The holidays are here! The holidays are here! Do you ever feel like as if the robot from the old television series, Lost in Space is standing behind you, arms flailing as he announces “Danger, Danger”. Or maybe you wish he was; ready to alert you to potential pitfalls in your preparations?
Despite our best efforts, we’re not Martha Stewart, and our holidays don’t always turn out as perfect as we hoped. Somehow the best laid plans manage to become unimaginable disasters. Roasts overcook, cookies burn, and somehow the wrong gift label always ends up on the worst possible gift (my mother-in-law may never forgive me!). But that’s when the magic of the holidays truly makes itself known as it adds a little extra sparkle to these difficult times and turns them into cherished holiday memories.
Here to share some of our unexpected holiday happenings are the authors of Winter Warmers, a seasonal anthology from Lou Harper, Clare London, JL Merrow, Chrissy Munder, and Josephine Myles. Five stories of winter hope and heart set across Britain and in the USA.
JL Merrow: The Great Turkey Disaster of 2006 will never be forgotten. I generally spend my Christmas holidays with the in-laws, and traditionally, the turkey is plucked, squawking, from a farm somewhere in Cheshire. This particular year, for some reason, mother-in-law got her turkey from a local butcher. Never again…
Come Christmas morning, mother-in-law went to dress the turkey—only to find said turkey smelling like no turkey should smell. Major flap ensued—from mother-in-law, not the turkey. The turkey was way beyond all thoughts of flapping, and was given a decent burial in the back garden.
Don’t panic, father-in-law said. We’ll just have the Boxing Day ham joint instead. Cue weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from mother-in-law—the shame of it! Christmas dinner without the turkey!—which only increased when the ham joint, sourced from the same local butcher, was discovered to be smelling suspiciously like the late, lamented turkey.
The ham joint was given a rather indecently-hurried burial next to the turkey, and poor mother-in-law was left to make the best of things.
Christmas dinner? Was lovely, actually. Funnily enough, it turns out that when you’ve got roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, home-made stuffing and chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon, you don’t miss the turkey in the slightest!
Lou Harper: My parents divorced when I was little but fortunately they remained good friends. My mother and I moved from small town to big city when I was seven. We planned to spend our first Christmas there alone in our tiny on-bedroom apartment. To our complete surprise, my father knocked on our door on Christmas Eve. We were both happy to see him. An hour later my mother’s aunt showed up – also unannounced. Not much later Aunt Liz’s daughter, Judy arrived too. All three of them lived a couple of hours away at different towns, and decided to pay us a surprise holiday visit without consulting each other.
The apartment was so small that we could barely move without bumping into each other. Needless to say, that was the best Christmas ever.
Clare London: We’ve had our share of disasters, including my toddler Son#2 eating two dozen sausages wrapped in bacon (pigs in blankets, we call them) that were meant to be for the whole family; my gift of Christmas pudding ingredients for my friend in the USA being confiscated by Homeland Security; and the last time we had a “real” tree, when 85% of all the needles fell off on Dec 23 and got wedged under the sofa cushions that the grandparents sat on…
Maybe the worst event – potentially, at least – was when the church lights fused one year during the children’s Christingle service. We had a church full of primary school and kindergarten children, dressed as various Nativity characters, wailing and whooping in the dark, and holding lit candles in small, wobbly hands. A recipe for real disaster, you say? Apart from one bash on the head from an over-enthusiastic shepherd with his crook, and tears when one girl dropped a blob of wax on her best shoes, we managed to get them singing “Away in a Manger” and calmed them all down while someone fixed the lights. It became the year we all remembered best!
Chrissy Munder: No one knows what evil lurks in the heart of man, or so the saying goes. In our case it applies to our latest cat, and his love of Christmas trees. Over the years we’ve made certain adjustments to how we decorate our tree. The lights and baubles only half-way down the tree are a recognizable sign to other pet owners, and immediately alert them to our beloved beast’s presence. It was a sad day when we had to banish icicles and garland from our list of approved decorations, but a necessary one. One trip to the vet was more than enough, although we display the resulting X-ray image on the mantel every year as a reminder.
