The week before Xmas I receive a panicked phone call from QC. She doesn't have a table. We would all have to eat off our knees in front of the telly. Dad hates eating off his lap, she says and isn't it nicer to eat at a table while not staring at a TV screen? I had to agree. And didn't I have a nice big
dining table, she helpfully pointed out? We could have the meal at yours, she said, but I will
still provide all of the goodies.
-prawn cocktail, trifle and some Cava, was the reply.
-what, no main course? I ask.
-the prawn cocktail will be so big you won’t need anything else. Besides, she continued before I could question her any further, don't you think we all eat too much at Xmas time? I kinda like the idea of a lighter meal at the start – a kind of warm up for the main event.
- Wasn't that nice of him to offer, she asked? And he didn't need too much prompting either, she added.
I pick her up around 6pm on Xmas eve from the train station. She looked great as usual – long blonde hair, four feet eleven, size six – wearing a new top, if I'm not mistaken. (I’m a female shopaholic partner’s worst nightmare – I notice these things) It's only when she's in the car and belted in that I realise that she wasn't too heavily laden with goodies. In fact the one carrier bag she was carrying was decidedly on the light side. I'd seen dog walkers having just scooped the poop with busier carrier bags.
Ignoring the voice of worry in my mind I drive us both to my place. How long does it take, she asks as I park in front of my house, to defrost a bag of prawns?
-They aren't fuc - I will myself into a state of calm - what does it say on the bag? I ask with as polite a voice as I can muster. It is Xmas after all.
-Cannae read it in the dark. Let's go inside, she answers. She walks in front, I follow with growing alarm. And a growing sense of pissed-offness (Again, I`m a poet, I can make up words) as I realise that most shops will now be closed for the holidays and we are all at the mercy of whatever QC is holding in that wee bag.
Inside, I point her in the direction of the kitchen. It's all yours, I tell her, while walking to the bathroom to wash my hands Pontius Pilate stylee.
- Awww, not going to help me, QC asks.
- Nut, this is your gig, gawdhelpus – I'm now moving resolutely into asshole brother mode.
I had an open plan kitchen, living room area – so I switch on the TV and have a seat. Arms and legs crossed. This is her party. Leave her to it.
QC reads the back of the prawn packet. Shit, she says, eight hours. Eight hours, she repeats in case I haven’t heard her the first time - what are we going to do?
- Naw, I say. You! What are you going to do? This is your fecking party.
- Why would I have fecking Thousand Island Dressing? I’m shouting now...It dawns on me. You don't have any dressing? Is that not what turns a prawn salad into a prawn cocktail?
- Phone Dad, maybe he'll have some, she suggests.
- He’s strictly a brown sauce man, why the feck would he have fecking thousand island dressing…I have another moment of clarification. QC's bag of goodies didn't clink on the way in – it barely even rustled.
- Where's the Cava? I ask.
The kettle pings. QC turns towards it.
- Where's the Cava, sis?
- I did have it, says QC as she fixes the collar of her top, in my trolley. In the supermarket. Then I saw this lovely wee shirt. Phone Dad. Do you think he'll have some Cava?
- Awfurfuksake sis, the auld yin wouldnae know Cava from a hole in a rock face. Whisky, lemonade, tea milk and water, that's your lot.
In the kitchen QC has split the prawns into three piles and has poured boiling water over them.
-Where did you learn that wee trick, I ask.
-Then what does she do with them?
-Cooks them – throws them in a stir fry or something. Why are you asking? She chews on the inside of her cheek and hums at the same time, wondering where the hell I'm going with this and if she should stick her head back in the fridge.
-We'll be eating them raw.
-In a salad.
-Yes – what's your problem? They've defrosted. They're now edible.
- Edible and quite possibly poisonous, ya numpty, I answer and storm into the kitchen. Well given that it was about 7 steps, my storm was probably more like a mince.
Right, I take a deep breath. I need to retrieve this situation. AndIneedtocalmdownandIneedtostopshouting. It is Christmas after all.
QC hands me a small bag.
-Awfurfu…that’s it? I am now roaring while holding a wee tub of pre-prepared salad from Morrisons.
-What's wrong with that, asks Una? I eat this all the time – and it sometimes lasts me for a couple of days.
- What are you, a size zero? There's three of us.
I open the wee bag and empty it on to a plate. I count four lettuce leaves, four cherry tomatoes and some shredded beetroot. Barely enough for one – nothing but a garnish for three.
Just then Pops walks in the door. We both stop what we’re doing and stare at him.
QC serves him a cup of tea while I rummage – more in hope than expectation - for something in my bare cupboards that we can eat.
Xmas Eve Dinner menu 2005 was as follows.
Main – baked potato. Dad got the tuna. Sis and I shared the cheese.
Dessert – Raspberry Trifle.