Joanne is 12 with a light coating of puppy fat: one brother is a baby and her other brother is simply an annoying fact of life. It’s Christmas Day. Joanne woke (too early) this morning and was very excited to find a heavy Christmas stocking at the end of her bed. It’s an old sock of her Dad’s and it contains – as it always does – some loose change, nuts in shells, a satsuma and a slightly squashed Christmas cracker. That is all.
She will get a good pile of wrapped presents downstairs – exactly the same as her brothers in terms of quantity and quality. In all likelihood they came from the Grattan catalogue and Mum and Dad will be paying for them all year.
Dinner is round at Aunty Myra’s this time: the kids will help out in the kitchen (squeezing Primula into small lengths of celery as a sort of 1970’s amuse bouche) but then so will all the adult ladies (getting under Myra’s feet). The men go to pub – it’s open for two beers and that is all (no meals, no drinks, no nowt after that – the staff have their Christmas to go to). When they come back dinner will be eaten. It’s soup or maybe melon, dinner and pudding. There is no cranberry sauce, no ‘choice’ of meats, no vegetarian option, no gluten free, or lactose intolerant and no wine either. The kids are eating at a card table, one of them is perched on a pile of Encyclopaedia Brittanica because there’s not enough chairs. After dinner there is the Queens speech, card games, chatting, cold cuts and off home to bed.
And it was glorious – the kids were bathed in a warm glow of selection boxes and Etch-a-sketch, the grown-ups had an unfamiliar sherry, snowball or brandy and got a little bit tiddly. The same tinsel tree and elderly lights came out year after year and everyone went ‘ooooooo’ when the switch went on – casting a warm glow on hand-made aluminium foil stars, pipe-cleaner decorations, paper chains and baubles carefully brought out year after year (even though they’d been bought at the local paper-shop for a few pence).
Joanne is happy, even though her brother has eaten her last Milkybar and won’t share his Smarties. Christmas is wonderful. Pity it never snows.