Christmas Event

All in all it has been a good Christmas break. Granted I have been suffering from a rather ruthless sore throat but I have limited its effect by the taking of a couple drinks for medicinal purposes.

Opening the presents was fun and everyone seemed to get the type of things that made them happy. Even though I had dropped a few hints there were a few of things I wanted that didn’t appear.

Leading up to each Christmas the girls will ask what presents would I like and I answer the same every year; a bottle of port, a guitar magazine, and some chocolate brazils.

Every year without fail they reply ‘They are not real presents!’

I try to remind them that these are the things that will make me happy but it is as if I am asking for the impossible.

This year I received several guitar related items and a full box set of the Red Dwarf television series. Then, just when I was thinking that I would have to buy my own favourite things they handed me three extra presents; a bottle of port, a guitar magazine, and some chocolate brazils.

All in all a good result!

In the exciting mix of gifts we also had the customary tins of chocolates. When I was a kid the conversation leading up to Christmas was always should we buy Quality Street or Roses; the presumption being we would only have one tin for the holiday period.

As it was this year we had six different tins on offer; showing quite clearly how complicated life has become.

Back in the days of my youth we would be faced with a choice between The Morecambe & Wise Show and a James Bond movie (no real choice there).

Now we have 760 channels and still we cant find anything worth watching.

In the seventies we had to decide between only two types of lettuce (Cos and Iceberg) and a couple of kinds of tomato (Normal and Beef).

Now we have many variations of both including Lolo Bionda and On the Vine. And don’t get me started about spring onions being called salad onions.

With so much choice available to us it is a wonder that we get anything done at all in the lead up to Christmas.

I tend like things to be relatively simple; hence only asking for a few pleasures as presents.

We always tend to buy too much stuff as it is and this includes the Christmas meal; I keep reminding the family it is pretty much just a Sunday Dinner with a few extra treats.

My plan worked and we had just about everything we needed for a special family occasion.

After the openings of the gifts we consumed our food and settled down to flick through the 760 channels and compare notes on the chocolate varieties available to us.

It was the only time we argued over the holidays; maybe too much choice is not always a good thing.

Christmas Cards

Leading up to the festive season my wife and I assume our usual roles and complete our assigned tasks.

I make sure the decorative lights work and my bride ensured that all the Christmas cards are written.

Mrs M was set on buying cards that supported one of our favourite charities so we spent what felt like a short lifetime selecting the most suitable design.

For some reason my wife thought it was good sport to ask for my opinion; perhaps only to make me feel included.

It is at this point that I feel the need to add a confession; we are one of those families that send out a yearly newsletter with our cards. Sorry if you are one of those people who find such things annoying but it is what we do.

Leading up to the event I often have my own doubts about the whole practice too, especially when we have to think of interesting things to say about ourselves. I am soon convinced that our way of working is correct when we start to receive incoming mail.

It is always nice to receive but there are some people who seem to make very little effort at all. We get a card every year from someone called George and neither of us can figure out who this person is.

He doesn’t help much because he never puts either a surname or a return address. Picture the scene; we are sat in Yorkshire wondering who on earth he is and he is sat in…… wherever he lives…….. trying to come to terms with the fact that the Molineaux family ignore him every year even though he goes to the trouble of sending a card.

In light of this, enclosing a newsletter seems perfectly reasonable.

This brings me to people’s choice of cards to mark this special occasion. I have just had a look through the collection we have on our mantle piece and noticed that they do little to give us any clue what the event is about.

If you travelled down from another planet and tried to get any sense of meaning by just looking at the cards you would presume that Christmas was the most odd form of celebration.

Firstly you would think that every year at this time the fields were filled with snow when in truth it has been years since this happened except in Hollywood films.

Secondly, you would reasonably conclude that it was perhaps the birthday of some bearded fat guy wearing a red suit.

Thirdly, that it is meant to be a time of peace when ironically it tends to be the noisiest of times.
Perhaps in our own way we are trying to redress the balance by sending a newsletter to the ones we love.

Whether it is about snow or Santa or peace you will have to decide for yourself. It might have helped if someone had sent us a Good News letter……………or perhaps someone did!

Conspiracy Theory

I have been wondering recently about how we end up with so many conspiracy theories in the world. Who starts them all?

There was a time when I would happily dismiss them out of hand but I have felt the need to suddenly develop one of my own. It concerns the growing problem of my missing loose change.

Not so long ago I wouldn’t have even considered copper-coloured coins as real money. As always I would have ended the day with my usual rituals which included emptying the contents of my trouser pockets into a container next to my bed; usually dropping several one-pence pieces and annoying my wife.

This shrapnel would sit there day after day and serve as testament to the fact that, even though we have four daughters, we can never truly say that we have NO money.

Recently, however, the coinage has shown signs of reduction to the point that I often have to refill the tin each night with a new offering. Thus begins my conspiracy theory. These ideas usually follow a similar patter of strange logic that I will attempt to stick with.

