“And so this is Christmas…”

Tonight was our annual Family Night Out.

The Parents, The Sister, The Boyfriend and myself went for dinner at a new place in town called Hussh. I’m pretty sure they’ve made a mistake with their phonetics and it should probably be spelt “Hushh”, but not to worry. It was a lovely meal. I had one of those pizzas that are so hot they make the skin underneath your eyes sweat. Fabulous.

We went on to the Blackstone afterwards. Sitting at the bar, I was slightly startled when a woman with very loud Belfast accent grabbed my handbag, threw it at me, flung herself across the bar and yelled “*£$%#  @***$£!£*!  *$%****!!”, or words to that effect. The gist of it was that her sister (whom she referred to as **%&$*  &**!!*  @~#!*) had taken her credit card to pay for a round of drinks, and it was my fault. And also the barman’s.

Bemused, I looked around nervously for an escape route. “‘$!&*@~#!” howled Angry Girl. I stayed put. “I am totally calm!” she announced to nobody in particular. Mum and The Sister were giggling into their drinks beside me, and made no effort to engage me in any form of fake conversation. “Excuse me!” added Angry Girl, her face suddenly appearing half an inch from my nose, “Did you – did anyone – my @*#&! sister!! – did anyone steal your money?” “Err, no” I replied politely. This appeared to be the wrong answer, because she glared at me and pounded the bar. “I’m so totally calm!” she yelled violently.

I twisted desperately in my seat. “Hello!” I said suddenly to a surprised-looking guy standing nearby. “Hi,” he replied uncertainly. “My @*&#! sister!” screamed Angry Girl. “What, now? Yes, of course!” I babbled insanely, leaping off the bar stool and diving towards the now-very-confused-looking man. “I’m totally calm,” mentioned Angry Girl in a ferocious roar. “Please just walk, please,” I hissed in Confused Guy’s ear, as Angry Girl began screaming her drinks order at the barman. Mum and Sister were in convulsions in their safe little huddle. Confused Guy scurried off in the opposite direction, and I followed him determinedly as if I’d been waiting for him all night. Crash! Fizz! @~#!$&!@! came the distant sounds of Angry Girl spilling drinks behind us.

“Thanks,” I said to Confused Guy, rummaging in my bag for my car keys. “Enjoy the rest of your night. Merry Christmas.”

I left him standing looking totally bewildered, and marched out of the pub. As I walked to where I’d parked the car, I phoned Mum. “Thanks for dinner, Mum!” I said cheerfully. “I’m away. Have to get up early for the radio show tomorrow, y’know.” Mum was laughing a lot. I could hear muffled squeals of @!$*%!!! in the background.

And that was the Christmas Night Out. Season of goodwill. Joy, peace and all that. It’s beautiful.

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