Well, I find myself somewhat bloated, and utterly soaked in booze. My Christmas, for the first time since the year 2001, has been spent at home in Dingwall, plunged into a world of food, red wine, dancing programmes on TV, parsnips, grandfatherly ramblings, and watching other people open presents.
I'm back home in Dingwall for a few days, taking time from my busy Aberdeen schedule of sleeping in and playing pool. With my wayward sister gallavanting in Australia and my dutiful brother spending Christmas day nursing, it was always going to be a fairly peaceful Christmas. On Christmas Eve, my mother and myself visited my brother for our traditional Eve curry, where I gratefully received my brother's generous gift - a large parsnip. This parsnip was later passed on to my cousin, upon meeting in Dingwall's local pub The Mallard, so that he could pass it on to his father, whom I had spoken to earlier and who had sadly retold of his failed quest to source a parsnip in all of Dingwall: despite much intrigue and wild goose chases, Dingwall appeared to be all out. I am told the parsnip ended up complementing their Christmas meal royally.
My visit to the Mallard was an odd one. The Mallard is always unspeakably rampacked on Christmas Eve, full of Dingwall youth, many now expatriated in dark southern cities and reacquainting in this familiar haunt only annually. The key word in these last couple of sentences is "youth": I am no longer one. This was driven home hard and clear by the fact that I was just about the senior citizen of the entire venue, and surely twice the age of some of the dinky little femmes that patrolled in facepaints and semi-dresses. Jings, I felt old. It was the first time in seven years I've been to the Mallard on Christmas Eve, and I suspect the last. Time to settle down respectably I feel, or at least I thought so when surrounded by three hundred children, many of whom would see me prosecuted should I have accidently brushed too close.
The upside of it all was that, appropriate to my sensible middle-age, I left before midnight after only six or so drinks, and felt pretty healthy on Christmas Day itself. Before lunch, this was spent idling at home, watching my mother open a vast mountain of presents from her schoolchildren and many admiring manfriends, and looking forlornly upon my meagre pile (a book token, an owl calendar, and some beers from the neighbours; in fairness, I gave precisely no presents this year). After my grandfather had finished his lengthy discourse about the state of modern press and politics, slipping in a few obligatory WWII references, we progressed to my aunt's nearby home, where she cooked and I ate enough food to last me and my nation for some time. With my aunt's manfriend kindly ensuring my glass was never clear of wine, I settled on the sofa and became immersed in a world of TV, the likes of which usually escape me in my own TV-banned household. Hours of faux-celebrities dancing seem to be the modern TV staple, though as this seemed to afford plenty of airtime to glossy buxom lushes, it wasn't all bad.
My cousins arrived later, and soon after it was time for a Christmas miracle - my aunt found a plate of parsnips she'd forgotten to serve for lunch! I enjoyed them greatly over another glass of wine. Or was it whisky by now?
Well, fortunately, the huge amount of food cancelled out any especially mentally debilatating effects of the red wine and whisky, and I find myself in decent form come the end of the day, except for my male-pregnant look ("in" for 2009) and radiating bodyheat. Tomorrow, I strongly suspect, will be more of the same, and I may hang around for Saturday now as it seems a few more interesting characters will be returning to Dingwall, thus allowing for some surely regrettable alcohol-related activities. Then, back to Aberdeen, and ready to get my life wrapped up - not for the new year, but for an upcoming job, in the sunny climes of Mozambique. Work? Job? Is there more to life than endless intoxicating leisure?