The Great Pea Disaster

Two years ago I published a post which garnered a lot of likes and comments, so much so that it is still bubbling around just under my all time top ten. I’ve spent some time over the past couple of weeks doing some housekeeping on the blog – hopefully invisibly – and when I found it again I realised that many of you won’t have seen it before, so I thought it worth reworking for the more recent audience.

The story was of my becoming famous. Well, I’d been featured in public, which must count for something, I think. Andy Warhol once said that ‘in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.’ I wouldn’t dignify my time in the spotlight as being that long but hey, we can all dream, right?

Some background is needed, to help fill in the gaps. Back in 2016, a guy named Rhodri Marsden asked on Twitter for people to give him stories of family Christmases. Rhodri is an author, journalist and musician – a member of Scritti Politti, no less – and was compiling a book about what made for a traditional British Christmas. My elder daughter, Katy, shared a couple of stories with him and, following his acknowledgement, we heard no more. Until May 2017, that was, when Katy WhatsApped me to say that Rhodri had been in touch and wanted to chat about using one of her stories in his book, as it was a perfect fit. Fame at last!

I thought no more about it until the following Christmas, when the girls gave me a copy of Rhodri’s book (other gifts were available). Here it is, in all its glory:

The book is a lovely mixture of funny and sad stories from contributors such as Katy, bound together by Rhodri’s witty writing. As you can probably guess from his subtitle, he based his themes loosely around the 12 Days of Christmas song. Very loosely, actually, with chapters entitled Eleven Sherries Swigging, Ten Carols Screeching and Five Broken Limbs! which is where I come in.

Nothing broken, in my case, unlike some of the other sad cases in the chapter, but this is me:

I would like to point out that the excitement of winning a whole pound on a lottery scratchcard wasn’t entirely the cause of my sedentary gymnastics: I was ill at the time. It was Christmas, and I was always ill at Christmas, according to our family legend. But no one really wants to know that, do they? Apparently my roll from chair to floor in a semi-comatose state was quite spectacular to behold. And it is now recorded for posterity on the printed page. Am I a star, or what!

We talked about the book for a while, and it brought back many happy memories of Christmases when the girls were little, not all of which were due to my various seasonal illnesses. Katy expressed a little disappointment that Rhodri hadn’t used her other story, though to be fair, after I’d read the book, I couldn’t see where it would have fitted in. Two years on,  he has shown no signs of stretching the material he collected to a second book, and I think it is a pretty good story, so I’m going to share it again with you now.

This one probably dates to when Katy would have been around 10 and Ruth 5. My (now ex-) wife always prepared the table well for Christmas lunch, and as far as we could tell it was childproof. Yeah, right, what did we know? A plastic tablecloth was laid on the table, above which went the usual linen job, all topped off with a paper tablecloth with a Christmas theme. For the kids, naturally. Despite the fact that there were three adults present (my ex-wife, mother-in-law and me) we made the elementary error of leaving the two member Junior Destruction Squad unattended for no more than a minute or two between courses, while we were getting various puddings ready in the kitchen. Suddenly, there was a huge commotion from the dining room, and a shout that none of us was expecting: ‘FIRE!!’

As part of the table display, my wife had set out a large glass bowl, filled with water and adorned with a decorative display of tea lights, and as by now Christmas Day was getting on a bit – lunch was never early – we had also lit some candles to brighten the ambience. From what we could glean from the subsequent discussion, Ruth had been attempting to move a paper napkin to her Nan’s place opposite her own, and had somehow contrived to catch it on one of the candles. Not content with her nascent attempt at pyromania, she then managed to drop the aforementioned napkin onto the table, having missed the bowl of water and tealights. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen flames leaping a foot or so above your dining room table, but it is at once both spectacular and terrifying.

What do you do to put out a fire? You use water, of course, don’t you? Being the nearest to a water source, I grabbed it and launched it at the fire, accompanied by four hysterical female voices screeching advice. The fire was successfully doused, but what I hadn’t heard in my leap into Fireman Sam mode was the warning from my wife that the saucepan of water I was about to use wasn’t exactly as I expected it to be. My brain went something along the lines of ‘fire-water-saucepan containing water- that’ll do.’ Unfortunately my eyes didn’t take in the full picture: the saucepan did indeed contain water but, also, quite a sizeable portion of leftover peas which had been intended for use in the Boxing Day bubble and squeak. Oops!

I’ll admit to feeling very smug and satisfied at the effectiveness of my firefighter act, followed a millisecond later by a realisation that the water I’d used seemed to be very green. The ensuing panic then widened itself to checking that the table hadn’t suffered any lasting damage – it hadn’t – and to using copious amounts of kitchen towel to mop up all the water that Dad had just flung with wild abandon at the dining room table. Having done all that, we then embarked upon the Great Christmas Pea Hunt. Have you ever thrown a saucepan of peas and water at a table? The little green buggers can travel some remarkable distances, I can assure you! It took quite a while, and there was a careful balance to be struck between locating and rescuing the errant veg and not treading them into the carpet – even though it was a green carpet we didn’t want it adorned with uninvited horticultural decorations. They were the wrong shade of green anyway. Eventually we decided that we had rounded them all up, and could now enjoy our pudding, though the occasional outrider was still being spotted several days later. For some reason, my suggestion that we rinse all the peas off so that they could be used in the bubble and squeak didn’t meet with universal approval – in fact, it was the classic equivalent of the Eurovision song contest’s ‘Norvège nul points.’ Well, I thought it was helpful, even if no one else did.

