Christmas jumpers are once again beginning to surface. This month, Gail considers her Christmas ganzee options whilst contemplating volunteering during the festive season.
Christmas jumpers for all…
I was taking a sneaky peek at Facebook during my lunch break a couple of weeks ago. Suddenly, a post for boob Christmas jumpers popped up. How did this happen? What strange algorithm led Facebook to decide that I wanted to see adverts for Christmas jumpers with one boob artfully dressed and on display?
Having got over the initial laughter I got to thinking. What constitutes appropriate clothing for the festive season?
This year I volunteered at our local elderly and alone Christmas lunch, which was being done during the week. It’s a great cause and I felt that if I was to be in a self-relationship on Christmas day, I should at least offer something back.
Time to volunteer
I’m still doing ping meals for 1 on Christmas day. However, this year, I felt I should do something else too. Having scoured the local paper for suggestions, I contacted Patricia (not Pat) who was organising the ‘Tinsel and Turkey’ lunch at the village hall. A formidable woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer, she had a very no-nonsense voice on the phone and I imagined her wearing tweed.
‘Oh good’ she said. ‘Someone under 60. Most of our volunteers should be on the receiving end, not carving the turkey for others’.
She crisply informed me she had been organising the event for years and it worked like a very well oiled machine. I took this as a warning that she wouldn’t positively embrace alternative suggestions and that she was in charge.
Christmas day 9 am
I arrived as instructed, wearing last year’s festive jumper and a Santa hat. Patricia (not Pat) or PnP as I will now call her, had told me to be festive but not to wear my best togs because ‘turkey dinners can get very messy’. Fudge went and sat on his blanket by the tinsel tree and looked very happy. Initially, PnP hadn’t been keen on Fudge being part of the festivities, but I pointed out that dog therapy was very much the in thing and she relented.
The kitchen was a frenzy of steam, heat and instructions. I was immediately given a massive pile of sprouts to prepare. I assume that I had drawn the short straw because I was the newbie. Still, at least I was helping. I sat down at the table next to a tiny lady named Mim, tackling potatoes. We chatted as we worked and I discovered that Mim had started volunteering a few years ago when her husband had died. I thought it a bit presumptuous to ask her age but I reckon she must have been in her early 80’s.
Mim and I grabbed a sneaky coffee after veg prep and I introduced her to Fudge who played his part like a trooper.
‘What a lovely boy’ Mim said wistfully. ‘I was never able to have a dog. My husband was allergic’. She stroked Fudges ears and her eyes took on that far away look. Fudge thought he was in heaven. He loves ear tickles and he pushed closer to Mim, encouraging her to continue.
And then it was time to get back to the kitchen.
Custard or Creme Anglais on your Christmas jumpers?
‘Do you know how to make Creme Anglais?’ asked PnP
I was about to ask what was wrong with good old Birds custard but thought better of it. Having assured her that I did, she waved her hand at a mountain of ingredients and set me to work. My new friend Mim helped me crack the eggs and whisk them with the sugar.
‘Don’t forget to scrape the vanilla pod before adding to the milk’ came PnP’s voice from across the kitchen. ‘ I want the Creme anglais to be beautifully flavoured to complement the pudding’.
‘Creme Anglais’ snorted Mim under her breath. ‘What’s wrong with good old fashioned Birds custard?’
I chuckled and thought that Mim and I were getting on very well. We’d both realised that PnP was trying to be Pru Leith and it was amusing to watch.
Creme Anglais completed, I helped lay the tables. I was amazed to see a small gift by everyone’s place name. The tables looked so festive. There were crackers and bright red serviettes. The candles flickered and I temporarily forgot we were in the dingy village hall. Until PnP told me the candles were electric because of health and safety regs. Nothing like a bit of ‘elf and safety’ to bring you back down to earth is there?
At 1 o’clock, the guests started to arrive. A motley bunch of elderly and infirm locals, who had been delivered by friends and neighbours. All wearing their best togs and a spot of bling. It reminded me of birthday parties when I was young. My mother would drop me at the party and hightail it off pretty damn quick. I remember that slight flicker of anxiety about whether she would actually remember to pick me up again. She usually remembered but…
I put on my best cheery smile and helped settle guests with a glass of sherry or a beer. Most of them hadn’t seen each other since last the last Christmas lunch so had plenty to catch up on.
At 1.30 on the dot, PnP entered the dining area with a flourish, carrying a stunning turkey and all the trimmings. It was a magnificent sight that brought cheers and applause from the assembled throng. The next couple of hours went by in a heartbeat. I ran around serving food, keeping glasses topped up and clearing mounds of crockery.
PnP lit the Christmas pudding and I carried the Creme Anglais. ‘What happened to health and safety?’ I asked.
‘Ah, Gail dear, you have much to learn’ came the lofty reply. ‘There’s a CO2 fire extinguisher by the piano, just in case’.
Christmas jumpers as thankyou gifts?
At the end of the meal, a distinguished-looking chap stood and tapped his glass for silence.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ he announced. ‘Once again we have been treated to the most delightful lunch, with friends. On behalf of you all, I would like to thank the team for all their hard work.’ (a round of applause from the slightly dozy audience who were now stuffed full of turkey, pud and wine)
‘In particular, I would like to say thank you to Patricia for her drive and enthusiasm every year. On behalf of us all, we would like to present you with these small gifts to say thank you’
I watched as PnP started to unwrap her presents. There was perfume, chocolates and a festive jumper…… with a fake nude boob. Mim could barely contain herself. ‘That’s from me’ she said with a wink
Later that evening
I was curled up on the sofa with a glass of wine, watching a DVD of ‘Sound of Music’ when the phone rang. It was PnP ringing to say thank you for all my hard work. She sounded a little tipsy. ‘I do hope you will come and join us again next year’ she trilled. ‘I think we should all wear Christmas jumpers like the one I was given today … that will certainly get them all talking. Gail, do you know a press photographer?’
Well done Patricia. You took it in good heart and yes I will definitely be going back. I haven’t had so much fun in ages. And I will be inviting Mim over for Christmas day so she can play with Fudge again.