We're in a Premier Inn in Burgess Hill, having spent a glorious day with my extended family at my cousin Matt's house in a rather sleepy village called Ditchling in East Sussex. There were 27 of us, I think, at least one person representing every decade from their teens to their 70s. It's a pleasant period in my family's time-line. There aren't any ancient people farting in chairs, annoying little toddlers rushing about, or any young competitive mothers demanding that everyone admire their babies and cater for the whims of their routines. We can all chat like grown ups and have lots of fun together playing the same games without anyone having a tantrum. It struck me, as I looked around the room, that this is the last Christmas of my 30s. Funny to think I'm nearly 40. I was always the baby of the family. That role has now been taken by a lad called Ned, who is growing up fast. So fast, in fact, that his mother kept saying (jokingly I hasten to add) "remember he's young, vulnerable and incredibly needy! At least that's how my baby needs to stay!"
We had a familial quiz with everyone preparing a three-question round. Mine was about Christmas number ones. How many can you name? To aid people, I created a giant poster-sized document with little photographic clues, either to indicate the artist or the song itself. Artist most likely to have a Christmas number one? The Beatles (4), Cliff Richard (4), Spice Girls (3). Title of song most likely to get to number one at Christmas? Do They Know It's Christmas? (3) Mary's Boy Child (2). Song which most surprisingly didn't make it to number one? I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. Band who most surprisingly didn't jump on the search for a Christmas number one band wagon? ABBA. Classy, you see? They did a New Year song instead.
We had quiches for lunch and soup for supper and everyone got along famously. We toasted Nathan in absentia - he is astonishingly popular with my family - and I felt a twinge of sadness that we've not been able to be together this year. I miss him more than ever tonight.