When I said I would break open a special bottle of wine to celebrate our annual Brothers and Sisters Day, nobody expected I meant it literally.
Well, I didn't. Mean it
literally, that is. But as I moved across the room towards my elder brother to show him the label on that special bottle, it kind of slipped through my fingers and shattered on the wooden floor, sending tiny shards of green glass everywhere and soaking the
floor in white wine. Let nobody ever doubt that I know how to cause a diversion. It wasn't any old white wine either, but one which, according to the label, was possessed of an "expressive bouquet with notes of white skin-fruits." It doubtless made more sense
in its original French.
We spent the next twenty minutes or so clearing up. I was on vacuum cleaner, my sister Maggie was on mopping up, my brother in law Baz was consoling a rather unhappy Mr B while Jean,
my sister in law, was training her eagle eyes on the floor and directing my attention (and that of my vacuum cleaner) to every minute fragment of glass. When I say "eagle eyes" I mean it - her spotting skills were quite phenomenal.
Regular readers will remember that every year I meet up with my brothers and sister for Sunday lunch around about the date of our dear Mum's birthday which would have been December 2nd. Being so near to Christmas, this annual gathering
also gives us the chance to exchange Christmas presents, thus depriving the Post Office of vast amounts of revenue from postage while at the same time ensuring that we all complete at least some of our Christmas shopping early.
Brothers and sisters make the ideal guests. No need for introductions, no requirement for skirting around issues to suss out opinions. Lots of in-jokes which nobody else would consider amusing - like why Jean needs to sit next to Barrie at the table.
Or is it, possibly, the other way round? And anyway does it matter? So much shared history between the four of us - though amazingly we are still learning from each other.
I didn't know, for example, that
it was our Dad, when working for the Electricity Board, who came up with the idea of leaving customers who were not at home a card printed with a clock face on which they could record the reading on their meter and send it off to the Power That Be (!) thus
making a further visit by the Meter Reader (that would be Our Dad) unnecessary. Apparently he received the princely sum of ten shillings (that's 50p to those of you born and raised in post-decimal times) for his Timely Invention.
I wonder whether that was the same ten bob with which he was despatched by my mother to buy a second-hand pram for me, then a babe in arms? He arrived home instead with a snooker table which was just too good a bargain to miss. Our
mother's reaction has been lost in the Mists Of Time and neither of my older brothers can recall when I gained my wheels - though they both remember the snooker table with affection. Of such are Family Legends made.
My sister and her fella had arrived a day early so as to help with the preparations. Baz told us he had nearly had to miss our get-together: when playing the part of Santa at his grandson's school fête, he was nonplussed (for a long minute) by
one small mite who told him she would be seeing him the following day at a local department store. He spun a tall story about his stand-in: "I think I got away with it..."
We ate roast beef with all the trimmings.
My sister described our meal as "a triumph." This is why everyone needs a sister - they can be counted upon to heap praise on one's efforts, deserved or not.
It's more than twenty years since our dear Mum
died. That's more than twenty years that we have been gathering to remember our shared family life with, in my sister's words, chatter and banter, laughter and love. Our mum always met up in the same way with her brothers and sisters so we are, in effect,
carrying on the tradition. I like to think she is looking down on us approvingly as we sit ourselves down round the dining room table and pass dishes of meat, roast potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and roast parsnips from eager hand to eager hand.
She hated waste, our Mum, a legacy of the hungry War Years. She would have been pleased, indeed, with our empty plates.
Just don't mention the wine...