In the latest of her dispatches from the frontline of chitchat, Lou Conran wonders if going through the motions at Christmas is really that bad an idea.
Illustration by Louise Boulter
I have an image of how I’d like my Christmas to go. I’m with Jeff, my imaginary husband, and we live in our beautiful cottage in the middle of nowhere, where wonderful things happen (apart from the occasional row about towels and his inconsideration re: the toilet seat). Generally, it’s bliss.
The twins, Agatha and Tabatha, are drawing on the kitchen table but that’s ok, because in years to come we’ll look back and point out their cute scribbles over a glass of wine and a plate of cheese with their respective partners.
The fire is burning, and we’re leaving out mince pies and a cheeky glass of sherry. One for me and one for Santa. Actually, make that several for me and none for Santa. And we awake on Christmas morning to the delights of carols playing and the knowledge that Noel Edmonds is somewhere doing something in his beard.
Our families arrive. They’ve always got along, and it’s just music to our ears listening to their laughter and chatter. And it’s always funny guessing who’s just let one go.
I cook a plump turkey that we’ve grown and nurtured ourselves. The kids named him Boris. Jeff killed him with his bare hands and plucked the living daylights out of him, which is something he’s promised to do to me when the parents fall asleep and we go for our Christmas Day siesta.
It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
Yeah, right. I did say it was imaginary.
The reality is that most of the time it’s just me and my mum and dad. We try. We really try to get into the spirit of it. I do my hair and everything. But most of the time we’re just going through the motions because it’s Christmas and that’s what you’re supposed to do.
A few years ago we hired a cottage in Somerset because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Turned out it was a converted mortuary and I didn’t sleep for five days because I was convinced there’d be dead people staring at me while I slept.
I’d had the great idea of buying Dad a wine making kit for his birthday, which is in early December. I thought I’d bought him a kit for five bottles of Shiraz, which would’ve been nice for Christmas Day. Turned out I’d read the label wrong and it was actually five gallons of piss.
This year I’ve bought him a cheese making kit, so fuck knows what we’ll end up with on Christmas Day. But whatever it is we’ll eat it, ‘cos it’s Christmas, and that’s what you do.
This year my sister Nicola and her family, who live in Brazil, are coming over. I love them more than I love curry; and that’s saying something. However, we’ve learned that to have a festive break that is full of cheers rather than sneers, we need separate accommodation. It’s taken a long time to realise this, and several tense Christmases. So Nicola has rented a flat for the duration. This serves a purpose on several levels, though primarily it’s to stop our family Christmas turning into an episode of Beavis and Butt-head.
The kids will stay with my mum and dad. I am included in the kids bit, as I am not married, and Jeff can’t come this year because he doesn’t exist.
I always have to sleep with my niece, which I don’t mind because it was my favourite thing to do when she was little because she was so cute. She’s 15 now, six foot tall and sleeps like a scarecrow, so wish me luck getting any kip.
My nephew will be on the blow-up mattress in the spare room. He’s 12 and I don’t expect to see him at all because of Minecraft, which is apparently a thing, though I have no idea what the thing might be.
Mum will be deep breathing and defrosting lemon drizzle cake. I’ll be mostly watching my sister eating cheddar cheese like an apple. And my dad and brother-in-law will probably do what they’re told for a bit, then zone out and let the rest of us get on with it, until we’re so exhausted that we’ll all be desperate to leave.
It’s like Celebrity Big Brother: you think you know who the other people in the house are and get excited at the prospect of spending time with them, and then after a few days you realise why you don’t live with them on a permanent basis. It’s because they’re all mental. And yes, I include myself in this.
You turn up, love each other for a few hours, then spend the rest of the time rolling your eyes and swearing under your breath, wondering who it was that did that floater (Dad). And you get on with it. We’re not even religious. We’re doing it ‘cos it’s Christmas and that’s what you do.
So Merry Christmas one and all. Enjoy your time with your family. I’m off to wrap up (drink) the bottle of port I bought for Jeff (me), and help Agatha and Tabatha get through their selection boxes, which is the least I can do. Well, it is Christmas.
Happy Christmas, folks.
Lou is a comedian, writer, actor, lover of curry and cheese, and is also a giant simple child.