Plain Jane 191213

My latest Isle of Thanet Gazette column – the annual joint offering with fellow columnist, my mate Mike 🙂








EVERY year, Jolly Jane and I meet for lunch to discuss the theme for our seasonal collaboration, followed by the traditional humiliation in which her pal Bill takes the photos, the brief she’s given him being to make her look young and me look stupid.

Later she chooses the youngest / stupidest one. You get the picture? If not, see the one with this column.

“We could write about our perfect Christmas,” coos the cherub of cheerfulness.

Asking me to do that is like asking a vegan to cook the perfect steak and kidney pudding.

But perfect Christmas it must be, so I shall put aside the reality – sitting alone watching grinning goons on the telly wishing me merry; the impending December credit card statement; the impossibility of even going to a pub without stumbling over carol singers, kids, and charity collectors.

There is fun in choosing the perfect dinner guests. I’m just no good at it. I’ll plump for Isambard Kingdom Brunel (unoriginal – and he’s dead), Robert Jay from the Leveson Inquiry (unknown quantity, but what a brain), a 17-year-old Bridget Bardot (obviously) and Jerry Lee Lewis to entertain.

Best present ever? The Minic wind-up London Transport red bus which had me in tears when it vanished from the toy shop window. I was too stupid to realise my parents had bought it for me.

Worst? That’s ungrateful, but for 20 years I received a subscription to Reader’s Digest. The magazines never came out of their wrapper, but I never dared tell the giver.

Perfect Christmas dinner? Anyone who says it isn’t turkey and all the trimmings should be stuffed and roasted.

As a child, I waited each year for that moment exactly 12 minutes into the meal when Auntie Ethel would raise her little bird-like head and ask: “Are you enjoying it, Michael?”

To my pride, I never let out a mischievous “No!”

And my perfect present to Jane this year?

I considered a model of her beloved Manston airport. But on second thoughts, it might be cheaper to buy her the real thing.

DON’T listen to him, dear reader – he’s as vain as I am. This year he rejected a perfectly good photo of me smothering lipstick all over his chops because, says he: “I look as if I’m dead.” (Nice to know I haven’t lost my touch).

Perfect Christmas? Easy to say when I’ve never done it but I’m tempted to say no guests at all – there is something quite alluring about the notion of a day in my pyjamas, watching mindless TV, possibly with a bottle of champagne. On the other hand I do find Jeremy Paxman deeply attractive and if Carson the butler from Downton Abbey turned up to pop my cork, I wouldn’t shut him out…

Can’t be doing with sprouts or Christmas Pud – but what I do like is a wonderful turkey sandwich the next day – good bread, mayo, upmarket crisps, chilled bottle of Macon Blanc Villages…

Presents? Without wishing to be too sickeningly Pollyanna-like, it is gift enough not to have died yet, and to know my nearest and dearest are still kicking too.

My offering to Mike (I include him in above list)? A year’s subscription to The Guardian, a vegetarian cookbook and his very own corner of Turner Contemporary in which there will be an installation comprising an unwashed sock, a rotting parsnip and three wound-down watches (symbolically halted at a minute past midnight) entitled Yuletide Reflections from the Edge. On sale for half a mill.

But I expect I’ll get him bath cubes again.

Whatever you are doing on Wednesday, may Santa make your own dreams come true (or at least keep the relatives from squabbling and the sherry flowing) and may we BOTH wish you a VERY merry Christmas.

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