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As the eleventh hour approaches

Michael Stuart gets ready to go

Monday 23rd December, 1255 hours:

Chaos, a state with which the Stuarts are not unfamiliar, has now taken up full-blown residence as we enter Christmas week. So has my son Barry. I’m not implying that those two statements are necessarily connected, but you can draw your own conclusions, as I do mine.

Despite his flight and then baggage delays meaning that he emerged from ‘Arrivals’ at Stansted some seventy-five minutes later than advertised on Friday night, we still reached home by 9.00pm. He then went straight out again for dinner with an ex-girlfriend whom he hadn’t seen for over five years, returning again – with her in tow – at 2.00am, by which time (of course), having been to bed at my usual hour, I was already up again in readiness for my day shift.

His weekend was spent going through the twenty-nine packages of vital equipment that have arrived here in the past eight days, by elimination (hopefully) working out those which had not yet arrived, those which had been delivered but to the wrong address, and those that had been registered as ‘failed to be delivered’. These last are an interesting case in point. On Saturday, he visited the local Royal Mail depot and established that two of them were physically there (behind the postman at the counter) but – despite being who he said he was, and being able to prove it via his passport, driving licence and marine licence – he was unable to take them away, because he couldn’t produce the ‘sorry, tried to delivery but failed’ card that Royal Mail said they had put through our letter box, but which I maintained they hadn’t, an empasse which still prevails.

My father, who I am collecting from the coast tomorrow for the family set-piece Christmas Day meal, then called to reveal that he couldn’t remember exactly what was happening and in what order – I soon put him right on this. His supplementary was to ask how I was getting on with organising his traditional Christmas drinks party, held annually at the village church hall in mid-February for historical reasons which I had better not go into here. Factually, it is my brother’s turn to organise it, as had been discussed with my father many times recently, and – of course – everything is in hand.

My original intention to do all my festive shopping yesterday (Sunday) afternoon was dashed by a combination of a lunchtime surfeit of roast chicken with all the trimmings, plus two bottles of the superbly-fruity Moussamoussettes French rosé, which required me to retire immediately after the cheese for forty winks on top of my Mickey Mouse duvet … and then some afternoon televised sport which, for some strange reason, attracted my attention as a priority over the alternative of trudging into the town centre.

So there we have it, folks. The weather is foul … but newspapers have been read from cover to cover, the drawing-room is piled high in other people’s shopping and wrapping, the dishwasher is whirring, the pots, pans and dishes look as though they could do with another hour sitting in a solution of washing-up liquid and boiling water and there’s been bugger-all on television apart from White Christmas, not long ended on Channel Four, which I thoroughly enjoyed under the category ‘guilty pleasures’.

It’s time to hit the shops!

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About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts