I trust that everyone sang the title using their best impression of Roy Orbison. However, fear not, no-one’s baby has moved onto romantic pastures new (well, obviously I can’t guarantee that, but it is not the subject of today’s post). The title refers to the end of Christmas proper – though those with an inappropriately generous true love may continue receiving deliveries of miscellaneous birds and people for some days yet – but the rest of us are now in that liminal space that lies twist the supposed birth of the ickle Baby Jesus and the start of the New Year. After weeks of build-up (or in my case, an hour or two), Christmas joins us for a few brief hours and then is gone.
I thought I’d share some vignettes from my own Christmas while the remain relatively fresh in my alcohol-addled brain.
A new tradition began and an old one was resurrected… I think last Sunday was my first Christmas Eve at a gig – and what a gig! It was a jazz session at the Talking Heads with a Christmas theme, produced by the Fathers of Christmas (a name the quartet will probably not be using at other gigs). The musicians were joined by a singer – who was the only member of the ensemble to make a serious effort when it comes to dress – for several of the numbers and who, based on his youth, must have been a son or grandson of Christmas. As well as jacket and shoes in red and black, alluding to the season, he also appeared to have spent more effort on his hair for the gig than I have on mine over the whole of the last decade. I’m probably at least as vain as the next man, but am just too lazy to act on it: especially when it comes to hair. The whole gig was so enjoyable, I’d rather like to spend every Christmas Eve with live festive jazz and friends – however, the timing of that particular gig means this would only happen every 7 years (on average).
It was also at the Heads that I was given my first Christmas stocking for rather more than three decades. This might suggest that I am spending too much time at gigs or am excessively childish and I did wonder if it was a form of intervention: though if it was, I am unclear as to its nature. The stocking was a festive “sock”, embroidered with my name, rather than one of my father’s unadorned seaman’s socks (he never went to sea, but he did have the socks ready) which served throughout my childhood. I opened the parcels on Christmas Day, and there was one item in common with my childhood stockings: the tangerine! The other gifts seemed a step up from their 1970s counterparts: I can now be musical in miniature, massage my aching muscles and study to be rock star with a Ladybird. I consumed the very fine bottle of Duet from Alpine Beer on my return to Southampton, which slipped down worryingly easily for a non-session 7% ale! Finally, the Lindt reindeer allowed me to test my theory that it is just a re-badged Easter Bunny: it wasn’t!
Christmas jazz and (slightly deformed) stocking
On Christmas morning, I drove back to see my family through pleasantly quiet roads: something of a throwback to the road conditions of my youth (albeit with bigger and safer cars). After a brief stop-off with my parents, the bulk of the day was spent at my sister’s with my nephew: the only readily available familial child (as measured by age, at least). I ate a frankly infeasible volume of food and was a very bad vegetarian indeed! I danced to Queen (thanks to a videogame, which frankly only monitors my right hand) and on the third attempt proved triumphant at Exploding Kittens (a card game: no actual kittens were harmed or – more importantly – harmed me!). By dint of refusing to play again, I retain my hard-fought crown to this day!
I learned that you can buy your giant rabbit (he’s called Starby, if you want to correspond with him directly) a house made from carrots (compressed into a more practical building material) which the owner will slowly consume. It became all to clear that my whole family (including me) is useless at Guess Who – the version where you must guess the name written on a post-it note placed on your forehead (top tip: this works much better if you attach the post-it note to a paper hat obtained from a cracker). To be honest, given how bad we were I’m surprised that the game is not still underway (some three days later). I can also commend my sister’s gentleman caller on the excellent quality of his light fruit cake: quite the best example of its genre I have had the pleasure of eating in many years. It was when attempting to light a (Roman) candle on this very cake that I discovered how poor my family are at matters incendiary. After recourse to a gas lighter, several matches and a tea light ignition was finally achieved. I think parliament is safe from any repeat of the gunpowder plot instigated by my clan: I shall have to stick with the military option when I sweep to power…
The true meaning of Christmas: Easter and Guy Fawkes (no relation!)
Boxing Day was spent at my parents and as has become traditional, a modest constitutional took place in a futile attempt to burn off a few of the million (or so) calories consumed on the previous day. In older times (and better weather), this used to involve a hike to the nearby supergrid point circling home via the Christmas Tree farm but in more recent years we have limited ourselves to a stroll along the prom at Bexhill. This was glorious, if bracing, but gathering storm clouds led me to forego the traditional Boxing Day ice cream. A wise decision, as it rained pretty vigorously on the drive back to Ninfield: though this did provide a glorious double rainbow as we headed north from Sidley.
The day’s other major excitement was my father’s decision to cook me a vegetarian lunch. His chosen meal required a very large amount of grating: something I would only have attempted with a food processor. My parents could only field a manual grater and a rather feeble stick blender so I think my father and I burned off far more calories grating root vegetables than we did on our walk. Despite some misgivings, the galette proved more than edible and, with some minor tweaks to the recipe (and better equipment), could well be worth making again. In the evening I drove back home through heavy rain and traffic, leaving Christmas behind me in the east.
Building and sating an appetite!
Christmas itself was the first time I had spent two evenings not at a gig of some form or other for several weeks (possibly even months) and there was some concern about how well I would cope. I can reassure readers that the sheer volume of food and alcohol consumed did mitigate against me running amok. Still, to minimise the growing risk I did go out last night to see some live music: so I think you’re probably safe (for now). Life should now return to a more normal footing, though gigs in early January do look slightly sparse at the moment.
Some might think my Christmas odd, but five people on each of the two main days chose to spend some of their time consulting this august instrument. One can scarcely imagine how badly their days must have been going that they came here, nor what succour they took from their visit…