Oh, the glamour of it all! A pre-Christmas jaunt to the iconic Ronnie Scott’s jazz bar in Soho with our fun friends, Mr and Mrs D! Sadly, no one has been particularly impressed as few people seem to have heard of Ronnie Scott’s … for goodness sake! It’s one of the world’s most famous jazz clubs – in fact, it opened the day before I was born. Yes, it’s that old (and with similarly worn-out seating…).
Even more exciting was our initial stop-off at the glitzy St Pancras champagne and oyster bar – somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, being – I like to think – a champagne-and-oysters type of gal. (Yes, yes, I know I’ve only had oysters twice, and yes, champagne gives me migraines; nonetheless, I’ve decided that I’m still a champagne-and-oysters type of gal. I will not have it any other way.)
It was a shame we were the only customers, and they had to supply us with woollen throws because of the bracing winds whistling along the upper floors of the station – Mrs D immediately wrapped herself in blankets like a Russian peasant woman – so when the waitress announced they’d run out of both champagne and oysters, my excitement faded like the ghost of Christmas Past.
Never mind. I made do with crab and sparkling wine instead, and Mrs D and I gaily toasted each other with our best smiles, in case any paparazzi happened to be skulking nearby (alas, the only passers-by were last-minute shoppers with White Company sale bags and determined expressions).
Ronnie Scott’s was wonderful; exactly like the film-set of Goodfellas with Mafia girlfriends in fur coats, and shifty men in double-breasted suits sitting around tables lit with little red lamps, sipping cocktails and snapping their fingers at waiters. Ray Gelato and the Giants, a vintage swing band were performing, and it was just as if me and Mrs D were Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner out for a night on the town with Clark Gable and Cary Grant instead of just Mr Young and Mr D.
As long as we didn’t actually turn and look at them, of course.
Tom arrives! He has a prominent red mark on his forehead, the result of his previous night out with friends. Boys will be boys! His Secret Santa gift had been a bow and arrow and he’d decided – in an alcohol-fuelled burst of enthusiasm - to see if the arrow sucker would stick to his forehead. It did, and with such grim determination that the skin almost came with it when he pulled it off. Hence the bruise and his sheepish expression.
Lucy arrives! She helpfully buys ingredients for her special recipe garlic bread and macaroni cheese for supper, which she's going to make for us to have with Nigella’s ham. Girls will be girls!
Sometimes, I don’t have any trouble figuring out the answer to the nature v nurture debate.
Me, Tom and Lucy have a discussion about dementia while I’m getting supper ready; they tell me it’s quite easy to spot whether one’s ageing parent might be slipping mentally by watching them carefully when they're cooking the Christmas lunch.
“Like they might miss out an important part of the meal,” says Lucy. “Or cook things in the wrong order.”
I’m listening and obviously now frantically running through a mental list for tomorrow – Brussel sprouts, turkey, bread sauce, etc., when she interrupts my thoughts by saying, laughing; “Mum, why are you pouring ginger ale over that ham?”
I panic for a second, staring down at the gammon in the casserole dish, wondering yes, why am I pouring ginger ale over the ham?
Frothing liquid is halfway up the sides of the pan and I can’t think of an answer; I’m on the wrong page of the recipe book, so Nigella is no help at all, just smirking at me, dressed in one of her bloody cardigans. Then I remember with relief that this is a ginger glazed ham, and so of course this is right. The ginger ale is, in fact, key to the recipe.
So I am not demented after all. Or if I am, Nigella is demented too. I defend myself, and show them both the recipe, but can tell they are watching me v...e…r...y closely. Which makes me flustered. I am in a Catch 22 situation. No doubt I am now nervous enough to forget something tomorrow and thus prove that I am indeed losing a few marbles.
Or probably Brussel sprouts.
My favourite day! So exciting; the whole family is agog - what will this year's festive argument be about?
It turns out to be a literally heated debate over how many pans to boil the potatoes in – one or two?
It’s a surprise, I have to admit. I think the rest of the family had bets on whether or not I’d warmed the plates, or remembered the bread sauce, or if Mr Young had put enough port in the gravy, so this particular squabble was a bit of an outsider and I don’t think anyone won.
I say one saucepan, he says two; I know he’s right, but I can’t bring myself to agree because, well, I just can’t. So we bicker for about ten precious minutes, while the gravy simmers, and Harry and Jonny snigger in the background, and in the end I tell Mr Young to go away and I’ll do the potatoes. To my surprise – because the man has never been known to desert his gravy – he does.
I immediately put the potatoes in one pan, hoping he won’t return and do the smirking so-I-was-right face before I can get them in the oven. I just manage this before he returns and has to save the gravy which I have forgotten about and nearly let boil dry. Because he has rescued the gravy, I allow him the smirking face. I’m in a good mood anyway because I’ve remembered everything (apart from nearly burning the gravy) and can’t therefore be demented. Yet.
