I never woke terribly early on Christmas day – it didn’t seem worth it – apart from anything else, our house was freezing.
I would wait until tea appeared in my parent’s bedroom, and I could play a guessing game with mum about the presents in my stocking – she would pretend Father Christmas had left them there, I would pretend I believed her – this would go on for slightly too long, but was absolutely the best bit of the day. My sister might appear, or might just stay asleep until the last possible moment. I don’t remember my brother ever being there.
Then the food part started.
My mother is not a great cook. She’s not even a middle grade, semi competent cook (my personal category) so the rest of the day was spent staggering from one potential source of food poisoning to another. My father, who couldn’t cook either, wasn’t exactly mean but prided himself on finding the cheapest possible turkey (12p per pound in Woolworths – frozen). He would bring back his prize, slightly too close to Christmas to defrost. At about ten, Mum would turn the erratic electric oven on to full power and incinerate the outer layers of the turkey, leaving the frozen centre – raw – all this accompanied by Buck’s Fizz , distorted music on the record player and a thick blanket of smoke that grew all day from our inefficient fireplace.
At about 1 o’clock, my grandmother came in from her flat next door and sat hopefully at the dining room table, awaiting the lunch. At 2, she tapped her watch and mentioned the remains of a Fray Bentos pie that she could have had. By 3 we’d plied her with enough Bristol Cream to stop her caring.
At 4 we ate soggy sprouts, raw turkey, raw sausages, burned potatoes, powdered bread sauce and loads and loads of gravy. After lunch, Mum would remember the box of crackers we didn’t use last year and we’d wait while she looked for it, failed to find it and came back down with two recycled paper hats from the year before. My father would light the Christmas pudding (bought), my mother would find a pot of long life cream with a fine crust of mould on top, scrape off the mould and pour the lumpy remainder into a silver jug.
Washing up took almost as long as cooking the meal.
At five we crammed Christmas cake (bought) into our stomachs, still churning with the raw turkey.
At six, we opened any remaining presents in the half light of the Christmas tree.
At Seven, Grandma, might play a couple of tunes on the “old Joanna” and warble a carol or two with another sherry and a mince pie (made by her with mouthwatering lard filled pastry – and Macfisheries mincemeat).
At eight – we watched the Morecambe and Wise Christmas special.
At nine, Grandma went home and we heaved a collective sigh of relief.
At ten, we ate cold things, particularly beetroot and bread sauce.
At 11 – I went to bed, closely followed by Dad, who would whistle happily from his bedroom, no doubt relieved that he’d survived another Christmas.
By midnight the house was quiet and the magic had gone.