Thursday, 24 October 2013

My Journey: Chapter: 6. - Christmas Party


Not us. But similar!
If Christmas lunch was hectic, the evening ‘do’ was just manic.

Our family has a rather odd background to it, the end result of which is a very large extended family that really consists of two separate families. I’ll try to explain but please feel free to skip if you get bored to the section headed: ‘Back to the Story’

Once upon a time, my Granddad was a little boy living with his mum in Burton-on-Trent. I’m not sure where his dad had got to but I understand
that his mother was a little, shall we say, wayward. After a while, his mum decided that she could not bring up Granddad so Granddad, still a young boy, went to live with his Grandmother in London. His Grandmother had eleven children, the youngest of whom, Alf, was actually younger than Granddad. Alf, being the youngest boy of a large family began to be known as ‘son’ a name that stuck with him all through his life and so he became known as Uncle Son. But, in actual fact, though Granddad and Uncle Son grew up as brothers, Uncle Son was Granddads Great Uncle which made him my Great, Great Uncle. Confused? Well I certainly was!
Anyway, what all this all lead to was a very large extended family that somehow managed to stay close and many managed to make it to Grandma’s house for Christmas.

Back to the Story!
By mid-afternoon the house began to really fill. The two sides of the family brought together again. On the hand there were the Vies that is Granddads side of the family who came to lunch and on the other side the Slades, Uncle Son’s side of the family. I won’t go into a list of names or it will read like another chapter from the Old Testament.

Suffice to say that it was a lot of people in one small semi-detached house and most of them were staying the night.

To say that Uncle Son was the type of man that could fill a room by himself would be an understatement and I don’t mean that he was fat. He was a well built, fairly tall man with a white shock of hair and a cigar that seemed to be constantly alight. A carpenter by trade, he had a deep booming voice, a wicked grin and a sense of mischief surpassed by none. What’s more, once you put Uncle Son and Uncle Brian together and gave Granddad a couple of drinks as well, you had a comedy trio worthy of a Royal variety performance at the London Palladium.

Once everyone who was coming was in and settled, the house was re-configured for the evening.

The kitchen was turned into the bar. Bottles of spirits, mixers and soft drinks along with cans of various different types of beers were stacked high on the kitchen table.

The dining room table was carried from the dinning and placed across the front door ready to be piled high with the buffet tea of salad, sandwiches, cakes, desserts, crisps and the rest. In the dining room, all the chairs and remaining furniture was pushed back to the walls and bowls of nuts, dates, chocolates and other treats left on every available surface.

The rules for us kids were quite simple. Have whatever you want (alcohol excluded of course), when you want but if you make yourself sick, it’s your own fault and you’ll be going straight to bed. I think the rules for the adults were pretty much the same.

Family Christmas Darts
The evening usually kicked off with a mass game of darts, quite a game when you’re playing ten plus a side and twelve of them are children ranging in ages from around twelve to six years. Normally it was men vs. the women with the children shared equally between the teams and Granddad always kept the scores. This was actually quite a hazardous occupation as Granddad insisted on standing right by the chalk board to the side of the dartboard positioning that often lead to not just his walls and ceilings obtaining unexpected piercings.

Eventually, the game would dissolve into chaos as people forgot who’s turn it was and Granddads somewhat dubious arithmetic came into play so Grandma would call time for some party games.

Grandma was a great one for keeping Christmas traditional. Paper chains, bells and stars were hung all over the house which, as well as providing festive decoration, gave us kids another target during the darts match. Another of her traditions, which she still clung to even when we got older, was the party games. Squeak Piggy Squeak, Blow the Fish, Pass the Parcel, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, she had it all prepared and all joined in, adults and kids alike. I think the adults actually enjoyed it more than we did but it was great fun, even if we were getting a bit too teenaged to admit it and I certainly wouldn’t have told my school friends about it!

At some point in the celebrations, Uncle Brian would get out his guitar. He always fiend reluctance at this but he always brought it with him. Uncle Brian was actually a good singer and guitar player. He used to play semi-professional as a folk singer and his claim to fame was that he used to play with Mike Harding who later had a TV career as a comedian / singer / songwriter.

It was like you would imagine an old style cockney sign along, only most of us weren’t cockneys and it was a guitar, not a piano, but you get the picture. Brian lead and everyone sang along to carols, pop songs, country and western songs and, of course songs about London like; Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, My Old Mans a Dustman and Streets of London. We were all Londoners in our hearts and Gawd luv a duck me old mucker, we all loved London Town.

The sing song was usually called to an abrupt halt by Grandma when the songs invariably started to become a bit close to the mark with the children around. Granddads favourite, particularly after a few drinks, was the Woodpecker Song and another song about our soles.

I put my finger in the woodpecker’s hole and the woodpecker screamed:
 gawd bless my sole, take it out! take it out! Remove it.

‘Frank! Frank! You stop that right now!’

And so the party progressed, or degenerated, depending on your point of view to the family version of a disco. The music was certainly varied as we children were allowed to bring song a few records of our choice too.  We could jump from Glenn Millar, to the Beatles, to Slade in three records and all generations danced along with equal enthusiasm though I do seem to remember Uncle Son nearly putting his hip out trying to dance along to Tiger Feet by Mud.

And so the evening started to wind down, for us children anyway. The adults started to put on slow, soppy tunes and have kissy, kissy type dances and we had to take it in turns doing slow dances with grandma or an auntie but we didn’t mind really.

Source: http://christmasstockimages.com/
free/food-dining/slides/homemade_mince_pies.htm

And so it was time for bed for the younger children who had to parade around the family ensemble for the ritual good night kiss before they found their allotted space on the floor in one of the rooms, or, if lucky, their allotted bed.

The evening would continue for a few hours more but it was already late by the time the first of the children went to bed so it didn’t take long before all were ready for bed and we snuggled down in sleeping bags.



It wasn’t long though, in the men’s quarters, before uncle Son would pipe up in the dark.

 ‘Frank, Frank, You asleep?’ Son whispered.
‘Yes’, replied Granddad, ‘what do you want?’
‘Fancy a cup of tea?’
‘No I bloody don’t’
‘Oh, Ok then, goodnight’
‘Goodnight Son’


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