Christmas Charades: There were two men, two babies and me: At this time of year, people play funny games. We put on an act and go through the motions, but behind the scenes, things may not always be as they seem .

IT MUST have been about 25 years ago that I invited two men to Christmas. I was a young divorcee, insecure and vulnerable despite having a couple of delectable small children. My parents were on a cruise that year; my sister was with her in-laws. My ex had gone in search of sun and golf in South Africa with his new wife.

Determined that the children should not spend a lonely Christmas, I laid my plans early. In the autumn I asked John, a great and platonic friend, if he'd like to come down from Wales and spend Christmas with us. He agreed enthusiastically - generously, it now seems to me. Other people's kids opening stockings at 3am would not be every bachelor's idea of fun.

Early in December I embarked on a new relationship with a man - let us call him Joe - who, I soon discovered, was neurotically jealous. He was small, skinny, and highly-strung. He harboured huge, unexplained resentments against his family. He had spent his last two Christmases nursing them and a six-pack of Special Brew, alone in his bedsit. I invited him to spend the 25th with us, too, without actually mentioning John.

By Christmas week I was in a state of high tension. Was I mad to bring these two together at such a volatile time? Joe, having been apprised of John's impending arrival, was threatening to boycott the festive season. The children were asking why we hadn't got a Christmas tree. John had failed to confirm his plans. I thought - by now I almost hoped - that he probably wouldn't turn up.

In this hotbed of emotion (it isn't only families that wind each other up at Christmas) I had three choices. I could ring John and cancel the invitation (unthinkable). I could tell Joe to get lost (impossible). Or I could sit back passively and await my fate.

At about five o'clock on the afternoon of Christmas Eve there was a thunderous knocking on the front door. I opened it, to be confronted by a 7ft Christmas tree, freshly cut and transported by train and bus all the way from Wales. It smelled resinous, piney, wild: a completely different species from the stunted shrubs at the local greengrocer. As Joe was taking in this apparition, the scarcely less wild and resinous figure of John, who happened to be 6ft 6 and 15 stone, emerged from behind it. He clasped me and the children in a huge and hearty embrace. 'Happy Christmas]' he said. 'Who's this?'

I quailed. 'Joe,' I said nervously, 'I'd like you to meet John. An old friend.' I added emphatically. They looked at each other like a Jack Russell squaring up to a Great Dane. It was a tense moment. They shook hands. Just then the younger of my two children said, 'Mummy, Mummy, look] It's snowing]'

I cannot remember a better Christmas. Some genius had given us a sledge, and we all went tobogganing on Hampstead Heath at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning, making the very first tracks in its virgin snow. We played practical jokes, ate hugely, laughed non-stop. The children were spoilt rotten; never was my cooking so appreciated; and John and Joe, new men before their time, did all the washing up.

i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

    salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

    Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower