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My Diary

A British Asian’s Christmas 2014

I woke up in the morning and found my nephews building a toucan from a Lego set, which was one of their Christmas presents. They eagerly showed me some of their other presents – a book about the science of cars for the older one, a book about the human body with lift-up flaps for the younger. The two boys were wearing festive apparel. The older boy was wearing a Santa Claus jumper, while the younger had a jumper with the picture of a penguin with green ear muffs and a green scarf. I had my usual breakfast: walnuts, blueberries and some probiotic yoghurt mixed with organic, ground flaxseeds.

 

Afterwards, I wandered into the lounge again and saw that they had finished building the toucan. I asked the older nephew what toucans ate and where they came from. He answered that they ate bananas and that he thought they came from America. Now, a new present was unveiled. The older nephew had been gifted a skateboard. It was a plastic one. He spent the next half an hour or so outside in the garden practicing how to make it go. It was his first fully-sized skateboard. Before he had only had small models of this piece of leisure transport. When I was showing him how to make it go, wobbling on the ground and experiencing the thrill that comes from a fear of falling, I caught a slight glimpse of how he must be feeling on the skateboard for the first time: full of excitement and fear. It had been ages since I had ridden on a skateboard myself – it brought back memories of playing on the street outside the house when I was much smaller.

 

Inside the house, I discovered yet another present for the two boys. It was a game of Trivial Pursuit for the whole family. I spent some time going over the rules and looking at the questions on the cards. It was the first Trivial Pursuit set that I had ever seen up close and I had never played the game before (this Christmas was turning out to be a day of firsts for everyone, it appeared). The questions seemed particularly difficult and I could only get a mere smattering right. We planned to play the game later, so that everyone could learn the rules. My brother commented that if the children couldn’t get the questions on the children’s cards, then at least they would be able to learn the answers through playing the game.

 

In the other room, my younger nephew was playing a game of dribbling. He had arranged some slippers in a haphazard and sinuous line and was moving around them with a tennis ball. I suggested that we have a race between him and his older brother and that he practice some time trials to improve his performance. It took him about nine or so seconds to get through the maze he had arranged for himself.

 

The game of dribbling was quickly over and then I flicked through the children’s book on the body. It was highly readable and full of facts, but I found it difficult to open the flaps and eventually gave up. I flicked through the TV channels and saw that there was nothing particularly interesting on today, so the terrestrial channels had fulfilled their usual expectation on Christmas day. I went out into the sunlit garden, casually tossing the tennis ball from the dribbling game in my hand. As I stepped into the sunlit patch in front of the washing line, I was struck by the poignant images of the clothes hung out to dry moving in the slight breeze. I briefly considered composing a poem on the image, but decided that it was a slightly stale theme and gave up the idea. Outside, my father was indulging in a bit of festive gardening. He had decided to prune the fruit tree. My mother was telling him not to: it was considered bad luck, especially on a day of celebration.

 

I wandered back inside after a few minutes and found my nephews once again busy in the construction of another figure from their Lego set. This time, it was the figure of what they called a squirrel. As they silently worked on putting together the small building blocks on the instructions of their father, who was reading the manual on how to do so, I was struck by the intricacy involved in designing this complicated Lego set. The general artist’s conception of the figure had to be rendered in three-dimensional jigsaw pieces of mathematical exactitude so that even a child would be able to build on someone else’s vision. Even with a computer, the construction of a single piece would take hours and hours of work and dedication. I wondered how the Lego company selected the designers and artists that could put together such a complicated vision and what passions drew those selected to their jobs. The younger nephew commented on the task in hand as he worked: it was the hardest thing in the universe.

 

As they worked solidly on their construction, I realised the fascination of Lego. The children were given the opportunity, like artists and writers, to breath life into something by putting together small elements. To them, they were creating a ‘him’, as they remarked, a boy squirrel who was somehow alive. They were like Dr. Frankenstein in miniature.

 

Just before lunch, I went on a walk to the local park with my brother and his two young sons. Along the way, I played one of our favourite games of made up facts with the older boy. When we got to the park, we discovered that it was closed. However, the walk in the brisk cold air was refreshing, so we weren’t overly dismayed. We came back and I had a lunch of chicken chow mein. I particularly enjoyed the bamboo shoots.

 

The children were playing on the computer games for about a half hour or so while their grandfather was still out in the garden, digging away the turf from the paving stones. Their father was fiddling around with the light switches. Then, the doorbell sounded and my other brother had appeared with his wife and two children, my other nephews. They bundled into the house and straight away set about ripping open the wrapping paper from their Christmas presents. There were superhero figures for everybody: batman, superman, the teenage mutant ninja turtles. There was also another Lego set which my brother and nephew set about building together. Meanwhile, I played Trivial Pursuit with my nephew and other brother. We played three rounds, of which I won two. The questions turned out not to be as difficult as I’d initially feared them to be. It was a riveting game, although only time will decide if this is because of the novelty value.

 

I stepped into the kitchen afterwards and cut and peeled the skin off an avocado, which I then ate. I had recently learnt that it was supposed to have various nutritional properties that were good for health. I was still getting used to the flavour, which my mother had said seemed to be to her like butter. I then ate a small, sweet red apple.

 

Afterwards, my parents doled everyone out some money as their Christmas gift and then I went out for a short walk about town with my brother in the darkness. The bracing air was clean and good. We then came back home and the children sat down with their grandfather to watch the movie ‘Thumbellina’. I sat in my room for a while, reading some poetry and the news online, then went back downstairs for supper. It was a meal of boiled carrots, broccoli and brussel sprouts with roasted potatoes, sausages wrapped in bacon and roast lamb, all served with helpings of gravy and with stuffing. There was a separate meal prepared for the children and for my brother, who was eating tandoori chicken, since he was not a big fan of roast lamb.

 

The meal over, we all retired to the living room. The children were now sitting watching the film ‘Bolt’, about a dog separated from his owner and trying to return to her. During the film, we were served with dessert: a Christmas Yule log with double cream. After the film finished, I played some games of ‘Snakes and Ladders’ with my older nephew and then the family decided to put on some songs for the children to dance to. They played music videos like ‘Gangam Style’ and a song about the fox which my other two nephews had heard in Spain, where it was very popular and which they had learned to like immensely. Then, it was time for my brother and his wife and children to go back home and the Christmas day was almost finished. I retired to my room to write about the day in my diary and then spent some time reading.

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