You've got 50 minutes until the Queen ChrIstmas 2015

I'm sat on the sofa of Helen's cottage in Thames DItton, keeping an eye on the back door for insurgent cats while on high alert for the resident, Buster, who is outside eating grass which normally presages a vomituous episode. I'm drinking Guinness out of a pewter tankard engraved with "Nice One Bruvva!" while Helen has a bath. So here it is, merry Christmas. Everybody having fun?

Drinking with my left hand feels a bit weird, but In an attempt to have the engraving on my Antipodean present on display it's a necessity. That the lighting makes a mockery of it is neither here nor there, but my presumption is that my distant brother will appreciate the effort. This the second piece of drinking paraphernalia I've supped Guinness from in the last 18 hours, since Helen also bought me a vessel - actually two, proper glass pint pots. Now I have to play my girlfriend off against my brother. Who knew Christmas could bring about such discord even for those of us with so few relatives? I feel properly in the spirit of things today.

"Hang on, that's glass!" said Kevin

Yesterday, for the first Christmas Eve since I was 19 or so, I did not spend it out with Wooj and sundry reprobates celebrating his birthday. The old man has succumbed to a rancid flu which kept him from drinking at all, so after keeping him company for a bit while eating pizza and watching awful terrible Tomb Raider movies, Helen and I had a pretty damn quiet night back at her cottage, all excited about spending our first Christmas properly together (we met in November 2014, by which time everyhing was already set in stone for the both of us). She was desperate to hand me at least one present early, but I steadfastly refused to allow it. A good night's kip would set us up for a proper Christmas Day.

Subsequently I had the worst night's sleep of the year. Was awake for almost all of it. What a load of arse. The cat didn't hassle us at all for breakfast, partly because we'd bribed it with bonus midnight food and partly because well, the cat has been in a weird antisocial mood for a little while now. Where's the festive spirit?

Helen woke up around, I dunno, early o'clock so we decided fuck it, it's presents time. Parkrun can fuck off. Downstairs and the unwrapping started. Christmas is fucking great. She bought me some socks, MAN CAVE shower gel, a beer diary/journal, a decent blogging pad, two nice pens, a book about countries which don't exist, and an atlas poster from which you scratch off the countries you've visited. Russia's going to take a while.

My need for socks without holes was really quite acute. I'm not kidding.

Oh, and March 12th. On that Saturday we're going ... somewhere. I don't know where and I'm trying my hardest not to speculate. But it's my "main" present, apparently. Even though I'm really happy with all the other stuff.

I got her a couple of books - a Bradshaw's London walks guide from the 1830s, and Randall Munroe's (of fame) Thing Explainer - plus a build-your-own-SLR-camera kit and the ingredients that turn wine into gluhwein. And a copy of her favourite movie on DVD (Brief Encounter). I'm very pleased she was very pleased. Presents from around the country and globe followed - for me, the aforepictured pewter mug, plus the Ladybird book of the hangover, which is fantastically hilarious. Helen received lots and lots of kitchen stuff.

There are also some Brussels sprout chocolates, and numerous presents for Buster the cat. I'd got him a catnip Christmas tree, which is apparently the same thing "he" had bought the three-legged cat next door, which itself bought Buster a stocking full of Whiskas treats and a little "hit this and the treats fall out" toy. Buster can't make head nor tail of the toy, though the Christmas tree is a success and he has already twice been at the catnip and got ripped to the tits.


After present o'clock came sleeping o'clock, because fucking hell it's early so bollocks. Someone was reading out T.S. Eliot's poems about cats and we grabbed another couple of hours kip, before starting the consumptive part of the day (i.e., the rest of the day).

The first food was satisfyingly alliterative, being as it was bacon, Brie, bread, and Buck's Fizz. The TV came on and we watched a documentary about the golden age of kid's TV on the BBC, from inception until the period where they decided the employment policy had to shift towards only those who found pre-pubescent children sexually attractive. Then a documentary about the history of the monarch's Christmas Day broadcast, which actually wasn't all that apart from the excellent snippet of information that Sandringham in the 30s was in its own time zone because the royals liked to shoot and wanted more daylight, so their clocks were half an hour ahead of the rest of the country.

The C part of the day commenced, being "Cheesonal" cheddars, chocolate and cava. At some point I was threatened with expulsion, for pointing out that Christmas is about two things: fizzy wine early in the day, and the birth of our saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. And now Helen is back, bemoaning the fact her chair has been stolen by the non-vomiting cat. The Queen is on in ten minutes. Time for a break.

