Christmas Day was surprisingly acceptable this year, in epic contrast to the nigh unbearable experience that was last year’s fuckery. This was due almost entirely to two things: one, that the occasion was at my mother’s house, and not that of one of the bloody McFauls; and two, that only A and myself were my mother’s guests. Perfect.
I lay in bed half the day, but upon my arising, the three of us sat down to open our presents. I had little in the way of wrapped rubbish; A bought my car insurance for next year and a very generous £50 Amazon voucher, and my mother had given me the curious but welcome sum of £80 in cash. Wrapped rubbish is nice – well, until you open it, usually. I would rather have my car insurance and a few quid to save my dolescum arse for a week, thanks.
That said, the wrapped rubbish was, for once, quite good, and A and Mum seemed happy with theirs too, so that was the main thing.
Onward to dinner, followed by the customary lie-down and crap daytime film. Then we played Scrabble until the wee small hours, finally succumbing to exhaustion circa 3am.
All in all, it was quite nice. It seems that ‘quiet’ is definitely the way to go regarding this generally unpleasant occasion.
Boxing Day was not quite so relaxed – or, that is to say, Boxing Evening was not. We had agreed to spend it at A’s mother’s, as A has never actually spent any Christmas or Boxing Day with her (not since before his parents divorced when he was very young, anyway), having always gone to his father and step-mother. A’s brother Damien and, later, his mother Angela, kindly asked my mother to join us all as well, and I was pleased when she accepted the invitation. I would hate her to have be alone over Christmas, as I know that she, if not I, attaches meaning to it. She wasn’t going to the McFuck’s because of the atrocious weather – and anyway, I knew she’d have far more fun at Angela’s house.
Angela has been living with her partner, Ivan, for over 30 years now, and A’s two (technically half-)siblings – Damien and their younger sister, Lorraine – are Ivan’s children. Ivan is a very strange man. I generally like him, but he is…unique, let’s say.
Angela and Ivan are not like typical pensioners. She looks about 20 years younger than she is, and they both party just like contempories of A or me, not those of themselves. This means that Ivan drinks ridiculous amounts of booze on occasions like these, and invariably this leads to his getting over-excited. Damien has his moments too, and theorises that both he and his father have ADHD. When sober, though, they’re both fairly subdued. Ivan is actually incredibly dull in such circumstances, and even Angela can’t be bothered with his desultory conversations and moaning.
Still, pissed, sober, whatever – he may be a pain in the arse and a tenacious debater at times, but meh. I can handle it, and on previous occasions my mother has appeared to find Ivan amusing. Certainly the other members of the family are good craic. Off we went to their gaff at about 3pm.
Upon our arrival, Damien was already drunk, to my surprised amusement, and straight after dinner was sent to bed to calm down. Ivan was ‘merry’, to use a euphemism of my mother’s, but in welcoming and comparatively calm form. My mother is a Scotch whisky drinker, and he went out of his way to offer her tasteful versions of her favourite drink – sneaking a couple for himself, mind you. The prognosis for the evening seemed encouraging, especially when Lorraine and her boyfriend Martin showed up. To date, A and I had been unsure as what to make of Martin, who is relatively new to the family unit. He had, on occasion, appeared off-hand, aloof or simply dull; however, on Boxing Day he wore a broad smile and talked amicably to the group, introducing himself to my mother with a courteous and even charismatic handshake. The presence of his and Lorraine’s dog, Petra, and the family’s dog, Tommy, added an additional pleasure to the house.
Dinner was uneventful and civil, and in the immediate aftermath, we all retired back to the living room – Damien excepted as, as noted, he was ordered to sleep his early drunkenness off. For a couple of hours several of us simply sat there like zombies, the combination of food and drink having tested all our physical resources to the maximum. As always in these circumstances though, second winds befell us all, and soon a convivial atmosphere of “drink and be merry” pervaded the assembled attendees.
Ivan has a penchant for becoming fixated with a specific issue at a specific time. When he very first met my mother and I back in 2003, the obsession was with the Hutton Report. I remember well that he walked into Mum’s house, said it was nice to meet her, then without prompting asked her what she thought of the inquiry in question. Not that I really watched it, because I think Ricky Gervais is a massive, massive cunt, and that his ‘work’ is deeply unfunny, but I remember seeing mortified facial expressions from his character’s colleagues on The Office when he had done something that seemed out of place or inappropriate. My mother wore such an expression at the unexpected political discussion that was forced upon her that day.
