The first Christmas in a new relationship is a bit like reversing a taxi down a tight city street narrowed by a double parked car on one side and a Supermarket delivery truck unloading on the other. There is enough room to squeeze through but the slightest misjudgement will damage the bodywork. I’m expert at reversing my cab through the smallest spaces but manoeuvring unscratched through the first Christmas in a relationship is much more difficult. In the past, there’s even been a couple of relationship write-offs.
One time, I forgot about a new girlfriend’s fear of heights. I can’t be sure because I never saw her again but I suspect the skydiving voucher I gave as a present was never used.
Lesson learned, I went with something less adventurous for my next first Christmas present. Only to learn another important lesson the harsh way. A replacement iron, even with an advanced steam setting for effortless ironing, is a bad idea for a Christmas gift. I only ever saw the ‘The Iron Lady’, as my dad hilariously nicknamed her, once after she opened her gift wrapped appliance. I felt some vindication the next time I saw her. From the other side of the road she had hurriedly crossed, the blouse she was wearing looked crease free.
Since those festive follies, I’ve played it safe. My choices may not have always been to their taste but a gift of jewellery has never ended a relationship. So, I didn’t take any risks this year with my most important ever first relationship Christmas present. Coronavirus restrictions were adding enough stress.
Susie and my mum decided it would be a good idea to form a Christmas bubble with Susie’s parents so the two of them could have time together on Christmas day. It turned out to be a fateful decision.
In a sign of the pandemic times, the invitation from my mum and dad to Susie’s family requesting the pleasure of their company on 25th December was accompanied by Festive Bubble protocols and a health questionnaire that had to be submitted online on Christmas morning. Fortunately, neither of Susie’s parents had experienced symptoms in the past 14 days and although her dad had recently travelled abroad for work on a commercial flight he was rich enough to be exempt from travel restrictions. Having satisfied the health criteria for entry, I picked up Susie’s mum and dad up in Queen Lorraine II and pulled up at the front of my mum and dad’s house shortly after midday.
The garden path led the Quatro’s into the Festive Bubble created by my mum and dad. Dad had replaced the ‘Santa Please Stop Here for Sam’ sign usually planted in the flowerbed with a less welcoming ‘Hands-Face-Space’ poster downloaded from a government website. He had also set up a sanitisation station in the porch.
After cleaning hands and putting on face masks, the Quatro’s were welcomed into the house with a temperature check and a socially distant elbow bump. Normally, coats would be taken by my dad and hung up in the stair cupboard but for this occasion they were to be worn inside the Bubble as all windows were open to keep the house well ventilated. This government guidance may have reduced the risk of spreading Coronavirus but I can’t help thinking A&E departments will have experienced a sudden spike in admissions for hypothermia over the festive period instead.
Mum showed her guests to their allocated sofa in the draughty living room where light bites and drinks were laid out on colour coded plates. Hot mince pies were served with mulled wine to help keep everybody warm. Mini scotch eggs were also served to comply with UK Government guidance on consuming alcohol.
PPE provided by my mum served a dual purpose. It protected people from transmission of the virus and added an extra layer of clothing to trap body heat. Warm food and layering meant nobody felt the need to slip inside one of the thermal sleeping bags my mum had thoughtfully brought downstairs.
Conversation soon flowed between bites of pie and egg. My dad’s chat made the sleeping bags superfluous. His abundant production of hot air helped warm the room sufficiently for Mrs. Quatro to remove her scarf.
The festivities were going according to plan until the first hiccup of the day. Or more accurately, the first cough of the day. Mr. Quatro’s sudden development of a continuous, dry cough and a sweating forehead caused consternation in the Bubble. His recent return from a high powered business trip to the United States flashed through the minds of his fellow bubble inhabitants. We all recoiled involuntarily and automatically raised our face masks.
Part 2: Coming soon!