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 and drool 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 flatulence, 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 Gin & Tonics and wrapped all the presents still with their price tags on. Sitting cross legged on the floor the following morning wearing a dubious cow print onesie, scratching away at the sleep encrusted dribble in the corner of my mouth, I had watched as the wrapping paper was excitedly torn from my gifts. Excited faces were just as quickly replaced by snorts of derision as prices labels were revealed for all to see. As the strains of White Christmas, sung lispingly by my Nan minus her false teeth, wafted in from the kitchen, I was outed by the whole family as a cheapskate who shops at Poundland.
I grimaced at the thought of what this year would bring. With mum gone, my sister had ‘volunteered’ me to take over Christmas dinner for everyone. A sort of tribute to mum. I was excited, apprehensive and just a little bit sad. Looking down at my shopping list I deftly 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 waited for a response from Emma. Sitting with her feet curled up beneath her on the sofa, she was avidly watching Miracle On 34th Street. Her head jerked up to look at me, her eyes popping in horror.
“Oh for goodness sake Mum, 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 you’ve gone a few rounds with 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 soft amber glow of the Christmas tree lights, I still looked dreadful. A little souvenir from not ducking quickly enough when a punch aimed at one of my colleagues during a pub fight missed and found its target on my nose instead of his.
The pain had quickly subsided but the swelling and bruising around my eyes were still very obvious. Emma was right, inflicting my good looks in our local Tesco’s definitely wouldn’t endear me to the masses on a Sunday afternoon. 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 everyone would scatter and provide me with a place right at the front of the checkout queue. I flopped down on the sofa next to her. Why me – and more to the point, why now?
“Do it on the Internet, Abigail’s mum does all hers on-line. She’s such a snob and hates mixing with poor people so she stays at home and gets it delivered, she’s doing all of her Christmas that way.” Emma grinned and pulled a snooty looking face which I assumed was to mimic Abigail’s mummy and her distaste of ordinary folk. I had visions of her elegantly dressed, lipstick carefully applied with her Jimmy Choo heels deftly poised and pointing whilst she draped her dangly baubles over the upper branches of her specially imported tree with Abigail looking on in admiration. I shuddered.
Emma 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 Em, 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 slowly manifested 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….. oh wow look – I’d 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 red wine, a bottle of Bailey’s and a dozen mince pies and was just about to press ‘go to checkout’ when Emma 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. “Oh my, how could I forget?” I sarcastically spat. “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 laughed and shook my head. She had an answer for everything. Reluctantly I checked back. 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.
“Jeez, all you need to do is type the number you want in the box, Mum. It’s not bloody Morse Code you know! Tap, tap, tap, it’s annoying as hell.” She buried her head in the flocked red cushion on the sofa. I quietly chuckled to myself. If she 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 they wouldn’t be so high up on her menu next year.
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.
He happily dropped the last crate on the floor and unloaded the carriers bags. “Yours has been the biggest delivery so far today.” He puffed, offering me the clipboard to sign for my spoils as he winced and straightened out his back. 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. Savouring the moment before starting to unpack my groceries, I wistfully 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 ever 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 lino, 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 do with all of these?” I wailed.
Emma, 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 rapidly unfolding catastrophe. “I can’t believe you’ve done this. Didn’t you look at the picture first?” She picked up a green netted bundle, dangled it from her finger and swung it around in front of her in triumph. “You don’t order sprouts individually like carrots, what on earth were you thinking, Mum? 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, spilling the odd solo sprout.
“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!” My voice stepped up an octave with each sentence.
And then suddenly, amidst my disaster, I had the most brilliant eureka moment.
“Presents Emma, they’ll make excellent presents. Who wouldn’t want a bag of sprouts for Christmas?” I flung open the kitchen cupboard and pulled out a glittering roll of wrapping paper, sellotape and tags. Pouring a large glass of Merlot, I grabbed a handful of sprout bags and carefully ensconced myself down on the floor in front of the fire.
Emma 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! I’m just wondering how many granddad’s are going to get the blame for that stench once these have festered under a few Christmas trees in ignorance!”
She giggled and rolled her eyes. “You know 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 2018.
Handcuffs, Truncheon & A Polyester Thong © Gina Kirkham 2017
Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot – The Further Adventures of Constable Mavis Upton © 2018