This time Ivan had decided that he was a Christian. I had previously been unaware that it was permissible for Christians to behave in the hedonistic way he is often known to do, but nevermind. Facts don’t count in this universe, fuck that shit. He deemed it appropriate to start a discussion on whether there was, indeed, a God.
It so came to pass that you had him and my mother on the side of light; Martin, A and myself defending atheism (or, to be strictly accurate, agnosticism, as we all freely admitted that we can never know for certain whether or not there is/are God(s).); and Lorraine and Angela expressing little more than ambivalence for the conversation. My mother discussed her views fairly reasonably, but as you might expect, the now-utterly-pissed Ivan was rather less coherent.
A and Martin were cogent and articulate in the debate, and I got to thinking about how much I had previously misjudged the latter. He appeared thoughtful, intelligent and calm under pressure, and the debate was actually quite entertaining for a while.
Eventually Ivan turned to Martin and said, “so what’s your opinion on all of this?”
Martin eyed him suspiciously. “I’ve already told you what my views are,” he replied. At least myself and A, and possibly Lorraine too, verified this.
Ivan refused to believe this, and began badgering Martin regarding his alleged deception – ie. Ivan believed that he was trying to lie about not having offered his position in the whole stupid debate.
Martin, quite fairly in my opinion, said something along the lines of it not being his problem if Ivan refused to listen to a word anyone else said, and the shit hit the fan.
I left the room at this stage to go and smoke (yes, I am disgustingly back on the things in an ‘-ish’ sort of fashion, and this was beginning to turn into the sort of night where cigarettes seem like a necessity), but even in the garden, at the other end of the house, I could hear the screaming – and the door was closed. I couldn’t hear the specific words spoken (yelled), but I am told it went something like this.
Ivan: You’re talking shit.
Martin: No, you’re talking shit.
I: Who do you think you’re talking to? Fuck off!
M: Don’t tell me to fuck off!
I: [Insanely] Fuck away off!!!
M: Do you want to say that again?!
I: Aye, fuck away off!!!
M: Would you like to take this outside?
I: Yes, I’ll fight you!
M: Right. Let’s go then.
For reasons no one remembers, they didn’t go outside, but eventually Martin yelled at Ivan, “I don’t have to listen to this. I’m leaving!” which was met with jubilated screeches from Ivan of, “yes! Fuck away off! Get out of my sight!”
At this point, A completely and utterly lost it. Although he would admit to being very easily irritated, he very, very rarely gets angry – but on this occasion, ‘anger’ seems like a small word to use for the wrath that Ivan induced.
A said (screamed):
You’re a bloody disgrace and you should be ashamed of yourself! That’s no way to speak to a guest in this house! Do you want to start something? I’ll fucking start something with you!
As he screamed all of this, apparently A was jumping up in fury, rounding “threateningly” on Ivan. I’m almost sorry I missed it.
“Fuck away off!” Ivan screamed in return, at which point A said that he would, with pleasure, do so. He left the room and slammed the door behind him, at which point he came to find me.
Eventually all of us, Damien and Ivan excepted, gathered in the kitchen. Martin accepted that he had probably over-reacted to Ivan’s harrassment, and apologised to us. “However,” he said, “I’m an adult and I won’t be spoken to like that, so I have to leave.” This was unfortunate, I felt, but I understood his position.
A and I were very vocal in making clear that Ivan did not in any way, shape or form represent us, and Martin was accepting of it. When he finally left, he joked that maybe we’d be able to laugh about the whole sorry thing one day. I hope he is right.
In the meantime, Ivan had gone about telling his family that he didn’t care if he never saw any of them ever again, a sentiment that A was glad to reciprocate. Damien, now arisen, was – along with his sister and mother – informed by Ivan that they didn’t pay rent, and should ergo get out of Ivan’s house.
The thing is – it isn’t Ivan’s house at all. A took pleasure in pointing this out to his insane step-father, adding once more that he didn’t care if he never saw him again.
Ivan went back to the living room and slammed the door. Damien followed him to see if he could talk some sense into him.
For a while, things were calm in the kitchen. Mum, Angela, Lorraine, A and I sat about talking, smoking (not A), drinking wine and liqueur coffees and listening to music, and despite what had happened earlier, things were reasonably enjoyable. Unfortunately I had to go into the living room at one point to get a bag I’d left there, and was stunned to find Damien pinning his father to the seat. Ivan was screaming obscenities and a thousand curses at his son.
