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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!

Disappointment (1976)
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.

Martyn could only muster a weak grin on opening Dataman

Heartbreak (1996)
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.

Enjoying myself in New York

Fireworks (2007)
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.

Festive Polperro

10 comments to Disappointment, heartbreak and fireworks – woeful tales of Christmases past

  • Oooh – those are pretty good! My worst three (up against some stiff opposition) are in very brief

    Whatever year Bohemian Rhapsody was no. 1 and my mother turned to me after 2 glasses of wine at Xmas lunch (which was always steak because she couldn’t be bothered with cooking turkey) and told me “to get out of her sight” and that she “never wanted to see me again” bit difficult as I was living there.

    Or the year I fully intended to stay in my rather decaying rented house on my own because whilst everyone else’s parents were desperate for them to visit home at Christmas mine would always go abroad for holidays then thus avoiding any parental responsibility. A housemate eventually pitied me enough to invite me to stay with her and her mad gran in Worthing with the words “It will be awful but probably better than being on your own.” Mad Gran spent entire Xmas saying “I wish I was dead” and to be honest you couldn’t really help joining in with that sentiment.

    The absolute worst Xmas was so horrific that I can’t really say much about it on your nice blog, suffice to say it featured staying with another flatmates demented mother in North London, 9 cats and a Christmas lunch dripping with cat hair, a bottle of whisky and saving my flatmate from the ‘dirty old man’ next door. Horrendous.

    I hope your Christmas this year is a good one – I’ll just be happy if I can get my jigsaw done without Spook eating it.

  • Damn. I have no disastrous Christmas stories to share with you.
    There was one when I had that ear thing that makes moving your head feel as if you are strapped to the mast of a tall ship rounding Cape Horn.
    But that is about it.
    I did have a pretty disastrous honeymoon once when I ended up in hospital and my (then) wife had to go and stay with a mild lunatic becaiuse she was too young and British to say No. The marriage never really regained its magic. But that is another story.

    I hope this Christmas does not make next year’s list.
    Have fun.

  • Creina

    Oh Martyn, that is so hysterical! You’ve had us in stitches. Thanks for sharing.
    ps. you’re writing really well.

  • Liz


    Oh dear, I feel so sorry for you as a child, so excited and then completely destroyed!

    I have to join James and say I have no nightmare christmases either… At least none where crazy oldies claim to want to die constantly or in-laws screech like banshees! Eeek.

  • Oh poor Martyn.

    …On the plus side, you haven’t changed much since 1976…!

    Have a good one.

    Rob :)

  • La Sock – It’s great to know I’m not alone at having endured some horrendous Christmases.
    JAS – I’m spending this Christmas at my sisters, so as long as she doesn’t run away again, it should be fine.
    Creina – go on, laugh at my misfortune.
    Liz – The sad thing is, I still go onto ebay and toy with the idea of bidding for a Six Million Dollar Man action figure.
    Rob – I’ve changed a bit – I drink more at Xmas than I did back then.

  • VP

    This makes the Christmas when I was 10 and in bed with chickenpox and where I received not 1 but 5 boxes of handkerchiefs as presents seem quite mild in comparison.

    Hope this year’s is as fun and as jolly as it should be. If not then there’s always the demon drink ;)

  • I have always approached Christmas with trepidation and low expectations. My parents are practical people, and were not prone to indulging their flighty offspring in any temporary whim they might have lest they turn into punks, or worse. My specific recollection is that when I was about 12 my parents bought me a new headboard for my bed for Christmas. I tried not to appear disappointed…

    We made up for it with our own kids and still buy them silly amounts of stuff even though they are in their 20′s. But for me, Christmas still carries overtones of suppressed anticipation and deflation, coupled of course with utterly pointless over-consumption (I saw a stapler in the shape of a large diamante-encrusted skull in Manchester in Nov). I’m generally just glad when the whole thing is over. Boxing Day is a blessed relief. Now, where’s the gin…

  • Ah that was worth it just for the picture of a 7-year-old Martyn. You were very cute :D

    I have no stories as I seem to specialise in making other people’s Christmases memorable for all the wrong reasons. A low point was when I thought it might be amusing to make my husband a stocking (back in the days when we were all romantical and did stuff like that) made entirely out of pairs of pants wrapped in different kinds of wrapping paper. They were Marks and Sparks pants too. I’m not sure he has ever forgiven me.

  • Sue’s ‘headboard’ story has made me laugh so much over the Xmas weekend. Sue – I felt your pain!

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