Feathers, leather or a second helping of Sunday roast? Now THAT is the question…

The Erotica 2005 festival made a sexy appearance in London over the weekend and despite a shy determination to go (all in the name of a juicy column), I missed out. While the rest of you got whipped, licked and pleasantly tortured, I boarded an overcrowded train and headed towards the English countryside. I was met by a sensory overload of an altogether different kind; pre-Christmas dinner with the potential in-laws.

Instead of kitten heels, fishnets and a cheeky grin, I donned a modest all black number. Equipped with a ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my microwave, let alone my mouth’ smile, I couldn’t lose.

You may think I’m mad… chances are you’re spot on (they just haven’t committed me yet). Honestly, what could be more amusing than a weekend of watching other people get their bits out and prance about waving various elongated electronic members? Easy, a mass family gathering. It’s as simple as that.

To their credit, the family in question performed to perfection. All the essential ingredients were thrown into the mix:

    A daughter who couldn’t get into the car due to a leg restricting pencil skirt. All in the name of fashion daaaahling!

  1. An extra (lower) car to transport the aforementioned fashionista.
  2. A house full of tasty nibbles and quick-fingered sons. (hint number one: learn to love olives and you’ll never go hungry. Most people won’t touch the gorgeous little taste explosions.
  3. The gallant Uncle who fills your glass when you ask him to… and when you don’t.
  4. The wishful Aunty who desperately tries to offer her sons’ water to delay the onset of intoxication.
  5. The dad in the corner fighting sleep with yet another glass of red.
  6. A host rattling pans in an attempt to sound productive… before emerging with a picture perfect meal courtesy of Marks and Spencers.
  7. Four competitive sons, all reaching various levels of inebriation.
  8. The interloper (that’s me!) who politely accepts everything placed before her. The result? A mad dash smuggle of smoked salmon to my neighbour’s plate and more wine than this lightweight should encounter in a week, let alone an evening.
  9. Various ‘family stories, bad jokes and the inevitable family photo album.
  10. A few tears (no one remembers why), a small domestic and a kiss and make-up.
  11. An impromptu dance routine.
  12. A father/son deep and meaningful.
  13. An impatient taxi driver with nerves of steel and the driving intent of an F1 contender.
  14. Hot coffee, warm bed, aching head and a resounding vow of “never again”.

The next morning the call came… “What a fab night… simply MUST do it all again!”
Can’t wait. We’ll be back in a fortnight.

The pre Christmas celebrations came early this year because I’ll be in Australia in two week’s time, introducing my Knight in shining Gucci to my own manic family members. In this case, it’ll be held on the farm, surrounded by dozens of Aussie children, nanas and pets. Count them – 2 dogs, a possum, guinea pigs and 2,500 cows. At least we won’t run out of milk.

I don’t know what my poor lad is more scared by… the snakes, spiders and blowflies or meeting my Dad.

No matter where we are in the world, Christmas will involve the good, the bad, the ugly and the downright hilarious family gatherings. It may be just you and your goldfish, or half a township that just happen to share your last name. Whether it’s beneath falling snow in the UK, amongst beer swilling Bavarians in Germany or under the blaring Australian sun – we’ll all have our moments of Christmas lovin’.

Love it or hate it… it’s coming! Stock those cupboards, stuff that feathered beast, knit that hideous woollen jumper and prepare your cheeks for a healthy slathering of Nana slobber. Bring it on – I can’t wait!

Fight it no longer – the stores are decked with holly and enticing SALE signs. Fa-la-la-la-la your way through the end of November because like it or not, Christmas is here and it doesn’t look set to leave anytime soon.

On the upside, the Christmas Parties are approaching and bosses all over the country will be palming out hangover funds. I’ll miss mine, but perhaps that’s fate. I’ll be spending the night at the Versace Hotel on the Gold Coast (yes, the ‘I’m a Celebrity’ crowd will still be there – pity they’re all boring!). Soon after I’ll be heading towards the open arms of my delightfully imperfect, over-enthusiastic family members.

You know what… for once, that’s exactly where I want to be.

Oh, I also have a date with Darius again this week… he just doesn’t know it yet. Over the next six weeks he’ll be on stage, in Chicago – the musical. I’ll be there on Thursday to see whether his performance is worthy of your cash.

Keep your eye on the www.020.com site for details.