Christmas is coming, and the lovely smell of cinnamon and chestnuts fill the air as you walk down cold, crisp shopping streets, the cheery festivity of Christmas lights beaming down above you…your mum then turns to you and informs you that the grandparents are coming over for Christmas Day.
…Oh…hello reality check!
Not that there is anything wrong with my grandparents at all, they are warm, generous people, but for those of you that have read of my experiences with my grandparents (see previous article ‘The Family Outing…or, Why Grandparents Should Not Be Permitted to Visit London’), you will understand my disdain when hearing the words ‘the grandparents are coming over for Christmas Day.’
The day began well enough, with my mum, step-dad and brother in the kitchen doing the dinner (my brother made his escape early!!), and my younger sister and I having been left to entertain the grandparents and aunt. Not at all fazed by this, I thought the best way to pacify them for a while would be to show them my photographs from my recent holiday to Austria…fatal error number one.
As I was clicking through my snaps, showing them the beautiful architecture of Vienna, and some of the film locations of The Sound of Music in Salzburg, my grandmother sniffed, turned up her nose and said ‘oh…and how did you pay for this?’ ‘Well, with my wages that I had saved up from work,’ I replied, resisting the urge for a more sarcastic come back along the lines of ‘well, from the bank that I robbed a few weeks back.’ Clearly unsatisfied with my response, my grandmother sniffed again and said ‘well, don’t you think you ought to be saving up for a mortgage and moving out any time soon, instead of spending all of your money on travelling around?’
‘Well, grandmother’, I replied, ‘whilst I would love to be able to afford to move out, regardless of whether or not I travel, I cannot afford a mortgage on my own.’ Inside I swear I could feel the steam coming out of my ears, and my lips pursed as though I had been sucking a lemon. Sure I wanted to move out, but at twenty four, and with around £20,000 of student debt hanging over me, needless to say it was looking unlikely that I would be moving out any time soon. Hoping that this particular mark of disappointment about me was over, my grandmother added ‘well, just keep saving those pennies and you will be able to move out in no time.’ Oh, I hadn’t realised that a handful of change was all I needed to move out!
Over dinner, it wasn’t race or colour which was the hot topic of debate, as is so often the case with my casually racist grandparents, it was in fact celebrity chefs and food which were on the hit list that afternoon. In his signature and classic inappropriate timing, my grandfather was the first to comment on this particular topic…
‘Well, I don’t understand all these celebrity chefs. I mean, Jamie Oliver is brilliant, but that bitch Nigella Lawson, she’s enough to make you sick, I mean her hair is all over the food, and she wears nail polish- where’s her health and safety knowledge?! She should have her hair tied up and not be wearing nail polish! Where’s her hat?! I’m telling you, enough to make you sick!’
Feeling a little sympathetic towards the Nigella bashing, and actually being rather a fan of one of her curry recipes, I ventured ‘but it’s only for television, and I think that her cook books are really good’…Fatal error number two!
My grandfather almost choked on his brussell sprout as he shot me a dark look which simply said ‘how could you possibly know anything about cooking, or disagree with your elders?’
…I’ll be shutting up then.
Rapidly shoving turkey into my mouth to avoid confrontation, he continued ‘and why do all these chefs need to throw so much grass in their food?! What’s all this Rosemary rubbish and Basil garbage?! I don’t want none of that grass going in my food, it takes away all of the flavour of the natural dish anyway.’
Very aware that my mum had gone to town with herbs and seasonings of a million different varieties in every component of the Christmas dinner, I shovelled more garlic and rosemary potatoes into my mouth and said nothing.
Ever the entertainment, my mum was on brilliant form, as she took her second sip of Cava and was already clearly as sober as a judge, as she swayed backwards and forwards on her chair trying to eat her Christmas dinner, resembling being on rather a choppy voyage, than sat stationary at the dining room table; ‘the epitome of sobriety’, she assured us, her cracker hat askew on her flushed face.
The second contender on the hit list that afternoon was self-service checkouts. Agreed, self-service check-outs can be slightly annoying and time consuming if you don’t know what you’re doing, but my grandfather was convinced that they were an insult, not to society as a whole, but to him personally, as though the self-service checkouts sole purpose was to irritate and aggravate him.
‘Well, if I go to Tesco and there’s no-one waiting for me on the checkout, I have no problems with abandoning my entire trolley of shopping and walking out of the store. In fact, I do it quite regularly actually…and another thing, why do supermarkets charge so much for cauliflowers these days?!’
Jeez, the guy was on a roll!
‘I mean I went into Tesco the other day and went to pick up some cauliflowers, and they wanted £2 for a pair, and they were already brown!’
So, celebrity chefs, seasoning, and self-service checkouts covered, it was now poorly preserved vegetables that were the enemy.
I should point out at this point, that along with the grandparents and aunt, were my step father’s godparents who had also joined us for Christmas dinner. Ever the joker, the godfather continually made interjections into the soapbox speech delivered by my grandfather, balancing out the rant with a little humour, which I tried my best to snigger along with into my glass of shloer!
Clearly un-fazed by my grandfather’s rather ‘proper’ view on life, the godfather had no qualms in suggesting that my mum’s cava-induced headache may come in useful later that evening at bedtime, adding that ‘headaches are often quite useful at certain times.’
Queue second choking by sprouts!
As the afternoon progressed, we had watched the Queen’s speech, (not that any of us except the grandparents were particularly bothered by watching it, but according to them, ‘one must watch the Queen’s speech!) We did at this point have one racial slur by my grandfather, as a scene of young children appeared on the screen, performing in a recreation of the nativity. I will however not repeat the comment here, as it is unfit for delicate readers’ eyes, though it was slightly over the mark to say the least!
The next subject of contempt was ‘the improper use of religious buildings.’
According to my grandmother, she used to attend Midnight Mass every year, until one year there was a particular group of young people behind her in the church who had ‘quite obviously just stumbled over from the pub’, and who were ‘so strongly wreaking of alcohol’, that she made the executive decision to boycott all further Midnight Masses there and then, and had not set foot in her local church since.
This comment naturally only gave further fuel to my grandfather, who decided to explain how ‘he didn’t ever go to church anymore due to the ridiculous host that the church had become.’ Stupidly and naively asking him what he meant by this, he went on to explain how ‘ridiculous it was that a religious building was used as the site of a church sale, the local village pantomime, and various other community events.’ Enter the comic godfather who immediately retorted ‘Isn’t it horrendous?! And I even heard that churches even do the odd funeral and wedding, how absurd!’
Clearly my grandfather is a man off the community…I think not.
And so the day drew to a close, with a few more comments regarding the abomination of people parking in parent and child parking in Tesco car park when they shouldn’t, and the ridiculousness of free trolleys in several supermarkets.
With a slight sense of relief, we waved goodbye to the grandparents at the door, and only several steps away from the car my grandmother turned round and announced, ‘don’t forget that you are coming to us the day after Boxing Day!’
Oh my actual God!