For Danny that Christmas was a triumph. His speed of thought and action was second to none and every minute counted. Despite the best carefully laid plans, Christmas Day stories abound; be they funny, traumatic, sad or surprising, all are stored in the memory bank for future telling so, mention Christmas Day to anyone and it won’t take long for their stories to emerge, and our family is no exception.
One year, gentle Auntie Bessie came to Christmas Day Lunch with her precious, black, miniature poodle, Danny, thoroughly spoilt and not often allowed to put his paws to the ground for fear he could take fright and disappear. Auntie Bessie’s husband had died about two years previously and quiet and reliable George came with her; he had become her companion since her husband had died two years previously. Whisky, the odd glass of wine and uncomplicated days was all he asked. Always assured and sociable, Joan, a long standing acquaintance of ours and vaguely related to Jeff, brought with her four members of her own immediate family. All in all we were eleven adults and five children; who, to their delight had their own table.
All went well until the end of the meal, replete and soporific, a few of us started to slowly clear the plates and wander round looking at presents and refuelling glasses. George was by now well away communing with his wine glass and happily humming to himself when Joan decided to show which girlfriend had the upper hand. Both Auntie Bessie and Joan were over 70 years old.
‘George,’ came Joan’s imperious instruction, ‘Come through to the sitting room, now’ and she rose from the table.
‘No, he would like to stay here’ Auntie Bessie cautiously.
‘I think not, the sofa is where he really wants to be’ came the sharp return.
‘I don’t think we are watching television today are we, dear?’ pleaded Auntie Bessie to her David her son.
Both ladies had a few more attempts at authority and Auntie Bessie turned anxiously to her son for moral support. The party froze as they watched and waited.
David hesitated; caught between two determined ladies and unsure of how to politely handle this looming battle, a warning sign flashed before him, both ladies were resolute in their own way; there would be no winners. Dear Auntie Bessie was not up to Joan’s strength of character and finally she burst into tears and fled into the hall David following. He mopped her tears and agreed with everything she said. Kay showed a glimmer of triumph, but it was short lived.
A scream from the children; precious Danny, left to his own devices had found a hole into the duck pen and was having the day of his life. Round and round he flew, ducks screeching, dog yapping and children yelling. Danny’s jaws found its prey and clamped them firmly round the fat body of old Queenie. I flung myself into the glutinous mud of the pen, grabbed the dog, released the now terrified duck and marched back into the house carrying the grinning miscreant. By this time everyone was in the sitting room and I thrust the filthy dog in Auntie Bessie’s arms who had by now had quite recovered from her traumatic outburst. I recounted his escapade. ‘Oh, no dear’ she exclaimed ‘You are quite mistaken, Danny would never do a thing like that’ and as she cradled and crooned to him he gazed loving at her and his button eyes told her the most enormous lies!
The excitement is building; Christmas is on its way! Plans made, lists lost and found and invitations issued, any arrangement now becomes an exercise which makes herding hens easy, but magically something amazing happens and all finally falls into place. The problem of Uncle Bertie being in the same room with cousin Ray with whom he fell out many moons ago over non-stick saucepans (none of us can remember what that was all about) makes you realise that the time has come for everyone to be ‘mature’ (as the Americans say). Ridiculous games are to be enjoyed and turkey and mince pies are all delicious; this is no time for faddy choices. Be prepared to scoop up excited children, reluctant teenagers, formidable grannies, bouncing dogs and any stray uncles around and don boots for a tramp, a dose of fresh air and brisk walk is a tonic to all.
The clocks have now gone back and Christmas advertising is upon us with a vengeance and The Choosing of The Presents begins. Unless you have been quietly storing them up all year, rapid and clever thought is urgently needed to match people to their gifts. Sometimes it is easy; small children, dogs, gardeners and those with all-consuming hobbies make choices simple. Cash and cheques are welcomed by teenagers but oh dear, how impersonal they are. Lists of ‘What I Want for Christmas’ I meet with a bewildering sensation of despair; most of the items I have never heard of! No, for me Christmas is surprises and the joy of giving and receiving, even if the size and shape of the garment is interesting enough to use as next year’s wrapping paper and the colour would match last week’s soup, unsuitable purchases can always be changed in January.
Clubbing together to give an expensive present is another option. An excursion to the theatre never fails; a day out with a pub lunch. An active hike or bike ride? Arrange the hire of a tandem or electric bike? In the Dales you can rent classic car for a day. What about being ferried round in a motor bike side car on a sightseeing tour; they all sound a bit different.
And of course, a garden swing seat! This would be a great present, enjoyed by all the family and perfect for grandparents who are taking life a bit easier in their retirement. We will design a personal voucher for you with the recipient in mind if you order before the 3rd December. Alternatively, just give us a ring or fill in the on line order form and it will be delivered on any date you like.
Over the years my favourite presents have been a wheelbarrow, money to buy one leg of a pony, half the price of a food mixer, an amazingly huge Harris ~Tweed handbag permanently in use, and a classy, red Christmassy necklace. All surprises and I love them.
Children and animals, relations and friends, unexpected guests. Phew! – Happy Planning…