Saturday 22 December 2018


A few whiskies by the fire has nurtured in me a yearning desire for the company of my lifetime friends. A doorway opens into the glittery mists of Christmas Past.

Decades before anyone had heard of burning bondholders, we managed to burn the banker's lawn on Christmas morning.

I blame Dumbo.

A bunch of friends clinging to the tatty shreds of youthful hedonism, we’d have two too many, because we could, and then someone might find a bottle of Tequila, and we’d do that too.

Peter’s dad was a bigwig banker with a friend who had a timeshare cottage in Somerset. We booked it and all headed off to a picturesque village, to do Christmas in a Merchant Banker’s holiday home.

Far from the Tudor-beamed thatch of our dreams, the cottage turned out to be a crushingly unremarkable house, at the end of a cookie cutter cul-de-sac.

Bland and taste-free, it was decorated in white this, grey wall-to-wall that; nothing of character, history or colour.

When we arrived Daddy’s Little Gal met us and oh boy, she made sure we knew we’d been warned.
“Look, right, this place has to be respected. Nothing bad must happen, okay? Rilly, now, because it’s just not on for one to damage other people’s homes, yah? And that goes for the garden too, okay? Daddy loves his lawn, yah? Super!”

She handed over the keys.

Loaded with drink and probably, in those days, a wide range of nefarious recreationals, we crossed the threshold.

By Christmas morning domestic bliss had descended on the non-cottage. All of us, save for Sarah, were draped over chairs, sofas and each other, every eye  sucked into the TV screen, where Dumbo’s mother was locked up in a cage.

The baddies claimed she was a mad dangerous animal. We knew she was a pure sweetheart of an elephant.

Sailing blissfully on oceans of mind-altering consumption, we allowed our emotions to undergo full Disney manipulation.

Poor baby Dumbo was losing his mum. Oh look, now he was putting his trunk through the bars of his mumma’s cage, and oh, so sad, look, Mummy and Baby Dumbo were linking trunks.

Sarah’s smiling face appeared around the door.

"Er guys - the kitchen’s on fire."

Later I asked her why she’d said it so calmly. Sarah explained that in her shock, she’d decided it best not to create unnecessary panic, foolishly assuming we’d react like responsible adults.

Collectively gone in the cerebrals, we ignored her, as one.

"Oh cool!"

"Nice, nice!"

“Oh, poor lickel nellyphant’s mumma being taken away.!"

“Yeh, but it’ll be alright in the end.”

", the KITCHEN is on FIRE!"

“Lovely! Be with you in a tick, sweetheart!"

Confronted by overwhelmingly abject apathy, Sarah finally lost it.

"Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire in the kitchen! Turn off the bloody TV you morons! There’s a FIRE IN THE KITCHEN!"

From under a cushion to my left I heard a distant quasi-Rasta voice bravely offer in whispering song:

“...there’s a fire in my kitchen, what am I gonna do!”

By the time we eventually got off our arses and made it into the kitchen, Sarah had rushed upstairs and was, rather superbly, dunking bath towels in water.

Flames were licking out of the oven, smoke billowing all over the place. It was dramatic and confusing.

Our feeble heads could no longer drift becalmed, now tossed about on raging seas of impending disaster.

“Maybe we should we open the oven door and like, throw water in it?”

“Dunno. Think opening doors make fires get worse, dunnit?”

Immobilised by fear and mental incapacity, we stood at odd angles and frantically chewed our cuticles for a few minutes, hoping the bad scene might go away.

We ooo-ed, errr-ed and yelled “Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring!”, giggling like infants
nicking cake mix behind Mummy’s back.

Sarah appeared with soaking towels, opened the oven door, and threw one over the flames in the roasting tin.


Wow! Fire gone bye-byes!

We all stood and stared, while Sarah came to terms with saving the day.

Suddenly Paul spurred into action. Before any of us could stop him, he’d picked up the other towel and lifted the smouldering disaster of a dinner out of the oven, yelling:

“Open the front door!"

A man on a singular mission, he stormed out into the garden, carefully lowering the smoking dish down onto the velvet front lawn.

We all looked and verily, we knew this was not good.

Forget the smoke-stained kitchen. Black can be made white again. We could clean that damage, no problem.

But at some point, preferably as soon as possible, someone had to lift that dish.
All around, neighbours’ net curtains twitched in bourgeois ecstasy.

It had to be Paul.

We stood and tried not to laugh as he bent over the slightly-cooled tray.

As he lifted it, stuck to the tin’s underside, there also came up a clump of verdant turf the size of, well, the exact size and shape of a large roasting tin.

In silence we stared down at the roasting tin shaped muddy hole below.

"Daddy loves his lawn!" offered some bright spark.

“Drink!” Sarah was inspired. “Drink! We need drink, lads! It’s Christmas Day! We need a drink!"

This time we all heard her, and I have to admit, from that moment on I remember nothing.

Not one wall-cleaning, oven-scrubbing moment.

A fine time was had by all, and that, my patient colyoomistas, is what I wish for you.

May this Season bring you and those you love Shalom, peace.

(all names changed to protect the guilty)

©Charlie Adley


johnbendel said...

There is some moral here about elephants and lawns....but Nothing comes to mind !

Charlie Adley said...

That’s what I like to hear from my readers: nothing comes to mind 🤣