It’s probably a bit too soon to be writing about Christmas even if we are retired and time, as we know, moves much faster these days. I read about why this is reckoned to be and it was something to do with the proportion of time we had left to us which, as it’s getting smaller and smaller, a day, for example, becomes a bigger proportion of our lives. Something like that, it sounded a bit depressing so I never did finish the explanation and I’m not sure it makes any sense anyway. By way of preparation for this year’s festivities I read the first Christmas blog I wrote way back in 2013. I don’t know what this year will be like, and I don’t want to tempt fate, but it surely can’t be as stressful as that one. The main source of challenge was that, at that time, my mother was still alive and we were travelling 150 miles round trip to visit her once a week, Christmas being no exception. Except it was because it meant we had to travel to deliver and serve her Christmas dinner at her house, she refusing to travel at this stage of her life.
I’m only mentioning Christmas at all because tonight (Friday) we are having our annual gathering of the Lollards (our ex-cricketers, social get-together). We used to meet maybe 3 or 4 times each year but that seems to be a thing of the past, maybe it was something to do with the last one I organised which was a disastrous meal in an Indian restaurant. The food was fine but the restaurant was packed with, as I recall, end of term students celebrating something or other. As we’re all getting on a bit, listening to conversations is a challenge in a quiet room. In this rowdy setting we were reduced to semaphore. Not good and I think that may have been the last one as far as eating out was concerned.
Fortunately, for maintaining any kind of contact at all, we meet each Christmas in the relative quiet of one of our members house’s. Even that is a little bit of a struggle, just the getting together because 4 of our members spend quite a bit of time abroad, so are not always around, two of them have a motor home, ditto, one is struggling with her back, we’re generally hopeless at going out, not helped by our dogs and the other couple live in York, which is of course miles away. Anyway, weather permitting, we shall gather together dearly beloved and tell the same old stories but that won’t matter because we’ve probably forgotten them and / or can’t hear them (even in a quiet living room). We will, I have no doubt, laugh and then somebody, probably us, will look at their watches and say, good Lord, 9.30 way past our bedtime, and depart into the cold night air. Possibly never to be seen again. You never know at our age.
The rest of Christmas promises to be a little different from previous years. My American cousin, as I always think of him, is coming to stay with us. His parents emigrated to the USA when he and his sister were children and where he has remained, with the odd visit here, ever since. Until now. He has always maintained a hankering for the old country and now he has returned ‘home’ permanently. Sold all his worldly possessions and moved to Stroud of all places. He called me up to give me an update and I found myself, much to my surprise, inviting him for Christmas. Not like me at all even though I’ve always got on very well with him. The last time I acted in a kindly spirit at Christmas I invited one of my son’s lonely but drunken mates. It was quite hard work except this was in the days when my mother came here for Christmas. They got on great, both pissed and complaining and spent much of the time out in the garden smoking. I’ve not repeated this act of kindness since – until now and my cousin. What will we do with him, who knows?
My cousin arrives the day after Mrs Summerhouse’s sister has left on her way up to Edinburgh. She asked if it was OK if she could stay with us. Mrs SH being a kindly soul said fine. Then her sister said and can her daughter stay as well? Of course. Oh and is it alright if her late partner’s niece stays as well? Erm, oh and possibly her brother? But that’s not definite, he might not come. Oh, shame I thought, another guest and we’d have a five a side football team.
Which might be where our daughter and her husband come in. But in their case they’re welcome visitors. They stay Christmas Eve and Christmas night and on Christmas Eve we have a developing tradition (this will be about the third or fourth time) of watching a Christmas ‘ghost’ film, chosen by mein host i.e. me. I think this may be my favourite bit of Christmas, let’s hope my cousin likes crappy old ghost films (they mustn’t be anything too scary because Mrs SH doesn’t like really scary movies). Oh and he’d better like dogs. When I asked him about this he said he didn’t dislike them. Not exactly an enthusiastic response but better than, I bloody hate them.
I see this Christmas Eve scary movie viewing as being in the same tradition as MR James and Charles Dickens who wrote a ghost story each year. I have to say that most Christmas traditions hold little interest for me but this one I’m quite taken with. This year I thought we’d have two – a short B movie entitled Fear of the Dark it’s a ‘cartoon’ and described on the DVD as ‘kinky, creepy, hysterical, disgusting and deeply unnerving’, so just the thing then. Should fit nicely with Mrs SH’s trifle. And as if that wasn’t enough the A movie is Death Line, a tale about zombies on the underground. Sounds familiar. Takes me back to that Christmas with number one son’s friend and my mother.
It’s taken me a while to go through my collection of DVDs (no downloading or Netflix or whatever for me, in the past we’ve had Ghost Train, The Fog, Woman in Black, Cat and the Canary) and make my choice but then being retired, and with our lives so much more simplified, I have plenty of time to do this.