Disappointment, heartbreak and fireworks – woeful tales of Christmases past
Bah humbug! All this festive cheer and good will to all men stuff is starting to become a bit tiresome, so I thought I’d spread a great big dollop of full-fat gloom over your yuletide log by digging into my past and telling you all about three of my worst ever Christmas experiences. Sadly, I have a bulging Santa’s sackful of stories to choose from, but thought I’d spare you from the time my sister ran off, when my nan died or our pet hamster was eaten by the cat. So read and enjoy three tales of woeful Christmases past that certainly put paid to Andy William’s theory that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year”. Happy holidays!
In 1976 there was only one thing that this 7-year-old boy wanted to find wrapped up beneath the fake Christmas tree (we had a particularly glitzy silver tinsel tree that lasted well into the 1980s) – The Six Million Dollar Man action figure. The TV series starring Lee Major ran from 1974 to 1978 and to accompany it, Kenner had created a must-have ‘doll’ in an orange test flight suit that came equipped with a telescopic eye and an arm covered with thin rubber skin that you could pull back to reveal the bionics that gave Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, his strength. Many of my friends had one of these desirable toys and I had dropped enough clues that my mum and dad could have been in no doubt that this should be top of my present list. On the big day, my sister and I bounded into mum and dad’s bedroom at an ungodly hour, woke them up and pestered them to accompany us downstairs, where the presents awaited. After rifling through the contents of my stocking (containing a walnut, tangerine, a couple of hazelnuts, a bag of chocolate coins etc) I was given a rectangular shaped present. My heart started to beat frantically. It’s was the right shape, felt heavy enough, surely it had to be The Six Million Dollar Man figure? With wide grin I even said, “I know what this is”, before tearing off the wrapping paper in feverish excitement to find…Dataman, a ‘fun’ calculator made by Texas Instruments on which you could play number games. In an instant my ecstasy turned to agony and my smile subsided as I realised I wasn’t going to spend Christmas looking through Steve Austin’s telescopic eye.
During my second term of studying horticulture at Writtle College in Essex I found myself girlfriendless as I split from a long-term partner. For some time after I was down in the dumps, but started to perk up when I noticed the attractive American equine student that all the male students were lusting after was giving me the ‘eye’. After a few weeks I plucked up the courage to ask her out and we were inseparable for the remainder of the college year. Sadly, she was only due to spend a year at Writtle and had to return to the US to continue her studies at Johnsons and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. That summer I spent a blissful month or so with her in the US, before flying back to the UK with a heavy heart. Still, we made a plan that I would head back to the US at Christmas and we spoke daily, ramping up huge phone bills that helped to keep the long-distance relationship alive. For several months things seemed fine, but with weeks to go before I was due to fly out she started to suggest that it might not be such a good idea for me to visit. No reasons for her change of heart were ever offered and as I’d already paid for a ticket, I thought bugger it, I’m still going. Due to heavy snow, my flight to Boston was diverted to Bangor, Maine, where passengers were put up overnight in a cheap hotel before being transported to Boston by bus the next day. After being dropped off at the airport I tried to phone my girlfriend to let her know I’d arrived, but could only get through to her flat mate and her boyfriend, who said they would come and pick me up. I expected to be greeted warmly by my girlfriend back at their flat, but she wasn’t there. In fact, she didn’t show up until three days later when she announced that she had found a new boyfriend and was moving out of the flat and in with him at that very moment. I was heartbroken. Months of anticipating what it would be like to see each other after months apart turned to shit. So, did I spend the next three weeks moping about before flying home? Not at all. But, err, I think I better leave it at that.
I‘ve witnessed many family rows at Christmas time, but nothing comes close to the big bang of 2007. We’d planned to spend Christmas day at my in-laws in Cornwall and had, at great expense, rented a cottage in the lovely fishing village of Polperro. On the 25th we drove to nearby Liskeard and enjoyed a pretty normal Christmas Day. But then on Boxing Day it all kicked off. From absolutely nowhere an argument erupted between my other half and her mother, which ended up with my mother-in-law shutting herself up in her bedroom for a good three or four hours. Fed up with her sulking fit, I decided we might as well head back to Polperro. After packing up the car, my mother-in-law appeared at an upstairs window of the house, where she started to wail like a banshee, issuing a whole range of expletives unsuitable for a woman of her age while simultaneously hurling some of our presents onto the lawn below. One hit my son on the head. As we drove away, my three year old daughter piped up from the back, saying, “that was fun, wasn’t it.” No, it really wasn’t.