Ah the joy of Christmas and as the day of hope begins the old traditions continue. Mavis is not speaking to Dawn, Heather is not speaking to Janet, John is not speaking to Jamie and Dawn is not speaking to anybody. To the happy scene of presents being handed out in silence and festive music blaring from the radio, enters Frank, a big smile on his face and two large bags full of gifts in his arms.
Fortunately his arrival lightens the mood and Scotty decides to open the first beer of the day. He hands one to Frank and they toast the assembly before handing out Frank’s parcels, which are torn open with great speed and anticipation. The children leave one by one to inspect their new acquisitions, remembering to offer thanks before heading off to play with all the goodies and leaving the 3 adults to clear away the mess.
The smell of roasting turkey fills the house, even though it is barely 9am, and the vegetables are sitting in pans ready to threaten their stomachs later. Dawn has been up since six o’clock having slept barely a wink worrying about her husband and whether or not he is heading back to prison.
Frank takes her to one side and explains what they have agreed to do, or rather what he has agreed to do. Dawn is shocked, and touched that he should take all the blame himself. Scotty and Ken denied everything in their police interviews and as Frank is the man least needed by his family he has taken responsibility for every charge on Staples’ list. Staples knows that he didn’t act alone, he also knows there is insufficient evidence to charge the others so he will make the best of a bad situation and has charged Frank with 4 counts of theft and 37 related offences to be taken into consideration.
Mavis has overheard everything. She pours herself a large measure of port, to which she adds a thimbleful of lemonade, and tells Frank that he is her hero. Dawn has to agree, and after downing a tumblerful of sweet sherry she is in a more forgiving mood and asks her mother if she will help with the dinner. Mavis is pleased to be allowed back into the kitchen where she proceeds to take over, doing things her way as usual. Dawn is too exhausted to argue and the two of them reach a truce over good measures of gin and orange.
The men quietly make their escape to the living room, where Scotty takes up position on the sofa and Frank selects the easy chair nearest the fireplace. Frank has brought a bottle of rum and pours each of them a generous measure. Scotty throws him a cigar and they light up, the thick blue smoke quickly filling the air in the small room. ‘Merry Christmas,’ says Frank, ‘don’t know where we’ll all be this time next year so let’s make the most of this one.’
By the time Dawn calls everyone to take their seats at table the adults are, to put it mildly, somewhat squiffy. Scotty makes a hash of carving the turkey and his only task of the day is taken over by his mother-in-law, who hacks away at the meat, depositing large chunks of it onto plates already overflowing with roast potatoes, stuffing, vegetables and Yorkshire puddings. The gravy is passed round and as usual there is not enough, but Dawn has made extra this year to save any argument and soon everyone is filling their faces with food.
‘We haven’t pulled the crackers’ says Robbie, fetching them from the sideboard. There is a moment of hilarity as the crackers are distributed and duly dealt with, the silly mottos and riddles read out and paper hats perched on heads. Frank sees that the glasses are kept topped up with Blue Nun, and Dawn allows the children to have a little, mixed with good measures of lemonade. Before long all the arguments are forgotten and the assembly raise their voices in high-spirited banter.
Once the main course is cleared away the pudding is brought forward, to be doused with brandy and set alight, almost singeing Mavis’s eyebrows, which are already sparse due to her habit of over-plucking them and drawing them back in with pencil. Everybody except Mavis laughs as she leaps back, slapping herself in the face to douse the heat, but she takes it in good part and soon they are tucking in to pudding and cream.
‘I feel sick,’ groans Robbie. ‘You’ve eaten too much,’ laughs Dawn, ‘go and have a run round the block to shake the food down. The fresh air will do you good.’ The gang decide they will all join him, hoping it will get them out of doing the washing up, and soon they have their coats on and have scarpered out into the frosty afternoon. ‘That got rid of them,’ says Dawn, ‘now we can have a bit of peace.’
They leave the table and take up position in the living room, their stomachs groaning with pain at the overload. Dawn leans her head against a pillow and is soon asleep. Mavis is overcome with maternal concern and dabs at her eyes with a lace-trimmed handkerchief, a present from one of the children. ‘I’ll go and get started on the washing up,’ she whispers, hoping that the men will join her. Frank glances at Scotty, who has one eye closed, and decides to stay put. It seems they all enjoy a nap after a big meal.
The children sneak back indoors just as their Nan is putting away the last of the dishes. She gives them one of her ‘looks’ but she is too fuzzy with Christmas cheer to be angry at the little treasures. ‘Are you feeling better after your run?’ she asks, to which they all reply in the positive. ‘Anyone want a mince pie?’ she adds as they disappear up the stairs. She grins to herself, remembering how little she and her sisters had when they were young and glad that those days are long gone. All in all it’s been a good day.