Coaching for Christmas


Mid-November is here and so Christmas is in full swing. There is no denying it now, and many of us have already sipped from the prohibited-till-advent Yuletide cup and enjoyed a contraband mince pie in greedy privacy.

Mid-November is a good time to start thinking about Christmas because it is not so early that you are branded common by my mother who looks with disdain at folk who have their tree up before December, or that those you keep company with consider you to have too much time on your hands. Leaving it too late risks being branded an ignorant optimist bound only for anxiety and disappointment, however this is more a symptom of the happy-go-lucky male rather than a market-savvy female such as myself.

No, mid-November gives you time enough to put the big day on the backburner and consider it with patience and measurement in that aching crescendo up to Christmas Eve when many females bestowed with responsibility for the happiness of others retreat into their bedrooms, turn off the lights, sit on a roll of wrapping paper crushing its smooth perfection under an arse that has been eating mince pies for five weeks, and have a little cry.

My family Christmas is hugely enjoyable. I think because our family homes have always been in varying states of midden and demolition, we are well versed in the calamity that Christmas brings about. Or else, having a flute of bucks fizz thrust into your hand at 8am in front of the fire and never seeing it empty until it is replaced with some other tipple does much to curb the hysteria.

The run-up begins now for my mother and she shares all this with me in a weird tradition-by-osmosis way. She begins by ordering the turkey and sprouts from the farm (I never see the point as there is a perfectly good selection of frozen bronzes and small cabbages at Waitrose), sighing at the corner the tree will be standing in less than three weeks which is currently decorated with video game paraphenalia and old newspapers, and despairing at the seasonal price hike on Premier Inn rooms as we prepare for the Boxing Day trek up to Scotland for the ‘Christmas Do’.

My father’s side of the family is very civilised and entertains a yearly gathering either at my grandfather’s Glasgow townhouse, my aunty’s Edinburgh family home or my half-sister’s suburban home in Broxburn. The group grows every year and what began as a quiet Boxing Day with the children playing quietly upstairs while the adults sat drinking red wine with Felix the fat Siamese yowling and coursing about their legs like a cross-eyed shark, has now become an affair requiring military-style organisation for a dozen fully-grown and very thirsty twenty-and-thirty-somethings who have no interest in retreating upstairs except to use the toilet, and all the ‘adults’ divide into those who seek shelter in the kitchen (designated drivers, usually) or decide to crack open the single malt and make a night of it.

Because of the exponential rise in what is consumed, last year my Aunty banned presents for those over 20 because providing enough wine, beer and kettle chips was a present enough. Decades have passed, babies have been born, children have grown up and my cousins who have an unmatchable tolerance for vatfulls of lager are ordered to bring their own alcohol, otherwise we would all be left with a single bottle of Cab Sauv between us.

The day can go one of two ways. Either it can be hilarious, everybody has a good time and those who are likely to cause a scene stay away from eachother; or it can be hilarious and people end up crying.

This too requires coaching, for my mother who is invariably the designated driver has to pick up the pieces. Be it telling me off at 18 for wanting to sneak out to Edinburgh town centre with my cousins resulting in a scene in my aunty’s hallway, helping out as one of the many alpha-females my family produces when it comes to doing the washing up, making sure men don’t drink whisky from the bottle etc, and of course sharing the burden of responsibility for the smaller people, or babies to you and I.

Already, this tradition has been inched ever closer to me as I am in fact a member of the family and not a girlfriend who has been brought in for the baptism of fire, and I am to my horror, no longer one of the small people who used to sit at the top of the stairs playing blackjack all day with a packet of crisps and a cup of cola. Men do not have this initiation. Mine began last year when my half sister gave me my niece which I thought would be a temporary hold-the-baby-moment but really I had the little cupcake of a thing fart on me for about four hours.

What next? Being charged with ensuring my father doesn’t drink too much? Actually being responsible for writing Christmas cards from myself and not from my mum and dad and mine and my brothers names scribbled underneath theirs?

Frightening notions.

All this requires training, coaching. That starts now. Mid-November. What better way to kick off the season with the weekend-long preparation of the Christmas cake? I shall write later and tell you all about it.


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