I think this is the first time in my 70 years that I have spent Christmas without family and friends. I once had a peculiar but enjoyable Christmas in Nigeria – during Ramadan – but even then I was with my friend, Wenol.
The staff here have made a big effort to try and create a festive spirit, with many of the nurses and aides sporting rtes hats and stripy red socks., and an attempt to decorate the dining room and salon. But it is still an institution.
The entertainments? A Catholic service and lotto. I passed on the first, no surprise, and was thinking of avoiding the second, when a nurse came to prise me out of my room. “It will be fun, she urged – as have said various nurses and physios. So I went, and it was – at least for the first hour. I was sustained by my awful sense of competitiveness when playing games. And there was a fascination about the way random numbers can seem to have a pattern – like in roulette – a deliberate avoiding of the numbers I needed. But like most people I did eventually win: a set of twelve little glasses ous a booklet of aperitif and starter recipes. One if the aides thought this was a joke that this had gone to an anglaise. Even more funny if she had realised the full extent of my incapacity in the kitchen. Still, it was very relaxing and convivial, and I enjoyed talking to my neighbour, an amputee much younger than me with whom I enjoy the odd chat, usually in front of the coffee machine.
Dinner looks better on the menu than it was:
But again, a big effort had been made. Instead of the usual isolated tables each seating four, we had been placed in a U shape – two long tables and one sat the end. And the table was laid with festive details. I had quite a pleasant meal, with my friend, Roland, the builder from Avignon on one side (another thoraco sufferer) and on the other a pleasant man who never complains about his two amputated legs following complications after 16 years on dialysis.
Much of the morning was spent trying, with much frustration, to watch grandchildren open presents. Otto and Willow were opening theirs when the nurse arrived to wash and dress me. The FaceTime connection with Kate and Steve’s house is pretty poor also, though not as bad as my earlier attempt with Deb and Dan.
Christmas lunch was a rather flat repetition of the evening meal, except this time I was stuck next to a woman who irritates me (and who fortunately does not speak English). I love coquilles St Jacques and langoustines – though the latter were rather wasted on those of us with the use of only one hand. (When there is meat on the menu, aides go round cutting our food up for us, but not apparently shelled fish.)
The buche de Noel was too artificial for me. Give me Christmas pudding and brandy butter any day!
Later I watched the assembled Gillies, Bennion-Pedleys and Filsons have what should have been an absolutely delicious Christmas meal, cooked by Ed.
It was marred by the fact that Otto and Willow were tiring, would not eat anything or stay at the table – it had been too long a day for them. And poor Kate, who had been feeling ill all day, was surviving rather than enjoying herself.
The evening took a dramatic turn for the worse. Kate went to A&E where they said she might have a stomach ulcer or Gerds, but for now needed medication to sort out the acidity. Deb went to the rescue, driving to a chemists in Streatham, had a puncture, drove to Kate and Sreve’s house with a fkat tyre, so the wheel is a write-off, and had to borrow Steve’s car to cross London to her home. A traumatic day for all!
Back to the usual routines here, starting with a 9am session in the pool directed by a cheerful but hungover physio.
Meanwhile the Gillies household is obviously struggling in Lond, with Kate still feeling ill, and Steve having to entertain two toddlers on his own.
Life in the B-P household is more cheerful, with another lunch party, and Ella enjoying her presents.