My Dad had foibles. You may be wondering ‘what are foibles?’. Definitions by Rod’s Dictionary: Foibles Noun (pl) 1. What cats often get in New Jersey; 2. Eccentricities of behaviour.
Luckily Dad’s foibles were mainly the second kind. Mind you he smoked a couple of packs of cigarettes a day until he turned 45 and quit ‘cold – turkey’. I like cold turkey at this time of the year. But I digress. When men smoke as much as Dad once did, cats and men seem to make similar sounds in the morning – Cats = ack ack ack and out come the fur balls or in Jersey foibles; men (I didn’t know any women smokers when I was young) = ack ack ack – we don’t want to know what was delivered from that, thanks Dad. But I digress again.
Back to the number 2 type of foibles, eccentricities. Dad had foibles about Christmas and entertaining. Firstly, he absolutely detested anyone saying ‘Merry Christmas’, not because he was against Christmas, he loved Christmas; was a child of Christmas; he even went a little overboard at Christmas. No, he loved Christmas, but not what the greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ conjured up in his mind. In those days, just after Quirinius was governor of Syria I think, (silly, seasonal,biblical reference joke. See Luke chapter 2 verse 2), some of the uses of ‘merry’ included being: intoxicated; drunk; gleeful with consumed alcoholic beverages; and, not as funny as you think you are right now. No, I am not ‘merry’ at the moment, but also may not be as funny as I think I am right now. Did I digress again – it’s an aging thing.
Dad hated the idea of people wanting to get ‘merry’ (as described above) at Christmas. He wasn’t a prude and enjoyed his wine, spirits, sherry and Port and liquors and brandies (not all at once). So it wasn’t a problem with ‘the demon alcohol’ that concerned him, it was a problem with people overindulging and the resulting behaviours. To take a solemn but joyful day like Christmas and turn it into a day of debauchery (perhaps Dad was prone to a slight exaggeration at times), was anathema to Dad. So our family had to use the awkward seasonal greeting of ‘Happy Christmas and Happy New Year’ (apparently The Queen also dislikes Merry Christmas, perhaps we are related). For years I inwardly frowned when someone wished me a Merry Christmas and still find it hard to offer that as a greeting. We would never send cards that said Merry Christmas (Dad couldn’t stand Xmas either, I tend to agree with him on this one, X isn’t shorthand for Christ). I think I may have wondered off the track again. Do you often wonder “Am I stuck in a rut, or am I on the right track?”. You don’t? Well I’ll be. Where was I…
Oh yes, another foible of Dad’s or is it better to say another of Dad’s foibles? Which do you like better – does one read better to you? I often have the WP editor underline my writing as being “passive” (not here of course). I like the passive voice at times. Well I am a bit of a passivist at heart so maybe there is a connection. Aha, the WP dictionary doesn’t even know the word passivist! That proves something. I’m not sure what. Hmmm, I seem to have taken a left turn somewhere here. As I was saying, another of Dad’s foibles was about entertaining and hospitality. This foible often coincided with the one during the Christmas season.
Mum and Dad were very hospitable people. They loved to entertain. They never sent anyone away. Even when my brother showed up with the field-hockey team after a game – saying “Mum, can you give these fellows something to eat?”, there was always room at the inn (another seasonal insert) and a warm welcome. Somehow Mum always found food for everyone.
Dad, was equally generous and a very good host – he kept a well stocked bar of things he rarely drank himself – just to be able to offer guests their preference.
However, Dad always used a measuring glass when pouring out spirits. An ounce – maybe an ounce and a half was the correct amount. He had the right sizes and shaped wine glasses for most types of wine. None of them larger than 6 oz.
Guests were offered a drink (passive voice intended – take that WP). That’s it a drink.
Even when people stayed for a whole evening, rarely did Dad offer a second alcoholic beverage. There were all kinds of food treats and tea and coffee – but one ‘drink’ per customer was it! Mum had her foibles too. She believed she became ‘tipsy’ after a small glass of hock. I think it was more to get out of making and serving the coffee. Perhaps it was so she could say what was really on her mind and later blame it on the enormous 4 oz of wine she had consumed. But she really did seem a little ditzy (meaning = light-headed) after a glass of dry white.
I grew up thinking this was the proper way to entertain. Not the bit about getting tipsy on a single glass of wine, but only offering guests one drink in an evening. Imagine my surprise on coming to Canada, to find people offering me half a large tumbler of whiskey, and who kept ‘filling it up again’ as soon as the glass became close to being empty. Well the winters are long and cold so you need a hobby.
Another of Dad’s foibles was that my brother and I should wear jackets for Sunday lunch (main meal). This, apparently, was in honour of our mother. She who had bathed us as children might get queasy if she saw us eat Sunday roast beef in our shirtsleeves…Dad, I don’t think so! Mum got to wear whatever she liked, but we had to don our jackets even in the heat of summer. We lived in a small semi-detached house in the North-East of London – not some fancy country estate. Maybe we are related to the Queen after all.
However, I am forever grateful to Dad for having principles and a sense of correct decorum. It has served me well – and I like to think our lives are a little more civilized with some discipline and etiquette.
Happy New Year everyone – have a merry old time.