I am not a great one for change and I admit to liking routine and being comfortable with things as they are. Surprisingly, my children (who at their young ages perhaps should be less change-averse than I am) also seem to like things to follow their traditional pattern and Christmas and the run-up to it is probably the most important time of all.
Firstly, to set the context, I have been berated (only mildly) for failing to buy pumpkins this Halloween for the first time, thus inadvertently cancelling the annual pumpkin carving competition in which children 3 and 4 are teamed with either children 1 and 2, or failing that, the Barnsley lodger if she is in residence, to produce the best Halloween pumpkin. In years gone by, I have expected to be dashing a small child to hospital to have fingers re-attached but this has never happened and, now that the danger has lessened with age, I completely forgot about the whole pumpkin thing until too late. Bad mother! When I have been the really-on-the-ball mother, I have kept all the pumpkin seeds and threaded them on to cotton and draped them onto the Christmas tree but I think I'm turning into Kirstie Allsop and that would never do!
So on to Bonfire Night... now I am married to a would-be arsonist who loves Bonfire Night best of any night of the year. However, this year he went to Valencia to the MotoGP on a work mission (ha! I have seen the pictures and it doesn't look like any work mission I've ever been on!) and so no fireworks here. One year, we had a group of parents from school including our illustrious headmaster and the chair of governors both of whom at the time we didn't know as well as we do now. Towards the end of the evening, apparently a box of fireworks was inadvertently (I am told...) thrown on to the bonfire. I wasn't alive during the Blitz (really!) but I imagine similar scenes. I am pleased to say that no-one was hurt and my beloved remains some sort of folk hero to the children who were here that night.
And now to Christmas... four children, two in their teens and two in their twenties, demand chocolate advent calendars (sorry not the religious sort, I have tried and I have failed...) which have to be delivered to the older two who no longer live with us (though that doesn't stop them bringing their laundry home periodically!). My first Christmassy thing tends to be my Christmas lunch for my girlfriends. Girls, we work so hard at Christmas to make it a lovely day for everyone in our wider families (and wider they definitely are by the time they've consumed all the Christmas fare on the table!) so my present to my girlfriends is to have them over for lunch which we are doing next week. Unfortunately, I can't shoehorn them all into my house so mostly it works in some sort of rotation because that's the only way I can do it. I shall be cooking them a nice lunch and if my beloved hasn't had all the pot holes in our lane filled, he will be cleaning the mud off their cars.
Then there are the various dinners... we've had the tennis club dinner in the pub and very good it was too and yes, after a modest amount of red wine, I made a speech but... I did not stand on a chair this year and my beloved described it as "fairly coherent and mercifully short" - bit of a result in my book! We also have the cricket club dinner coming up which involves more wine, much better speeches and a spot of dancing. This year, children 3 and 4 are coming - child 3 because he comes every year as he plays for the adult teams, and child 4 because she wants to. She will be sitting on a table with 11 boys and I am sure they will look after her... I think!
After that, more excitement as we 'spend' our winnings from the pub quiz nights which we have accumulated over the last few months and then we have the big charity bash in a tent which I have helped to organise.
So a quiet few weeks in the run-up to Christmas but mostly it follows the same pattern year-on-year and that's how we like it. No doubt I shall feel the need to update you before the big day - after all, we have two birthdays, two carol services, a party or two and a Christmas lunch and, (I am really excited about this...) Newcastle v Toulon with my most favourite number 10 in the world playing for Toulon to look forward to before then.
PS Just in case you are wondering how the X Factor sweepstake is going, I was annihilated when Jonny and Craig got ousted, ditto child 2 who drew The Risk and Sophie, though the Barnsley lodger has made a re-entry with Amelia Lilly and my beloved, child 3 and child 4 are still in the running with Little Mix, Marcus and Miss Mischa B respectively. Will keep you posted...