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Di’s Diary: An M&S Christmas dinner for two just about sums up this year

Christmas is going to be very different this year. I’m waiting to hear if my daughter and son-in-law can make it up from London. If not, it’s my mum and I trying to make merry with a festive dinner for two. She’s suggesting an M&S meal deal which proves how low our standards have dropped. She’d never have suggested that pre-Covid.

In years gone by, I used to have a Christmas dream. It featured my family sitting in a festively-decorated restaurant, with a roaring log fire, being waited on by jovial rosy-cheeked staff. Everyone is calm, cosy and a little merry with drink. And then I wake up.

It pains me to say, but Christmases past have been nothing like that because our mum, being a traditionalist, would never entertain the notion of going out for dinner. So to suggest an M&S dinner for two is something of a shock.

In the past, we invariably had a Jack Russell and a hefty Labrador (RIP Loveable Lola) careering around the house at break-neck speed, knocking stuff over and making us all stressed. This year, my mum adopted a beast of a dog – half Japanese Akita and half German Shepherd – who’s so tough that she squeals and runs off if another dog so much as looks at her the wrong way.

One Christmas is particularly memorable because my sister ended up in A&E needing eight stitches in her head. My oven was on the blink and by the time the turkey was ready she was blotto. It only took for Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ to be played and she was grabbing her crotch and high kicking like a loon. And that’s when she slipped on the polished wooden floor and smacked her head on the skirting board. She claims I was cleaning the blood off the wall rather than attending to her.

MJ’s Thriller didn’t end well for my sister

Two years later I had a hissy fit because everyone had gathered in the kitchen for a gossip and left me to sort the dinner. I ordered them all out with a stream of un-festive expletives, then burst into tears. Why? Because it was Christmas and we’re supposed to have a good time and I was the only one who wasn’t.

‘Beef Wellington was on the menu. Fantastic, except she didn’t buy enough pastry and forgot the pate, oh, and burnt the carrots. Actually, she always burns the carrots, it’s not just a Christmas thing’

So the following year, to avoid histrionics, my then 83-year-old mum announced that Christmas Dinner would be at her house. Beef Wellington was on the menu. Fantastic, except she didn’t buy enough pastry and forgot the pate, oh, and burnt the carrots. Actually, she always burns the carrots, it’s not just a Christmas thing. At least, we’ll avoid that this year because M&S doesn’t burn carrots. Suddenly, I’m pining for black carrots.

But then, just as we were about to administer the smelling salts, my son Seb appeared, like the angel from on high, on a surprise visit from Spain where he was working as a chef.

He sat Granny down with a large glass of red and set about making pancakes to replace the missing pastry. He conjured up a delicious pate, from God knows what, Spam probably judging by what was in my mum’s cupboards, and even rescued the charred carrots. We were all so emotional we blubbed into his home-made gravy.

So, Seb, if you’re reading this – get your flight booked because an M&S Christmas dinner for two is even worse than Beef Wellington without the Wellington.

Happy Christmas everyone! Let’s hope 2021 kicks Covid’s ass for good.

Diane Cooke
Diane Cooke is a three times award-winning journalist who has worked for UK national/regional newspapers, magazines and websites.

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