It's been a weekend of family.
Saturday night was the local panto. It is staffed by a cast of locals, which essentially means people you are used to seeing behaving respectably round town morphing into 'actors' (in the loosest possible sense) and suddenly deciding it's fine to prance unconvincingly about the stage in overdone make up and bright frilly dresses while busily squinting at the audience for people they might know, this preoccupation resulting in them missing their cues and tripping over each other. Where would we be without local pantos?
All my married family go every year on the same weekend without fail. M's parents book the tickets weeks in advance, his brother comes down from Berkshire with his wife and their two kids for the weekend and M goes with F and J. I get to stay at home because L can't bare pantos (phew! This gives me a handy get out of jail free card and means I can legitimately forgo the joys of yelling 'he's behind you!' and 'oh no he
isn't' etc to someone who knows perfectly well where his fellow cast mates are standing and doesn't care if the performance causes me to lose my voice thanks to bruised vocal chords for most of the following week. And what's all that business about the Principal Boy really being a woman dressed up to look like she's thirty years younger and a different sex for heaven's sake? Pantomine Dames I get, they're a great institution, but Principal Boys induce a sense of toe-curling awfulness that lingers unpleasantly.
The last time I went (before L downed tools and flatly refused to go again) I'd just experienced a flat out gallop on a race horse (which is like sitting on a bullet, in case you're wondering) that very nearly ended in us both sailing across the A36 and onto certain death. This was thanks to my naivety in assuming I could pull up a race horse from a flat out gallop the same way you do a normal horse, something I was confident I could at least achieve before we ran out of forest and ran onto road, although as the forest disappeared all too quickly and the road appeared all too quickly I was seriously having to rethink that assertion. I was still shaking and wearing the maniacal grin of someone who's expression has been plastered onto their face from a mixture of sheer terror and adrenaline when we took our seats in the theatre an hour later, and while everyone else sat and made polite conversation over coffee, and the kids drank lemonade and ate ice cream, I knocked back the whiskey and cokes like there was no tomorrow and waited for my voice to come back without the wobble. M still laughs about it now...).
They've been doing the panto ever since the kids were tiny wee so it is officially A Family Tradition. Every year my mother in law phones ahead to ensure that the entire clan gets a shout out from the stage mid-panto, causing the grandparents to beam indulgently and the kids to squirm uncomfortably in their seats praying (with a fervour that increases in desperation directly in proportion to their ages) that none of their friends or classmates are in the audience.
But this year things didn't quite pan out as expected. J called off early, the allure of an 18th birthday party proving too much for the local production of Robin Hood with the family to compete with. Then M couldn't go because of his wrist and the danger of being bumped into by all those over excited panto-goers, and finally G, my sister in law, rang to say she couldn't come because their dog Digby had had an op and she needed to stay at home to look after him. So it was a somewhat depleted clan that sat through two hours of bad acting and questionable songs (such as the one featuring several high-street fast-food chains over which my father in law (who is increasingly deaf) kept shouting: 'what's a pizza hut?') before they could get to the other highlight of the evening, which is the takeaway chinese.
The Chinese (fetched in by yours truly) was lovely, but after all the running around I've been doing this week I was about ready to collapse into bed by 10, so we skedaddled off fairly pronto through the rain after eating. I then woke up at 12.30 with a start not knowing where I was or what I was doing. This wasn't much helped by M turning over and head-butting me. The moral of that story is: Never go to bed on a full tummy of Chinese.
And then today, everyone came here for lunch, which meant we were ten. I had it all planned to perfection: guests arrive at 12.30, G&T and nibbles in the sitting room until 12.50 or so, then serve up and get everyone sitting down and eating by 1.
Except that my father in law (who has never cooked a meal in his life, unless you count the time he served his bemused guests raw onions speared on a skewer to an accompaniment of cooled boiled vegetable water followed by cold broad beans just about defrosted from the freezer and mistaken for gooseberries) decided he was having such a nice time walking up on the Down that he'd stay out a bit longer, with the end result that they were 20 minutes late. I was in a not-small panic by the time they arrived and my mother in law handed me a bag containing the pud she'd kindly made, except it was dripping everywhere and (as we discovered by following the trail backwards) had leaked most of it's juice all over the floor, but not before it had comprehensively soaked a pair of socks intended for J for Christmas and accidentally left beneath the sofa but dug out by the dog that morning.
Despite all of that the food was fine and survived 15 extra minutes on the hob and in the oven.
M's brother is a wine person and had brought a nice bottle for us to try, so I drank that (not the whole bottle) and recovered enough to relax and enjoy the trout M's pa had caught last year in one of the local rivers, with new taters and veg, followed by chocolate brownies and blackberry ice cream. The brownie recipe has done the rounds of Romsey several times because it is a simple but delish one, so I will share it here before long).
As they were all starting to head off after lunch the goodbye conversations extended to speedy recovery wishes for M's poorly wrist.
Now, my married family have a corker of a shared sense of humour which sometimes, it has to be said, tips over into the macabre. For example, when P (M's brother) returned from India so sick he had to be stretchered off the plane, M made them wait before they took him to hospital so he could get a picture of him. And when my pa in law accidentally set fire to the bedroom he ambled downstairs so casually that no one believed him when he said they needed to call the fire brigade because the house was in danger of burning down. When he collapsed from anaphylactic shock following a bee sting everyone thought he was joking, until his face swelled up.
Anyway, P was giving M a hug as they were leaving and said: 'hope the wrist heals up well.' Then he paused: 'although, if it doesn't and they amputate, I suppose you could always get a hook attachment for it.'
Which led to everyone suggesting what other kinds of attachments might be both possible and useful. These included a saw and a screwdriver before the ladies started adding things like dusters.
By the time everyone left I had a stitch from laughing.
Where would we be without a sense of humour to lighten difficult times?
Hope you've all had a similarly humourous weekend.