Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Table Tennis and Turkey

How quickly things change. A year ago, I spent Christmas in a borrowed house in the Isle Of Wight with every member of my immediate family – even the usually absent Dad. He made a surprise guest appearance, arriving on Christmas Day in a wig, presumably so we wouldn’t know straight away who the 6ft4in man standing at our borrowed door with our Dad’s Honda behind him was. We did know, and Christmas was all the better for his attendance.

Every year we plead with him to come forth from his hideaway in Malaysia and spend Christmas with his family. And every year, for reason’s unclear to me, he declines. ‘Maybe next year,’ he mumbles. And every year, without fail, as he calls us on the day, he sounds lonely and sorry for himself. Promises next year will be different. It never is.

But every cloud has a silver lining. My lovely old Grandma passed away just a few weeks ago, bringing father back to these Albion shores. I was devastated to see her go, but that’s a story for another time. It’s Christmas and this is a blog of happiness. Dad found himself in England, but hastily booked his ticket back for the 23rd December. Bloody Scrooge. So I stamped my feet and huffed and puffed, and soon, his travel agent was making the necessary arrangements, for the decision had been made, he would be staying in the UK for the second Christmas in a row!

With my siblings in their long term relationships, they have for many years been alternating Christmas’s with that of their spouses. So this year, my mum, one sister and I had to decide where to be. Well where better than the newly acquired chapel? Nowhere. Nowhere is better than the newly acquired chapel, and that’s a sweeping statement covering a magnitude of questions, not just where to spend Christmas.

Gareth, envying my excellent idea, decided he too wanted Christmas in the chapel, and it wasn’t long before the Jones and Willis’s were preparing for a joint Christmas. Holy Camoly.

When I knew Dad would also be joining the party, I felt a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Would it all work out? Would Gareth’s parents find him odd? Would he behave? Would he remember their names? Would he be nice to Gareth?

That last worry had plenty of legs to stand on, Dad’s history with my boyfriends is not a smoothly sailed ship. He has hated every one of them and made no secret of it. On the rare occasion that I would let his path cross that of my boyfriends, he would rise up to every one his 6ft and 4 inches, and he would let them know just who was in charge. And god did they know it. They all cowered. They all understood. They weren’t good enough and that was that.

Men should fear their girlfriend's fathers. Keeps them in check. It was hard at the time, but I always had Mum to warmly welcome said boyfriend into the family home and let them know not all the Willis's were as stoic and cold shouldered as Dad. Dad kept the fear alive, Mum was kind and charming, until the day it was all over, and then she'd take my side, wipe my tears, and await the next rollercoaster ride.

But with Gareth, Dad was different. Almost too different. I did not need to have worried about him accepting the Jones’s. I should have worried that they weren’t prepared for the Willis’s. For Dad arrived with open arms and practically had his wedding speech printed and framed.

At one point Dad turned to Nigel, Gareth’s Dad, and brazened the question: ‘we think the world of your son. What do you think of our daughter?’ a question Nigel tactfully avoided answering.

Dad’s very keen on Gareth, he thinks he is a ‘great chap,’ which is a compliment of the highest order, considering some of the things he has said about some other people in my life, past and present.

Christmas went off without a hitch, we ate plenty, drank some and played lots of games. The latest attribute to the chapel arrived the day before Christmas in the shape of a table tennis table and it provided plenty of friendly competition. Where better than my blog to tell the world that in the first ever Wesleyan Chapel Table Tennis Competition, I came first. Ok, so we have no sitting room left, but we don’t need it anymore. We have table tennis, to love and to cherish, through sickness and health, until death do us part.

Or, more likely, until Gareth leaves me, taking his table with him, frustrated by the fact that I am the queen of the table tennis table, (mostly) undefeated, despite having no forehand and an inability to topspin. How very infuriating for my usually more skilled opponents.


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