Being absolutely useless at twiddling with twinkly bits of tinsel finery, bright shiny baubles and the tedious arrangement of the last minute plastic vulgarity that passes for festive lighting these days, I took myself off with some old friends for a few days away of uninterrupted golf. Typically enough, the monochromatic weather conditions delayed our connecting flight and forced us to seek refuge in the airport bar. All was well until the inevitable moment arrived and I was seemingly faced with the incomprehensible thought of going to the rather nice marble lavatory without having anything decent to hand by way of reading material. I'm not talking about any of the greats here, 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles', Far from the Madding Crowd', or even The Hound of the Baskervilles, for example. Somehow, the posters on the inside of the stall door invoking ideas in regard to the 101 ways to ensure that the rapidly spreading threat of infection is avoided by choosing the longer flush, then washing my hands, wasn't all that inspiring as it turned out. In fact, it was only less inspiring than the rather grey 'Columbo' box set given to me last year as a Chrissie present. In fairness to my cousin Moira, who presented me with said gift, I managed to watch nearly a full eleven minutes before I teetered on the brink of losing the will to live. One needs to stimulate the brain by logging in with interesting information, especially when one is sat in a quite presentable enclosure, busily logging out. It was at that precise moment that my phone rang with bad news. The announcement of death is always later replayed in our minds perfectly encapsulating the surroundings of which the news was initially first received. A trigger if you will. Unfortunately, it would seem, I shall now always have fond memories of my recently passed Aunt Gertrude, whenever I smell the deeply obnoxious gases of other men's bowel emissions. Mind you, she did have rather an unpleasant penchant for boiled cabbage most of her married life, so perhaps a fitting epitaph after all then?
Being in close proximity to ones friends for anything longer than a 24 hour period can of course have its drawbacks. Don't get me wrong, I am extremely fond, in a bearish, manly, non-sexual (in any way, shape or form) kind of way, to my good friend and long suffering companion, the little singing fella. He is to me what Donkey was to Shrek. The Laurel to ones own Hardy, the perfect Costello to a very weary Mr Abbot. A proverbial wart on the great buttocks of life if you like, a seemingly second hidden hump on the great Quasimodian moments of my life so far. He is however, very entertaining in an embarrassingly best friend kind of way. If you are unlucky enough to be billeted with him, one soon notices the little idiosyncratic points that will eventually drive you barking mad. It isn't so much the lumpen garish Christmas sweaters, depicting a very naughty Rudolph pulling something entirely different to the usual festive sleigh. Neither was it the very surreal moment when he complained bitterly to a rather bemused chef that he could not find chicken on the menu... in an oyster bar. It isn't even the fact that he is very far removed from dynamism, materialism, or his continued confusion in regard to his own paralian inaccuracy. It isn't even the fact that he pees, constantly in the shower, sometimes when the water is running, other times not. Nor is it that he is equipped with garlands of strangely monkeyish Neanderthal chest hair, on his back, that isn't entirely normal, or human come to that. It could be that he constantly breaks into song at the drop of the perfunctory hat. Not always a welcome trait, the memory of him being asked to leave the church at a poignant moment during the wedding of a colleague's wife still smarts whenever I hear the chorus of 'Come on Eileen', one moment that will continue to linger rather painfully on. And for the love of all things holy, NEVER ask him to carry a drinks tray laden with the finest whisky money can ever buy.
A rather awkward moment is to occur during this years Christmas dinner event. Sitting in close proximity to both my good lady and myself will be a friend and colleague of Siobhan, a doctor no less. Not only is she a doctor, but also a specialist in a certain field. Proctology. Yes, you already know where this is leading. Down a very dark hole indeed. Since my retirement, I have taken advice from Siobhan and had numerous health checks in order to ensure that I live out the remainder of our time together, without wondering at every ache, pain and strain am I going to pop my clogs prematurely. Admittedly the news wasn't all good, however by then I shall be happy dribbling down my bib and colouring in the pretty wallpaper flowers that decorate my bed in the sectioned wing. Only time will tell. Visiting a proctologist is always an uncomfortable position for a man to be in. Not just the fact that my knees were tucked underneath my chin in a rather awkward foetal position, but also with clothes removed. My back end exposed, peeking through the gaping minuscule cloth that they seemingly describe as an 'observation robe'. Our first meeting, as patient and doctor, did not fare well. Something to do with the squeaky sound of rubber gloves being applied, before the ominous squelch of lubrication being applied to said rubber gloves. Our conversation was somewhat stilted. "Brace yourself Mr Files", is not normally a line that most women would use with me. However, her next line was slightly more disconcerting. "I'm going to bring in a student doctor to observe the examination, Mr Files". In comes what I can only describe as a very attractive young lady of perfect proportions. Probably the best way to explain what happened to my body next is if I ask you to picture a tiny button mushroom in your mind. Enough said. I have since discovered, to my horror, that the good doctor and Siobhan are old friends, hence the Christmas luncheon invite. At least the ice will be broken, none of those awkward silences or
Chefs Christmas Appetisers
Buffalo mozzarella, torn roughly into bite size measures
Red chili, de-seeded and washed
Extra virgin olive oil
Cracked black pepper
Tear the mozzarella, spread onto the olive oil drizzled toasted crostini. Sprinkle the chili, add the basil and pepper. Serve with chilled white wine, preferably as a starter.