Christmas Eve was the driest I can remember -the fact I can says it all- a nice quiet dinner with friends, whilst being constantly reminded throughout that, winewise, I was driving the following morning and that my duty of care was both reminding me now with her face and said care extended to the small person sat in the corner trying to eat a placemat.
Already five months with child, the missus attended to all of Christmas 2015 in a state of perfect sobriety. I dimly recall poking at the bump with a stiff forefinger whilst in charge of a particularly well-rounded cigar after lunch, I assured her that in 2016 we’d palm the kid onto family/friends so she could get utterly arseholed. ‘Of course’, I said as I knocked back another bottle of Tesco’s dubious Merlot, ‘I’ll be right there’, prior to disappearing into the shed with my brother-in-law to smoke-up some more of last season’s homegrown.
Cut to Christmas morning 2016, it’s already 10.30 am and we should have left at 10. I can’t work out how to attach this bastard baby seat into the hatchback we’ve borrowed off of my brothers flat-mate, and we’ve not even packed the car yet. In a state of pink-faced stress and worry I look across at my silent bikes parked a few yards away. ‘I love you’, I whisper to them.
The agony of driving a car on the same motorbike-route to the Surrey Downs to see the fam was offset by the fact that it was a beautiful, traffic-less sunny day. There were also no bikes to rub my face in it. I briefly remembered the English man rushing over to me at the French service station, somewhere in the outskirts of Dijon, calling me a lucky see-you-next-Tuesday because I was biking to Italy with the missus. “I’m stuck in a fucking car with my fucking partner and her fucking daughter! And ‘That’s What I call Music! 74’ on loop. Kill me!” What an A-hole, I thought, as I loaded the luggage and wife on Alan the Fireblade and pulled hard towards the Alps, ahaha, sucker!
On Christmas day, as promised, the boy was well and truly absorbed into the bosom of the family. Between grandparents, siblings, in-laws and cousins, we hardly got the chance to spend more than two minutes with him, despite repeated attempts to grab him off various family members. ‘We hardly ever see him!’ they objected before he was ripped out of our arms and removed to some far-flung corner of the house for the private entertainment of his charges. This resulted in a ludicrous inter-marital competition to see who could change his nappy, secretly hoping he’d done a behemoth turd in order to eke out an additional few minutes of seriously compromised quality time. I’d not anticipated this, I’d imagined him rolling adorably through sheets of discarded wrapping paper whilst the family collectively remarked on what a handsome little boy he was before returning to their plates laden with pigs-in-blankets and Brussels Sprouts. On top of all this I couldn’t even get properly pissed because I was driving (again) the following morning… Still one now wouldn’t hurt, it’s only 9pm which gives me hours to ensure that I’m nice and clean for the 11am start tomorrow… I catch the eye of my missus just about to demolish a glass of red wine and take heed of a warning glare, I return with crestfallen ‘it’s my birthday tomorrow’ expression and am countered by a nodding glance over to a sleeping baby in the arms of his granddad.