'Tis the season to bicker all the way to the in-laws, or is it? Here's some popular disputes and how to prevent them...
"I'm not doing the driving"
When I was growing up, my family all lived down the same street, nowadays hardly any of us live in the same town we grew up in and Christmas get togethers often involve trains, planes and 'accidental' car trouble.
The journey there isn't the problem, it allows time to fill in the gaps to prevent awkward conversations like who's getting divorced and who didn't get the promotion etc, but if only a day trip then comes the return journey and somebody has to drive, which means, someone has to stay sober. As I'm sure we've all experienced it's not much fun being the only one sat there with a glass of fake fizz whilst everyone else is on the dance floor, the twister mat or trying to play charades, on a twister mat, on a dance floor. If not, then maybe it's your turn to drive.
Besides, whilst you're sober and everyone else's smashed, depending on your relationship with the in-laws it's a perfect opportunity to do a bit of present swapping or tipping the family silver into your handbag.
"We're not going to your mum's"
If in a relationship, the general rule is that if we went to his or her folks last year, we go to ours this year. However, what if their folks are divorced and remarried? That means we only get to spend Christmas with our folks every three years. Or what if its our first Christmas together and they want to spend this Christmas with their folks, ours next year, but we spent last years' with our ex partners folks and have promised ours this year? Can you see where I'm going with this? It would make sense to have the whole lot over for Christmas but then there are the sibling in laws, the nieces and nephews, and pending on how far you spiral down the family web it could be more like cooking for Crisis at Christmas than a festive family dinner.
Perhaps say "That's fine dear, so long as we can do mine Boxing day" and lets face it, Boxing day is much more fun - the local pubs are open, better films on the box, and less expectations of dinner if you're cooking - besides, if there's nothing in the diary for the 27th you can really celebrate and wash down a box of chocky liquors with a bottle of Baileys (so long as you got out of doing the driving).
"Put a jumper on and turn the heating off"
Coincidently, energy costs increase during cold weather warnings. The picturesque family image of us all sitting around a glowing fire toasting marshmallows to the festive sound of church bells should be replaced with that of us in woolly hats and gloves under a duvet watching Eastenders Christmas (disaster) special.
Apparently the "We're not putting the heating on just yet" dispute starts in October, so by Christmas day we should all be used to the reaction we get when we flick the switch and should have a jumper ready.
Leaving the oven door open after you've roasted your turkey will keep the kitchen warm for all of ten minutes, and pressing used chewing gum into window sills (between the window and the sill) helps lock in warmth but only if you've been doing this all year. If you live in flats, befriend those on the top floor as these will be the warmest.
"Where's the remote control?"
Believe it or not, popular 999 calls have been from distraught partners of those hiding or refusing to hand over the remote control. Unfortunately, the post roast selection of Christmas television is what holds me back from my idyllic crisp country walk.. in Homerton. Is it sad that the only time I watch the soaps is on Christmas day?
There have been many Christmas's where I've been a guest in someone's house and politely sat sweating and trembling for what seems like hours before I had the courage to ask for the tenth time "You did say it was OK to watch Eastenders at eight didn't you?"
I actually paid my dad £3 once to let me watch 'Stenders' in peace one Christmas day. £2 if I could turn over and another £1 for keeping quiet and not tell me everything that was about to happen whilst it was on.
However, in recent years, something amazing has happened. The plus box. These give us the opportunity to record and playback anything on the other side. However, it's just not the same when watching sports, especially when your neighbour and avid Spurs fan whoops and cheers every time a goal is scored. Which brings me to my next dispute..
"We're not watching sport on Christmas day"
An informant has assured me that there are no fixtures on Christmas day, however, sports news channels operate as normal and this can lead to arguments during peak festive soap viewing, such as all day.
For your footy mad dad, £3 may not be enough to rent out the remote, you may have set the fire alarm off, change channel during evacuation, then hide the controller VERY well, but not well enough to forget where you put it, perhaps in the washing machine (let's face it, who's more likely to use it). Alternatively, get them a very interesting manly present to play with, such as a selection box of toiletries or a Top Gear calendar.
"You should've cooked it like this... "
Why is it that people (who aren't cooking) always wait until you're about to dish up and then start loitering in the kitchen? Is it the aroma of the juicy bird roasted in fresh herbs? Or if you're anything like my Dad you may wish to just stand there and say how you would've done it differently.
To avoid health and safety issues such as scalds and chinese burns, stay out of the kitchen during cooking and serving (if doing so in the kitchen). If you're the chef then threaten whoever keeps coming in with the washing up, that'll keep them out.
If using someone elses cooker for the first time, get acquainted with it first. A couple of years ago I grilled a turkey. It didn't look very happy and neither did my guests.
"Who put the empty butter back in the fridge?"
It's a divorceable offence. Those who put empty milk cartons, jam jars and margarine tubs back in the fridge should hand themselves in and their presents back. I learnt at an early age that this is as good as illegal, however, I've sinced been back to my parents house, tried to raid the fridge for "fun food" such as sandwich fillers, creamy cakes and booze, and my mum's voice appears from nowhere "Don't eat that it's out of date"! Isn't that just as sinful? And who has booze in their fridge for that long it goes out of date? Surely the same people that put crisps in the fridge.
Throwing things away can be fun! You can play games such as bin buckaroo.
Whatever you do this Christmas, wherever you may be with whomever you choose (or get lumbered with), wrap up, drive safe, and be nice to each other.
To see this piece in full and read more on Christmas antics, go to http://www.n16mag.com/latest-issue.html
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