Crassmass in the antipodes is at the height of summer. I live in an idyllic little coastal village that looks just like the one in the original Jaws, creepily so. Just like it, it fills beyond bursting with obnoxious tourist droids same time each year. One of the few benefits of this influx of big city detritus is the large number of scantily clad, technically illegal, she-critters flowering into womanhood and doing everything they can to show it. I am content, even relieved, at having reached the stage approaching middle age where hormones no longer rule my life, so the unspoken "look but don't touch" rule doesn't really bother me. I also now have the wisdom to realise that anything more than looking would be ruined as soon as they open their mouths anyway. At this time of year the local girls, who are quite divine in their own right, are relatively easy to tell apart from the tourists. The tourists generally aren't pregnant. But all that aside, it is very aesthetically pleasing round about now.

Into this crassmassy babel I await the arrival of my brother, his gluten intolerant wife and kids. Of course, their arrival is merely the icing on the cake. The craziness of the festive spirit commenced some months ago. Like a snowflake that triggers an avalanche, the circus began with the idea of getting my niece a backyard playhouse for crassmass.

As luck would have it, the play house shop had outdoor BBQs on special - ours having long since rusted into unusability, so of course we bought one too. To prevent a similar fate befalling the new one, the only logical solution was to build a 30 square metre sundeck extension to the back of our house. This solution was so obvious that I am gobsmacked it didn't occur to me at all. A builder was sought and a quote obtained. The fee for "labourers" got rudely crossed off the itemised list of expenditure. Totally unnecessary - that's what I'm for apparently. The deck was built and as the builder wouldn't entrust me with any of his power tools, all there was left for me to do was carry the lumber and follow him around as he fitted things, hammering nails as he went. I estimate I pounded about 3,000 3 inch nails in the space of a few days. I still go to sleep at night with the noise of hammering in my head and my shoulder may never recover. I think I may have loosened a shard of bone in there somehow. The dull ache won't away and I keep getting sharp twinges whenever I stretch my arm.

Of course the deck required support beams to anchor it into the ground, which meant digging an awful lot of dirt up. Now that the deck was complete, something had to be done with the left over piles. Perfect opportunity to finally level out out the yard which sloped quite sharply into the bush behind our place. Two guys and a bobcat soon sorted that out. But that left us with a yard that was just dirt - not ideal for kids to be rolling around in. No problemo. Nothing two tonnes of fresh turf couldn't fix. Guess who got the pleasure of laying it ?

So this fucking playhouse is now up. And I know what will happen next -

a) my niece will probably tire of it after 30 minutes and never play in it again, and

b) Ms. Gluten-free will probably not let her play in it anyway for fear of heat prostration. Working inside the thing building it, I got a very good idea of what the punishment sweat boxes in places like Changi would have been like.

As for the festivities. All eating areas have now been demarcated into gluten and non-gluten areas. Pity the poor fool that may transgress the boundaries, they'll never hear the end of it. Only last crassmass I watched Ms. Gluten-free spread some butter on some steamed vegetables on the side of some perfectly roasted veal and sauteed wild mushrooms. Missy detected a breadcrumb in the butter - that was it, she scraped the whole plate off into the bin. "Contamination ! You can't understand unless you're a coeliac." Yes, she really is that bad. I bit my tongue and refrained from mentioning the thick, satanic, wheat saturated mushroom soy I had used in the barbecued pork ribs, which she ate without incident and declared pure and good. I know to stay silent and ignore. How much is in her mind and how much is real no one will ever know - though I have witnessed her more severe gluten reactions.

This is far from the most insane episode in the miasma of home brewed psychodrama anyway. There's plenty of 4 year old screaming tantrums to savour. I committed the ultimate attrocity as well last year during one of my nieces endurance tantrums. After about 30 minutes of wailing with the adults ignoring her, I waited until I caught her eye and calmy said "R., you know no one actually believes you..."

This switched the tantrum off like a light switch. My niece sat there open mouthed and stunned, before quietly standing and walking upstairs in silence. The parents were mortified. My brother went up in search of her and found her huddled in the back of one of the wardrobes. Of course I got a lecture about it. But it stopped the tantrum. And I suspect my niece will remember it in adult life and probably laugh with me about it at some point, probably even tell me I did the right thing.

No matter, I am now in full "I know I can't do anything right mode", ready for the siege and I have only one week to endure and then it's done until next year.

When I am dictator, I will ban December.

This is my crassmas. How is yours ?

Tags: MAKE IT STOP!!!, carmudgeon, christmas, crassmass, craziness, grouch, humbug, insanity, madness

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Awesome read. Though I rarely hear about too many families more terrible than my own, I know they exist. Somewhere, there is a mother more burning with coagulated evil than my own. Ironically, she considers herself to be a very moral and intelligent person - I guess you have to tell yourself such things to be filled with so much hate and still be able to tolerate your own company.

This post also reminded me of the many issues with misunderstanding the goals and lives of atheists. We're like non-people to the media, and the common American is apparently able to understand our views, but could never part with their upbringing or bias to do so. I've had friends give me the allergies lectures too, and most of them are vegans. Amazing sensitivities, and also allergic to logic if my own experiences with them have any bearing.

I had a temporary roommate who would rant about diet and such, however she readily attacked cheeseburgers with gusto every time we stopped by a McFood joint. Funny, she never got sick from those wheat burgers, the meat, or anything else. This never stopped her from resuming her rants about diet as soon as we got home. I think I've never known a vegetarian who hasn't eaten meat. Several have claimed to, but then admitted otherwise upon examination. I have to wonder if they're just food-religious?

best wishes for a new year!
Re: lifelong vegetarians

I have known less than ten out of the hundreds of vegetarians I have met who had never eaten meat. Ironically, I never heard one of them proselytize about it. Most were raised in India, two (brother and sister) were born and raised in Seattle. All are top notch, grade-A human beings in my estimation.

I can't stand veget-aryans, though. Neither the 'you're-killing-yourself' kind nor the 'meat-is-murder' kind. Don't get me wrong - feel that way if you feel that way. But don't be a fundie about it.

Some people are looking for a leaner, higher fiber, lower carcinogen, lower cholesterol diet, and can make a case for it. They usually are fine with eating fish and the occasional bird. Plenty out there that are of the 'to each his own' variety.

A friend of mine came back from India a vegetarian. I asked him if he had a 'spiritual experience' or something and, by the way, aren't vegetables living things too? It was good natured ribbing in this case, but his answer took me by surprise.

He told me he arrived in a small village on what happened to be some feast day or other and, as he walked down the street, there were people in front of their homes, slaughtering goats and whatnot with swords. He told me that, after seeing that, he decided that he would not eat any meat he didn't kill and, currently, found it much more palatable to pull a carrot from the ground than to hatchet a mammal. Fair enough.

I also know plenty of people who eat only vegetable based foods because they take less energy to produce per calorie. Most don't even mention their reason unless asked. This particular argument is hard to refute.

Finally, food allergies can be real. Kids die from eating trace amounts of peanuts. As I pointed out earlier, my brother nearly died from the egg in the mayonnaise that was left in his sandwich after the waiter had scraped it off. Anaphylactic shock is no joke.

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