Pewter Guinness

Well, her maj's message wasn't too offensive really. Also the NHS are number one, the turkey's in the oven and the Gantt chart for the rest of the meal's dishes has been created. I am on pewter Guinness number two, and thinking it might be time to send personal messages to a few people who aren't satisfactorily dealt with by the numerous merry Christmases already wished in certain avenues (cliquey chat rooms, Facebook, etc).

Truth told there's not many personal messages to send because, well, I don't really wish many individuals specific goodwill. Everyone should feel good! So "Have a good Christmas" last time I saw them and broadcasting the same on the day does the job for me. Maybe I just don't care enough? But anyway. A handful of people did require special attention and I attempted to give it.

At some point I spot a hole in my left sock. A brand new sock, one of today's presents, bought for me because most of my socks have holes in and that's not acceptable. Oh dear.

Then more Guinness and suddenly it's time for the food to get complicated. Well, sort of. Some foil has to come off and some other things have to go in and some potatoes don't look like they're doing quickly enough and the dishwasher is a piece of crap that not only isn't washing dishes, they've actually made some of the plates dirtier on the second attempt than after the first. So my electronics came off my wrists and I did some actual washing up. Check me out, all helping and shit.

I also prepared the sprouts, which was hard work. Rip the packaging open, put in a bowl, put some water on, wrap in film, put in the microwave. Also I put some foil over some cheese. Whew! Meanwhile Helen was doing the real work because the potatoes were screwing things up - briefly it looked like we might have a starter consisting of turkey, parsnip, sprouts, pigs in blankets, stuffing balls, Yorkshire puddings and gravy followed by a main of roast potatoes, but in the end everything came out fine.

quelque chose pour manger

The food was, as expected, nothing like as good as last Sunday. This was a low effort affair, everything just goes in the oven, whereas 6 days ago Helen had cooked a huge feast making almost everything from scratch. It were enormous in size, taste and enjoyment. This wasn't ropey by any stretch, but just not as good. A brief philosophical diversion took place as I pointed out that a shit cook like me is rarely, and in fact can only be rarely, disappointed in food, whereas a great cook can eat nice food but stll think "yeah, but, ... I could do better", which lessens the enjoyment a bit. Hurrah for not being able to cook!

The evening meal also meant it was champagne o'clock, of course. Plus we watched a documentary on 4od about crazy English people doing mental things with their Christmas lights on their houses. Entertaining enough, but I couldn't help but be slightly annoyed there was no mention of Lower Morden Lane.

Helen attempted to get a cute cuddle off Buster, but he's not playing ball and in the end the picture is hilarious. I am asked to delete it, but instead post (a cropped version of) it just above this paragraph. Oops.

The champagne is almost finished and Strictly is on the box. I recognise none of the celebrities. The local pub just opened, and we're going for a pint in a bit; I've never been to the pub on a Christmas Day evening, at least not that I can recall. And on the subject of beer, I've spent the last few weeks attempting to conjure up a 2016 new year resolution and I might finally have come up with one: 366 pints (or bottles or whatever; the quantity you buy it in, rather than trying a sip or tasting paddle) in total, of 100 different beers. That'll be less by volume than most years and so counts as a weight loss technique - I'll have to substitute beer for gin on lots of occasions - and will also make each beer that much more special. So, no Foster's for me!

Anyway. My champagne's gettng warm and there's a hint of desire for cheese brewing. Another break.

OK, so now it's gone 10pm and I'm back on the sofa. After finishing the champagne we went to the pub, and it was strange. It was just ... like a very quiet pub. There were decorations, but nothing particularly festive was taking place. There were tables with just blokes at them, and 3 people perched at the bar discussing football. We got drinks and sat by the door; people came and went, in single and mixed sex groups, every so often someone commenting on the peculiarity of being open on Christmas Day in the evening, but that was about the only nod to that fact.

So, back to the cottage. A plate of cheese was prepared earlier so after the vaguest of space-making tidy ups it was placed on the table, and I ate a whole bunch of truffle pecorino and stitchelton and cheddar and crackers. Buster decided he was a huge fan of the cheddar. On the TV we put University Challenge, in which Helen beat me 9-6 which was her 3rd episode victory in 24 hours. For fucks sake.

CHEESE (from Sunday)

Now we're watching a dramatised true story of a royal elopement in the late 1700s. I'm still on the pewter Guinness but contemplating a gin. Helen is cold and has decided it's cold enough to warrant a blanket. Buster is licking his white bits (he always skips the black bits where you can't see the dirt; he is a boy, after all). I've just had an After Eight, and am wondering how and when to finish this post. Maybe this will suffice.

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