Cowbit family Christmas rituals

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One thing never changed – the ritual of the family meeting en masse at Uncle Fred and Aunt Nell’s Christmas Day night, Hilda and Wilf’s on Boxing Day night, and Ivy and Mick’s on New Year’s Eve, writes Neil Holmes.

Three nights, three divisions: men in the ‘best, blazing fire, crates of Bateman’s Best Brown Ale, room’ playing ‘Nap’ with pennies that had been stashed in draw-string bags from previous years; women in the parlour sipping Babycham, port and lemon or Ruby Cream Sherry, and discussing knitting patterns, the price of pork chops and maybe even hot flushes; a massive spread of Christmas fayre on the table including the pièce de résistance, the home­made sherry trifle laced with enough Emva Cream Sherry to glaze the eyes of half of Cowbit.

As for us kids: you couldn’t get a seat, there weren’t any spare; it was too hot by the fire, too cold in the draught by the door.

But who cared? The Chieftain tank and its very own transporter had been commissioned, and were now serving in the Clarkson’s Avenue Dragoons, and the 1st Battalion of the Fenland Forward Reconnaissance Unit was stood down until December of next year.