It’s the same every year. Drinking on an empty stomach. Buying the tree too early. And yet, as Christmas comes to a close, we need to be reminded of the lessons to be learnt for next year.
1. If you put the tree by the radiator it looks like roasted rosemary by Boxing Day.
2. If you buy the tree too early all the needles will be in a needle mountain on the floor by the 25th.
3. The dog will get the low lying chocolates on the tree. And the ones near the bottom if they can stand, or use a fellow dog for an assist.
4. Velvet is far too hot if you are cooking Christmas lunch. You might as well be wearing a hazmat suit.
5. Go with cheap wrapping paper and the presents will be clearly visible through the holes by the time it comes to unwrapping them. It rips if you look at it, and the metallic stuff shrugs off the Sellotape: they basically unwrap themselves.
6. Always go with the bigger size. Always! You can’t really go too big where the male YAs are concerned and you might easily go too small. Also, once you’ve gone to the trouble of changing it they won’t want it, because that’s the nature of swapped presents; they lose their lustre.
7. Never countenance new ways with sprouts or other suggested deviations. Of course you don’t want to say to the YA’s girlfriend: ‘To hell with your fancy idea. Forget it! Not in This House! Not on My Watch!’ Of course you feel like a controlling Grinch, especially when everyone insists they’ll take full responsibility and it will be FINE.
But you know how it goes: give an inch and they are toasting the almonds and braising the chestnuts and taking up one third of the cooker surface when everything has been ready for 45 minutes, that is if they haven’t lost interest and drifted away. Do not change the formula is the unbreakable rule, closely followed by don’t relax until the gravy has been poured.
8. To have a starter is madness brought on by someone watching some late night Jamie Oliver holiday special.
9. Three slugs of champagne before the ‘everything coming together moment’ is the difference between calmly cruising into Christmas lunch like a swan drifting into dock and red-faced, gravy stained meltdown. It’s like alcohol taken in aeroplanes at high altitude, with anxiety medication: roughly five times more intoxicating.
10. Not bothering with an apon is like not bothering with an oven glove when you’re taking out the turkey. The gravy accident happened (again) partly because the turkey was very heavy and you were using your knee to assist and partly because of the slugs of cava that might as well be neat vodka.
11. Definitely better to have a blow dry than try and look OK under your own steam when the hot water keeps running out.
12. Avoid conversation flashpoints, at all costs. Don’t think ‘Oh why not, we’re all grown ups and everyone’s getting on like a house on fire’. No. That’s because you’ve not mentioned politics.
13. Did not need the extra midi ham. Didn’t need the bigger Christmas pudding. Didn’t need the last minute panic dash (every year) for extra potatoes and cranberries and cheese. Once again we have enough food left over to do it all again. The gallons of cream!
14. Drunk man washing up is worse than no washing up at all, and the sight of it sitting there on the draining board semi-clean but not clean, is infuriating.
15. Other things that drove us to the brink yesterday even though we should know better by now. People who ask ‘Can I help?’ while pouring themselves a drink and slowly exiting the kitchen area. The table plan that takes half an hour and then doesn’t include your mother. Spilt red wine that the spiller watches sink in with curiosity. People rubbing the cook’s back in passing, as if for good luck. The decent fizz running out before you got any because you were cooking.
Better luck next year.