What is it with the feminine psyche? For therein lies the continued need for Christmas. Men just get drunk, blithely, blissfully, hog-whimperingly, quiescently, as they traditionally have, ever since Beowulf’s Hrothgar determined the model.
In this secret world of women, for weeks there has been covert parcel wrappings, wholesale depredations on the provisioners, reviving of the discarded freezer in the garage to accommodate overflows.
Then there is the arrival of daughters, and associated broods. Suddenly the bathroom has serried ranks of toothbrushes, soaps, shampoos and tinctures. Piles of discarded clothes for laundering. Queues for loos. Ankle-grabbers and carpet-munchers everywhere. We have a child farm. Enough to man a rugby sevens team (if we play the girl at full back).
Christmas Eve becomes a frantic whirl. The turkey has to be collected from the poulterer at some ungodly hour. The supermarket has to be raided lest there be a famine of sprouts, a dearth of different types of milk. Between the feeding of the young and older (now a two-session job), neighbours come calling to leave keys — sensibly they are taking themselves away to impose on others.
The Day itself starts early. Excited children are about and susurrating with expectation. There is this replica of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, not much less than full size, in varicoloured wrapping papers, occupying the front hallway, around the base of the tree. Little fingers keep poking at the choicer, larger, parcels.
The Redfellow Hovel tradition, the mid-day present opening, has to be brought forward to cope with the excess of infantile energy. It takes perhpas three quarters of an hour to reduce the single mammoth pile to individual loot piles. Again it seems remarkably akin to what is described in the hall of Heorot, except the modern need for batteries (AA, AAA and smaller buttons) for which, for once, there is stock laid in.
Next up the dresin, stuffing and ovening of the turkey. This has been planned for weeks: it becomes a military enterprise as complex as Overlord. Children have to be equally stuffed: this is a holding operation, which seems to involve various fruits and lurid finger-snacks spread across the table.
Then a moment of blessed peace. The small livestock disappear to ramp, romp, scurry and slide through the woods. Vegetables are prepared. Malcolm retreats from the field of battle, defeated and surplus to requirements, with a stiff scotch.