Saturday, 21 December 2019

The Saturday List #245 - My ten favourite things about Xmas

As it's the last list before Christmas, I thought I'd compile a list of my top ten Christmas presents. When I was a child, Xmas was a magical time. There was a routine. We'd awake at about four AM and find that Father Christmas had been. We'd remove some big socks from Dads draw and leave them at the end of the bed. There would be a tangerine, a few nuts and a couple of small presents in them. There would also be a large present under the bed. The house would smell of turkey, as my mum would put it in the oven before she went to bed. As one of six children, until I was four or five,
we'd all be around. We'd go to the 11am mass at the Sacred Heart, then come home for the mother of all feasts. My dad did not believe in doing things by half. No expense was spared. As my brothers and sisters started to get married, they would split xmas's between parents. As kids arrived, the numbers would expand and contract.

Sometime around 1972, we had one Christmas where there were 24 of us, three generations. It was all down hill from there. By 1980, I celebrated Christmas on my own. My parents had taken my sister to Florida, I refused to go, preferring to go to gigs and hang out with my mates. We had a party and the house got trashed and all of my mums jewellery got nicked. To my surprise, my parents were not overly upset. On Christmas day, I stayed in bed until 5pm then cooked a turkey, all my mates came over and I declared it the best Christmas ever. Fast forward fifteen years to 1995. My Dad had died, I was with my wife Clare and we had Maddie, a two month old baby. I cooked a dinner for us, my mum, Clare's parents, Clare's sister and my sister Caro and her husband and my Godson Alexander, who was about four. Clare's mums friend, Aunty Jo also came along. It was joyous. I think that the first Christmas with your first child is somehow special. Maddie didn't do too much at the time, but she was so damn cute! So cut forward to 2019. My mum, Clare's Mum and Dad and Aunty Jo are all long gone. Maddie is 24 and we also have Lizzie who is 22 and Matt who is 19. For Christmas this year, we will have Clare's sisters and partners and possibly some waifs and strays courtesy of the kids ( I hope so, I love a full house).

Our routine is pretty set. We will go to the 5pm Childrens mass at The Sacred Heart, then for a meal with my sister Caroline and her family. We'll then go for something to eat at one of the restaurants in the Broadway. Then home to exchange presents with them. After that, Caro will head back to Essex for her Christmas. On Xmas day, I'll get up at 8am, put some loud punk rock on the turntable and prepare lunch. At around 12.30 the first guests will arrive, at which time the Xmas music goes on. Once dinner is served, that will be my work done.

Anyway, forgive me my reminiscences, I get all misty at this time of the year. Now to the list. The things I like most about Christmas

1. Having the family around.
This is always a joy, we make a point of catching up. This year my sister Val is over from the States, which is great.

2. Listening to Punk rock on Xmas morning.
This is a tradition all of my own. It is the one time of the year that I will play the Vibrators, Heartbreakers, Ramones, MC5, Buzzcocks and no one moans! Luckily the neighbours are deaf.

3. Christmas Eve Mass.
When I was a teenager, I hated religion and religious ceremonies. Now I enjoy the tradition, the hymns and the chance to say hi to members of the community.

4. The smell of Turkey and ham roasting in the oven.
This is the real smell of Christmas for me. It is a special smell and takes me back in time. When people say "We're having beef because we prefer the taste to turkey" I think "fool! you just don't get it.

5. Setting fire to the Christmas pudding.
For reasons I don't understand, we were never allowed to refer to Xmas pud as figgy pudding. As my Dad was a pyromaniac, he would always make sure that there was a good flame on the pud as it was piped out. Often he'd burn off his eyebrows in the process.

6. Walking to the Adam and Eve on boxing day for a pint.
We always have a pint at the Adam and Eve on Boxing day before lunch. We take the doggies for a walkie, have a pint of Buttcombe bitter and then walk home. If it's a fine day, it is a great way to walk off a few pounds.

7. Pigs in Blankets.
We love our pigs in blankets. We only eat them at Christmas, but they are yummy!

8. Dr Who
It has become a tradition that we watch Dr Who in the evening. We have friends who turn up to join us. When Matt was younger, he'd get very cross with all the chit-chat disturbing his concentration. Now he doesn't really even bother watching it. His sisters still tease him about when he cried when Christopher Ecclestone died and was regenerated. We don't watch the Queens speech, Dr Who does for us.

9. The Pogues/Pogue Traders Xmas gig
For me, the official start of Xmas is now the Pogues Xmas gig. As they have now stopped playing, we've transferred our allegiance to the Pogue Traders, the official tribute act. We are seeing them tonight at the Dublin Castle. The season has started late this year

10. And finally...…. I like the fact that the days have started getting longer, even if you hardly notice it! I always used to make a point of walking to the Ridgeway to watch the sun rise over the Totteridge valley on Xmas day with our old dog Bruce. Now all of the best views are blocked, but if you get onto the footpath across the Valley it is well worth it. Watching the sun set over the Mill Field can also be amazing. Logistically it is hard to get there on Christmas day for sunset, but if we time it right we might get there on the way back from the Adam and Eve.

That's all folks!

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