I rushed out and told the others of the development, and Lorraine went in to video the whole ridiculous saga to show to her father when he had sobered up. He accused Damien of trying to kill him, A of the same thing, everyone of misunderstanding him, no one of telling him what their problem was, yadda yadda yadda. He kept trying to push Damien off, in between his whining of “fuck off you cunt” etc, but Damien remained determined to keep him under restraint. He never did say why exactly, but the inference was clearly that Ivan was threatening violence.
I remember Lorraine telling her father, when he claimed not to know what it was that he had done wrong, that he had “been a dick” to Martin. Ivan claimed not to know what she was talking about. Damien said, “I wasn’t here so I don’t know what happened, but I do know that you’re being a dick now!”
Again, Ivan pleaded ignorance as to why he was being thus viewed.
Relations we re-established briefly when he came into the kitchen and apologised to my mother. I even decided to take a place in his company once more, though Angela, Lorraine and A refused. However, when Ivan started criticising A’s behaviour once more, I stood up and walked out.
I have not seen him since.
In a way, some of the fun of the evening was restored because of the willingness of most of the assembled to not want the behaviour of one massive wanker to spoil things. A, indeed, said that he was all the more determined to enjoy himself to spite Ivan, and so in the end the four women and one bloke – Damien never did re-engage with us – had a bit of craic regardless of what happened. A, Mum and I left fairly early the next day, at which point no one had spoken to Ivan, who was quietly reading in another room. We left without saying ‘goodbye’.
Angela rang my mother later to report that Ivan had left the house, though she reckoned he was only going to the shops. I have no idea if that was indeed his destination, nor if he ever came back.
In the pub that evening, I asked A if he really meant that he couldn’t care less if he never saw Ivan again.
“Perhaps not 100%,” he admitted, “but I certainly feel no particular attachment to him. I wouldn’t be that bothered.”
“After thirty years?” I checked. “I know he’s a pain in the arse a lot, but this is the first time he’s been a complete tosser on that sort of level.”
“Not exactly,” A replied, reminding me that Ivan had had a large involvement in splitting up Damien and his erstwhile fiancée, Louise (long story short: Ivan knew Damien wasn’t as happy as he might have been, got blocked, and said to Louise’s face that her fiancé didn’t want to marry her. She stormed off. Damien ranted at Ivan and followed her. They tried to salvage their relationship but split a few months later). I had to concede this point, though A too conceded that Sunday night’s nonsense had probably been the most extreme manifestation of his step-father’s cuntitude.
So God knows what the real fallout from all this will be. We theorised that perhaps Ivan wouldn’t even remember anything of what happened, what with his severe levels of inebriation. But the rest of us remember, and indeed have a body of evidence for it.
You know, if he would accept his culpability and apologise, at least some of what he said and did could be forgiven. I know that Martin wasn’t faultless and probably poured more than enough fuel on an already out-of-control fire, but at least he had the common fucking decency to acknowledge that, and say sorry for it. I have been brought up to believe that it takes courage and some measure of altruism to hang your head and admit to your wrongs, and he did that. If stupid fucking Ivan would accept that he screwed up too, maybe some of it could become water under the bridge. But he won’t. He will let his nose be severed to spite his face.
I would never be a person to demonise alcohol, for I enjoy a drink or eight myself. But I think this incident, and other less serious ones in which Ivan has been strongly implicated, demonstrate how it can be a substance of which to be wary. The thing was, Ivan had had (copious amounts of) wine, beer, spirits, liqueurs and, perhaps worst of all, whisk(e)y. The latter, Angela and Lorraine believe, “sends him mad”. My mother was reminded that one of my McFaul cousins is banned from drinking the substance for the same reason. I had been trying to develop a taste for that particular beverage of late – it’s not a typically feminine drink, and not being a typical female it therefore appeals to me – but perhaps I shall rethink my plans.
Anyway, in my live reporting of this fiasco to Twitter on Sunday night, I mused at one point as to whether Christmases with my family were really that much worse than this.
I thought about this a lot over the last few days, and have reached my conclusion.
They were. They always will be. So give me this arseholery over jabba Maisie, paedo Paedo and their assorted dynasty of shite any day. Ivan may have made me furious, but he’s never made me mentally ill.