A happy holiday of whatever kind to all my readers

Yo ho ho and all that sort of thing to retired and retiring people everywhere. Is Christmas any more or less yo ho ho now I’m retired? Maybe it would be more, or is it less? if Christmas had always been a special time for me, for us, but frankly, honestly, it hasn’t been, just something to be got through, preferably without anybody dying. So far so good but, as I’m writing this on Christmas day, it may be a little premature to pass judgement. Perhaps this Christmas is a little different, in that over the holiday period, we’ve had quite a few people staying with us – one sister-in-law; one niece; one niece’s friend; one additional dog; one cousin; one daughter; one son-in-law; 2 friends of daughter and son-in-law and a partridge in a pear tree and it’s only just Christmas. Oh, I forgot, and number one son, via Skype, basking in the sun in Perth and sporting a massive beard and even more massive tattoo on his ankle. Apart from the tattoo it could have been Santa Claus beaming across the airwaves. Can it get any better? The adverts on the radio for homeless people charities talk about bringing somebody in from the cold, well, as far as I am concerned, we’ve done our part, except for our son who isn’t in the cold at all.

Until daughter and son-law arrive this evening for their second Christmas dinner, it promises to be a quiet Christmas day with just the two of us, the two dogs and my cousin from America, except that he now, as of a few weeks ago, lives in the UK. He did the easy bit of selling up and moving countries, all he needed now was to negotiate a rail strike to get to Leeds. So he’s here, he’s my cousin and to be cherished in that he’s about the only cousin I have any contact with. In fact, when we were talking about the family last night, I realised there were cousins I’d either forgotten about or never knew I had. A whole branch of the family and it’s a big family being all ‘good’ Catholics. Maybe about twenty cousins in all and that’s taking into account that I’m an only child, rather letting the side down I suppose. That said I’m never more relieved to be an only child than at Christmas. Mrs Summerhouse’s tribe provide quite enough on the family front – my cousin excepted.

As you will have read in the previous blog, present buying has been a little thin on the ground this year so it follows that present-giving would be similarly sparse, except that today it will be non-existent, in that we have agreed not to give out the few presents we have for each other in front of my cousin who has no presents and so we don’t wish to embarrass him.

In fact there were times on Christmas Eve when I thought we were doing exactly that simply by having invited him. When the assembled company was in full swing, engaging in that particularly British fun game of massive piss-taking, I thought my kindness might have been replaced by this form of unique cruelty. Americans, even those of British descent, don’t always appreciate the British sense of humour in full flow. As he said afterwards, it had been a ‘different’ Christmas Eve.

The Christmas Eve meal has always been a bit different, it was Cannelloni as ordered / nay demanded by son-in-law. A little peace descends while I select a suitable bottle of wine from my ‘cellar’ to go with the two bottles son-in-law has brought but which we unfortunately (and although red), had been drunk before they got anywhere near the actual meal. I settled on a bottle of Gigondas, 2006, a good one and fortunately I have two more the same so sharing wasn’t too painful. Two friends of children have left after having drunk (one of them most of the bottle of champagne she had brought with them). So yes quieter.

The differentness continued with the family tradition, well my tradition, of watching a crappy horror / ghost film on Christmas Eve in the tradition of the Dickens and Jamesian ghost story. I told you last time what I had lined up and very pleased I was with my choice. Turns out that I had over-estimated my audience and when, yet another dismembered limb came into shot, two members of the audience expressed their concern at the appropriateness of my choice, declamatory noises were heard. My son-in-law was much more positive and said it was the most Christmassy film he’d seen so far. So that was nice. I think my cousin was unimpressed with our family tradition and so I never got to play my second choice – the animated horror film. I might be able to sneak it in tonight when they (daughter and partner) return perhaps instead of bloody White Christmas, yet again. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye yet again rendering Snow, snow, snow snow, it won’t be long … in fact it will be very long because this song is quite near the start of the film. Still traditions must be maintained.

After watching the excellently bad Death Line the children departed so they could wake up on Christmas morning in their own house. My cousin likes to go to bed early so he’s fitting right in with us. I finished the evening, slightly miffed at the largely negative reception to my film choice, by watching a ghost story on TV in bed, just the two of us but, even then, Mrs SH slept right through it. Sometimes I don’t know why I bother. I’m often accused of being anti-social, even by my cousin which I thought was a bit rich, and here I was trying to celebrate with Mrs SH and she slept through the whole thing. I finally gave up and pulled the covers over my head and went to sleep dreaming of today, which is now, just before lunchtime in fact and as I say nothing bad as yet but nor has there been any present opening.

I’ve left space in this blog in case anything else of note happens in the next few hours of the blessed Christmas day. So just quickly, I’ll add this on Boxing Day morning, last night three of us watched the animated scary film before daughter and partner arrived and then, because my reputation as a film festival organiser was in dispute, we all watched The Ghost Train – again for us, first time for them. It went down well so my standing was restored and what more could a person wish for as a Christmas present? We’re off to the Dales now if it doesn’t rain too much and then back to normal retirement life maybe?

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