This Christmas I have been cruelly yet consensually denied three of my favourite things: my mum, cigarettes, and sharing a double bed with my partner. Nothing sinister at work, I just spent my second Christmas ever at my boyfriend’s parents’ place.
Thankfully, his parents are pretty much my fantasy mum and dad. His mum insists on no television - just parlour games and conversation - and makes the gravy from the giblets. His dad gently teases everyone including his wife who he still loves dearly after nearly fifty years of marriage. Bliss.
I even went to a carol service and if anyone does then surely God knows I love belting out a few songs about mangers and virgins' wombs. It also provided the absolute highlight of my Christmas when a riot nearly broke out over an indestructible piñata presented by an earnest Sunday School teacher to the family service.
After informing us of the story of the piñata's origins (something to do with Marco Polo and the devil - Christmas relevance lost on all of us) she asked the children thronged on the front pews salivating for more chocolate and Skittles, "Can you see what it is?" and they, having built the thing apparently with Araldite and gaffer tape, wetly chanted "a star" only to have the vicar (who had fallen off his chair barely ten minutes previous to this), retort "It's a chicken!", to which it did bear a closer resemblance, to be fair.
Unfortunately, this was not a chicken ready to become an ex-chicken. Even after about twenty children had, in turn, had a go at bashing the hell out of the thing with what looked like Captain Caveman's club, it was still gleefully bouncing around the sixteenth century wood-carved chapel. It got a bit frightening when eventually some of the older kids started really going at it whilst the other ones shouted "Get it! Kill the Chicken!" A perhaps not-so-rare Lord of the Flies moment in a Devonian village.
Local Jennifer Saunders was in the congregation, can't help but wonder if it might turn up in Jam and Jerusalem (Rob's mum, a member of the local WI on which it is no doubt based, underwhelmed by it so far, I think it's pretty good in places).
And we were housed in the bungalow of a fellow kind lady of the village (not sure if she's another WI-er) who was whooping it up in a Saga hotel in Winchester over the festive period and had kindly offered two single rooms for us. Again, I could complain but it was preferable to the living room floor alternative which would have no doubt involved Rob’s dad tiptoeing over me to refill his mum's sherry glass in time for the Queen’s speech (that country air really knocks me out).
As for the fags, well it’s a dull but ongoing fight against these oppressors, my lungs the Middle East of my now-aging battleground of a body. I think the UN are probably about as effective as the grubby (nicotine) patch now affixed to my soft underbelly, but it keeps my baser instincts at bay.
Thankfully whilst denied my maternal fix for the most part, I did manage to see Mother Brown on Boxing Day evening for an enormous squeeze and lots of kisses on kitchen-ruddy cheeks. Truth be told, I do actually like cold turkey - alongside an enormous pile of my mum's bubble and squeak, stained with pickled walnut juice, of course.
Back to work tomorrow. Ah well.