Christmas wasn’t always that eventful in our house. But at least, for once, they all forgot that I was coughing and sneezing all over them. If I’m honest, though, there have been better Boxing Day bubble and squeak meals.

As regular readers will have noticed I’m quite partial to a tune or two decorating my posts, and I wanted to find something suitable for this one. As far as I know there are no songs about garden peas, apart from a few children’s songs. I thought of trying John Lennon’s classic hit Give Peas A Chance, or Big Country’s Peas In Our Time,  but on reflection, this one seems kind of appropriate. It may not be the song with this title that you would expect, though:

Anything to be different but, as the lyrics say, there was definitely something in the fire and in the water!

36 thoughts on “The Great Pea Disaster

    • Thank you! My ex-wife still lives there, but I don’t so I can’t be certain. Hopefully, as the girls are now 33 and 28 any stragglers have since been hoovered up 😉


  1. Clive – very funny to read about the way your write about the fire – and glad it had a happy ending and I think you are right – it likely did not fit into the book (even tho I did not read the book) and good idea for a very British Christmas 🎄 theme

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this story, Clive. I think I may have shared at the time the story of the fire brigade being summoned in error to our house at Christmas a couple of years ago. All to do with Mrs P. pressing the wrong button whilst setting the alarm as we left the house. I tried to get back to the house before the fire brigade but arrived to find them already there and climbing the garden wall to check the back. Profuse apologies for calling them out on a false alarm at Christmas, followed by a massive bill a couple of weks later.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Frank – you should have sent the fire brigade our way! Have you reposted that story recently? I read about it on your site not long ago, I think, or maybe in a comment you left somewhere else? As you said there, you did well to write about it without any aspersions relating to technology and the fairer sex!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Clive, this really is an excellent story. Kids get up to such mischief. Speaking of peas, a friend of my came to ask me a while ago about whether I had ever seen mucus that was green like a pea. I am the office expert in this regard as my son has had 14 sinus operations. I was a bit doubtful, nope, I hadn’t seen any quite that bright a green. It turned out her son had stuffed a pea up his nose and it was coming out piecemeal. It was really funny when we found out. She’d been so worried. Congratulations to your daughter on the anthology.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Oh my, that was a funny story. I almost burnt the house down one Christmas with an unattended candle that burnt down to the plastic candle ring and almost caught the curtains on fire. My hubby grabbed a pot of water as well but before he got to throw it I had picked up the out of control candle and threw it outside in the snow. No, I didn’t for a moment think about burning my fingers. No peas were sacrificed in this case!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Clearly, Darlene, it happens to the best of us! But at least you had a white Christmas – the closest I can ever recall is when I was 9 and it snowed on the evening of Boxing Day. We didn’t see the ground again until March.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Thanks for sharing this story, Clive.

    While some of your readers will be laughing at what happened, I can’t imagine how frightening it must have been when seeing your dining table on fire. I thought for a moment that you were going to say that the water you threw was from the saucepan containing the Christmas pudding. Just imagine if the pudding was being flamed while paper napkins were being passed around. It’s why I always insist that the Christmas pudding is flammed in the kitchen by the sink.

    Those runaway peas remind me a little of the pine needles I used to find right up until the following Christmas. After thinking you’d got rid of the lot, more would turn up. These days (because we have dogs) we now have an artificial Christmas tree. However, I still find bits from them right the way through the year. Maybe I should vacuum more often?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Hugh. No danger of it being the pudding, as we always had microwaveable ones – much less hassle, and we never flamed ours. It was scary, but fortunately not too long before the peas doused the fire. You’re so right about the pine needles. That, and having to dispose of the tree after Christmas, persuaded us of the merits of artificial trees too. And I wouldn’t think of commenting on your housekeeping 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Clive, this is a brilliant Christmas disaster story and I’m chuckling away! Blimey, it’s bad enough when one pea bounces off the plate and suddenly ten appear in all corners of the room! I can’t imagine a pan-full of them! A new seasonal game! Glad the fire was sorted. It can be a dangerous time of year. One New Year’s Eve we had fire up one curtain along the top and down the other side. The sofa was just about to be set on fire when we stopped it with copious amounts of water! Not the best start to a new year, the soot was the worst!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Annika, glad you enjoyed it. Sorry to hear you’ve had a seasonal fire too, but it’s good to know you managed not to burn too much down! At least you had plenty of soot for first footing 😉

      Liked by 2 people

    • I guess we all have a fire at Christmas story. It can be a dangerous time of year. Glad nothing serious happened. A friend had tea lights sitting in the table and a guest wearing loose-fitting sleeves reached over for the butter and her sleeve caught on fire! Yikes!!

      Liked by 3 people

      • I think you’re right. We tend to use candles and tea lights a lot at Christmas without really thinking of the hazards – we just aren’t used to anything with flames as a source of heat or light any more.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You two got me remembering a Christmas in which I actually put live candles on my small tree. Red clip on candle holders, 20 or so, held small menorah type candles. All lit. I had a pail of water nearby though I can’t imagine me throwing it anywhere. (Un)Fortunately I have no further story to tell about that evening. The candles were lit, they looked nice, I didn’t think to take a picture, I blew each one out. The end. Your stories are much better.

        Liked by 3 people

Please leave a reply, I'd like to know what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.