Back in November, I wrote a piece entitled “A Little Prompting“, in which I took all the Daily Prompts from that month so far, and wove them into a kind of conversational piece. It was rather well received by my readers – more so than I was expecting, if I’m being perfectly honest.
Now, as I take a look through the Daily Prompts from December, I confess that I am tempted to have another crack at it. There are more words to go at this month, and, whilst it’s true that I could wait until the month is fully at a close, if I’m being honest, by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around, my brain will be a full two-thirds eggnog and thus fit for nothing.
So, let’s take a look and see what I have to work with, shall we? Working from the month’s first prompt of “Echo”, we have: Echo. Construct. Panoply. Sacred. Vanish. Martyr. Protest. Treasure. Missing. Abide. Mystical. Flee. Bespoke. Conundrum. Folly. Maddening. Fishing. Moody. Relax. Fortune. Enthusiasm. Calm. Discover. Bounty. Festive. Retreat. Ovation. Pillage.
OK. Here goes!
I looked around at my fellow guests gathered at the table for Christmas dinner. It was all the usual suspects, each one looking like some faint echo of all the dismal Christmases that had gone before. Each year was just the same as the last, all of us trying our best to construct some semblance of joy and conviviality, and pretending that we did in fact want to be there.
The table groaned under the panoply of food, and, as I surveyed all that was on offer, I was pleasantly surprised. This year, some of it actually looked edible. Soon, our hostess would enter, carrying the turkey like some sacred artefact, on what she adamantly claimed was an antique salver, whilst no doubt simultaneously hoping that the “Made in Taiwan” stamp would vanish from the back.As our hostess placed the roasted bird onto the table, I couldn’t help but wish that the turkey and I could swap places. At least the poor bird wasn’t aware that it was a martyr to our supposed merriment, whereas we all had to smile politely and pretend that none of us wasn’t there under protest.
A short while later, and once the detritus of the main course had been cleared away, our hostess insisted that we turn out all the lights so as to get the full effect of the flaming, brandy-soaked Christmas pudding. I wondered whether she had put sixpences in the pudding again this year.
“There’s treasure in here for one or two of you lucky people!” she shrieked, as if reading my thoughts. Last year, poor old Mr. Bloom-McQuillan practically choked on a piece of her so-called treasure. Mr. Bloom-McQuillan, I now realised, was missing from our holiday gathering. Had he had the sense to stay away? I wondered. Or had he merely sought to save face and inhaled one of his own sixpences ahead of time?
I was shaken from my reverie by Miss Harman’s harpy-like voice announcing, “No brandy butter for me, dear! You know I can’t abide dairy!” A statement that was followed by Mrs. Hansen stating that she thought the whole butter making process to be somewhat mystical. She couldn’t be drunk already, could she? Maybe she was siphoning sherry from a bottle in her handbag. It was this thought, and this thought alone, that made me smile and gave me the strength I needed to resist the urge to flee. Mrs. Hansen was unfailingly dressed in bespoke designer dresses that were at least ten years too young for her, and was in all respects a veritable enigma wrapped in a conundrum.
By the time the coffee came around, I was convinced that this entire charade was pure folly, and determined not to engage in it next year. It was maddening. Then again, I said the same thing last year, telling myself that I should do something far less soul destroying, like fishing for example. Oh! How could I be so moody at Christmas? I should just try to relax and enjoy myself. Our hostess’s shrieking claim that her daughter was spending Christmas in the Seychelles, with her banker boyfriend about whose salary she wasn’t sure but she knew he earned a fortune, soon curbed my enthusiasm.
It was at that point that I realised I had been stirring my coffee for slightly longer than decorum permitted, prompting Mrs. Patterson-Combs to lean in, pat my hand and tell me to calm down. For my part, I resisted the urge to pinion her hand to the table with a cocktail stick and tell her that never in the history of calming down has anyone calmed down by being told to calm down! Instead, I grabbed the decanter of brandy and poured a heavy slug into my coffee, in the hope that it may help me discover what was left of my sanity. Maybe I could try to emulate Fletcher Christian and launch my own mutiny on the Bounty. The idea of sending our hostess out into the open sea in a tiny boat and telling her she’d reach land sooner or later, amused me probably a little more than it should.
As our festive dinner drew to a close, and everyone bade our hostess goodbye, I pressed myself as far back into the taxi seat as I could, in an effort to retreat as quickly as possible from Miss. Harman, Mrs. Hansen, Mrs. Patterson-Combs and all those like them. At least we had been spared the wrath of our hostess, unlike last year, when she was deeply miffed that, upon her presentation of the turkey, we had failed to give her the ovation she was obviously expecting.
Back at home, I entered the living room to find my flatmate standing on the sofa, shouting and screaming at the TV.
“What on earth are you doing?” I laughed. It was the first time I’d been happy all day.
“I’m playing “Pillage the Village”” she replied, beaming at me and offering the controls, “You want a go?”
Happy Holidays folks!