Janet Christie: Which is best at Christmas: gifts, grub or games?

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Youngest Child and I are in the waiting room at the dentist because she woke up with a jaw like Desperate Dan. I told her this, and I think she may have laughed, I know I did, but it was hard to tell. Perhaps not.

The telly’s on and some Christmas-related game is being punted on daytime TV. The volume’s turned down, but there’s a man wearing a lurid green suit covered in Holly. Willoughby.

Already I’m scunnered. Christmas. Here we go again.

“Reweweh ah geh we payed wass wiswass,” says Youngest Child.

“Remember that game we played last Christmas?” I repeat. (I’ve always been good at translating kiddie gibberish thanks to the decades of my life I’ve spent around them and learning the hard way that it pays to work it out. Like when Youngest Child asked for a tooter for Christmas and was expecting a scooter, not a kazoo, or when Middle kept us guessing the mystery animal beginning with “W” in a car journey game of I Spy that lasted soooo long defenestration seemed an attractive option. It turned out to be wabbit.

So, “Remember that game we played last Christmas?” she says. Not, “remember the amazing presents you shelled out for.” Or “remember that lovely meal”. No, what she remembers is a game that was doubtless a free gift with the crackers (which themselves were the cheapest I could find because they’re the best) because I’d never have organised buying a game with the intention of sitting around playing it post Christmas dinner.

Wherever it came from it was played during that lull between crashing pans around until you’ve assembled a meal and scuttling off to our own rooms, that happy hiatus when everyone’s still marooned at the table. A bit like the trenches truce-time footie match, hostilities suspended, we played a game.

“You mean that music quiz thing, like on the telly, with smug smart-alecs shouting out answers to stuff no-one cares about?” I say.

“‘Es. ‘Oo won.”

Oh, so I did. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. There’s still half a box of those crackers on top of the kitchen cupboards. Time to heave them down – bet it’s still inside. n