And Then There Were Four…

And then there were four

Just the four plates this year…

“Is it alright if I work on Christmas Day?”

I’d been half-expecting the question. The hotel had decided they couldn’t be without their star waiter on Christmas Day. And it looked like the star waiter wanted to work…

“Well… In a perfect world we’d have you all at home.”

“Yeah, I know,” Ben said. “But I sort of feel I owe them one for last year. And it would be interesting to work just once on Christmas Day.”

And who can’t see that? Work means commitments. And in a busy hotel, one of those commitments can easily be Christmas Day.

Ah, well. We’ve known the day was coming…

As soon as Tom and Jessica went to university I expected one of them to disappear to a girlfriend or boyfriend for Christmas. It never happened. But we’re finally here: after 18 years of setting the table for five, there’ll only be four of us this year.

So I’m feeling a little sad.

But no matter. I’ll have plenty to keep me busy. Dad’s Taxi has already been booked. “I’ll need to be there for 11:00 if that’s OK. And then can you pick me up when I’m finished?”

When will that be? Is the hotel doing one sitting or two? Ben doesn’t seem entirely sure. But of course I can. I didn’t want any dessert wine anyway.

And let’s look on the bright side. The natural order will restored a day later. There’ll be five for Boxing Day. And clearly Ben can’t miss out. “So we’re cooking two Christmas dinners this year?” I said to my beloved.

She looked at somewhat sceptically. “What do you mean ‘we?’”

She has a point. Christmas dinner has always been her domain. My role has been simple: kitchen porter and potboy. Peel the veg, take the rubbish out, open the wine, carve the turkey, do as I’m told.

And it’s worked perfectly. Sprouts, carrots, parsnips: they’ve all bowed down before my 99p peeler. Cut those woody bits out of the parsnips? I’m like a well-oiled machine.

But this year may be different. There’s been a disturbance in the force. I may have to serve two masters. Sorry, mistresses.

Jessica is home. And demanding a more significant role than ‘just make your Mum a gin and tonic while she cooks the dinner.’

Two women, one kitchen.

I’m not sure it’s going to work.

Jessica cites the Christmas dinner she’s just served at uni. “Well what did you cook?” we demand.

Her list starts with turkey and ends half an hour later. Along the way several Masterchef contestants wave the white flag.

But Ben raises his eyes suspiciously. Isn’t this the same sister who cooked chicken fajitas? And didn’t quite cook the chicken…

Then again, she has just made a magnificent job of icing the Christmas cake.

I take my youngest son on one side and explain tact, diplomacy and peaceful co-existence to him. “Take a leaf out of my book, son. Peel what you’re told to peel, beat a regular path to the dustbin and keep a low profile.”

“I’ll be at work, Dad.”

Oh yes, so he will. And the kitchen is a foreign country to Tom.

So Jane will be cooking and Jessica will be ‘helping.’ Let’s hope she copes with the pressure rather more calmly than I would.

And I’ll be tiptoeing gently between my wife and my daughter. Just as well I’m going to be sober…

I’m now working on a 35-40,000 word e-book about the 5 day, father/son walk Ben and I did on the Pennine Way: if you’d like to read a few sample chapters before publication, just use the contact form to let me know. In the meantime if you’d like a copy of the ‘laugh out loud’ Best Dad featuring 27 of my favourite columns from all the years I’ve been writing, it’s available here for 99p on your Kindle


  1. Happy New Year Mark…!

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