The traditional Christmas turkey lunch holds traumatic memories for one of my oldest friends. We had both been to senior school in Malta and BooBoo returned to live in Malta after college and marriage. She was 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 and these were the key ingredient of many family meals.

Mama’s husband ran a shop that sold everything, so it was no surprise when BooBoo was told she could order a turkey from him for Christmas Day. Collection date was Christmas Eve, 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 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 for her festive feast. Gobbling away, snood and wattle puffed up with pride, the turkey fearlessly explored the butcher’s shop, 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, 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 and she tried her best to look nonchalant, as if it was a perfectly normal occurrence to take a pet turkey for stroll.

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 she gave him a bowlful of the apple, cranberry and raisin mix she had intended to stuff him with, then fortified herself with a drink, to await the master of the house.

Once over the shock of the feathered guest, her husband took charge and led the turkey back down stairs to Mama, who sent him on his way – the turkey, not her husband. Christmas Eve passed in a cloud of feathers and entrails. The following Christmas, BooBoo was head of the queue for a frozen bird. Identity and family history unknown.