Published "Stayin' Sane" 1993
It was a mild Christmas.
I had decided to go outside for a breath of fresh air—fresher than my mother’s parlour, in any event. Of course, Mum had originally been delighted with the prospect of having us altogether with her for Christmas. My family of wife and children lived with me on the other side of the country, if countries can have sides, or even fronts and backs. I had thus conveniently maintained it was difficult to sort out the logistics for more regular visits. She accepted this, of course, but I couldn’t help thinking that she would have lifted up hills to let us through.
I sauntered down the garden path, where I had played at being Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. Watching the lugubrious clouds curdle across the near benighted sky, I abruptly noticed a sleigh rough-riding upon an inverted cone of condensation, drawn by a flight of scrawny reindeers with knotted antlers. The occupant of the sleigh was a Plug-Ugly with a scar laddering down his cheek, designer white stubble and a bag marked swag on his shoulder. His snow-laced tunic was a syrupy red and thus mightily peculiar in the context. “Oi! Oi!” he yo-ho-hoed in a snarl, “nobody’s getting presents this year, except for moi.” He enunciated the ‘moi’ after a pregnant pause and with vigorous deliberation.
I made my way back to my mother’s house thoughtfully. I was indeed somewhat sad because both my children had been killed only a few months before Christmas in a particularly gruesome road accident. My boyhood sweetheart of a wife had since run off with my best friend. I wondered if there was anything in the superstition that bad luck came in threes. I vowed to break something valuable when I returned inside the house.
Mum had already made it abundantly clear that she wanted me to stuff the huge turkey ready for tomorrow’s festivities. Pity there would only be place-settings for her and me at the family table. Sellotaped to the front door was the usual three-dimensional plastic image of a jolly old man in a red cape with billowing white beard. Somehow, I could not summon up the rightful Yuletide spirit. Yet, before entering, I planted a false smile upon my lips, so as not to let the side down.
Later, as we prepared for an early night, my mother announced: “I’m going to leave a nice glass of Sherry and a warm mince pie in the fireplace for Father Christmas.” I nodded, absent-mindedly.