My mum's side of the family are very middle class. We were taught etiquette, good grammar and 'How now brown cow'.
Every Christmas, the whole family- mum, dad, me, my 2 brothers and my grandparents- would go to church for the morning service. It was the same every year; same carols, same prayers, same readings, but I liked the predictability of it. It was part of a family tradition, and traditions are important at Christmas. My dad invariably wore a musical tie or socks, which he would set off in the prayers. He would then turn around and tut disapprovingly at the people behind us, who would then look confused and embarassed as the tutting spread...
Every member of my mum's church was also very middle class, and incredibly well mannered. One Christmas we were all sitting in our pew, heads down during the prayers, when the lady behind tapped my mum on the shoulder.
"Excuse me, is that your father?" she whispered, indicating my grandad.
"Yes," mum replied, "I'll introduce you at the end."
Mum went back to head down praying. The lady tapped again.
"I'm so sorry to keep disturbing you," she persisted, "Only I think he may be on fire..."
We looked up at my grandad who had smoke billowing from his suit jacket. My dad rushed him outside and patted him out; my grandad had put a lit cigarette in his pocket to save for later, my family motto being 'Waste not, want not.'
Panic over, they returned to our pew. Middle England did not bat an eyelid but continued to celebrate the birth of Our Lord in a way which was right and proper and had nothing to do with grandparents on fire.
I have since adapted our family motto slightly: I waste, I want, but I have never as yet been on fire. Gene pool, part 1, survived.
Today: Wise words from Joni Mitchell
If you have crazy, embarassing family members (and let's face it, who doesn't?!) go and give them a big hug while you still can, and tell them how much you love them.
As Joni Mitchell sang: "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."