herald

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Dave Diebold: I dedicate my festive failures to all men

MY life is a litany of Christmas debacles, I think to myself forlornly as I sit propped in an armchair like some great bloated tortoise on its back, still surrounded by the shredded detritus of this year's festive trappings, half a turkey sandwich in one hand and a rather ragged paper hat sagging over one brow.

FROM the moment I first learned to walk, it seems I have been wreaking havoc on the jolly season, somehow finding successive new ways to lumber roughshod over proceedings in ever more creative and appalling ways.

The first time was probably at the tender age of three when my family was still living in California and I got up early on Christmas morning before everyone else and opened all the presents under our tree, then sneaked over to our next-door neighbours and opened all theirs too.

I woke up under a palm tree some time later, two fuming families standing over me, my face covered in chocolate, surrounded by the chewed up and expectorated remains of several hundred caramels and dressed in someone else's brand new cowboy outfit. "It wasn't me," I said.

Things didn't get much better as an adult and on one of the very first Christmases with my future wife, I insisted she leave all the food and entertainment to me, but by the time I got to the supermarket on Christmas Eve, all that was left was a single, miserable processed turkey loaf and a Dustin Hoffman movie -- which I might have got away with had the movie not been Straw Dogs.

Am I the only person in the world who didn't know that it contains one of the most gratuitously violent home-invasion scenes in film history? Evidently so. How we survived as a couple to ever have children is beyond me, a true Christmas miracle.

But it was as a husband and father that I have really honed my skills as a Bad Santa.

Once, I thought it would be a hoot to buy my wife the joke gift of a pair of edible underpants, but then proceeded to get drunk while wrapping presents late on Christmas Eve and labelled the presents wrong. The haunted look on the face of my nine-year-old son as he tore the wrapping off a strawberry thong will stay with me forever. I quickly retrieved it of course, offering some sort of bleary-eyed excuse as I stuffed it under the couch where I immediately forgot about it, until the dog was found later, hunched over and gagging, a single red-licorice strap still dangling from its sticky pink chops.

Another time, while merrily in the throes of seasonal spirit, I lurched outside to nibble on the carrots we'd left for Rudolph so the kids would wake up and see he'd truly been, but then began choking on the mulch and as a curious neighbour came to their window they were greeted by the sight of me on all fours, hawking like a cat with a hairball.

"This is not what it looks like," I tried to croak through tears as they whipped their curtains closed.

The culinary crimes I have committed on turkeys, meanwhile, are worthy of a Nuremberg trial. I have scorched, torched, smashed, melted, cremated and entirely liquidated the corpses of various festive fowl down the years, once so spectacularly miscalculating the cooking time using a combination of roasting bag and fan-assisted oven, that I delivered what can only be described as a giant glistening balloon to the table of upturned, expectant faces -- which, when pierced with the carving knife, promptly deflated to reveal a sort of thick turkey smoothie with a few bones floating ominously around in it.

"Um, dark meat or white?" I recall whimpering as I fished around the mixture forlornly with a fork.

This year, we've somehow managed to once again muddle through my mishaps. Yes, I tipped over a pot of water and shorted out something on the cooker that exploded with a pop and now it only works with a loud and irritating ticking sound.

Yes, I somehow insulted my wife by woefully misjudging the size of the knickers I bought for her and, yes, strange though it may seem that they still allow me to make dinner at all, I did serve up a few rather mushy, mystery dishes that may or may not have once been vegetables of some sort.

But the dog hasn't been ill, the house is still standing and the neighbours are still talking to us. We've even managed to eventually find a way to chuckle with each other before the teenagers loped off with their mates, leaving us to clear up.

And so I dedicate this to all the husbands and fathers who this week have overdone it or underdone it, who forgot something critical or made a terrible judgment call, who ended up having to order Chinese takeaway as something nameless smouldered outside the kitchen window, or who are still searching through the bin for a receipt for that gift they bought their other half, the one they couldn't have got more wrong.

Friends and fellow family men all, just remember that whatever horrible thing you've done this Christmas, there will always be an opportunity to do something next year that is so much worse, all of this will pale into insignificance.

A very happy family New Year.

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