Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Back To Life, Back To Reality. And Not In A Good Way.

Well, I'm back in the land of the living. Or of the utterly insane, to be more accurate. And I've gone right off politics - if that's what my job actually involves, which I rather doubt. I'm sure I've got more in common with psychiatric social workers than with MPs.

Anyway, the only advantage to having a shitty first day back at work is that now Christmas doesn't seem half as bad as it did at the time.

"What presents did you get, then, Mol?" says Greg, when he arrives this morning.

"A coat-stand, a shelf and a block of Caerphilly cheese," I say.

"Oh," says Greg. Which may well be the shortest sentence he's ever uttered.

At least the cheese had the virtue of being personal, though. And it was only an emergency gift, according to Connie, who was its donor.

"Unlike Dad or Josh, I ordered your proper present weeks before Christmas - and it was something I knew you actually wanted," she said. "And then Amazon couldn't even manage to deliver the bloody thing. I'll never trust them again."

"Well, it has been snowing everywhere," I said. "So I suppose it's been a pretty challenging time."

"Wouldn't have been half so bloody challenging if they'd sent the parcel to the right country," said Connie. "I'm writing a letter of complaint. Want to hear it?"

"No," I said. "I'm on holiday. That would just be like listening to a moaning constituent."

Honestly, I might as well have saved my breath. Connie had already started reading aloud:

"Given that you have inexplicably sent my mother's present to Scotland instead of to England, as per the address given, I fail to see how snow could have been a factor in your incompetence."

I'm still absurdly proud of her use of 'inexplicably' for some reason. Probably because it sums up the whole of the so-called festive season.

It remains inexplicable why Max was already asleep on the sofa by 9:00pm on Christmas Eve when we were supposed to be playing games and bonding as a family; why Connie and Josh had had an enormous row by 11:00am on Christmas Day and why, according to Connie, Max resembles a mis-shapen potato when he's drunk.

"He looks more like someone who's been let out of the day centre without his carer to me," said Josh. "And how can it take him five and a half hours to cook Christmas dinner?"

"Drinking two bottles of wine by yourself can't be rushed," said Max. "And anyway, I'm fine. Now let's crack open that After Dinner Quiz box. Then we can bond like you all said you wanted to."

"Of what is helminthology the study?"

As usual, and without any prior consultation, Josh, the self-appointed Magnus Magnusson* of Northwick, had decided he was going to read out the questions. Democracy is a concept that remains stubbornly beyond his grasp.

"No idea," said Connie and I simultaneously. "Give us a clue."

"Like you two," said Josh.

"Women?" I said.

"Geniuses?" said Connie.

"Parasitic worms," said Josh.

This should have provided an early indicator as to how the rest of the game was going to pan out, and led to pre-emptive action, but I never learn. I must be more of an optimist than I thought.

Josh's next question was directed at Max:

"Dad - what is the oldest vegetable?"

"Molly," said Max. He didn't even miss a beat.

Coming from a man who looks like Mr Potato Head, I'd have been a bit more careful with the plant-based insults if I was him.

*Magnus Magnusson - presenter of BBC Mastermind for twenty-five years, and a lot more polite a quizmaster than Josh.

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