This morning I watched Olly's school nativity service. Entitled 'Wiggly Nativity' it was a riot of colour and costume, singing and dancing, fidgeting and nose picking. It was great, and a real tonic for someone who hasn't really felt the Christmas vibe as yet. I'm organised. The presents are all bought and paid for. The decs have been taken down from the attic in anticipation of the tree purchase at the weekend. I have a food list about a mile long. I have bought comedy antlers for the book group party. There are Christmassy bits and bobs about the house. But I just haven't been in the mood for it.
I should be ecstatic really. This time last year I was sat in a high dependency ward, watching my Dad undergoing thirty six hour bouts of high intensity chemo. My sister and I sat at her kitchen table late one night and had the conversation. The 'what if' one. We held onto hope, but honestly didn't think that he would make it, he was so ill. It beggars belief that last weekend I was sat opposite him at that very table, arguing about immigration. He is the picture of health. In fact, he looks better than ever. He's certainly as curmudgeonly as he was. He still rocks a leather jacket. He's back dancing at his weekly rock and roll club, and moaning about traffic wardens.
I'm wondering whether there is such a thing as being too organised? I'm missing that slightly crazed feeling I usually get around this time of year. If nothing else, it gives me an excuse to start drinking Baileys coffee at eleven o'clock in the morning. I enjoy the dash into town for fairy lights, aluminium foil, another box of After Eights and loo roll. And par baked rolls, that always seem like a good idea at the time. I have fond memories of wandering aimlessly around shopping centres, picking stuff up and putting it down again. Asking myself whether Marc really needs novelty socks (no-one does. Ever), and seriously considering those three for two offers on crappy toiletries that no-one ever wants, but everyone always gets. (I got three of them once....)
But it won't be from me this year, kids. I've shopped mindfully, and rather frugally. I've hit the local craft fairs and picked up some really beautiful gifts. I've made Sam and Alf follow the present rule of something they want, something they need, something to eat and something to read. Olly has a stocking full of goodies and an IKEA pop up tent. I'm making the last of the edible gifts next weekend, and hope my close friends will enjoy their homemade jam, biscuits, sweets and cake. I have bottled up the sloe gin. It's glorious dark ruby colour is a joy to behold, and will be very much savoured as I cook for the family on Christmas Day. I may even slosh some into the red cabbage.
Olly and I have a pile of Christmassy stories on his bedside table, and he gets to choose which one to read before bed. This evening it was 'Alfie's Christmas' by Shirley Hughes. It's by far my favourite, as it's the telling of a very normal Christmas for a very normal family. I like the sentiment behind the book; all those traditions and routines that each family has. There is a nod to the secular side, but also an acknowledgement that for some people Christmas is a difficult time of year. Olly asked about that bit of the book for the first time tonight. He wanted to know why some people didn't have a home. I know that they had spoken about it at school, as the charitable donation at the end of the nativity was for St Petrocs, a local homeless charity. I'm not sure he really understands what it means to be homeless, but we talked a little about it all. It does no harm to learn that he is oh so fortunate to be living the life of riley.
And now I'm sat at the dining table, with the flicker of one or more tea lights around me. The Merry Christmas banner is up, and the red lamps have been moved into the living room. My friend Jennifer has recommended 'A Very Murray Christmas' on Netflix. I might watch it with a wee glass of sloe gin. Perhaps I shall feel a little more festive after. Or perhaps I'll just feel a little worse for wear. Which is also traditional at Christmas, no?
Can I just say a very heartfelt thank you to you all for such lovely comments on last week's post. It's a beautiful thing to feel treasured by this most excellent community of ours. I treasure you all back, and raise my glass of gin to you all.