A beautiful old barn conversion nestled invitingly in rural Brittany, France.
Unlimited supplies of alcohol.
Vats of food (to include the annual carb allowance for the whole of the western world in French bread).
14 blood-related family members ranging from the ages of 2 to 91.
3 potential life partners desperately trying to fit in (curiously still innocently oblivious to the brown-nosing required to be fully accepted into the family hierarchy).
Enough bathrooms to service 10.
Egos, eccentricities, grumpiness, familial scarring.
ADHD (Some diagnosed, some not).
Two teenagers (with accompanying attitude and disdain for anyone older than eighteen).
A television that seems to only play sport and ‘Bride of Chucky’.
A kitchen that seems to only allow entrance to women over 40.
A glorious open fire, an assortment of complicated remote controls, a wine/beer cellar and a couple of local French brasseries that only the male, Schwartzneggeresque members of the family are allowed to visit.
Internet connection that is limited to functioning only when standing on the roof.
Combine all ingredients gently.
Apply a liberal dose of alcohol (including aperitifs, digestifs, French beer, Champagne and red wine) along with the entire contents of the local boulangerie, fromagerie, patisserie, chocolaterie, and boucherie and continue to stir. Cover mixture and leave to stand for several hours until it finishes rising.
Place in the barn for 5 days.
The mixture of volatile catalysts of different strains will always provoke a strong chemical reaction, especially when those agents have not been in close proximity for a while. Once you add foreign agents to the mixture too, the end result is not always predictable.
The flu virus was added to test the true cohesive strength of the agents, and although at several points during the experiment it appeared as though its power to damage the infrastructure might succeed, the familial bonding did in fact remain in tact and several of the agents managed to improve their French medical vocabulary at the local pharmacie as a result.
Most agents behaved in a stereotypical manner when isolated in the zone. Males tended to congregate close to the tv room and alcohol supplies, occasionally venturing to the refuse area or local brasserie (more commonly referred to as a shed or cave) for bonding purposes; females congregated close to food and the dish washer, anywhere that it was possible to ‘chit-chat’, occasionally resorting to the local shopping centres for bonding and regrouping sessions.
Some reactions noted were of a less innovative nature. Uncles falling asleep mid-course and mid-conversation at the dinner table; teens retaining a permanent scowl, particularly when addressed by distant relatives in the over 40 age bracket or when presents did not materialise due to over-consumption of alcohol (and hence loss of sense of time) by irresponsible adults; old men becoming grumpier; the ADHD cohort proving that physically climbing walls is indeed a possibility on more than six Cokes, (handed out by well-meaning relatives).
Overall, the results prove that the family Christmas is not dead and certainly never predictable.