Christmas Survival Tips – tried and tested

Jane Wenham Jones A5 Christmas Card.indd

Dreading the rellies? Christmas can be a minefield when today’s modern – often blended – families are suddenly brought together. But you can survive them with a little forward thinking…

  1. Make a seating plan. Grannies will like sitting next to their grandchildren and can deal with their runny noses and dodgy eating habits. Second wives can be put at the opposite end of the table to the original spouses, and alcoholic uncles placed away from the wine. (Make a plan even if it’s not your house and enlist an ally to help herd all into position.
  2. There is a fine art to judging how much alcohol to serve and to whom. As a general rule – for anyone likely to fall asleep, as much as you can get down their necks. Those with grievances to air? Hide the whisky!
  3. Prime younger members of the family on suitable topics of conversation, and remind them that while they may consider a baah-humbug farting sheep a hilarious centrepiece, Great Aunt Hilda probably won’t.
  4. Talk of sex, religion and politics can all add spice to the proceedings. Put a ban, instead, on discussion of parenting skills, divorce rates or anything that happened “in my day…”
  5. Invite non-family too. Relatives will behave better, and may offer polite chit-chat instead of bickering over the remote control and dragging up what Uncle Roger did in The Great Christmas Row of 1996.
  6. Prepare a fund of “rescue subjects” to distract and divert if tensions are rising. New babies, holiday plans and the short-comings of other relatives not present, will usually go down well.
  7. Serve all food in quantity. It is harder to be argumentative when stuffed to the gills.
  8. If you have a cream sofa – cover it.
  9. If all else fails, whip out the Trivial Pursuit.
  10. Try deep breathing, mindfulness techniques, meditation or yoga. Repeat to yourself: “I am relaxed, I am calm, I am enjoying this.” Then hit the gin early, grin a lot and remember in a few hours it will all be over.

 

Extracted from the back of Mum in the Middle (HarperImpulse) by Jane Wenham-Jones.

(If you now feel so moved to treat yourself – or one of those relatives – to a copy you can download or get the paperback here.) Happy Christmas!

Plain Jane. Isle of Thanet Gazette. Friday December 21st 2012

This might not make entire sense to those not blessed with living on the Isle of Thanet but perhaps you would would wish for similar for your town too…

Happy Christmas anyway!

jxxx

***

What would make a perfect gift for Isle?

THE GAZETTE’s regular columnists Jane Wenham-Jones and Mike Pearce have been set a Christmas challenge by editor Rebecca Smith.

It’s better to give than receive, we are told, so what could glass-half-full Jane and glass-half-empty Mike come up with as the perfect gifts for Thanet?

Jane & Mike Xmas 2012 photo by Bill Harris
WHO’S BEEN GOOD? A bumper parcel for Jane and socks again for Mike (photo by Bill Harris)
​JANE: What would I give Thanet this Christmas? Some positive vibes! Thanet has its problems but it’s got a whole heap of potential too. So I’d like to see less negativity from the disaffected quarters and no scaremongering. I wish the Isle further art galleries and creative ventures (to quote Ms Emin: where art comes, regeneration follows); a few more restaurants you can sit outside; and bars that face the sun.

I want the new micro pubs to do well, the older pubs to survive, the High Streets to hang in there and huge success for Manston Airport, (yes, yes, during the day! Don’t start that again).

I’d like to see certain councillors stepping down and others stepping up. I’d like derelict properties restored and landlords held to account and bad housing sorted.

Had I a magic Christmas wand, I would of course bring more employment and prosperity, fewer punch-ups and help for smaller shops and businesses. I’d say no to superstores and give a fat grant to anyone opening up an empty retail space and making jobs.

I’d have an open police station in each town, no more ridiculous “traffic-calming” and put Richborough Towers back where it was. I’d see the theatres full, the churches unvandalised and the loos unlocked. But in the sad absence of my fairy wings, I’ll just send a group hug. Have a good one!

And for my dear colleague Mike? I would give him a season ticket to Turner Contemporary events, a hot night out with Iris Johnston (his favourite!), a night flight from Manston and a signed, life-size photograph of Tracey Emin. Happy Christmas mate!

MIKE: AS A child, I would plead for expensive toys and receive a gift-wrapped box containing a battery and a message saying “Toy not included”. I offer my presents for Thanet, but remember – Santa is an anagram of Satan.

For Margate: A new road behind Dreamland, allowing a pedestrianised seafront paradise with a cafe culture in its true sense. Not just a few late-night boozers, but coffee bars, eateries and a tip of the hat to the glory days, with ice cream parlours, candy floss and family-friendly amusement arcades.

For Broadstairs: A large field, miles from anywhere, where morris men can beat each other with sticks, and lank-haired minstrels of indeterminate sex can whine about Strawberry Fair, Widdecombe Fair and Betfair for all I care, without providing an excuse for every yob this side of Tilbury to converge on the town centre and cause mayhem.

