Wow, so that’s been a roller-coaster two weeks. There’s been an intense level of trepidation associated with this year’s festivities in our house: we were accommodating the extended family (in-laws, sisters, brother-in-law and three-month old baby), in our new house, with our new dog. And at least one generation of the family is going through some really difficult emotional heavy water. But entirely by accident we managed to stumble across the perfect recipe for a successful Christmas even under fire…..
The week before we’d planned a trip up to see my folks, in Scotland. And while we’re up there, maybe we could swing by the house of a colleague (it should be admitted, the colleague and I came up with the plan at about 3am the night of the work Christmas party, so perhaps that should have been a warning right there)? Easy peasy right? I’ll take one of my homemade non-conformist Christmas Puddings (thanks Nigella), our kids will play with their kids, we’ll season a visit to the in-laws for my husband with some quality drinking and pool-playing time with some under 40s.
Unfortunately, plans went awry pretty much from the outset. Arriving in the dark, in a hopelessly remote bit of Perth, our sat nav insisted there were roads where I absolutely promise no roads have ever existed. We took at least an additional 20 minutes driving slowly around a series of dirt-track roads while I struggled to connect the landmarks I’d seen on a previous visit in daylight, when I wasn’t driving, with the looming shapes and unpredictable bends in the pitch darkness (it was 5pm).
I finally reckoned I knew where I was – pulling into an unlit driveway – only to realise that I’d arrived at the wrong house. Reversing out, I clipped the brick gatepost with the rear of the car – smashing my brake light, scraping the wheel arch, and worst of all, destroying the blameless neighbours’ wall. Feeling like a complete idiot I got out, knocked on the door, apologised, offered my details, got directions to where I was going, hoping that was it for the night in terms of disasters…..how wrong I was.
The evening was lovely – and pretty inebriated – but we were doing pretty well at a recovery job (bad start, trashing the neighbours’ property, but we’d been very apologetic about it, and it really was an accident – don’t get me started on the usefulness or otherwise of motion-triggered lighting on driveways or we’ll be here all night). Unfortunately, my banksman decided on this night for exceeding his intoxicating substances limit. At some point in the evening (let’s say about 1.30am) he decided to take the dog for a pee…. and he was gone a pretty long time. So long, I thought he’d gone to bed (utterly blase, me). Thankfully, our host had more sense and instigated a search…. whereupon we came across him streaming blood from three pretty heavy head lacerations, and barely coherent.
Turns out he’d combined a Rusty Nail with lots of red wine, a Camel Light or two, some wet decking, a recalcitrant puppy and a couple of tonnes of Scottish granite. Chasing the dog (yeah, I still don’t get that), he’d slipped on the decking and smacked his head on a boulder. Blood everywhere, likely concussion, everyone too drunk to drive to a hospital. We patched him up a bit and went to bed.
Next day (cutting a long story short), he could barely stand. I’m still not sure whether it was the hangover or the concussion or the (it turned out after we got home) BROKEN NOSE. He spent the day in bed while I tried to make nice with our hosts (we are SO never being invited back). Turns out he snuck down while we were out on a walk to scrub blood off their exterior wall with a weak bleach solution, otherwise their festive season would have ended up looking like the set of a horror movie. Even to this day I reckon we owe them a set of bed-linen as I can’t imagine they’re going to get the blood spots out of the pillow case.
But, on the plus side – by the time we drove away, and especially after I’d forked out the £500 for repairing the wall/replacing the brake light panel – I’d lost almost all trepidation about the actual Christmas event at our house. The banksman and I had bonded through one of those “we’re in this together and we’ll have to get out of it together” situations, the children had behaved like angels the entire time, I was going home to Mum and Dad (who live in an even more remote Scottish enclave which feels just like going on retreat), and I knew that whatever the actual festivities threw at us in terms of internecine family strife, it wasn’t going to involve vandalism by vehicle, major blood-letting and a broken nose.