All the literature suggests that expats should take time to identify what Christmas means to them, so I have spent the last few days reviewing my own memories of the holiday season. The common and repeating theme seems to be chaos, so here’s part one of experiences that I have no wish to ever repeat..
The year of the Pantomime.
Back in my teenage years, I helped to run a Brownie unit where it was customary every year to put on a pantomine to entertain the parents. Inevitably, the job fell to whatever poor sucker happened to around, and that year it was me. So I wrote what I felt was a particularly inspired version of The Golden Goose, and production began. I was hampered, however, by the complete refusal of any of the brownies to play the part of the Goose, mainly because it had so little time on stage, and no lines. The role involved sitting on stage during the second scene and laying an egg, after which the curtains closed and the Goose was never seen again. Faced with the possibility of the entire production grinding to a halt, I ended up having to play the part myself.
For some unknown reason, the costume department (some poor misguided parent who had been pressed into staying up until the wee hours hunched over a sewing machine) decided that geese were yellow, and so when the night of the performance rolled around, instead of the glamorous white feathers that I had envisaged, I more closely resembled an oven ready Big Bird, complete with acid yellow tights and a large beak. By this point, it was too late to do anything about it, so I consoled myself with the thought that I would only be on stage a mere matter of moments. As ever, these things never go exactly to plan, especially when there are 20 overexcited 7 and 8 year olds involved.
The curtains opened to find me sitting alone on stage, waiting for the woodcutter to appear. Instead, the packed church hall were treated to an extended silence, followed by frantic scuffling sounds from backstage and the ever louder cries of a pack of stage-struck brownies in search of a golden egg. My attempts to hiss that I indeed had the egg, and was at that moment sitting on it were futile, and the performance ground to a halt as I attempted to get to my feet without snagging my tights or showing my underwear in a costume made for a 9 year old. As I waddled off stage in a pair of yellow diving fins to berate the now completely out of control brownies, the sound of 50 parents snorting, choking and generally attempting to stave off hysteria and incontinence followed my less than dignified steps.
The teenage years are tricky enough without the added bonuses of severe acne, electric blue glasses, fuzzy hair and public humiliation and I would really have expected the parents to set a better example. Also, I may have lacked the foresight to see that it is difficult to command respect when dressed as a giant bird, and that 30 preteens should not been left unsupervised. The laughter did eventually subside, and the play recommenced without further incident or loss of egg. Sadly one of the fathers was a reporter for the local paper, and was kind enough to share my selfless act in print, complete with photo…