Playing peacemaker on Christmas certainly wasn't in my immediate plans.
But with my indolent cousins unexpectedly taking me up on a long-forgotten standing invitation followed by Calvin's sainted mama making insidious plans to head down my way, I was starting to think that my own astute mother had concocted a baffling stratagem to confound me. Could the fact that I had come out barely a month ago be somehow linked to these unrelated visitations?
Were the Ghosts of Christmas Tea Parties Past coming back to haunt?
Here we have all the evidence we need.
Something had to be afoot. How else to explain the sudden mysterious convergence of mismatched relations? Not to mention the fifty-odd creatures my mother had seen fit to invite to the party. Toss in a long-lost sibling and we'd have all the makings of a Sherlockian mystery.
As expected my brother and sister-in-law couldn't be more pleased with the series of unfortunate events. Avid spectators waiting for this game of shadows, they were positively bursting with anticipation. Perhaps they have all come together to help organize an intervention, she crowed while my brother chortled unhelpfully.
Since I was the reluctant host of the coming festivities - and already had my suit perfectly pressed, escape seemed to be an impossibility. In any event it would have been base of me to abandon the phlegmatic Calvin to the baying hounds. All I could do was brace myself for the worst.
However in the nick of time - could it be a Christmas miracle? - Calvin and I were both called in to collect a misplaced sushi order for the Christmas soirée. Quite inexplicably saved by my mother's absentmindedness.
Paul : Let's go. We have to collect the sushi.
Calvin : Go where? I am hungry and I wanna eat.
Paul : That's what you think. You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.
Calvin : No it isn't!
Paul : Well let me paint you a picture. My loud, inquisitive cousins are all arriving here en masse. Your impetuous mama might be making an unwished-for appearance. My own mother might be relatively docile at the moment but who knows what she has planned.
Calvin : Surely she doesn't have anything planned.
Paul : How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?
Calvin : Hmm... so how soon can we leave?
Paul : Immediately. Though I am wondering whether the sushi party set could be a duplicitous diversion set by my mother. A trap?
Calvin : Your mind works in mysterious ways.
Paul : Quite elementary, my dear Calvin. Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.
Expecting on return to find a raging homophobic mob armed with flaming pitchforks, I was a tad miffed to find my guests armed with meatballs on sticks from the flaming grill instead. My earlier thoughts of pelting them with sashimi before making a run for it seemed ridiculous. Rather than talk of brutal ways to strap practising sexual deviants to the pillory, my cousins were rather busy tippling vodka while re-arranging the gifts under the tree. Even my mother had her hands full sorting out her mystery guests.
And despite all my fears, Calvin's disingenuous parent begged off at the last minute citing familial obligations.
Now that's a Christmas present worth waiting for.