The first and the last 

Christmas Day – not for everyone of course, and not the happiest of days for everyone either. Just because many of us are lucky enough to spend it with friends or family swapping presents and overeating, some do not celebrate the day and others may be away from those they love.

For my family, though, it was a day that has played out in similar fashion over a number of years with a couple of variations this year. The most obvious is the newest member of the family, my nephew, who at just over nine weeks old is barely out of his own wrapping paper and not really in any position to understand what all the colour and movement is all about, but who nevertheless managed to do very well indeed in amassing a large pile of presents.

For my dad, a grandfather for the first time, this Christmas was a little more muted than previous ones. He was in hospital only a week ago for a routine operation that has none the less knocked seven bells out of him. Other than the fact that he got an infection and was on IV antibiotics for a few days, which made him very tired, he also had a general anaesthetic which has also given him a hit. Pretty much all he wants to do at the moment is sleep – not easy with a houseful of guests – and his appetite is poor.

My mother, too is feeling the effects of advanced arthritis and so finds it difficult to stand for longer than about the minutes before she needs a break from the pain by sitting down, but then finds it difficult to get up after she has been sitting for too long. She can not win. The catering effort that goes into Christmas would make most army chefs’ eyes water and how she is still doing it is beyond me.

My father’s job was always the BBQ – to first of all roast the ham a few days before Xmas and then the turkey on the night, but this has now been handed over to one of my brothers. I sourced the pannetonne breads for breakfast and helped make the scrambled eggs – mountains of them. My other brother is quite the mixologist and has for a few years now been managing the pre dinner drinks menu.

The baby was asleep for most of the day, although he did appear briefly in the morning and for long enough for me to annoy the hell out of everyone by pressing the foot of a toy santa in board shorts that I had brought over with me, who then launched into a song, complete with swivelling hips. He seemed to like it.

My father came to the table for both meals but had no appetite for the food on his plate and slipped away to a chair shortly afterwards. This meant the dogs, who had become demented this year in their determination to jump up on chairs at the table, suddenly had an ‘in’ and despite the fact that they knew they would be chastised and put back on the floor, continued to appear on various seats as they were vacated – if only for a few seconds – like furry whack-a-moles. Eventually the only way to stop them was for me to allow them to sit behind my back on my chair, which seemed to appease them. They were not after food, just inclusion.

Xmas day is once again at an end. The turkey was cooked and eaten and declared moist, I appeared with around two kilos of emergency parsnips and stuffing balls, carols and Christmas songs were streamed via Bluetooth to a speaker as we ate our meals. The technology has changed and so has the rhythm of our family Christmas Day over the years, even if the main ingredients are the same. I am currently sitting with a glass of wine – my first one of the day at 11pm as I had been driving between houses up until now, and am about ready to go to bed.

So however you have spent December 25th, I will bid you goodnight and the very best of the season. Cheers.

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