I am doing the quiz again this year, because I am the best at quizzes. In the past, Mr Young has done them, Tom has done them, but (modestly) mine are definitely the best.
My picture round this year is fast food logos – but everyone gets all twelve correct in 30 seconds, which I find extremely worrying. Not just because it proves that they eat too much fast food, but because it’s far too easy and puts my Queen of Quizzes crown in jeopardy already.
The history round is tricky, but the movie quotes round goes down well.
My final round – which is supposed to culminate in the first letter of all the answers being an anagram of the word Christmas – is a disaster, as I’ve spelled it wrong, and put in two Ts and only one S, so everyone is puzzled and keeps asking me if I’ve got it right.
I discover (thanks to the annoying Mr Young) that I have in fact miscalculated and the only possible answer is christmat which I don’t think is a proper word, unless Mary had one in the stable for the shepherds to wipe their feet on.
There is general muttering and grumbling, and I have to lay my Queen of Quizzes crown gently to one side as I hand out the chocolate orange prizes to (of course, because he always wins) Mr Young’s team.
I try not to look at Lucy and Tom, who are no doubt exchanging knowing glances.
As it’s both Jonny’s and Mr Young’s birthdays tomorrow, we all go out for a meal. I order a pizza with truffle oil and mushrooms, and quickly begin a friendly debate with the manager about the lack of truffle oil on my pizza; he sprints back to the kitchen to fetch a small pot of oil so that I can add more. I sniff it then point out that it’s olive oil, not truffle oil. He tells me it is truffle oil, I tell him it’s not.
There’s an awkward pause, during which Harry, Jonny and Mr Young keep their heads down and eat their food like the not-difficult customers they are.
The manager then sprints back and fetches a bottle, which a) is suspiciously unopened b) says on the label Olive Oil with a Hint of Truffle, which I point out is not the same thing.
The other three have almost finished eating, but it’s the principle of the thing, I explain. For the twentieth time. It might be a very nice mushroom pizza, it’s just not a mushroom pizza with truffle oil, which is what I ordered. I know my truffle oil, and there is no, nada, niente, null truffle oil to be found anywhere on my pizza.
The other three are ignoring me completely now, so I am just talking to myself and my (very nice) mushroom pizza. But it’s the principle of the thing, I tell it, because no one is listening to me any more.
The manager comes back to say a) he has taken the pizza off our bill b) I am the only person ever in the history of the restaurant to complain about the lack of trufflicity on the pizza. I finish my (cold, but very nice) mushroom pizza) wondering exactly when and why I became such a difficult customer and we go to Cote Brasserie for desserts and coffee.
Fortunately, there is no option for truffle oil with the chocolate fondant and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.
Mr Young’s actual birthday so he gets to have a lie-in, and then a delicious breakfast cooked by me before opening his presents. I’ve put up the little birthday banner on the mantelpiece and written Happy Birthday! on the chalkboard, and set the table properly, but have neglected to put up the special big Happy Birthday Banner.
He mentions this in a light-hearted way, and with the sort of casual smile that the average onlooker would assume means he doesn’t care in the slightest about the fact that our usual garish big Birthday Banner isn’t dangling from the ceiling, mingling in with the festive fairy lights and baubles.
However, I know all Mr Young’s smiles, so I realise that he secretly does care, because every other member of the family gets the full Birthday Banner treatment. But unfortunately, he is the only person who can reach high enough. And anyway, I did sort of forget because I was busy putting up the small one and setting the table and remembering where I’d hidden his birthday present, which had to be in a different place from the Christmas presents – he was born at a very inconvenient time of year.
But he’s a big boy now, and I did remember his special birthday croissant, so hopefully that made up for it. And anyway, I let him make me a left-over turkey curry for supper, so surely that kept him happy. What more could a caring wife do, after all?
(Answers on a postcard, if you really must. Please keep them clean.)
I am so tired of eating chocolate, and yet it has to be done. I must also finish drinking the entire bottle of Bailey’s I pretended to buy for guests but have secretly bought just for me. I could throw the chocolates in the bin; I could pour the Bailey’s down the sink, but psychologically, I believe that I need to get so fed up with the things I find delicious, it will be easier to forego them come 1st January.
Coincidentally, this will also be the day, when I leap out of bed, pull on my yoga outfit, drink (apparently) eight glasses of water – not, presumably, all at once, though – eat five portions of green things, and walk ten thousand steps. I must then perform something called HIIT – this is High Intensity Interval Training and not accidentally slapping Mr Young over potato-boiling misunderstandings – and do as many press-ups as I can to avoid osteoporosis.
So that’s tomorrow taken care of.
On 2nd January, I can presumably have a rest, because I shall be worn out.
Happy New Year!