Married couples find "surprise" gifts almost impossible to devise. If either of us has a need or a whim we don't hang around. Time isn't on our side. The mutu-gift (opera DVDs, champagne) is one solution.
That leaves the "mini surprise" – something cheap to be opened on the day. This Christmas I bought VR a bottle of Advocaat, a Dutch liqueur that looks like, and tastes like, alcoholic custard. How strange, you say. Aren't the Rs pinot noir fans? He's finally off his rocker.
I mentioned this to younger daughter, Occasional Speeder, and she knew why I'd done it. So did VR opening the wrapping.
Edna, VR's mum, liked Advocaat. Over several evenings we drank the yellow stuff (Don't think booze, think dessert) and reminisced about her.
● In pre-credit-card days I found a suit in Folkestone (Edna's home town) but they wouldn't take a cheque. Edna said hang on, disappeared upstairs, handed me over the requisite cash.
● Suspicious of anything new, Edna had problems visiting us in Pittsburgh. Yet I told her she'd like whisky sours and she did. Not too inflexible.
● Regarding the US Edna believed I was kidnapping her daughter and grandchild (Professional Bleeder). Yet looked after PB for a fortnight during our valedictory tour of Europe.
● I didn't like my Dad much. However, introduced to Edna at our wedding, he said: "I bet you could still get into your wedding dress." Edna just managed to suppress her (favourable) reaction, knowing it was true. Briefly I approved of my Dad.
● Like most young married couples living in London we were desperately poor. But on return journeys from Folkestone in our hideous Austin Cambridge there was always comfort on the back seat: a leg of lamb, chicken, brisket.