THE CHRISTMAS SPROUTS……..
Can you remember that feeling of sadness as a child, once the Christmas tree had shed all its needles, your Dad had stopped swearing because his lightbulb testing service, where he was forced to search for the blown bulbs in between quaffing half pints of home brew, was no longer required and Mum had resigned your handmade paper chains glued together with spit, drool and half chewed Saturday night tea, to the bin?
It all signalled that Christmas was over and the following twelve months to ‘next Christmas’ seemed to take ten years of your young lifetime.
Well it’s not a bit like that when you are forced to grow up and become an adult.
No sooner have you donned your reading glasses to open door No. 25 on the Advent Calendar, stuffed yourself with turkey dinner, turkey curry, turkey soup and turkey butties for the first half of January, then spent the second half suffering from turkey induced farts, do you find yourself cobweb deep in the loft dragging the battered decorations down for another christmas.
It seemed like only last week I’d trodden on lego bricks in my bare feet, fallen over the christmas tree after a few too many vodka & tonics and wrapped all the presents with their price tags still on. Nothing beats sitting cross legged on the floor wearing a dubious cow print onesie with sleep encrusted dribble in the corner of your mouth as the wrapping paper is excitedly torn off and amid snorts of laughter, whilst you’re suddenly outed by the whole family as as a cheapskate who shops at Poundland. All this to the strains of White Christmas, sung lispingly by your Nan minus her false teeth, wafting in from the kitchen.
This year had flown by and now, with mum gone, I had been ‘volunteered’ by my sister Connie, to take over the Christmas dinner. I was apprehensive but excited.
Looking down at my list I quickly scribbled crackers at the bottom of the crumpled piece of paper and then chewed the end of the pen, deep in thought.
“I think I’ll brave the supermarket later, it might be less busy.” I looked at Ella who, feet curled up beneath her on the sofa, was avidly watching Miracle On 34th Street. She looked up, horrified at my suggestion.
“Muuuuum, you can’t go out looking like that, what if my friends see you, I’ll die of embarrassment..” She animatedly pointed at my face. “…..please don’t, you look like Mike Tyson!”
I checked myself in the mirror, although I didn’t really need to, I knew exactly what I looked like. Even in the amber glow of the Christmas tree lights, I still looked dreadful. A little souvenir from not ducking quickly enough when a punch aimed at Bob during a pub fight missed and found its target on my nose instead.
I now resembled Quasimodo.
The pain had quickly subsided but the swelling and bruising around my eyes were still very obvious. Ella was right, inflicting my good looks on an unsuspecting public in our local Tesco’s wasn’t my brightest idea to date. I only needed to shove my tongue in my cheek and start shouting “Esmerelda, the bells” whilst dragging one foot behind me along the freezer aisle to ensure a place at the front of the checkout queue, just marginally ahead of the girls with their hair in rollers wearing christmas pyjama’s and the testicle-juggling boys from the nearby estate.
I flopped down on the sofa next to Ella. Why me……and more to the point, why now?
“Do it on the Internet Mum, Abigail’s mum does all hers on-line….she hates mixing with poor people so she stays at home and gets it delivered” she grined and pulled a snooty looking face which I assumed was to mimic Abigail’s mummy and her distaste of ordinary folk. She picked the laptop up from the table, tapped her fingers deftly across the keyboard and handed it to me. “Here you go, Tesco up and running, all you’ve got to do is set up an account and away you go!” She looked at me expectantly.
“Jeez Ella, I’m an Internet Virgin….” I hesitantly pressed the enter key and waited. “…..don’t expect miracles will you?”
The screen burst into life showing me I was connected to Tesco.com and I quickly followed the onscreen instructions. Excitement was slowly manifesting itself with butterflies in my stomach as my personal shopping account was created. This part was akin to foreplay. Soon I would no longer be a frightened techie-Virgin, I would be a full blooded, marginally experienced…..hey, look I’ve even managed to book a delivery slot without faarking it up and getting it sent to some remote part of a Hebridean island.
I was on a roll……..
Fruit, vegetables, meat, frozen food, toiletries; the list was endless, how exciting and all without leaving the comfort of my own home. With a flourish of my index finger, I ordered several bottles of Merlot, a bottle of Bailey’s and a dozen mince pies and was just about to press ‘go to checkout’ when Ella intervened.
“Don’t forget the sprouts Mum, Nan always did sprouts it wouldn’t be a Christmas Dinner without them.” She stuck her hands on her hips and gave me a wry smile.
Great, sprouts! I grimaced at the thought.
“Goodness, how could I forget? Can’t wait to have another year of Granddad farting to the opening titles of Only Fools and Horses!” I took another sip from my mug, wiping my sleeve across my chin to catch the dribble of tea that had sneakily escaped. “Couldn’t we just make do with carrots and peas?”
She shrugged. “Nope….it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them would it? Besides, I love sprouts…” She pinched her nose with her thumb and forefinger whilst dancing around Cat, “….just do this mum and breathe through your mouth when Granddad’s around!”
