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That’s the Big One over …

Michael Stuart reports from the festive front line

Phew – well, that’s another annual day of festive excess survived!

The Stuarts converged upon Wandsworth shortly before 9.00am yesterday for more fun, dietary blow-outs and general mayhem. I had taken an early decision to ‘pass’ on any snacks before lunch, so sat by and watched as others guzzled monster sausage sandwiches for breakfast and wolfed down smoked salmon on bagels and sundry trays of canapés doing the rounds well before 11.00am.

Once the third branch of the family had arrived for a champagne toast, the traditional phone calls to cousins in the USA and Canada began.

Inevitably, my father caused general hilarity, his opening remark to his brother-in-law living in upstate New York being “Hello Ian – are you still alive? … How are your teeth?” – this last being a reference to Ian’s regular requests for supplies of Macleans toothpaste, which apparently is unavailable in the States. Last time my father visited North America, about three months ago with my brother and wife, laden with boxes of the item, he took one look at Ian’s mouth and commented “Good God – you’ve only got four teeth, this lot should see you out …”

The next call went to his sister-in-law in Toronto. Unfortunately, as the phone was passed to him, my father said, quite loudly enough to be heard in Canada, “Which is the one we keep dropping catches with and mustn’t offend …?”, a nod to Wendy, one of our cousins, who took the hump because nearly four decades ago she felt we did not entertain her royally enough when she visited the UK briefly on a gap year.

Lunch was raucous and enjoyable, albeit that – in my capacity as designated driver for my faction – I was permanently on water, rather than partaking of the conveyor belt of wines being brought to the table.

After ‘The Queen’, whose message this year was, for me, more insipid than usual, we gradually wound down and departed at 4.00pm aiming, eventually, for the coast.

By then my daughter Hannah and boyfriend had departed for Nottingham, and son Barry had returned to our home in order to continue work on his specially-converted Land Rover Discovery, prior to leaving today with two mates for four days hiking and camping in the Scottish highlands. The last time he came home for Christmas, he and three pals went missing for three days in the Lake District on a similar expedition in one of the coldest snaps Britain has experienced in nearly a decade. We can but hope that their stated goal of climbing Ben Nevis may be aborted if the weather forecasts for Scotland remain as bad as they seem at present …


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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