I have just finished de-festivising (is that a word?) our house and am sitting finally amid a degree of order and serenity which I had thought a distant memory earlier this week. Now that it's all over for another year there is always a sense of relief (that we have survived, of which more later...) and sadness and a creeping sense of dread about January and February which are my least favourite months. All in all, the festive season has definitely had its highlights (and low points but I am not going there at all). Anyway I thought I would share my highlights and remind myself of some top moments so that I can re-read this when I am wondering how to dig myself out during the snow which inevitably arrives here as soon as my beloved has driven off to the airport in our only 4x4 on his way to Las Vegas. (Meteorologists amongst you, please note that the snow will arrive probably on Saturday or Sunday and magically disappear approximately ten days later on his return so that my beloved can say helpful things like: "I can't see what all the fuss was about." "You could easily get the mini up the hill." and best of all, "What black ice?")
Without dredging up every detail of Christmas and New Year, or being overly sentimental about how absolutely fabulous it is to have all four of my children home at once and nobody arguing (surely a record year this year!), it never feels like Christmas for me until we have had my oldest friend in Yorkshire and his wife (who are also godparents to number 2) over for supper. This year, they came without their children, one of whom is so grown up that he has got married (!) and we had a lovely supper with other godparents and friends. I met my friend on my very first day working for an advertising agency in Leeds 34 years ago today actually. He spoke English which was a huge advantage as everyone else I met that day spoke either Yorkshire (thraped, throng, snapboxes, early doors, growlers etc) or some sort of mid-Atlantic (the managing director rather fancied himself as Madison Avenue meets Merrion Centre.) Anyway we have been great chums over the years and he and his wife were instrumental in introducing me to my beloved - a rather complicated story and way too long to go into here - so they must take some of the credit or otherwise for our 27 years of marriage.
Christmas Day always follows a similar pattern - very lengthy stocking-opening which we now all do together rather than the younger generation doing theirs without us and then revealing to us what they have had later in the morning at which point I must look surprised/impressed by the ingenuity Santa puts into the job. Then, after a large breakfast (ballast to get us through the next bit) we head off up the hill to our lovely Irish friends who host a drinks party for half the village. Actually this year our delightful (in every sense of the word) recently-retired pub landlord was able to attend and commented that he had wondered why trade was always slow on Christmas Day lunchtime and now he knows where all the drinkers are! Everyone comes with whichever relatives they have in tow and this year there were folks in their eighties and tiny people who were even more unsteady on their feet having only just learnt to walk. I don't drink champagne because I like it but it doesn't like me so my dear friends have a bottle of red ready just for me and after a couple of glasses I was happily performing The Old Razzle Dazzle from Chicago with my doctor's mother - perfectly, or at least it felt like it at the time.
New Year's Eve has been a home fixture for the last couple of years so with tables and chairs borrowed from the village hall and wonderful contributions (nibbles, puddings, cheese, wine) from our friends, sixteen of us sat down to a magnificent curry cooked by my beloved and child number 3. We had a musical interlude from three fine upstanding men of the community who combined singing (with varying degrees of tunefulness) with cross-dressing. I am reliably informed that there is a video so no doubt that will come to light in due course. I was laughing too much to be organised with camera or phone. One of our neighbours produced fantastic fireworks which he let off just after the New Year began and then my husband decided to set himself on fire in a celebratory manner. Actually he lent back on a candle and ignited his shirt (new) and then his back. I was jiving with the doctor and only noticed the flames when there were shouts of "clingfilm" which is apparently what is required on burns. So clingfilmed in the manner of Mark Addy in The Full Monty, my beloved continued to celebrate the New Year.
Yesterday morning, our house resembled the Somme and my dear Irish friend arrived at 9.15am to help us wash up and clear away - above and beyond, in my book and she deserves a medal. It took most of the day to restore to our home to festive order and now today we are back to normal and ready for the fray ahead.
Finally, New Year's Resolutions: to be absolutely there for a dear friend who is having a big op soon, to get children 3 and 4 through 20 GCSEs this summer and to finish TFN (one of those initials stands for novel and you can work out the rest...) Happy New Year to you!