Festive cheer? I’ll have a bypass, please

By Paul Lester, January 21, 2010

That was fun. Christmas, I mean. ’Tis the season to be jolly? Not round these parts it wasn’t. Festive cheer appears to have bypassed my neck of the woods. Must have been the wrong kind of snow.

Sorry, did I say Christmas? I should have said Chanucah. Can we split the difference and call it Chrisucah? How about Chanumas?

Whatever its name, it was expensive. You know those news reports saying spending was up over the holiday period? That was me, that was.

I’m not saying I’m trying to compensate for the fact that my children are the poor, unfortunate victims of a broken home but… hold on, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Money might not be able to buy you love, but it’s great for a guilty conscience. And for Scalextric, and Magnetix, and Lego, and Nintendo DS games (yes, and next year I really must buy some toys for the kids).

While I was busy bankrupting myself, I also had the problem of working out where exactly I and the various members of my family were supposed to be on any given day. Complicated? I needed a wall chart, lots of coloured pins and all that other gubbins Peter Snow (the wrong kind of Snow — his brother Jon’s much more dishy) brings out of the Newsnight cupboard whenever there’s a war on. For Chanucah I went with my three children to my ex-wife’s parents’. I shall now pause for a moment while you decide what reward I should get for my diplomacy skills. A little gold statue of a penniless weeping man for Divorced Son-In-Law of the Year? How about the Wisdom Of Solomon Award for Emotional Maturity? That’ll do.

Christmas, meanwhile, was spent at my mum and dad’s. Now, if that makes my makheteyneste sound like total frummers and my parents about as religious as pork chops in seafood batter and crème fraiche, then I apologise profusely for the slur. My father will only ever put Hollandaise sauce on traif.

The next major exercise was to work out how much of the remainder of their school holidays the kids were going to spend at my house, and how much at my ex-wife’s. This involved the sort of advanced calculus that normally requires an abacus and Carol Vorderman in a tight sweater: Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at hers up until 2pm, then the rest of Christmas Day and Boxing Day at mine, back to hers for the morning of Boxing Day and the day after that, the one that should have an official title but doesn’t, then back to mine for New Year’s Eve, and so on and on until it seemed as though we’d have to contact Magnus Pyke for a simpler solution (via a medium, of course, because the TV brainiac has been dead for 17 years).

Basically, we carved up the time like a butcher slicing his way through a turkey, although being sensible adults we didn’t argue about the scraps. Much.

The biggest headache came at the end, just before they went back to school, when I decided my children and I needed a holiday debriefing. After spending half the time at their mum’s and half at their dad’s, I had a number of burning questions that needed answering — with the responses in my favour, or else the remote-control robot gets it.

Where, I demanded to know, did they have the most fun? Who bought them the nicest presents? Whose cold turkey and cranberry sandwiches were the tastiest? And who kept the house toasty-warm and cosy the longest? (As to whose electric and gas bills were the highest, that was an easy one: this idiot’s).

I wonder if my mum and my ex-mother-in-law felt similarly competitive and did a frantic ring-round to see who got the best reaction to their chicken soup? Probably not. Am I considering therapy? Very possibly.

Last updated: 1:42pm, January 21 2010