Monday, 19 December 2016

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

This Christmas I know I am greatly blessed. Not only am I healthy (a big deal for me) and I am looking forward to hitting the jackpot on my bucket list in January with a trip to the other side of the world, but, most importantly I have all my children home for Christmas. When your children are young, you can't imagine that there will ever be a time when they won't be coming home for Christmas but now we know that the years when they are all with us will be rare and therefore to be cherished. In the years to come they may be working or traveling or with their in-laws - and quite rightly so. And I never want to be the parent who makes a big fuss when they can't come home. But I do appreciate it very much when they can. And since my two married daughters have shown excellent taste in their choice of husbands they are wonderful additions to our family festivities.

It's funny that through all the Christmases at our little home, it's the ones where things have not quite gone to plan that are the ones that we remember. The one where the village postmistress joined us for Christmas dinner. She was recently widowed and would otherwise have spent Christmas alone and we couldn't have that. So she arrived looking elegant in smart dress and high heels having driven down our muddy, rutted lane, which was, incidentally, muddier and more rutted in those days - yes, hard to believe but true!  When she left, sometime later having enjoyed a festive feast and quite a few glasses of wine, darkness had fallen.  We then set about the mammoth task of clearing up the debris. After about ten minutes there was a knock at the door. The postmistress had returned, slightly dishevelled and rather muddy wearing only one shoe! She had missed the track near the cattle grid in the field beyond our own where the cows had cut up the ground to a miresome stew and got her car stuck in the mud. She had then got out and had lost one of her shoes in the mud! My beloved returned her to her car having got it out of the mud though we didn't find her missing stiletto until the next day but it was all in one piece and apparently had not been worn by any of our bovine friends! 

The other memory that is always front of mind at Christmas concerns my in-laws. Not having been first choice (or any other choice, come to that) of my beloved's now late mother for the position of daughter-in-law, the years (i.e. every other year, at the very least) when they visited us were always more stressful. I would be desperate for the house to be immaculate, the food perfect, the children spotless and minding their ps and qs etc. One year, all of the above had occurred and wonderful smells were emanating from the oven, the house tidy and the children on their best behaviour as I took the ocelot fur and sheepskin coat from the aforementioned in-laws. My beloved offered them a glass of fizz which was promptly accepted and he set about filling the ice bucket to pop the bottle in. He had, earlier in the week, filled a number of sandwich boxes etc with water and frozen them so the lumps of ice were very large - too large, in fact, to fit into the ice bucket. So he set about smashing the ice in the sink. Now for those who don't know, we are a non-dishwasher house (it's a long story, don't ask) so we wash up by hand in the sink. I was chatting politely to the in-laws when I heard a massive crash which turned out to be the bottom of the sink cracking in two and falling through the bottom of the kitchen unit. In my head, I worked silently through the entire and very extensive range of expletives in my vocabulary and smiled at the assembled family as if nothing terrible had occurred. We washed up in a bucket until the first week in January that year. 

One of my favourite parts of Christmas when the children were young was reading A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas before they went to sleep on Christmas Eve. We still read it every year except that now everyone reads a few pages. It's a reminder of the magic of Christmas and I love the skating postman and Mrs Prothero and the cats. Special moments on a hectic day when the television is turned off and we are 'just us' with no outside distractions. The other part of Christmas Day when the twins were little that was always my best moment on Christmas Day was when the children would all jump on our bed on Christmas morning with their stockings, so full of excitement that Santa had so brilliantly chosen gifts that they loved and wanted - even if they hadn't known before that they wanted them. The older two absolutely played along with this till long after they had gone to university. 

So I will be not counting my blessings on Christmas Day because there are just too many but I will remember how fortunate I am. You only have to turn on the news to be reminded how lucky and how privileged we all are. I wish you all good health, family and friends and most of all,
peace this Christmas.

And in case you would like to read the charming story by Dylan Thomas, here's the link:

Numbers 4 and 3, JS and number 2 already in festive mood! Just waiting for number 1 and her husband, the intrepid granny and the maiden aunts for the full festive team 2016 (and me and him, of course!) 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Holding my breath

You're right! I haven't written a blog for ages and yes, I have been out and about playing and watching lots of sport, living it up in London and Dublin and doing all the kinds of stuff that I love to do and am well aware that I am absolutely blessed that I am able to do it.

So... holding my breath - why? Because once a year I have to go to see the kind and very clever people at York District Hospital Cancer Unit. And when I start unconsciously counting down to the date, I feel increasing degrees of either panic or pessimism - or both. When I was first diagnosed, I was very conscious that I did not want to lose my sense of self, my 'me-ness' for want of a better word. I did not want to be the woman with cancer, the woman who had had cancer, the woman who always talked about cancer. And boy, oh boy, I try not to be that woman! Sometimes I fail. I know. Like when I say to my family if they complain of feeling poorly "Don't ever try playing 'illness top trumps' with me because I will always win!" Apparently, according to them, the statute of limitations has now run out on this joke. Hmmm.

But this year the panic/pessimism has been worse than last year and could only be satisfied by the actual trip to see the consultant at York and that has been done today. And yes, I am clear for another year! Hurray! Two years with no cancer and let me tell you, if you don't have your health, you don't have much. So I am now in full-on acceleration mode for planning more exciting things to do and places to go and am not going to spend the next four weeks wondering whether every ache, cough and any other imaginary symptom is a sign that the cancer may be back. It does that to you - the monkey on your back, always.

So back to jollier things as this is the season to be jolly, as it were! Since our super-fab visit to Apartment Antonia in Turkey with number 2 and JS, I have managed to stagger round a Tough Mudder (rather faster than last year but that is my last one ever - because a promise is a promise and my beloved really doesn't like me doing them) and had three back-to-back weekends of lovely folks coming to stay here with much wine consumed and general indulgence.

Since then, in line with my project 'Leading the Life of Riley', I have been indulging my sports-watching passions with trips to Kingston Park, the O2 for the ATP Finals, two trips to Twickenham and one to Lansdowne Road. I can't name a favourite because they were all top trips with family and friends and apart from the O2, the others were washed down with a fair amount of Guinness. It's good for me - it must be!!!

So now we begin the run-in to Christmas. Am I ready? Well, more than usual thanks to my more relaxed lifestyle and there's even a new Christmas jumper hanging in my wardrobe. And most of all, there is a warm place in my heart because all the people I love most in the world will be sharing Christmas Day with us here.

Now breathe...