in the boot of his car. He parked his instrument by the Christmas tree and was soon standing at the keyboard, banging away like Bobby Crush on uppers. Thankfully, we managed to stop Grandma (my Mum) joining in – she plays like Les Dawson on downers.
THE WORST BITS
1 My wife opening the expensive Marks & Spencer skirt “I” had bought her for Christmas and telling me within 24 hours that she’d be taking it back because it wasn’t really to her taste. So much for the paid-for judgement of my personal shopper.
2 Grandma giving my wife “The ultimate foot file – for the removal of callous, hard skin without bending over”. She’s thoughtful like that, my Mum.
3 Grandma following up the ultimate foot file by giving me a packet of interior car wipes – “because I’ve noticed your car’s a bit grubby”.
Thoughtful again, though a significant step up from the “Auto-escape hammer” she gave me a few Christmases back in anticipation of me being in a bad car crash.
4 The clear lowlight of the whole Christmas experience, however, had to be the Boxing Day game of “Absolute Balderdash”...
Uncle Don had just finished a mesmerising medley on his amazing travelling organ when it was decided that we’d all play our new board game.
It’s a kind of “Call My Bluff” in which you have to write down madeup answers to questions and win points by convincing the other players that you’re telling the truth.
It took me at least half an hour to try to explain the rules to my Mum and Uncle Don and then we had to choose our colours for the counters that go round the board. Max, 14, chose blue and Jack, 18, chose white.
“What colour do you want, Mum?”
I asked. “You can have anything except blue or white.”
“I’ll have blue,” she replied.
“No, Mum, you can have anything except blue or white,” I repeated.
“Oh, give me white then,” she said.
We hadn’t even started and I was already on the verge of giving up – but we ploughed on.
The first question came under the heading of newsworthy events: “The pilot on a flight from Ottawa to Winnipeg went to the washroom only to… what?”
The correct answer was “Discover that he’d locked himself out of the cockpit.” You can see why that might make the headlines.
Find a snake or a dead body; barge in on a couple in the process of joining the mile-high club; realise he’d forgotten to put the plane on autopilot; bang his head on the door and knock himself out, leading to a midair emergency. These would all have been entirely legitimate invented answers which you could easily imagine being considered newsworthy.
My Mum’s answer was: “Find that there wasn’t any soap.”
It was at this early stage of the game that I realised that there wasn’t really any point and used the newly-found shed key to seek sanctuary.