Time was when I cooked Christmas dinner for about fifteen people...bought mounds of presents and sent at least a hundred cards out.
I started in October with making and freezing mince pies and sausage rolls and then it began to escalate slowly but surely until Christmas eve would see me still in the kitchen peeling potatoes and counting out plates and laying the table in the dining room...off-limits to everyone.
Everyone had to have a cracker...and I used to peer inside the tubes to make certain Geoffrey had the cracker with a little pen inside and Trevor had a Chinese puzzle and Kim had a pretty hankie...didn't much matter about everyone else as long as my people had something they couldn't squabble over.
The heap of presents under the tree was positively obscene...and the tree quite enormous. We had enough drink to float a battleship and the cake was huge and awful rich having been laced with good brandy for weeks beforehand...as was the pudding, which was so dosed in alcohol you didn't need to pour any extra on the top...it lit itself if you struck a match within ten feet of it.
Teresa and the children came over on Christmas eve and spent the night...Reuben followed after he'd been to work on Christmas morning and everyone else came in dribs and drabs throughout the day. There'd be at least one of the cats determined to climb to the very top of the tree knocking as many baubles off as it possibly could...the parrot would shriek obscenities and tear holes in the curtains...the Mynah bird slung his soggy food out of his cage all over the carpet and the dogs crept upstairs where they lay on the landing with one ear cocked for the smell of the turkey coming out of the oven.
Everyone's cars were parked in the way of latecomers and Himself would invariably throw the most precious Dinky car ever out with the wrapping paper and have to spend half an hour sorting through the bin to find it...
Trevor poked the stuffing with suspicion and Geoffrey would bolt from the table half way through the meal to throw up...usually loudly. Kim would announce she was 'busting for a wee' just after we'd all sat down and after I'd told her to go to the bathroom not a minute beforehand and Claudia would have a massive fit and have to be put to bed...
We did actually manage two Christmases' without Tracy putting her head through the glass in the front door ...but that was only because the nice handyman had put wooden bars across it...so she'd throw a tantrum and shove her head through the glass in the back door instead...out would come the dustpan and brush and finding a piece of cardboard to go over the hole and plenty of tissue to mop up the copious amounts of blood...
Cindy hadn't yet been diagnosed with Temporal Lobe epilepsy so she'd be having horrible headaches and talking a load of rubbish and we'd all pretend she wasn't and then she'd need a lie down and Brendan would mutter and sulk and say they might as well go home and we'd heave a sigh of relief even if he is my son and then we'd have another stiff drink and try to play cards...
Teresa always won and I could never grasp the rules probably because I was quite drunk by then and the baby would wake up and demand to be fed and get passed around everyone like a parcel and I'd be standing in the kitchen trying to remember how many scoops of milk and thinking the poor child would be scarred for life...
By tea time everyone was hungry again and so the cake appeared and trifle and dainty sandwiches and all the children had disappeared into the sitting room to watch a film on the television but spent the time hurling cushions at each other and being generally foul.
Trevor would sidle out looking shifty and announce he was going to bed and I'd send Kim up soon after and Geoffrey would hog the upstairs bathroom still throwing up and Trevor would wail he couldn't clean his teeth 'cos Geoffrey had locked the bathroom door and Himself would bang on the door and tell him to unlock it now or else...we never did work out what the 'or else' would have been.
The baby slurped her bottle down and Luke would reappear from wherever he had been looking slightly pained and complaining about the noise and Tracy brushed Lynseys hair and got the brush totally stuck and Teresa had to carefully cut it out and the cards began to fall off their strings and some of the lights on the tree fused and so we had another drink and then we all went to bed.