New Year

In which Dad gets the wrong platform- we lose a pub quiz – Matt drinks a lot of wine – Nan gets bitten by a horse

“Dad, where are you?”

“I’m on the platform, waiting for you.”

“No you’re not, I can’t see you.”

Unless my dad had morphed into a mousy, wispy haired 75-year-old woman over the past few months, I was definitely fatherless at the dark train station. I pulled my suitcase closer towards me. There are times when the combination of being 5 foot ten and built like a bean pole has its disadvantages. As my mum often comments; “You look like a waif and stray. ”

I heard the tinny voice of a station announcement through the phone; “Can all passengers for the 20:36 to Bath please make their way to Platform 11”.

There was no Platform 11.

“Dad, you’re at the wrong station.”

There was a small pause.

“Oh dear.”

When have we ever picked you up from any other station? Eh?” my mum huffed 20 minutes later after coming to collect me in the car. ”

She spun the wheel around crossly, tutting at Maria in the backseat who kept leaning forward to pat my head happily, as though I was a disobedient puppy who had run off but its owners were too fond of to scold.

“So,” Mum continued. “Looking forward to Christmas?”

In all honesty, I don’t think I have ever needed a break more than after this first semester. It’s been tough. Not the university aspect of it (which is as full on and joyful as ever) but the other stuff you never stop to consider before going to university, much like how horrendously expensive cheese is, or how a cold house really can make you as miserable as your parents warned it could be.

It’s not been a happy house these past few months. If it wasn’t for being almost manically cheerful during every radio show, my equally stressed but wonderful course mates as we battle through media law revision and my always supportive and glorious friends, I would probably be found in the basement of Firth Court right now with my head through a wall and my sanity in the bin.

“Yes,” I said to Mum. “I really am. After I’ve slept for four days straight I will be anyway.”

*

You know, like this kind of puppy

The first weekend back, I met up with some of my music friends for a pub quiz.

I arrived late after hitching a lift from Dan, and was thrilled to see everyone after a year of being apart. My arrival was met with cries of, “Oh thank God you’re here! We’re doing beyond crap in the quiz; what’s the name of the book that Schindler’s List is based on?”

Bradley, who was drinking Guinness like it was magic tonic, filled me in on the drama of his first semester including suicide and a stalker, followed by a story from Sarah about a hockey initiation where the Freshers had to drink alcohol and dog biscuits from a Wellington boot, topped off by Matt, whose friend got arrested for starting a fight in a curry house. There’s nothing like listening to others’ woes to make you feel almost smug about your own.

After spectacularly failing in the quiz (fourteen out of thirty, a great achievement) we spent a merry time in Tesco playing hide and seek (something I can now tick off my bucket list) before collecting a Domino’s and walking back to Bradley’s.

“My housemate has the weirdest habit,” Dan said. We were back on uni talk. “He stands in the kitchen eating frozen peas from the packet.”

“That’s not weird, frozen peas are delicious,” I told him.

“But they roll all over the floor and get stuck to everyone’s shoes,” Dan complained.

“The problem is,” Matt said seriously, picking sweetcorn off the pizza box, “frozen peas are never frozen when you find them.”

We fell silent, imagining the many rotting vegetables under every student fridge. It was really gross.

One of our family Christmas traditions is to go hollying. I assumed this was a pastime known by many, but after receiving a few odd glances on mentioning our winter weekend plans to friends, I’ve decided to enlighten you all:

“A Christmas tradition which involves staggering through fields getting wet, muddy and lost whilst slightly drunk on brandy, to collect boughs of holly which, despite it being winter and England, is surprisingly hard to come by. At least one cousin falls in a ditch and complains about their wet feet for the rest of the trip. Often, the grandmother in the family gets stuck in hedges after her son-in-law tells her “No it’s alright Ros, there’s plenty of space, I just know it.”

It really is a delightful tradition.

One year, whilst tramping through an unknown field after Dad told everyone in strident, confident tones; “I’m pretty sure this is a public right of way. There won’t be any livestock in it”, a horse took a fancy to my Nan. It had to be beaten off by three men, whilst Dad yelled at the rest of us to, “Get over the stile, get over the stile!”.  Afterwards, Nan wailed that the horse had bitten her, only to be shouted down with cries of, “Don’t be stupid!” and “You’re so dramatic!”. On arriving home for mulled wine, Nan took off her coat to show us a bruise the size of a plate on her arm.

And she hasn’t shut up about it since.

Unfortunately this year, the chance of swamp-like grass and randy horses proved too much and instead we turned our family wiles to charades.

Mum and I were doing quite well. So far my family had correctly guessed Titanic, the Conga, Peter Pan and squirrels. Then we got stuck acting out a job interview.

My mum, after pretending to write notes, nod and answer questions, lost her head completely and pushed me onto the floor so I was sitting cross-legged.

“What the hell was that supposed to be?” My aunt shouted afterwards. “Why were you sitting on the floor?”

“I don’t know!” My mum covered her face with her hands. “You never stand up in job interviews!”

I love Christmas, and this year was particularly good one, having missed everyone even more than usual, as you do when you’re finding things a bit tough.

Dad made it golden by announcing after Doctor Who that it really wouldn’t be Christmas without watching a Potter movie, which just goes to show that incessant whining really does pay off.

HOGWARTS IS HOME

*

New Years was surprisingly the best yet.

I went to Georgia’s party with Matt and Alfie.

“I asked Matt if he would go steady on the wine tonight,” Alfie told me on the way there. “He just answered, ‘No.'”

Matt had filled a bowling bag with wine, apple vodka, Bacardi, cider and mixers. It took three of us to carry it down the street.

“I’m monitoring you Matthew,” I warned when we’d arrived at Georgia’s and Matt had tried to feed me a homemade strawberry daiquiri which tasted like surgical spirit. “Your mum’s expecting you home just after midnight to play ‘Guess the vegetable’.”

Georgia, ever the excellent hostess, started handing round nachos.

“No thanks,” Alfie said. “Nachos don’t really go with wine.”

Matt was indignant.

“Everything goes with wine,” he said. “Sweets… chicken.” He paused. “Breakfast.”

Everyone got quite drunk. Matt had an argument with Alfie over why he shouldn’t let Georgia’s guinea pigs out of their hutch “for fun” and everyone danced far too much to Britney Spears and One Direction to leave with their dignity intact.

Back home, the family and I danced to Jools Holland until three in the morning. Embarrassingly, I tired first which prompted affectionate cries of “Crap student!” from everyone.

It was just lovely.

I’ve booked my train back home to uni in a few days time. I’m trying not to be overcome with anxiety over the house situation, law exams and the general worries I’m notorious for.

Some might say I think about things too much. Isn’t that supposed to be a good thing?

 Good ol’ Jools

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