An Error In Law

Relax. This is not about the technical breaches of courtroom procedure that free criminals to prey upon the innocent.

It’s about how you navigate through the rocks and shoals of family parties when in the presence of in-laws. There are no innocent parties whatsoever. Not if you do your job right.

We’ve all been to family gatherings where it all goes terribly, terribly wrong. Some tribes have them every Friday night and others reserve them for once or twice a year. The former may be more wearing in the long run, but you cannot beat the spectacle of a room full of Christmas revellers fuelled with mince pies and sherry discovering that they really do not approve of each other. By the time this has dawned on them the sherry has unlocked the trigger block and the weapon is no longer safe.

I used to think it was bad to be caught in this situation thirty miles from home in someone else’s house. I now realize that it is far worse to be the host of the donnybrook than to be a guest. The host has to provide the ammunition and then clean up the battlefield afterwards. Plus they cannot storm off in a huff when bested. The only recourse they have is to order their opponent from the house and that is a sure sign of defeat.

Of course there is a culprit in all this – and it’s not really the booze. The basic problem is either the diverse nature of families or their homogeneity. Either you hate the others or you love them, and either way they are going to rattle you. As well, there will be more allegiances and betrayals than any Game Of Thrones episode ever showed – you need to be sober and sensible to avoid giving or taking offence. Thus when the liquor comes in the brains go out.

The best ploy is to be seen taking antibiotics for some unspecified infection. You can then say that your doctor has advised against alcohol. You’ll have a few minutes of inconvenient urging from the people who don’t want to be accused of drinking alone, but they’ll club up together and stop pestering you eventually. While you are sober you can remove yourself from arguments about vaccines or vaginas and find other topics. If everyone eventually has had enough rum cake or Dettol shooters to want to tell each other what they really think, you can excuse yourself on health grounds.

It’s a nice touch at this point to be seen to be drinking from a hip flask of ouzo as you go through the door.

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