Now that Rhi and I are old and living on the opposite side of the world from the family, we have been forced to establish our own festive traditions. I'm not sure if the Christmas Stereo Speaker Tree will catch on or if I will get off my arse and buy a proper specimen next year.
Rhi came to Scotland bearing gifts with amusing tags. This one was for Gareth.
Here is the Christmas Coffee Table as decorated by Dr G, with casually arranged clementines as per Nigella Lawson's suggestion. She also said one should drape bunches of grapes over the table like a Roman orgy, but grapes are not in season so he substituted a stunted plastic Christmas tree, which really set off the designer plastic measuring jug/gravy boat.
Upon Gareth's treasured set of Australian Animal coasters we set out plates of assorted animals and vegetables. There was enough for ten people but the three of us managed to scoff most of it.
We allowed a couple of hours to digest while the booze-laden sticky toffee pud glowered away in the oven.
The toffee sauce was slightly traumatic. I hate making toffee sauce; all that bloody stirring and stubborn sugar that refuses to dissolve.
This is the bit where I got impatient and stuck my finger into the saucepan to see if the sugar had dissolved, forgetting that molten sugar has a temperature of approximately eleventeen billion degrees.
So I spent the next few hours with my throbbing finger in a glass of ice water while Rhiannon finished the cooking. And it all turned out bloody beautiful. That oven can perform when it wants to!
In 1999, I deep-fried my hand while working in the fish and chip shop in Bathurst. My most-loathed daily task was filtering the oil in the massive fryers. On this occassion a stray chip was clogging the drain, so I poked it with a big metal stick to dislodge it. But my greasy hand slipped and plunged deep down into the gurgling fat, right up to my wrist.
I never thought I would do anything that stupid again, nor would I ever feel worse self-inflicted pain. Yet somehow that tiny fingertip meeting boiling caramel hurt more. I think I lost a fingerprint!
I was soothed by the sympathetic reactions of Rhiannon and Gareth:
RHI: What the bloody hell did you do that for, you goon?
I am fine now. I'm still in some sort of sugar semi-coma, but that's what you get for having pudding for breakfast.