Saturday, December 25, 2010


The love of an aunt for her nephew can surely reach no higher point than she give him a drum set for Christmas. What that says for her relationship with her sister and brother-in-law is quite another question!

The traditional time for present giving in Catalonia is Christmas Eve when the log with a painted face, Catalan hat and two stick legs shits presents for the kids after being beaten with a stick. There are some things in foreign cultures about which it is better not to ask!

After floods of tears from his brother when it was pointed out that the drum kit was a present to one person and not both peace (after a fashion) was restored with the brothers taking it in turns to beat the living daylights out of a miniature drum kit. One of the drum sticks broke almost immediately and the foot pedal for the “big” drum never worked but neither of these setbacks had the slightest effect on the quantity of sheer noise that was produced.

Our presents to the kids were track suits with their favourite characters sewn and embroidered on to them, but these, of course got barely a glance in the frantic ripping and rending of wrapping paper to see what else was there.

A subsidiary present for one of the boys was a small Zorro figure with an “alternative” body into which he could transform. Usually these figures are so securely encased in impenetrable clear plastic that the hysterical urgings of the recipient for you to release the figure from its crystal tomb are more than matched by the despairingly futile attempts of the adult to get at them.

This time it was different. The outer casing was removed with deceptive ease only to reveal that the figures were securely attached to the back of the packaging with numerous pieces of twisted wire. I assume that these fiendish trappings were put in place by machine or even more fiendish orientals determined to make life a real misery.

With wire ties it is usually possible to use the extended ends and by using thumb and index finger gently unwind them. Not with these. These attachments were carefully twisted to a point so that it was only possible to find the ends by wiggling a finger on the point and allowing the metallic points to disengage themselves from each other by becoming embedded in the fleshy part of the finger tip. The end result is that I now look as though in a previous life I have been a Victorian seamstress with puncture marks betraying my profession.

Needless to say this selfless work of mortification of the flesh was completely ignored by the impatient recipient who snatched the figures from my bloody grip and immediately started ripping off the limbs with sadistic abandon.

The meal, however, made up for any minor inconveniences that are consequent on any festivities which take in kids: pasta fish soup to start, followed by salad with strawberry sauce and then the main course of fish and shellfish. The meal was finished off with a selection of biscuits and turron all washed down with wine and Cava. Delightful. Even if my glass of Cava was knocked over by one of the kids!

I was first up this Christmas Morning (just as I was the first to bed yesterday) and we barely have time to regroup and have the stipulated number of cups of tea before we have to gird our loins and shuffle our way to the restaurant for the Christmas Lunch.

As is traditional either Toni's sister or I suffer from some incapacitating illness during the festive season. Over the last five years Carmen and I have only had a celebratory drink together on one occasion at Christmastime. This year it was Carmen's turn to suffer and abstain from alcohol. No doubt next year it will be mine!

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