So good she’s do­ing it twice

Christ­mas comes but once a year . . . ex­cept for Jan

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE -

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

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