Despite the hours it takes to fully decorate the tree with the cat having to approve each and every decoration with the scratch, sniff, and lick test, we managed to get our tree up in record time last year. Guests were due, and we both rushed to get ourselves ready, and the needed nibbles out on the table. The doorbell rang, the guests were impressed, and all went well until we heard a terrific crash from the other room.
We rushed in to find the tree and all its decorated glory knocked over onto its side, and a very proud cat perched on top of his downed prey.
What can I say? As true cat lovers, we were rather proud of him as well.
Josephine Myles: I think it would have to be the carol service my choir sang at two years ago. We had an incredibly cold December and unusually early snow, which by Christmas had been compacted into treacherous ice. Britain was caught out by the weather, and there wasn’t enough grit to cover all the roads, let alone the pavements. I remember skidding and sliding with my daughter down the hill to get there, laughing all the way. My legs ached horribly from trying to stay upright on the sheets of ice; it was freezing cold inside the church; and there were only about twenty people there in the congregation (I think the choir outnumbered them).
Still, it was magical, and when we came out afterwards the snow was falling again. It was the first white Christmas I’d experienced since I was a child, and watching my little girl’s delight in the snow was the perfect antidote to the thought of climbing a mile back up the hill on all that slippery ice.
Have you experienced a holiday disaster of your own that you now look back on and laugh? Children’s pageants gone wrong, embarrassing moments in the kitchen, or maybe just that one relative you wish you could un-invite. What stories are shared year after year around your tree?
Don’t be shy! Comment below to give us your examples and be entered in the random drawing for a copy of the anthology in ebook. Even if you’re not a winner you can pick up your copy of Winter Warmers: http://pinksquirrelpress.wordpress.com/winter-warmers/
Mulled wine. Butterscotch kisses. Hideous sweaters. Candy at the beach, or a trip to a sex shop in Amsterdam. And the man of your dreams, wrapped around you…
Winter warmers come in many shapes and sizes, from the tongue-in-cheek to the hot-as-hell. Enjoy a quintet of heart-warming tales of men loving men from Clare London, Chrissy Munder, JL Merrow, Josephine Myles, and Lou Harper that are guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.
One thing’s for sure—it’s going to be a red-hot Christmas!
“Lucky Dip” by Clare London
Andy Jackson always knew that class 2C’s help in preparing for the annual Christmas Fair would be a mixed blessing. Then he’s paired up on the Lucky Dip with Greg, the man who dumped him but now can’t keep away, the pupils are either lecturing him on his lovelife or losing bladder control, and no one’s fixed the broken handle on the storage room. It may all be one whoopee cushion too far for him.
“Butterscotch Kisses” by Chrissy Munder
Matthew Morrison is determined to conquer his fear of heights and achieve a winning outcome. At least, that’s what the best-selling, self-help book he’s listening to promises. Being stuck on a three-story tower in the middle of a snowstorm wasn’t part of the plan. With no St. Bernard in sight, it’s Cute Ticket Guy Adam to the rescue, and an outcome Matthew never anticipated.
“Wintertide” by Lou Harper
May meets December when Jem and Oscar chance on each other at the Santa Monica Pier, only weeks before Christmas. The two men are separated by age, social status, and their taste in candy, yet if they are both naughty and nice, they might just find holiday cheer together.
“When in Amsterdam…” by Josephine Myles
Brandon is on his first visit to new boyfriend Jos’s home country, just in time for their Sinterklaas celebrations. But an unexpected detour into a sex shop leads Brandon to new discoveries about himself, and a whole new dynamic to their relationship. The weather may be cold and damp, but Brandon and Jos soon heat things up!
“A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou” by JL Merrow
What’s the best gift a young man could get for Christmas? Mohawked saxophonist Liam wouldn’t have picked the hideous collection of knitwear he’s presented with by his mum and his aunties. He’d rather have the gorgeous older man he sees every day while busking at King’s Cross. But with a little Christmas magic in the air, maybe those garish garments are just the thing for attracting a silver fox…