Firstly, they try to get general agreement that something is wrong with a given subject. In this regard I have spoken to other dads and they all concur that loose change is an issue in their houses too. Ah ha!

Secondly, the theorists ridicule any other rational reason given for whatever it is that troubles them. To meet with this requirement I have openly mocked my wife’s suggestions that the problem lies with either inflation or that my lack of sharpness on the memory front is to blame. She actually had the nerve to suggest that I might have mislaid my money. Honestly!

Thirdly, the conspiracy mongers blame something that most people have limited knowledge of. This brings me to the main focus of my conspiracy theory. I happened through the entrance of our local supermarket last week and noticed a machine that I hadn’t seen before. It had a screen on which a large £ sign was displayed with numbers counting upward. Stood near to the hole at the front of the equipment, two teenagers were emptying coins from a plastic carrier bag. As it nosily digested the money it stopped counting at £12.33 and the youngsters walked away with a slip of paper.

Intrigued I went in for a closer look and saw that this was a machine dedicated to counting loose change and converting it into a voucher that could be spent in the store.

And so here, ladies and gentlemen, is my conspiracy theory: Inflation, Pa! Memory Loss; Not a chance! Our kids are taking our hard earned copper coins and turning them into something they can actually spend at a supermarket without the cashier being annoyed with them.

Let us proceed further; the next stage in the theorist’s method is to get others on board with the idea. I have so far managed to get three other dads to agree to be present at our inaugural meeting. True, I had to promise two of them that we would meet in a pub whilst the other one thinks he is joining a darts team. Other than that they are all fully committed to the cause.

The final stage of the process is to link your theory to all other suggested conspiracies by raising issues that can’t be fully answered and therefore I have a few questions: Was any loose change found on the grassy knoll in Dallas in 1963? Were any teenagers spotted carrying plastic bags full of coins in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947? Has any research been done on the correlation between UFO sightings and missing two pence pieces? The mystery is out there.

I mentioned all of this to my wife and she gave me one of her ‘Why did I marry him’ looks before trying to re-focus on my suggested memory loss.

Before I invest too much time into this whole area I do have one more thought; What if all the conspiracy theories are made up by the same people and thereby in themselves a conspiracy. It’s just a theory.

At school I had my self-esteem dented, along with countless others, by being less than average at a number of sports. Even though most teachers would try to offer encouragement by reminding us that it was the 'taking part' that mattered, the more influential voices were of course other kids.

The number of times during cricket practice I heard the phrase 'you are a waste of space Molineaux'.

Fortunately, I was six foot tall and 12 stone as I entered the first year of high school and therefore rugby became my saving grace. I managed to use my size to my advantage until all the other boys caught up with my growing pattern during our fourth year.

I am glad to say that since leaving education no one has ever accused me of being a waste of space; not to my face anyway.

All of this was brought back to mind when my youngest daughter made a comment about my inability to produce sentences that they can understand whilst texting on my mobile phone.

It was during this conversation about all things communicative that daughter number four said that I was 'a waste of credit'. She insisted that she wasn’t commenting on my worth as a father or indeed a human being; just a reflection about my lack of ability with phone technology.

Needless to say the comment brought back all those years of shame; scoring an own goal at football, running out the star player during a cricket match, tripping up just before the tape in the 400 meters, nearly taking someone’s eye out in a game of squash (I will expand on this further at a later date). Not an all together impressive record. If it wasn’t for the rugby I would have no trophies at all.

As things go being a waste of credit does not seem to be too bad a deal after all there are far harsher ways of judging people. She could have told me that I was a waste of chocolate because I tend to eat far too quickly to really enjoy the taste. Or perhaps a waste of movies owing to my inability to sit through a film without complaining about how loud the music is compared to the dialogue (am I the only one to notice). Maybe she could have accused me of being a waste of music because I tend to dance like a slightly disappointed gorilla.

At school being a waste of space at sport was guaranteed to convey the complete frustration one lad would have with a team member. But it was one comment in particular that provoked the keenest reaction in me. Just before a match I overheard a teacher comment on my abilities on the rugby field. I had hoped that since the previous season I had captained the side to the schools first ever trophy that I was about to over hear some praise. Unfortunately, the comment went along the lines of ‘Molineaux! He is just big, that’s all. He doesn’t even use his strength well.’

I went out onto the field determined to prove him wrong and subsequently got sent off for hitting one of the opposition for standing near me or looking stupid or some other minor offence. Proving that I did know how to use my strength but perhaps not my mind.

As I walked to the touch line I could hear one of my fellow team members reminding me that even in rugby I could occasionally be ‘a waste of space’.

On my way towards the changing rooms I attempted to take one of the pieces of citrus fruit customarily given at half time. ‘Leave it Molineaux’ said our sports teacher ‘You are a waste of orange too’. Not meaning to mention mobile phone network providers, I wonder if he was predicting that I would one day be a ‘waste of credit’.