As you read on you will come to realise the true meaning of the question in the title. Just let me say that the blog is not, contrary to first impressions, about retirement and Christmas having no point. That’s just me and trying to write an eye-catching title. True, I’m still struggling a bit with the ‘true’ meaning of retirement. Sometimes I think, I’ve got it, I know what I’m supposed to be doing with my retirement life but then, and probably more often, the point of it all slips away from me and I’m left, once more dear reader, looking for that missing link.
As to the point of Christmas, well, I admit that probably gets less clear as the years go by. On Christmas Eve I found myself looking at my diaries for this time of year in 2014 and 2015 (the only two diaries other than this year that I have by the bedside, indeed in this house at all, but I digress). I started looking at these diaries to remind myself what we usually did at Christmas time. Strangely, I find it easier to consult my diaries than to look back at past blogs, the trouble with the internet is, without key words to search, things get buried.
In fact going any further back in time for clues about our Christmas routines would be pointless because I discovered, and yes, I had forgotten, that Christmas, 2014 was a very different beast altogether with certain exceptions. First, my mother was still alive and although not with us as in previous years, we did travel down the M1 on Christmas Eve to cook her Christmas lunch. And second, our dear boy was with us, having not departed these shores for Australia and when he’s there he’s very much ‘there’. Impossible to ignore. You could read an earlier Christmas blog if you wanted to experience the pure joy of a typical Christmas with all the family in that era.
For me the point of Christmas in recent years has therefore, always been crystal clear, to get through it relatively unscarred. The last two years have been much easier although one does not get off scot-free but there are one or two nice Christmas traditions developing in this new environment. I noticed that on Christmas Eve of the last few years we have had cannelloni for dinner (at the request / insistence of son-in-law, to avoid duplication with tomorrow’s traditional Christmas lunch at his parents). This is no loss in my opinion, in fact no turkey will appear on our table until today – the day after Boxing Day. The other part of the Christmas Eve, developing tradition, is the watching of some kind of scary movie. In order not to scare the ladies, the films we have watched, chosen by yours truly, mein host, have been fairly light stuff – The Cat and the Canary, Ghost Train, The Fog, but this year I cranked it up a little and we watched The Woman in Black. I have to admit it’s quite a lot more scary than I remembered it. Much screaming and that from the boys.
Christmas day followed a mostly familiar pattern – me lighting a fire in the study and starting to read my Christmas books and hoping that nobody notices I’ve gone. This year was slightly different first, in that we both have to walk the doggies early morning (this has been the case for the last three Christmases) and second, that I noticed, as we walked around, that I could not see properly. My vision was impeded by little black clouds floating around apparently on the retina of my eye ball. Now I have had this happen before and, in the past, it usually meant I was about to get a migraine (a not surprising gift on Christmas day). I don’t get many migraines, very few in fact, but when the black clouds hover it’s usually best to follow the traditional path – darkened room and a couple of paracetamol but with books to be read although only squinting through one eye, I didn’t want to give in to the little black clouds.
So I didn’t, but I didn’t escape entirely in that I spent the rest of the day feeling a bit queer as they used to say. For one thing we didn’t have any kind of exotic breakfast, in the olden days we used to have Buck’s Fizz and a large, ‘full monty’ breakfast, unbelievable as it now seems, we used to have friends round for breakfast. Today I asked for two slices of hot-buttered toast and a cup of tea, probably in a slightly pathetic voice. Of course no amount of feeling a bit queasy can put off present opening time even though it is just the four of us (two adults, two dogs). I got books as I’ve already mentioned and Mrs Summerhouse (as described in previous blog) got an iPad and the dogs got a sort of fox, soft toy, thing and a ball that lights up. I don’t understand the technology of the iPad or the ball that lights up. Son-in-law helped with the former having one himself and, so threatened my masculinity, that I did not ask him about how the light-up ball worked.
So, only slightly scarred, we arrive at the evening meal – steak au poivre and a couple of nice bottles of red wine and Christmas pudding with a dessert wine has become the tradition and then we finished off the whole business by watching Rowan Atkinson as Maigret. With 76 novels and 28 short stories between 1931 and 1972 there has been plenty to keep me reading and I’ve developed a real affection for the Parisian sleuth. And even the two previous Maigret television versions – Rupert Davies and, more recently, Michael Gambon. Both perfect in the part, but Rowan, no, I’m afraid not. The children being unfamiliar with Maigret’s previous incarnations had no problem with Rowan as ‘a big bear of a man in an overcoat’. It’s true what they say, Christmas is a very challenging time of year and, after the partial migraine, the threat to my manliness vis a vis the iPad and Rowan Atkinson as Maigret, I headed for bed at 11.30. Phew, retirement itself is difficult enough but throw in Christmas and it’s about as much as a chap can bear.
Finally, back to the point of ‘what’s the point?’ My daughter bought me the above (in photo) cups as a Christmas present. Apparently, so I’m told, instead of saying something like, they’re lovely, thank you so much for thinking of me etc., I said – what’s the point (of them)?. Other than being a further money-spinner for the everywhere Nespresso approach to coffee, I couldn’t see what they were for. My daughter didn’t help my quest by replying – they’re green like your old Land Rover (not a happy memory as this vehicle was stolen). Had she said something like – they keep your coffee warmer than a normal cup / mug all would have been well, but she did not. The good news is that ‘what’s the point?’ became a catch phrase for the rest of their visit (e.g. would you like smoked salmon on your bagel? – what’s the point?) and probably for my retirement as well. So, what is the point?