So good she’s doing it twice
Christmas comes but once a year . . . except for Jan
Jan Etherington gets a double helping of Christmas spirit
For me, Christmas is coming twice. I’ve just discovered. My daughter and family are having Christmas dinner with us. Just six round the table. Easy peasy. Haven’t even started shopping. Plenty of time. Then, a couple of nights ago, the phone rang. It was my son, from Australia.
“Hi, Mum, we’ve decided to come over for Christmas!”
“What??? Oh . . . wonderful!!” It turned out that, yes, while my son, his wife Fran and my granddaughters Ruby and Ivy are arriving from Sydney for ‘Christmas’, he’s blowed if he’s going to pay the inflated ‘Festive Fares’ to get here on the Big Day. So they’re arriving on December 27. “We’ll need a week or so to sleep off the jet lag.” Then, when everyone else is taking their decs down, writing thank you letters and starting Dry January, in our house we’ll be partying like it’s 2018, as we launch into Christmas 2, the Sequel.
Which is why I’m feeling a bit like the Reverend Geraldine Grainger (Dawn French) in the Vicar of Dibley. Remember the episode when she had to eat multiple Christmas dinners? Well, I also have to cook them.
“Don’t go to any trouble,” said my son. Yeah, right. I have shopping lists, supplementary shopping lists and lists which include things I forgot and have to go back for. Most mornings, I hurtle into Waitrose, clutching industrial strength Bags for Life. I’m spending so much time there I might as well put a sleeping bag in the back seat and kip in the car park. The staff know me now and run for cover, as I skid to a halt, peruse the stacked shelves, with wide-eyed panic, muttering, “Bread sauce, bread sauce,” as if (to quote Wallace and Gromit) it’s a matter of loaf and death.
Has anyone else got to the stage when you say what you’re looking for, out loud? Worse, I suddenly realised I was reciting the items on the shelves. “Celeriac remoulade, onion gravy . . .” Then I noticed a woman was standing at the end of the aisle, staring at me and frowning with concern. “Are you alright?” she said. I resisted a strong temptation to fall into her arms, sobbing, “I’m shopping for two Christmases!” Instead, I blinked quickly and sang, “Fine!”, whisking a second jumbo pack of macademia nuts off the shelf why?? Nobody likes them - and tossing it into my trolley, over the top of which I could not see. Yikes! Now I’m turning into Yoda from Star Wars. “The way ahead I see not.”
Can you have too many boxes of crackers (I have seven)? Do I need a yule log, and a trifle, and an iced fruit cake? And the biggest question of all – why aren’t I better organised?
I know people – I wouldn’t call them friends – who had wrapped their presents and written all the cards by Halloween. They make their own Christmas cake, chestnut stuffing, pudding, cranberry sauce, mince pies, brandy butter. Everything is ready, labelled, in the freezer. They finished the shopping months ago and are now sitting at a scrubbed kitchen table, listening to Radio 3, while weaving berries and bells into holly and ivy wreaths and decking the halls with handmade festive bunting. I envy them, in a kind of ‘stop showing off’ way.
Oh, why do we all go crackers at Christmas? Honestly, Christmas dinner is just a Sunday lunch with big ideas, and the only important thing is that we get together with the ones we love. Isn’t it?
I have just written the Christmas episode of my new comedy for Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam. It’s called Conversations From A Long Marriage. Joanna is planning the perfect Christmas for the two of them. What could possibly go wrong? You can find out the answer on BBC Radio 4 at 11.30am on Christmas Eve, which will probably be turkey stuffing time in your house. I, on the other hand, will mostly likely still be in Waitrose.
ABOVE: Conversations from a Long Marriage (Christmas episode) by Jan Etherington, starring Joanna Lumley and Roger Allam is on BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Eve at 11.30am
Jan Etherington is a journalist and comedy writer of radio and TV series. Now living in a village somewhere in Suffolk . . . BEHIND THE BEACH HUTS