There was a moment on Sunday, at the Family Christmas Party, when my brother turned to my fiancé Mark, and said “It’s not too late”.
Every year, my mother’s family get together – a request made by my late Nan, which the family have admirably honoured year in year out. In the olden days, it was at an aunt’s house – a packed, boozy, children running wild affair, and everyone had a good old catch up. As the year’s went on, and, Irish Catholic as they are, the numbers increased rapidly, we moved to the local Church Hall. And thus, the games began – musical chairs, pass the parcel, and the obligatory sitting on Santa’s lap no matter what age you were. I once took a friend who was performing in a show in Birmingham. I think she appreciated a family gathering whilst being holed up in digs, but she did look slightly traumatised post Santa’s lap.
It was all manageable until last year, when they decided there would be an additional “Britain’s Got Talent” element to the Party. How bad can it have been, you wonder? Well, pretty bad. There were some highlights. My uncle got up and sang You’ll Never Walk Alone a capella and revealed a rather wonderful voice. My nephews got up with my brother and his wife and did a dance routine. Others played the guitar. It was clear some of the elder relatives had gone to a lot of effort. They had the wigs, the costume, the make up. Alas, they just hadn’t learnt the words or had any intention of singing them. And trust me, Islands in the Stream goes on an awfully long time when the dance routine is uncoordinated, and they are holding a piece of paper with the words in one hand, and still miming them incorrectly.
I sound horrible don’t I? Don’t get me wrong, it’s highly entertaining. For a while. And hats off to them for not giving a shit. And they clearly love it. And I love them for it. And I guess that’s what Families and especially families at Christmas, are all about, right?
I felt my Mark was ready for the Christmas party. He was prepared – he’d met them all at my Brother’s 50th, and he’d been pre-warned about the entertainment. I had forgotten to tell him there would be games. He tried to get out on the first round of Musical Chairs, but Mother kindly replaced a chair for him. Bless. Then there was some food , and then about a 20minute wait before the first act came on. I was expecting costumes. What I wasn’t expecting, was 3 of my aunts to emerge Blacked up to the music of Baby Love. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mark’s jaw drop before. But then I did. Again, they all held mikes. Again, they all mimed. But they did say they’d taken my note from last year and not brought the words on with them. Thank heaven for small mercies.
We had to leave to get our train, so we didn’t get to see all the acts. My Aunt and Uncle has told us they were doing Ashleigh and Pudsey, with my Uncle as Pudsey. I asked my mother on the phone how the rest of the afternoon went – she said my Uncle was dressed up as a cat. Enough said.
But this is life. This is reality. A big blurry mess of relatives, embarrassment, inappropriate comments, too much food and drink, laughing till you’re crying, and desperately trying to remember the names of all your second cousins. This is family. This is Christmas. And you know what, I hope that as you’re reading this, you’re thinking, well, mine ain’t gonna be as mental as that. And you’re probably right. And we have the whole Church Hall, so if you fancy coming next year, give me a shout – maybe I’ll start selling tickets ;-)
Merry Christmas one and all xxx