Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Eve

I am the first up today again, and am feeling all gooey inside; not because it’s Christmas but because I caught the last few numbers of our Christmas show on Gaydar Radio while I was making coffee. Boy we sounded good; a hundred and thirty guys singing their hearts out on ‘Something Inside So Strong’ and ‘Bootylicious’ and you could hear every word. I felt SO proud it brought a tear to my eye.

Also on the email this morning was a poem that Rula had written to us to say how much she had enjoyed performing with us which was absolutely charming. We have definitely got another fan there; she signs herself Rula ‘mad about the boys’ Lenska (in reference to one of the songs she sang with us.)

And so this is Christmas. Well, what have we done?

Kevin came over around lunch time yesterday and Brett’s mum made us all some Breakfast Tacos while we chatted and Carter (Kevin & Chris’ boy) bounced around the lounge. We last saw him when he was about six months old and he has grown so much since then; Kevin was talking percentiles in terms of his height and weight for his age, but to me he just looked like a happy healthy kid enjoying himself.

Kevin and Brett agreed that they were freaked out by Chris and I emailing each other more often than they do (hardly my fault, since I think they mail each other about twice a year!)… but then Kevin reminded me that both he and Chris are anglophiles and tells me that I influence his life more than I realise, so now I’m freaked out too! Hey ho.

They are planning on coming over to London next year around April and want to get to Hampton Court Palace because Kevin is fascinated by Tudor history. I’ll have to see if I can dig up any more sites of Tudor interest for him before then. I did think initially of Eltham Palace, but that is more of an Art Deco ‘Mecca’ with only the Great Hall still standing from the period.

Late afternoon, we gathered up the presents from under the tree and headed over to Susan and Ali’s house where we added them to the collection already under the tree. (See here.) It was just as impressive a sight as I had expected.

Before any gifts could be opened though, the family ate dinner. Ali was the master chef, but it seems that every family member brought something to add to the feast. The Christmas Pud and Mince Pies I had arranged (thanks Chris!) were folded seamlessly into the buffet (although I don’t think they proved too popular…) There were no less than three joints of meat to choose from (turkey, ham and beef) plus stuffing and an array of vegetable dishes to accompany. Then there were the desserts; Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pineapple Cake, Christmas Pudding and Mince Pies; basically WAY too much food, even for the twenty-plus people eating. I am being very careful about my portion sizes while in the US this time as it is far too easy to overeat, so I tried a small amount of each dish on offer (and they were all pretty good) and then declared myself ‘full’ and declined all of the offered second-helpings from Ali (who I suspect was wondering where he was going to put all the leftovers!) Later in the evening though, I foolishly went back for dessert and tried both the cheesecake and the pecan pie with lots of whipped cream and came away feeling like Mr Creosote Serves me right.

After dinner, the family gathered in the lounge and Steve, the eldest brother, cleared the youngsters from around the tree to begin handing out the presents. It was, as expected, quite a lengthy task and I can see how it could get monotonous if you have to sit through it every year, but as a first-timer at the event I quite enjoyed it. It was a kind of crystallised ‘family’ moment and I felt warm inside to be participating.

Presents-wise I did pretty well out of it too. Brett and Rosie had really gone for it and bought me a flying lesson (accompanied by two passengers of my choice – hmm, I wonder who might want to come with me…), so that’s going to be a big event coming up in the future! There were several family photographs; one of Carter, one of Sarah’s family (Brett’s adult niece) and an album of family photos from over the years prepared by Susan which I think was the most touching gift. (It may also help me fix the names of some of the children in my head, although I think I’ve now got most of them straight.) I got a warm woolly scarf from Brett’s parents which will go nicely with my Chino jacket too.

After the clear-up was complete the evening began to fragment. I ended up lazing in the lounge, feeling the double dessert weighing me down, and dipping my toe occasionally into the family repartee. Chris proved to be the most entertaining; the more he drank, the more he said and while not usually a very talkative person his humour, when it comes, is deliciously acerbic. I got to chat with Steve a bit too as he and Brett were talking IT careers. I think we are going to try and spend time with each of the siblings over the next few days which is good, as I prefer smaller groups to larger ones for talking with people.

It was galling to see how some of the children have grown since we saw them last (about eighteen months ago); Carter has grown from a baby to precocious toddler, Abigail is a new arrival altogether and is on the verge of walking, Joshua (Stephen’s eldest) has progressed from being a schoolboy to being a young man (eighteen shortly and off to start a degree in Nanotechnology!) I understand why Brett is often wistful about his family; they are quite close-knit and it is clearly hard on him to miss seeing them all grow up. We’ve agreed that we will try and make it back for Thanksgivings in future (as it’s only an American holiday, hopefully the flights won’t be quite as hard to come by as these were) and probably alternating Christmases between the UK and the USA.

Right; time to get on with today.

Happy Christmas everyone!

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