A knock on the door at 9pm on Xmas Eve heralded the arrival of Turbo, one of our next-door neighbours. My Dad answered the door as mum and I were busy wrapping up the last of the Xmas presents before we got ready to go to Midnight Mass at our local Parish Church and Turbo explained that it was his work’s Xmas night out and he’d forgotten to book a taxi so could I give him a lift? Reluctantly I grabbed my car keys, muttering under my breath as I climbed into the car. It was only when I switched the engine on that he dropped the first bombshell of the night that he was meeting them all in another village some thirty miles away.
Grimacing, I set off for our destination with my mother’s warning about not being late for Midnight Mass ringing in my ears. Halfway there Boy Wonder was desperately rummaging through his pockets before asking me for our home telephone number explaining he wanted to ring the old fella as he thought he’d dropped his keys. I pointed out that I didn’t think it was a wise decision to ask my Dad with just his one good arm to root around in the cold and dark subsequently I was left with no choice but to turn the car around. As we pulled into the street, our neighbourhood genius announced he’d found them in his pocket after all.
Restraining the urge to throttle him we once again set out for our destination. I double checked with him twice that I was depositing him in the car park of the local village and once there he tried phoning his pals again but all their mobiles appeared to be switched off.
“Are you telling me that you don’t know where you’re supposed to meet them?” I asked through gritted teeth.
“Well, I think we need to go back to the Duke of Cornwall” he shamefully admitted. Who’s the “we” kemosabe? Clearly he had no intention of the using the legs God had given him for the short trip back to the pub. I turned the car around & drove along the road to the Duke, pulling up alongside I reached across to shut the passenger and hightail it back home but as he climbed out as he said “Wait there and if I wave you can drive off”.
Really! That’s so very thoughtful of you as I can’t think why anyone would want to hurry off back home at 10.30pm on a Xmas Eve. By now I was seething with rage and frankly ready to draw him a gasoline bath and hand him a lit cigarette.
“Thanks Dallas, really appreciate this, got something really special wrapped up for you at home”. Thinking that a bottle of something nice would in some small way help to compensate me for a night of taxi driving in arctic conditions, I snuggled into my coat and decided in true Xmas spirit to suck it up.
Unsurprisingly, his friends were not waiting for him at the Duke of York and further attempts to contact them by mobile phone weren’t successful either. Climbing back into the car he said “Well, we’ve only got another seven pubs to check out, shouldn’t take long”.
Sadly it was a long night so as I raced into midnight mass just as the congregation were settling down for a chorus of Silent Night, I was greeted by one of my mother’s frosty stares. The personal welcome from the vicar “Deborah, so nice of you to join us” was enough alone to guarantee me a diet of muesli breakfasts for the remainder of my natural-born.
The following day late into the afternoon, no doubt after his hangover had worn off, Turbo sheepishly knocked on our door again. Fortified by several glasses of the bubbly stuff I was determined to rebuff any further taxi driving requests. As I swung the door open he stood there in the cold with his hands behind his back.
“I told you I had something special for you” grinning he handed me a battered paper plate with 3 of the sorriest looking mince pies surrounded in cling film. Needless to say our own Mary Berry (the old dear) took the gesture as a personal insult so I think it unlikely that he will be gifted any homemade bakery products this year fresh from the Dyson Abbey kitchen.