What's the worst Christmas you've ever had?
I have two contenders. First let me say that I'm a big fan of the family Christmas with things done as they should according to family traditions, and it pains me greatly when I cannot be with my family at this time.
That said, you will understand why my worst Christmases took place far from my family.
The first was Christmas in Egypt during a year there as part of my university course. The year itself was, on the whole, a waste of time, but the Christmas part of it is just one totally ghastly memory. I was living with some others from my course: 3 girls plus the boyfriend of one who was a total idiot. There was another group of boys living in the flat next door. Most of us decided to go to Sharm al-Sheikh for a Christmas break, by bus. This was in 1982.
It was a budget trip, natch. Our hotel accommodation turned out to be nuclear bunkers which had running water for two hours a day; one in the morning, one in the evening. You had to be quick or you missed it if, for example you had a lie-in. Meals consisted of veal. Except breakfast which would have consisted of veal except that the cook would probably have given in his notice if he had had to prepare it three times a day.
So, there we were in the middle of the desert by the sea; no telephones, no water, and the odd stray camel and misguided tourist for company. Those poor folk had actually paid good money for their holiday of a lifetime. At least we paid peanuts and had no illusions about what we would probably be letting ourselves in for, from the previous three month's experience to guide us.
Christmas lunch was... wait for it... veal, yes! how did you guess? Christmas dinner was... veal! Woah!You're getting good at this! We had to hitch a lift to the nearest village that had an international phone and wait for the operator to put us through to our families for a 2-minute frenzied chat each.
That was about it really. Exciting huh?
The other worst Christmas I had the joy to experience was in Corsica. My ex-h was doing a replacement there. We were put up in a closed hotel, so we had a bed, but had to eat out for every meal including breakfast. On Christmas Eve, when most French folk are tucking into foie gras and a seafood platter, we made our miserable way into the centre of town in search of an open restaurant. We found one which appeared to be a front for the local branch of Free Corsica. Everyone stopped talking as we walked innocently in. Heads turned to stare at us. We felt uncomfortable, but hunger drove us on to ask for a table. We were ungraciously plonked at one sandwiched between the broad ends of Corsican freedom fighters.
The menu was limited. I asked for the tomato and avocado salad. It arrived, with furry tomatoes and crunchy avocados so unripe the knife refused to budge once forced inside. Of course, we dared not say anything. Well, you don't, do you, with moustached henchmen on every side eyeing you suspiciously as though you were a spy. I'm not sure we stayed to eat the rest. I think we felt so unwelcome that we paid up and hurried out, went back to the hotel and ate biscuits.
The next day, Christmas day, the only place we found open at lunch time was a pizza take-away. We bought one, and ate it on the main square in the cold while I phoned home and tried not to sound like my heart was pounding the misery I felt.
Of the two, I'm not sure which was worse. Probably the Egyptian experience, because it ended with a bus ride from hell. The bus had no windows. On the floor lay the debris of hundreds of meals, plus half the desert. There was no loo on the bus. Loo stops consisted of doing a pee behind the bus with all the passengers hanging out of the windows watching. I could not pee under these circumstances. Call me an old fusspot if you will, but I had to have a modicum of privacy, and cleanliness.
However, after several hours on the bus, I was so desperate I could barely contain myself. Once in Cairo, I dashed to a station worker and asked to use the loo. He could see I was in great need, and, bless him, took me to the staff loo. Well, what can I say? It had a door. That was it's only positive feature. I dared not sit down. I hardly dared walk on the floor. However, I finished my business and came out to an audience of men with their ears pinned to the door. Come to think of it, there might have been the odd crack in the door wood too, but hey, who am I to comment? It takes all sorts...
World travel is so educational, don't you think? However, my days of Christmas anywhere other than with my family or in my house in France are over. Thank goodness.