Saturday, December 28, 2002

Get me a bucket, something that cuts plastic, tarpaulin, high tensile rubber and something to make a fire with

Yep, charades just wasn’t on the menu this year. Every year on Christmas night a small band of Crendonites get together for a party. As the kids grow older and have their own lives it’s become the only time in the year that the parents, kids, partners et al are together in one room. Traditionally the evening degenerates into noisy mayhem through a series of traditional Christmas games.

This year was a little different. The hosts, as always, were the Boultons; the Osbournes with the volume a little lower. Di is Sharon; the matriarchal driving force of the family, the kids Richard and Lucy are charmingly dysfunctional, and Ray is Ozzy. Di was struck with Winter Vomiting Disease and a question mark hung over the whole night. Ray decided he would take responsibility for laying on the food and drink whilst Di recuperated in bed. Whilst this doesn’t normally seem too hard a job, Ray is the person who has outdoor decorations powered by a cable wrapped in plastic bags and run through puddles and damp grass into the house. No wonder he goes to church every Sunday.

To his credit Ray did a sterling job with the food, but when it came to the games, nobody was there to act as the voice of reason. Every Christmas Ray has a new novelty that he gleefully shows off like a five year old, but normally Di is there to put it away when things get out of hand. This year it was a gun that fired air. When they hit, it felt like you had been hit by a soft ball, but it didn’t hurt. Basically it was a hollowed out bucket with a piece of tarpaulin stuck over the back, which could be pulled back and fired like a bow and arrow.

After a bout of left over Turkey and a few aimless shots from the gun, Ray decided it was time for something more organised. Normally the games involve everyone, but the ‘olds’ wisely stayed in the dining room whilst the youngsters (aged 18-30), plus Ray (aged 54 going on 6 and a half with a sugar rush) stayed in the living room.

The game was simple, somebody sat at one end of the living room with a lit candle on his head whilst the others sat on a stool and fired the bucket gun to blow out the candle. If you missed you were out, if you hit, you went through and the stool was moved back. The winner was the person left at the end, the winner was also granted the opportunity to enter the Hall of Fame, blowing out the candle from behind the settee.

The atmosphere was electric as the competition heated up, Matt cranked up the pressure with his Willy Banks style rabble rousing, inviting the crowd to clap a slow rhythm as he set himself for ever more ambitious shots. Needless to say, he entered the Hall of Fame with aplomb.

The second game was eventually was won by Emma. So wrapped in the competition were we there was genuine shock when Matt tumbled out in round two. Jo, not quintessentially Steppenwolf Jo, not Jo in Australia, not Jo who’s mum to Alice, another Jo, Matt’s girlfriend, and a legend in her own right, stepped up. She drew back the tarpaulin and took aim.

There was silence, deafening silence. I’m not talking about hush; I’m talking about 15 people unable to breath in anticipation of her shot. She had to abort the shot to tell everyone to calm down and stop taking it so seriously.

The failure of Richard to make an impression on either game lead to Ray publicly denouncing his son’s inability to shoot straight or “get a proper job”. He said he wanted Matt to be his son, and Matt accepted.

Upon completion of each game was the induction into the Hall of Fame, the shot from behind the settee. That completed, it was time for the gala, a bit of showboating. So Ray got a match, lit the candle with it, and then put it in his mouth. The idea was that the champion would try to blow out the candle and match before it burnt Ray’s face off.

I forgot to tell you that Ray has a big bushy moustache that seriously curtails the amount of burn time before we had to call an ambulance. He didn’t burn himself, but I don’t think Di’s going to be happy when she sees the carpet.


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