The traditional Christmas turkey lunch holds traumatic memories for one of my oldest friends.
We had both been to senior school in Malta, having had parents in the forces. My friend BooBoo had returned to live in Malta after college and marriage.
Determined to produce and serve up her first traditional Christmas lunch, she was keen to impress.
At the time the newly marrieds rented the top floor of a house in Sliema.
The landlady, Mama, lived below. She kept chickens in her courtyard. These were the key ingredient of many family meals.
Mama’s husband ran a corner shop that sold anything you required, so it was no surprise when BooBoo was told she could order a turkey directly from him for Christmas Day. Collection date, Christmas Eve
Turkey stuffing was prepared and all the necessary ingredients for a magnificent spread assembled.
The time came to pick up the most important part of the feast. BooBoo arrived at the shop, claimed her order and patiently waited with other customers as the owner disappeared inside the storeroom.
Several minutes later the shopkeeper appeared with a wonderful smile. And a long piece of string in his hand.
The other end of which was neatly knotted round the neck of a feisty, spirited and very much alive turkey.
This was not the trussed, plucked, eviscerated and oven ready bird BooBoo had planned her festive feast around.
Gobbling away, snood and wattle puffed up with pride, the turkey fearlessly explored the butcher’s shop, totally unfazed by the possibility of a precarious future as a family pet.
As far as this turkey was concerned, life had just taken a positive step forwards.
Not wishing to appear that her own feathers had been ruffled by the liveliness of her purchase, BooBoo smiled sweetly at the shopkeeper, paid for the bird, picked up the string and set off down the street at, in her words, a turkey trot.
Fellow shoppers stepped out of her way in amazement.
She tried her best to look nonchalant. As if it was a perfectly normal occurrence to take a pet turkey for quiet stroll, on Christmas Eve, whilst quietly humming Christmas carols.
Once home, my friend convinced the trusting creature to climb the stairs to her flat and provided Mr Turkey with a temporary pen in the shower.
Thinking he might be hungry after his trip she gave him a bowlful of the apple, cranberry and raisin mixture she had intended to stuff him with.
She then fortified herself with a stiff drink and collapsed in a chair to await the master of the household.
Once over the shock of the flat’s feathered guest her husband took charge.
The turkey was led back down the stairs to Mama who deftly sent him on his way. The turkey, not her husband.
Christmas Eve passed by in a cloud of feathers and bowlful of entrails. As pagan a celebration as it comes.
The following Christmas BooBoo was head of the queue at the supermarket for a frozen bird. Identity and family history unknown.