We are having our Christmas drinks do; Mr Young is very pleased with himself because he believes he has found The Ultimate Mulled Wine recipe. While other men pride themselves on their barbecue skills, Mr Young is keen to establish himself as a Master Mullederer. (No, it probably isn’t a real word, but doesn’t it look good when you see it written down?)
This year, he has found a Jamie Oliver recipe which involves making a syrup first and using decent red wine instead of the throat-searingly cheap stuff we usually use. I feel I am letting down the side with my shop-bought mince pies and sausage rolls, but then perhaps it is a good thing to allow his mulled wine to be the Star of the Show. The Diva of the Drinks Do. The Streisand of the Soiree. The Prima Donna of the Party. And so on. (I’m even boring myself now.)
We usually have a good row before a social event, but this time we have it after our guests have started arriving. This is because Mr Young is still huddled over his cauldron of simmering spiced wine and refusing to let me serve it to anyone.
“It needs another ten minutes,” he says crossly.
I answer the door and add more coats to the pile and ask again if the wine is ready.
“It still needs another ten minutes,” he says, even more crossly (and rather unfairly, I feel). It may just be my imagination, but the lack of Mulled Wine is becoming the festive elephant in the room, especially as it is the only drink we have to offer.
However, no one seems to mind. They good-naturedly quench their thirst by sucking on salted peanuts and kettle crisps, and chat about the weather until Mr Young dips in his spoon to give his concoction a final critical taste, and then slowly nods his approval. The peanuts and crisps are instantly forgotten as everyone descends on Mr Young and his ladle.
Fortunately, the mulled wine is worth waiting for. It is very, very good. Or ver’, ver’ good, as I tell Mr Young after my thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth glasses.
Mr Young accompanies me to my office Christmas party. Even though I have been very organised and chosen my outfit the day before, I am still tearing clothes off over my head and piling them, inside-out, onto the bed, weeping in despair, just five minutes before the taxi is due to arrive.
“Why do I look so awful in everything?” I wail. Mr Young tries to help by suggesting one of the few remaining items in my wardrobe. I slap his hand away and tell him to bugger off as he isn’t helping.
“But you looked lovely in that top!” he says, pointing at some random, crumpled item in the pile.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I snarl. “Just go and stall the taxi driver.”
Eventually, the wardrobe is completely emptied, so I have to search through the pile and put on the first outfit again. My hair looks downright peculiar, one of my contact lens has fallen out and I’ve broken a nail.
“How’s it going?” Mr Young calls cheerfully through the bedroom door (which I slammed in his face only a few minutes previously). “Are you ready yet?”
“Awful!” I say. “I look awful! I can’t go out like this!”
“Oh, don't be silly! You look lovely,” he says, coming into the bedroom. The taxi driver beeps his horn. I wish I was a man. Suit, shirt and clean underwear. Shave if it’s a special occasion.
To add insult to injury, the lighting at the Haycock is as bright as an operating theatre. An off-duty surgeon would have no trouble at all with performing an emergency appendectomy on one of the white tablecloths. My general hideousness was bad enough in the gloom of my bedroom. Here, with every pore magnified, I now become convinced that I either have lipstick on my teeth or a prominent bogey on display. Maybe both.
There is only one thing for it. And I think you know the answer. It begins with Cabernet and ends in Sauvignon.
Everyone in the office is doing the Christmas Party Post Mortem.
“By the way, your old man’s a bit of a looker, isn’t he?” someone says, winking at me.
Obviously, I think she is joking.
“Yes, he’s definitely hot,” says another.
“Dead fit,” says a third.
“Is he?” I say, somewhat surprised. I can’t remember ever hearing anyone referring to Mr Young as being fit, in either sense of the word.
“Whooah, yes!” they tell me. “He’s a hottie!”
I tell Mr Young when I get home. He goes a bit pink, and tries not to look delighted.
“I can’t believe they thought you were fit!” I say.
“Thank you very much,” he says.
“Well, obviously, I don’t mean it like that,” I say. “Obviously, I think you are very handsome, otherwise I wouldn’t have married you. It’s just that I didn’t think anyone else thought it.”
But he’s not really listening. He goes out of the room with a spring in his step. I can hear him whistling as he goes upstairs.
I have decided to tackle my current hideousness with a New Year Resolution. In fact, Ms Jones and myself will be starting a strict diet and exercise regime. We are both tired of the way our thighs are gradually taking up more and more of our sofas, rather like watching the water creep up Brancaster beach when the tides comes in.
But first we have to get through Christmas and the New Year and the long hard days of mincepies, gin and roast potatoes. We intend to do this by embracing these excess calories and getting as enticingly plump as a pair of freshly fried doughnuts dipped in sugar. This way, our newly slim toned thighs and girlish waistlines will be all the more impressive when we finally achieve them.
I was going to get Mr Young involved in this plan as well; his idea of heaven (quite literally) would involve a comfy sofa, a large pork pie and a bottle of single malt whisky, and he will be indulging himself in all three over the Christmas holiday.
Sadly, though, he has now come to terms with the image of himself as a hottie. This becomes apparent when I mention my New Year Resolution.
“But, apparently, I’m already fit,” he tells me, lounging in the doorway and raising an eyebrow in a manner which I happen to know he believes to be Clooney-esque. “I’m a hottie, remember?”
I scoff at this.
“Well,” he says, “You’ll just have to face facts, I’m afraid. Some of us have got it...some of us haven’t.” And he walks off, whistling.
I don’t say anything. It’s Christmas, you see. The season of goodwill. I like to let him have the last word at least once a year.
It makes him feel special.