Yet again, not much recycling happened during this last lockdown week. I used this time to concentrate on getting the Christmas decorations out. The vintage baubles brought back many memories of family Christmas stories. Do share yours and email them to us I am sure that all of us would enjoy them- paulpresents1@gmail.com

     Just a little disclaimer, my story might raise a few eyebrows, as it contains certain european traditions which might be shocking. In my county the main course for Christmas is Carp which is still alive when bought 2 weeks before Christmas.    This tradition does come with some serious problem solving. One problem is to get it home alive and another is to keep it alive until Christmas.  I do remember when the Carp sellers came to the town centre with huge barrels full of fish, quickly weighing the beasts and putting them into people’s bags/buckets etc. As not many people owned a car many struggled through snow and frost trying to retain the slippery giant in the container until home. It was a normal to see an individual frantically trying to keep upright on a frosty ground catching a thrashing escapee.

      Only last year the local Police had to post a serious announcement ‘SECURE YOUR CARP!’ Approximately 2 weeks prior Christmas there is an increase in traffic incidents where the fish jumped unto an unsuspecting driver knocking them out. If you managed the first problem well and got the Carp home alive, you then had to deal with problem number two – find a place to keep it in, not to mention to have the strength to kill it on a Christmas day once your kids named it ‘Flipper’.

     We were a large family living in a three bedroomed  flat with the one and only bathroom. Therefore, two weeks prior Christmas my mother initiated a very strict bath use schedule. We always wanted to bathe with Flipper only to be severely told off when we managed to escape and joined Flipper in the bath. My mother would quickly place Flipper into a huge bucket whilst we lined up by age to be washed one after another. Many times, the wash routine would be interrupted when Flipper made it out of the bucket.  Our poor mother would try to catch it whilst we would be aiming shower head at the fish as we didn’t want Flipper to die. Somehow after initial week of having the carp my mother decided to introduce a new routine which was called a ‘piggy’. That was usually after we were visited by our neighbour from below who started to notice water damage on their bathroom ceiling. Week before Christmas ‘piggy routine’ in place we all would flannel wash only. If lucky and our poor mother was busy, we would jump in with Flipper to teach it some tricks. By the time Christmas morning came, we all smelled like a pond.

     The morning would usually be very emotional as we would plead with our parents to keep Flipper as a pet.  My poor daddy, who never achieved his dream of producing a son, had to deal with 5 emotional girls. Not to mention that the main meal was waiting to be killed off so it can be prepared for dinner.  

     In the end my daddy would move us out of the kitchen into the lounge and kicked in a load of Slivovica (strong local alcohol) to toughen up before entering the bathroom to get Flipper. All of us teary eyed were waiting to hear the final sound of who won the battle, hoping it to be Flipper. The way it gone was that we would initially hear daddy shouting ‘Don’t look at me’, followed by couple ‘Bangs’ on a wooden board followed by sploshing as Flipper was put back into the bath. Eventually some cursing later daddy would reach for Slivovica to build up his bravery. This routine was repeated until the sentences became slightly slurred. By lunchtime, the general carp talk, whack, splosh and alcohol intake disappeared altogether. We all finally heard the sound we all wanted to hear a huge ‘THUMP’. My mother would go back to the kitchen dividing jobs to each of us. 4 older stronger kids would got hold of each limb whilst the smaller younger ones were in charge catching Flipper off the floor and placing it back into the bath.  Stone cold daddy would be laid upon the sofa in the lounge.  

     We all would then dress and all 6 of us would walk to our lake releasing Flipper with Mother making the same announcement under her breath ‘another 30 crowns gone down the drain’. By the evening my daddy would regain consciousness to 5 nicely washed children and dinner table ready. Daddy’s meal would always be laid with a strong neat coffee.  Nobody would mention that rather than Carp, we all were served fishfingers…

    J. Karst (#jkarstauthor; #littleberkshirewomble)