A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

My first Christmas in England...


I arrived at Sunderland in September 1976 with a hint of a Scottish accent after a nine-month English course in Edinburgh.
I lived in a bed-sit 5 minutes away from the Polytechnic where I was studying Naval Architecture.
After the hottest summer on record, by mid-December the temperatures had dropped dramatically. But, although coming from a warm Mediterranean country like Algeria, which everybody thinks is a desert, I was used to the cold as snowy winters were commonplace in my home town in the Atlas Mountains.
On numerous occasions I often had to stay off school as the snow drifts blocked the road from our farmhouse to school. Happy days!

We broke up on 21st December and after that, apart from going to the local disco with my Greek friend and neighbour Nikos, I spent my days recovering from hangovers, reading, cooking or sleeping.
At around noon on Christmas Day, oblivious of the significance of what for me was just another day I awoke to a knock on my door.
Bugger off, I am still in bed!” I shouted thinking that Nikos was trying to get me to do something energetic that early in the day.
A girl’s voice answered:
“I am from next door. I need to have a word with you.”
I got up, slipped my jeans on, wiped the sleep from my eyes and opened the door.

There stood the newsagent’s daughter in her jam-jar-bottom glasses, thick Arran cardigan and knee-high socks. I often used the shop next door for emergency supplies such as milk or beer. I had always thought she was a bit bizarre by the way she looked down and tittered whenever I tried to make polite conversation.

“Me mam and dad are asking if you want to have Christmas dinner with us.” she said.
After what felt like ages, I thought “What the hell! That’ll save me making breakfast.” I asked what time dinner was being served.
“Just now. Come on! We're having turkey.”
Turkey? I don’t think that I had ever tasted turkey in my life.
“OK, I’ll be over in a minute!”

I put on some clean clothes and joined the three Samaritans for a sumptuous Christmas dinner. Heinz tomato soup. Roast turkey and cranberry sauce. Half a dozen soft boiled vegetables. Yorkshire puddings. Cherry Trifle. Yugoslav Riesling.

The girl’s parents were very accommodating as my English was still a bit shaky. They asked about Algeria, what I was studying and all the kind of things parents would ask a daughter’s new boyfriend. It was only when they suggested that their daughter and I should go to her bedroom that doubts began creeping in.

As soon as the door closed, she put on some punk records and began reading poems she had written. I did not understand a few of the words but I gathered that it was romantic poetry.

She then began to tell me about herself. She was 29 years old. She had studied English Literature at Leeds University but hated it. All she wanted now was to work in her parents’ shop, read and write poetry and short novels.
Then, just like that, out of the blue, she asked if I had a girlfriend.
I said I didn’t.
She immediately said: “You are handsome, you know and I like you very much.”

The record screeched to a halt.
“Fuck me!” I thought, "this is getting out of hand."
I made such a quick getaway that I forgot my favourite woollen gloves.

You’ll have gathered that I never went back for them and that I soon got used to black coffee.
Photo Courtesy of BBC

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14 Comments:

Blogger Hayden said...

What a funny story! I like to imagine the long family conference that led up to that decision to invite you over!

24/12/06 3:34 PM  
Blogger Brian the Mennonite said...

Great story, Cream. And I like the way you told it. Food, wine, and and good(?) company...at least temporarily. Sounds like dinner with the family at Christmas time.

24/12/06 4:23 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

Sounds like a movie. Funny!

24/12/06 9:21 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Hayden, I'd love to know what they were planning for me. Psycho springs to mind.

Brian, Christmas IS about family, friends and food! The 3 F's..

Yes, Mary, a scary movie!

25/12/06 12:39 AM  
Blogger Caribbean Colors said...

I'm picturing stringy hair and bad teeth to go along with the cocke bottle glasses, am I correct?

1976, I think I got a Carpenter's album that year for Christmas and probably a new pair of belbottom jeans and platform sandles.

25/12/06 4:49 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

Merry Christmas, Cream!

25/12/06 5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too funny, I can just imagine the look on your face as she recited her poetry.

-Christine

27/12/06 12:02 PM  
Blogger cave renovator said...

Great story Cream, very funny, a hint of scottish to begin but I must ask....hows the geordie?

27/12/06 4:31 PM  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

Have you ever told this to the writers of A League Of Gentlemen? I swear that's where they got their inspiration.

Hope you've had a relaxing, stress-free break.

She was right about you being handsome xxx

27/12/06 5:39 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Lee, I think she had stringy hair but the teeth were ok. I had some of those jeans!

Merry Christmas to you too, Hayden and Jake!

You see, Christine, the Riesling was not strong enough to make me appreciate her poetry. Another three bottles and I would've married her for sure.....

CR, thanks! Well, my accent only seems like Geordie for those who've watched Auf Wiedersehen, Pet once or twice. For the locals, it's a bit of Tutti Frutti!

Cherrybabes, I could've sued them for plagiarism, if only I had written it earlier!
And you are so generous, you sweet-talker! xxx

27/12/06 7:05 PM  
Blogger Chill Daddy said...

Not the poignant Christmas Eve story I was expecting. I thought it was going to turn into a heartwarming tale of romance blossoming despite outward appearances with a moving, moral message about how it's what on the inside that counts.

In a way I'm a little relieved that you didn't stoop to any overused melodramatic drivel like that, but I can't help but feel a twinge of pity for the poor little stringy-haired Coke-bottle glasses girl.

Please tell me that she went on to marry Bill Gates or something like that.

29/12/06 10:03 AM  
Anonymous guyana-gyal said...

Great Christmas story, Cream!!

Ha. I bet if you'd liked her you'd be back for the gloves. One glove at a time.

Snow in Algeria. I never woulda thunk it. I picture it as hot and, okay, yes, I admit, desert-y. I slink away in sheepish ignorance.

29/12/06 7:48 PM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

This is one of the cutest posts I have ever read! I'm sure it was scary for you but as the reader this is cute and funny!!! I love when you write about your boyhood Cream.

31/12/06 6:35 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Thanks, Val. When I look back at my "boyhood"(22 years old) I find there are many funny stories and I often mean to write about them but just keep forgetting...

31/12/06 6:40 PM  

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