What sort of retired person writes a blog on Christmas day?* Well, I cheated a bit writing this on Christmas Eve but it’s the thought that counts. I had to smile about the prospect of another action-packed Yuletide, a bit less action filled because this year, for the first time in many, many years, we don’t have to drive to my mother’s and make her Christmas dinner on account of her having died this year. I smiled because number one son is in Australia and that in itself makes for a more relaxing Christmas but also because his partner (if I may call her that) was in touch with our daughter asking what was a typical Christmas for us in England. She wanted to make sure Joe had as good a Christmas in OZ as he would have at home. Our daughter was able to put her mind at rest, standards had never been that high she explained.A typical Christmas for the family involved number one son badgering us to open his presents asap so he could get to the pub asap. Daughter, and now husband, would insist on watching White Christmas for the 250th time, I would disappear to another room to read any new books I might have received or, failing that, any old ones I could find, the key being to disappear to an empty room one way or another. Mrs Summerhouse will spend hours cooking the traditional lunch / dinner (she says she enjoys it and it does keep her out of the firing line and I do the washing up) which we would all congregate to eat in about 15 minutes flat, while engaging in maximum family bickering. If number one son happened to have a partner at the time, as he frequently did, then she would sit with bemused wonder as the family ‘interacted’. Believe me when I say I did not need brussel sprouts to give me indigestion. We once made the very big mistake of inviting one of his drunken mates for dinner as he had nowhere to go. That was in the days when my mother used to come to us for Christmas. Strangely they got on great, my mother and the drunken Irish friend, they spent most of the afternoon outside smoking. He didn’t need to speak, indeed couldn’t as I remember, which meant that my mother could do all the talking – perfect
On a number of occasions I have wished I was far away sharing this happy time only with Mrs Summerhouse. We even managed it once or twice. One year we decided we would leave the family and spend Christmas, just the two of us, in Durango, Colorado, as near as we could get to the land we bought many years ago. We stayed in a beautiful old hotel called The Strater. Durango is a pretty little cowboy town but to our amazement on Christmas day itself every place in town was closed. Our Christmas ‘lunch’ was doughnuts from a packet and service station coffee sitting, freezing, on a ‘park’ bench. How we laughed, but at least we did get away from the kids.
Other years we spent Christmas abroad – OZ, NZ as well as America – with family and surprisingly they were all equally disastrous. The highlight of our Christmases abroad was when my daughter was living in Sydney with the first of her three fiancées. We flew over there promised a typical Aussie Christmas of barbecue on the beach. We were very excited. It did not, however, go well. Also visiting was her fiancées mother and her then partner. For some reason I never could fathom, the fiancée chose this moment to explain to his mother that her partner was having an affair. Well, it put a bit of a dampener on the occasion, there was no BBQ on the beach or anywhere else. We ended up cooking the very expensive prawns we had bought for the much-anticipated BBQ, in the apartment while the rest of the gathering dispersed to various parts of Sydney unknown. How we laughed – again.
Despite this lack of success with an overseas Christmas, I retain a hankering for the perfect Christmas in a foreign land. I have occasionally written about our friends who were at that time living and working in Shanghai. I have to admit that I have envied their glamourous exotic life style. They did not retire, they upped the stakes and moved to China. He recently moved jobs and is now based in Bejing. He occasionally puts photos of the smog in Bejing on Facebook. Potentially damaging to his health but a mere bagatelle compared to the item on the radio this morning. It said that British people living in Bejing were in danger of terrorist attacks and should be vigilant. Blimey, maybe there is something to be said for a nice, quiet, probably boring, Christmas at home after all.
So there we have it, by the time I post this Mrs SH will have received her somewhat unusual Christmas gifts from me – a watering can (as above), a pair of secateurs and a pair of gardening gloves oh, and the latest Lee Child / Jack Reacher book, for whom she has a penchant. She will be surprised by her gifts but then if she will have a birthday just before Christmas without any form of gift list, then she must take what she’s given, smile and say, oh, what unusual gifts, thank you darling. The good news is that it’s quite unlikely anybody will read this blog, so my secrets are safe. As I write Mrs SH is preparing tonight’s meal for the 6 of us – 4 people and 2 dogs, Cannelloni, as you ask, and humming along to some Celtic CD – Lumiere – as you ask. I can honestly say that our third retirement Christmas is every bit as special as all the others.
*should have been posted yesterday but owing to technical hitch it wasn’t