For Ramsgate: A fairy godmother to sprinkle stardust on the precious Ramsgate Sands site, shoo off would-be developers and turn back the clock to when it was a tourist magnet – or at least a car park.

For Thanet: A spaceship to descend and take away this hapless council. And then (oh Santa, if only) for 56 good men strong and true to come forward – people who will spend more time discussing agendas and less time discussing genders; people with intelligence and enthusiasm; people less concerned with causes and more concerned with the common good.

For the High Streets: An end to hand-wringing, silver-tongued soothsayers offering false dawns.

For the Turner Centre: A ticket machine, so they can finally admit there’s no such thing as a free Munch.

And following Margate’s inclusion in the Rough Travel Guide as the world’s seventh best tourist destination, an early copy of next year’s, showing Cliftonville has the world’s best forests, Manston the most successful airport and Westwood Cross the most efficient traffic system.

For Plain Jane?: A film company to buy up one of her novels. And an address book with the page for D torn out, so she avoids the duckies and divas and darlings who turn her pretty little head!

Plain Jane: Playing the Party Season

Isle of Thanet GazetteAs some of you may know, I write a fortnightly column – alternating with My-Mate-Mike (he who hovers just to the right of Genghis Khan and is considered a suitable antidote for what he views as my ‘dangerously-pink” tendencies) – in the Isle of Thanet Gazette. In theory this appears online on http://www.thisiskent.co.uk. In practice it frequently doesn’t. If it does, you need a degree in orienteering to find it and then, when you get there, it doesn’t bear my name.

Plain Jane. Isle of Thanet Gazette. Friday November 30th 2012

So we’re almost at December and the time, I gather, to start thinking festive. No, I don’t know where this year’s gone either, but if one more person tells me they finished their shopping weeks ago I shall slap her with some wet tinsel. It can only be a She. Men don’t get involved with presents at all if they can help it and when finally forced to face the inevitable, hare round on Christmas Eve, panic-buying gift packs. I sometimes wonder if I have male hormones. The joys of wafting around in a pinnie, hand-pressing cranberries and making my own mince meat, have passed me by but at least I have learnt  to keep stress levels low.

The way to approach C Day without fear and dread, is to keep one’s head firmly in a bucket and acknowledge nothing until December 23rd. When you’ve been self-employed as long as I have, with a tendency to let the entire year’s deadlines accumulate, leaving one no option but to be welded to the computer instead of counting down the retail days, the whole build-up can very easily slide past. Especially since nobody has Christmas parties any more. Or if they do, they don’t invite me.

Once upon a time, journalists wrote wearily about mantelpieces stiff with gold-edged cards (be an email these days of course) – too many to possibly ever attend all – while double pages were devoted to how to choose a little black dress and the best way to get through three weeks of champagne and canapés and still fit into it.

Now in these dark hours of austerity and gloom, it’s a buy-your-own down at the local chain pub or a memo urging staff to contribute half a goat for the third world instead. Friends who still have gainful employment with companies that turn a profit (three at the last count), tell me to thank my stars, but it is a small regret to me that never having had what you might call – and my husband does frequently – a “proper job”, I have never attended a traditional office party. I can only imagine the lecherous, bottom-patting general manager and the droopy typist who adores him. The dropped jaws when Doris from the canteen turns up in tight satin and fishnets; the sobbing after too many advocaats, the throwing up in the waste-basket, the passing round of intimate-body-parts-taken-on-photocopier hilarity and  the secretary found in the stationery cupboard doing something inappropriate with Stanley from accounts. I can’t help feeling that at  some fundamental, formative level, I have missed out.

Jane
Preparing for a previous Murder Mystery, at the Victorian Tearooms, Broadstairs
Dodgy photo by Matthew Munson

So it was perhaps with me in mind that my dear friend Lisa Payne, of the Perfectly Dreadful Murder Company, set the theme of her next Murder Mystery evening as “1970s Office Christmas Party”. I have been in a few of Lisa’s mysteries before and they are enormous fun. I am invariably cast as a cross between Barbara Windsor in EastEnders and Les Dawson in drag, allowing me to trip about in fishnets myself – with perilous heels and inadvisably short skirt – and Lisa to murmur sweetly: “and all from her own wardrobe too…” If you’re feeling festive already with no invites either, dressed up and no place to go, why not come along? Just remember ignorance is bliss for a little longer and don’t mention the  sh***ing…

Jane will be appearing with the Perfectly Dreadful Murder Company in their 70s style murder mystery on Saturday 8th December at the Sarah Thorne Memorial Theatre at 7.30 pm. Box office 0845 2626263. Prizes for best-dressed and  super-sleuth. Bring your own snacks.

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