The Christmas preparations at Dyson Abbey are always planned like a military campaign. The arrival of the Christmas tree usually heralds the start and this year was no exception. We’d spent the week before retrieving all the decorations from the loft and I’d climbed up the attic ladder that many times, I was beginning to feel like a mountain goat. It took four of us heaving and pushing to get it through the front door and that was only after my Dad had removed the door from its hinges to accommodate it’s huge girth. As we strenuously pushed and dragged the Noble Fir into the house, my mother vacuumed the pine needles from under our feet as they were dispensed in our exertions. She was pretty relentless in her ministrations and to add to the scratches we now had bruised ankles to add to our catalogue of injuries. Bearing our scars like the real troopers we were, we helped with the tree decorating whilst my mother barked orders like a general. The tree looked very spectacular until the following morning when we discovered that during the night, Hobo had invented a new game of perching on one of the branches.Clearly, a Noble Spruce is unaccustomed to an animal the size of a small Shetland pony perching on it and the next morning all our handiwork was strewn across my mother’s shag pile carpet. It looked unlikely at that point whether Hobo would be receiving any turkey during Christmas lunch.
The houses in our street bear a strong resemblance to the strip in Las Vegas. My Dad is a tad over- zealous when it comes to outside Xmas lighting and clearly has too much time on his hands. Frankly, the house is so well-lit; I’m surprised that a Boeing 747 hasn’t yet landed on the drive. In fact, I’m pretty sure that you can see our house from Space along with the Great Wall of China.
Christmas shopping had been carried out weeks in advance to avoid the rush and on the occasions that Dad chauffeured us all in town, he parked miles away from the city centre as he has an aversion to paying for parking. Which is all well and good when you arrive but when you have to trudge miles back to the car overloaded with shopping bags, most of your Christmas goodwill disintegrates in the route march back to the car. Trust me when I say that there is no goodwill amongst Christmas shoppers when they are hell-bent on retrieving the must-have toy for their offspring. To add to the war wounds from the tree incident, I also have bruised shins and thighs from being rammed by over-zealous trolley wielding customers.
The best Royal Doulton china was washed off to make an appearance on Christmas day along with the Edinburgh crystal and the best table linen. It was all rather wasted on my Dad, who God love him would rather be down at his allotment with a banana sandwich & a flask of tea than sat stiffly at the table in his new Christmas jumper (the creases still visible from the packaging).
Dishes washed and put away, along with enough Turkey which would be made into stews, casseroles, sandwiches and soups over the coming days, Christmas lunch was over for another year. Despite the hard work, the bruised feet and petty squabbles it would be the laughter, teasing and time spent together over a shared joyous meal that would be remembered during the years to come.