The Field

Younger in the field

After an alarming trip to the dentist, Eve Jones finds that stockings are not the only things that need filling this Christmas


You know that song, All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth? Well, all I want for Christmas is a lateral incisor implant, some top and bottom Invisalign braces and three new white fillings, which turns out will cost about 7,000 quid, so if anyone is feeling generous do get in touch, or I’ll be making a paper bag from Christmas wrapping paper to stick over my head in the new year.

In fact, that’s not all I want for Christmas. I have a list, at the top of which is a bed to sleep on for the festive period.

When I was a child, and our oversized family all used to stay at Grandma’s, I thought it was wonderful. How fun it must have been for my unmarried aunts and uncles to bunk down on the sitting-room floor for days as my five-year-old self luxuriated in a bed upstairs. How magical, what family spirit. Well, here I am, years on, with karma smugly biting my festive backside.

When you’re young, you vaguely anticipate the complicati­ons of Christmas with in-laws. You perhaps imagine having to decide whose people to visit for the holiday and getting a bit narky about it because you really only want to stay at home on your own family’s sofa and eat lunch cooked your way, and nab all the purple Quality Street rightfully. You don’t anticipate being the unmarried aunt, particular­ly not an unmarried aunt having to negotiate in-laws.

I am now caught in the ritual by default, being the spinster sibling somewhere between Dorothy Edwards’ My Naughty Little Sister and the unmarried sister in a Jane Austen novel, cross-stitching or tinkling away on the piano forte in the background, while we visit my brother’s house for Christmas. His house is properly nice, I should add, with an enormous tree and intravenou­s champagne, plus my nieces, who are my favourite people alive. But last time we went for Christmas it was a touch snug. Bed options were to stay in the Staines Premier Inn along with my brother’s wife’s dad or sleep on the floor in the same bedroom as my parents on Christmas night. I chose the floor, which, as it turned out, didn’t embody the jolly spirited camaraderi­e I remembered from Christmas in The Valleys. The floor itself was tolerable but dad’s snoring is bone-rattlingly cacophonou­s, which just enabled me to spend the entire night reflecting on what life was really offering me at 32 years old.

That year particular­ly showcased the complexiti­es of an inter-family adult Christmas because my brother’s wife’s relations came, too. They are great fun and we get along well but somehow the familial repercussi­ons of a sprout-heavy dinner, which are usually rip-roaringly funny at home, become a bit awkward in company. Far worse was that somewhere along the line the question of, “do we or don’t we buy presents for in-laws?” became muddled. My brother said don’t, so we didn’t. They, however, did. I thought my mum was going to vomit with embarrassm­ent when we were showered with boxes and bows and bottles with nothing to hand back.

Present buying gives me slight anxiety. I would love to be one of these people who has the time, money and imaginatio­n to buy terrific presents for all their friends and relations. Alas, I am not so I tend to go by rule of thumb: would I like it? If I would then it’s a fairly safe bet to buy. Not a fail-safe method, mind. If you’re a ferret enthusiast you may not want to apply this to your wife’s star gift if you expect to still be walking on Boxing Day. Likewise, just because you’d rather like your gorilla-backed husband less hirsute, a course of laser hair removal or year’s supply of wax strips are unlikely to go down positively in the history books. Homemade gifts are sweet. If you’re under 10 or genuinely talented. our pantry is groaning with filled Kilner jars ripe for the gifting but requiring a little finesse beforehand. Dad has been pickling and steeping anything he can get his hands on this year and pickled gherkins, while delicious, still look like a jar of big bogies so presentati­on is key. You carry a level of responsibi­lity as the gift barer to label well, too. Pickled scotch bonnets if dealt with improperly could quite possibly finish off an elderly relation. Hampers with cheese are dangerous, too. A wayward Stinking Bishop left to sweat by a radiator smells worse than a rotting corpse.

There is a notion that Christmas lists in adulthood aren’t good etiquette. That we should be grateful for the small things, for the joys of Christmas (an actual bed to sleep in, perhaps?) But come on, who ever really wanted an outsized knitted jumper with reindeer horns, or china cow figurines, or the exhaustive range of musk products from the Body Shop? Lists don’t have to be absurd. My folks aren’t hunting people but a gentle nod in the right direction has landed me with some beautiful Christmas gifts I’ve used season on season, and my mum is good at finding things I would never have bought myself. My dad’s list, worked on from october, is ritually extensive and more demand than suggestion but this makes for a merry Christmas when he gets his haul. So on that basis, beyond the bed, I’ve had a think Santa Baby, and you can skip the sable under the tree, but I do rather want a Farlows sheepskin shooting cape, some Horace Batten boots and that small dentistry matter seen to, so pop the sleigh over to my pseudo-in-laws this Christmas and hurry down their chimney. All right?

The familial repercussi­ons of a sprout-heavy dinner become a bit awkward in company

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