Yesterday we girded our loins and did the annual pre-Christmas trip to visit my Aunt. I hadn’t seen her since the Summer so was riddled with guilt as she’s over 80, lives on her own and has no children of her own. The guilt was obviously getting to me, as I compensated by buying her some Estee Lauder face cream, a Panettone Italian cake thing, posh biscuits in a tin and a few other bits and bobs.
Our role in the pre-Christmas jaunt to Hertfordshire is also to collect the presents she has bought for us and my family in Newcastle. As she doesn’t drive now, she relies on neighbours to take her to the shops and, despite us all saying she really doesn’t need to get us anything, she always does and then grumbles endlessly about it.
“Your mother says she wants gin again”, my Aunt complained to me some weeks ago.
“She likes gin. Just get her the gin. It’ll be fine”, I replied, wearily.
Yet I appreciate how frustrated she must get as she was always an excellent present-giver when I was younger. When I was a child, the parcel from my Aunt would arrive in the post and was always something special. I remember fondly a white-leather manicure set which I never used but I used to adore unzipping and re-positioning the little fiddly files and orange sticks. Another year, a jewellery box with a red velvet interior and a tiny pirouetting ballerina .
Lately, however, things have not worked out quite so well. A few years ago we packed her gifts into the car, waved goodbye, heaved a sigh of relief, and zoomed up the A1. Around Peterborough a strange smell from the boot started to waft into the car. We put up with the aroma of sweaty feet until we were home. Dougie wisely decided to open the present she had wrapped for us and the identical one for my brother and his wife. Inside was a Port and Stilton gift set: the Stilton was oozing. Lord knows how long it had been out of the fridge: my guess is it had never been anywhere remotely cold since she’d bought it. The nauseating stench was even more retch-inducing for me as I don’t like cheese in the first place.
The car boot took some Febrezing, I can tell you.
So yesterday as we left we had a little chuckle about the Stilton fiasco and bundled our packages into the car. Back home, Dougie lifted the bottle bags out of the box for the rest of the family and his eyes rested on a beautifully wrapped flat parcel. I was just about to pop it under the tree when Dougie decided to read the tag which said,
“To Dougie and Trish, for your Christmas Day Breakfast, B x”
Hopeful it might be a couple of napkins yet somewhat nervous, we decided we should open the package. Inside was a packet of Waitrose smoked salmon, nicely warmed up to room temperature. Use by 15th December.