As always at this time of year, it’s my job to do a present run to my family in Manchester (30 miles away across wild and windswept moors..just adding that as an indication of the effort required 😉 )
This year I called my Mum to make arrangements. She and my step-dad both had hair appointments late morning, so we agreed that I’d try to arrive after 12.30, to allow plenty of time for queues etc. The idea was that I’d visit them, exchange presents then nip to my brothers a mile or so away to do the same there.
As it happened, a call at Asda led to a slight delay in my arrival and it was almost 1pm when I got to the house….which was empty.
I phoned Mum’s mobile…switched off as always, sigh. Called step-dad’s mobile, which rang out til the voicemail kicked in. So I sat in the car, as the rain pelted down, listening to the radio, playing with my phone, wondering what could have delayed them. By the time 2pm arrived and still no sign of them (or answers to repeated attempts to call) I scribbled a note, dashed through the pouring rain to deliver it and drove up to my brother’s house.
We’d just settled down for a coffee and crumpets when Mum phoned.
“Hello Gillian, we’re just on our way home now” she breezed.
I explained that I’d already waited an hour, and asked where (narrowly resisting adding “the hell”) they’d been all this time.
It seems they’d decided to go present delivering at my aunt and uncle’s house…stayed for a coffee and chat, as you do. Mum had completely forgotten that we’d arranged a time for me to come.
Before I left my brother’s house, his wife handed me a plastic bag, inside a plastic box, containing 2 baby tropical fish for my son’s aquarium. Big responsibility, carrying those home safely, across wild and windswept moors etc but I rose to the challenge.
An hour or so of pleasant chatting at Mum’s ensued. The tiny fish flitted around their bag, perched on the mantlepiece above the gas fire until it was time to leave. Then Mum started gathering the presents I was to bring home…but wait…where was the gift for my daughter?
A frantic search proved fruitless, but did uncover another mystery…why was my uncle’s bottle of whisky, neatly wrapped and labelled, still on the dining table when Mum had already delivered his gift that morning?
There followed a phone call to my aunt, with a request to investigate the present Mum had taken for her husband. Shaking and prodding the gift apparently gave no clues so my aunt was called upon to open the present. She discovered that my uncle had a new leather belt..and Mum suddenly remembered buying it for him..THAT morning! Still no sign of my daughter’s present then.
We unravelled the mystery. Mum had phoned me when she was out shopping, asking for ideas. I’d suggested a long cardigan for Tina..and had responded to the query about my own preferences with a hint that I’d quite like a long jumper, thanks. Ahhh, Mum shook her head slowly….she’d bought ME the long cardi, which meant, possibly that in her mental ticking off she’d dismissed Tina’s present altogether. Mum didn’t suppose that Tina would like a bottle of whisky instead? No…she’s a 25 year old woman!
Since I was leaving while the shops were still open I suggested that I could call and replace the missing present on my way home. Mum duly handed me some money, which I stuffed in my pocket. Prompted by me, she also wrote a gift tag and provided wrapping paper and bow. In spite of all this..I managed to remember the fish and replaced them in the foot-well of the car, close to the heater blowers.
Having found a suitable present for Tina I discovered that Mum had provided £40 more than the cost and called to let her know her mistake. It was ok she said…she’d given me extra “just in case” (just in case I found a cashmere cardigan in Matalan?) and to include it in the parcel as a little extra treat.
Off we set, the fishes and I, on our journey home. Sweltering heat soon pervaded the car, but the fish were happily darting around their polythene mobile home, so be it. (I retrieved them at every red traffic light, to check on their welfare. The responsibility for their safe transportation weighed heavy).
Apart from the family mix-ups and the live cargo, there was also a minor incident at one traffic light, while I was checking the fish. A man, slightly under the influence of festive spirit, weaved through the stopped cars and knocked on my window, then shook his head and mouthed something when I looked up from my fishy friends. I wound the window down a crack, having discreetly pressed the door lock with my elbow.
“Sorry love, thought you were my brother-in-law”, he muttered as he turned and continued his precarious way across 6 lanes of traffic.
The wild windswept moors were a welcome relief..and happily I can report that the fish joined their new neighbours in the aquarium none the worse for the fluctuating temperatures of their journey, so all was well that ended well.
Next year, though, I’m sending vouchers.