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A different Christmas this year


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Well, the Christmas preparations are well underway in our house, and this year, for the first time ever, we are spending Christmas at home instead of travelling down to my brother’s house in Stoke. This departure from the normal routine is not entirely of our own choosing, since we were not actually invited to my brother’s house this Christmas after last year’s regrettable ‘brandy butter in the conservatory’ episode.

My brandy butter is the stuff of legend, and is the only foodstuff that comes with a Safety Data Sheet and that requires a COSHH assessment before it can be served. The recipe is simplicity itself: chuck half a pound of butter in the food-mixer, turn it on full whack and add sugar until the motor starts to struggle. At this point you lubricate things by pouring in as much cognac as you can lay your hands on, and at least enough to make the resulting concoction a suitable substitute for Semtex. My view is that if you’re going to eat something this unhealthy you may as well go the whole hog, and in any case your ability to ingest it is self-limiting due to the loss of hand-eye coordination that follows after the second or third mouthful.

Last year, as is the tradition, I took some of this fine material to my brother’s house for Christmas lunch. At this point I should explain that my brother and I have absolutely nothing in common, and are about as different as two people can be. He approaches life by controlling and compartmentalising it: before his son was born he had designated specific areas of the living room for various parental activities, and has a printout taped to his freezer with the location and expiry dates of every item in it; I approach life by embracing the fact that exciting stuff happens when chaos reigns, and so long as nobody dies or goes to prison the vast majority of things that life throws at us really aren’t worth worrying about. Unfortunately his in-laws are also very much of his mind-set, and are some of the most excruciatingly tedious people you can imagine having to spend Christmas day with: prim and proper - the sort that never explore beyond the ‘easy listening’ aisle and are haughtily contemptuous of anyone who doesn’t give the curtains a good clean every month.

The obvious dangers of bringing two polar opposites together in close proximity are exacerbated by the fact that the filter between my brain and my mouth is prone to catastrophic failure, especially when my brain is being anaesthetised either by alcohol or by a pair of low-brow parochial bores - an effect we might for convenience term ‘yokel anaesthetic’. My wife has witnessed the lamentable outcome of this on innumerable occasions, and describes it as ‘Hunter S Thompson meets the Women’s Institute’.

Anyway, last Christmas we finished lunch and decamped to the conservatory for pudding. My brother added a teaspoon of brandy to the pudding – “All things in moderation, dear boy” – and stood well back as he threatened it with a lit match. Dismal. Then the brandy butter was passed around. It reached his mother-in-law, who recoiled in horror and grimaced as she passed it on as though someone had handed her a turd in a bowl.

“Not for you then, Janet?” I said.

“Oh good gracious no. I’ve tried it a couple of times but it’s just too much for me – it makes my eyes water.”

My mother, who is hard of hearing, caught what she had said but not what she was referring to, and asked me to tell her. And before I could stop myself I’d said it:

“Anal sex.”


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A pleasant read. Thank you.

First time doing Christmas for my lot; Dad, his Girlfriend, my sister and her husband, Mrs Muttly and our two kids. Have always gone to my in-laws on Christmas Day. I feel really good about it. Sprouts have gone on and should be done by tomorrow afternoon :-)

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