I laughingly shook my head. Ella had an answer for everything. Reluctantly I checked back. Yep, subconsciously or otherwise, I had forgotten the Christmas sprouts. Working out how many would be here for dinner, I carefully calculated who liked sprouts and who didn’t and how many sprouts each person would probably eat. Coming up with a nice round figure of sixty I sat there clicking the ‘in-basket’ key sixty times. I’d already ordered twenty five carrots and two turnips, so sixty didn’t seem too far off the mark for the sprouts.
“Blimey mum….. all you need to do is type the number you want in the box. It’s not a Morse Code message you know! Tap, tap, tap; it’s so bloody annoying.” She buried her head in the flocked red cushion on the sofa.
I quietly chuckled to myself. If Ella thought that was annoying, I couldn’t wait to see her face when she realised that she was going to be the one washing and peeling all sixty sprouts on Christmas morning. I had a feeling sprouts wouldn’t be so high up on her menu after all that.
Later that night, content in the knowledge that Christmas was accounted for thanks to Tesco.com, I made my way up to bed. Plumping up my pillow, I sank softly down under the duvet, counting off the hours until my goodies would arrive.
At 10:30 a.m prompt the following morning the doorbell rang and….
“Hi, I’m Martin your Tesco Delivery man…..”
…….was standing on the doorstep with my first ever On-line shop.
Popping my head out of the front door I had a sneaky look around hoping the neighbours would see that I had joined the elite ranks of the Internetters and as such, I was now on par with Abigails mummy. Feeling all breathless and somewhat decadent, I quickly beckoned him inside, like a wanton woman greeting her illicit lover. I excitedly watched as crate after crate was brought into my tiny kitchen, carrier bags spilling over the edges, threatening to fall, as Martin deftly avoided the bin and Cat. Surely I hadn’t ordered THAT much; but the bags kept coming in.
“You must be having a big gathering this Christmas love..” Martin happily dropped the last crate on the floor and unloaded the carriers bags. “…yours has been the biggest delivery so far today.”
He offered me the clipboard to sign for my spoils. Quickly scribbling my name I ushered him out of the kitchen and shut the front door behind him. Rubbing my hands together in excitement, I skipped down the hall back to the kitchen, quickly savoured the moment before starting to unpack my groceries. I looked out of the window as the trees gently swayed in the wind, a 2lb bag of pasta in my hot, sweaty hand.
Jeez, I really should get out more if this was what sent me into ecstatic raptures.
Twenty minutes later it was out, exposed, unpacked, de-bagged, whatever you want to call it. My first internet shop.
“Oh for fecks sake..! How the sodding hell have I managed to do that?” I dropped to the floor and sat cross legged, rubbing my fingers across my forehead as an absolute avalanche of sprouts rolled across the floor tiles, threatening to bury cat. He hissed and jumped up onto the window ledge.
“I’ve got a bloody …well…I’ve just got, oh …what the hell am I going to so with all of these?”
Ella, hearing my groans of despair stuck her head around the kitchen door. Her eyes as wide as saucers gave way to a huge smirk, which only confirmed my misdemeanour.
“Mum I can’t believe you’ve done this. Didn’t you look at the picture first?…” she picked up a green netted bundle and swung it around in front of her. “…you don’t order sprouts individually like carrots, what on earth were you thinking? The picture shows you how they come, in this case they’re in bags!”
I at least had the decency to look suitably embarrassed as she waved her arms in an exaggerated fashion at the rolling mass on the floor. I was also lost for words as she began counting.
“Sixty..” she huffed. “Sixty large BAGS of bloody sprouts mum, I mean, come on…. sixty BAGS!” she let out a snort of laughter.
Grimacing at her emphasis on the word bags I shrugged my shoulders and stared open mouthed at the massive pile of bagged sprouts spread out on the floor. I began to gather them up into a more acceptably neat pile, which was quickly proving futile as they momentarily held and then collapsed again.
Have an Internet shop she said, it’ll be easy she said…anyone can do it… Abigails mummy can do it… the bloody world can do it……. except me! Well Ho Ho Ho….. Happy Christmas!
…..and then suddenly I had a eureka moment.
“Presents….they’ll make excellent presents. Who wouldn’t want a bag of sprouts for Christmas?” I paused expectantly, opened the kitchen cupboard and pulled out a glittering roll of wrapping paper, sellotape and tags. Pouring a large glass of red wine I grabbed a handful of sprout bags and ensconced myself on the floor in front of the fire.
Ella followed and plonked herself down beside me. “Well, it’s odds on you’ve probably caused a shortage by now so there’ll be some that’ll be grateful I suppose.” She crammed a handful of crisps in her mouth, brushed the crumbs from her jumper and handed me the scissors.
I carefully folded over the end of the first package, tucked an errant sprout that had escaped from the mesh bag back inside, and grinned. “Essence of Sprout! Once these have festered under a few Christmas trees in ignorance, I might have to leave the country!”
Ella snorted. “You’re absolutely nuts Mum….but I really do love you.”
Wishing you all a very, very Happy Christmas, a wonderful New Year and much love and luck for 2017
Handcuffs, Truncheon & A Polyester Thong (c) Gina Kirkham 2016