Whatever view you might take on the wider implications of what David Cameron did with the veto in Brussels (and I have to say, I keep changing my mind), one thing’s for certain – he didn’t give much thought to the effect it would have on Christmas at our house.
I’ve not yet introduced my mother-in-law to these pages. I’ve held back out of concern for any visitors of nervous or delicate disposition. I will save a full treatment for another day, but for these purposes there are one or two relevant points:
- She is very pro-Europe
- She likes nothing more than
hectoring, bullying and brow-beating anyone in hearing range into forcibly accepting her very lopsided view of the worlda nice chat about politics.
- She can go on for hours and hours and hours, and then some.
- She cannot resist any opportunity to put the boot into the
country where she lived for thirty years, where her children were born and which continues to pay her a pensionUK even though she left for foreign climes about twenty years ago.
- Her unremitting pessimism is an equal and opposite force to my pointless optimism
- She is coming for Christmas.
Like a photograph dissolving slowly into a Powerpoint slide, these factors will in all likelihood achieve a perfect clarity just after we have fed her on Christmas day. All round the country families will be settling down to watch a nice film, or pouring another drink and reminiscing on the year that’s been, or gathering round a crackling log fire to play parlour games.
It will be very different for me and The Beautiful Armenian (who despite her heritage is now English rose through and through). The mother-in-law will just be getting into her stride, holding us personally responsible not just for Mr Cameron’s actions, but also for the economic melt-down which is bound to follow, for the extreme poverty this will inflict on her (yeah, right), for the fact that you can’t get proper coffee in England, for the English divorce system failing to award her millions of pounds for slightly hurt feelings, for the poor quality of English pub food in the 1970’s, and so on. Thanks for that, Prime Minister.
We’ve already had a couple of e-mails warming us up on the subject.
Now the golden rule in these
monotonous diatribes conversations is never, ever, to get drawn in. Listen carefully enough to deploy tactical nodding and shaking of the head. Frown or smile occasionally. But say nothing. You can’t win. It’s taken more than three decades for me to work this out. Even agreement leads to trouble, or at least to her finding a second wind. She may think I’m a grinning idiot with nothing between my ears, but I can live with that if it shortens the pain.
The one thing that coud be worth trying is finding a mild and subtle way of provoking these outpourings early doors. Get them out of the way, and move on. Perhaps something like, “It’s about time that Sarkozy grew up,” or “They do all know we’ve got nuclear weapons, don’t they?”
But it’s high risk. We could just end up having to go two rounds.