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Christmas is over

What a strange Christmas it was this year. And now it is all over,like a ripple that briefly touched the life of those living alone, unable to join up with their families.

As I was not planning to eat anything special, or entertain, the runup to Christmas was very normal: the usual daily physio sessions and a complicated phone call to book an MRI for 4th January.

There was just my daily FaceTime call from my grandson, Otto (he phones me or Deborah, my sister, when bored. with a new song to play, or over excited) to remind me of the thrill of anticipation when your are a child. Each day he said he could not wait, and told me how many days or hours there were to Christmas day. Meanwhile in the other household, Ella and Maddie were preparing goodies to eat.

At last Otto could be happy: Christmas was here. He and Willow opened their stockings, and I took part in the excitement, courtesy of FaceTime. Then a switch over to the BP household to watch Ella and Maddie open their stockings.

Then a pause while all three households went out for some air. In my case it was bitterly cold with an icy north wind, and Poppy’s morning walk was pretty short. In this rare selfie, the scarf is not there for decoration!

The two families were spending much of Christmas Day together at Kate and Steve’s house (ahem, the numbers did not quite tally with the latest rules). And Deborah and I joined in the family gathering , courtesy of Zoom (I have respected Deb’s dislike of photos by cutting most of her image out!)

More excitement as the present opening continued – and Otto declared: “This is the best Christmas ever”.

Deb and I stayed long enough to see them all tuck into the delicious meal, cooked as usual by Ed. (Meanwhile Deb had roasted her chicken and parsnips in order to be able to eat at the same time!) As the meal drew to a close, we zoom participants said goodbye to the two families.

I have to admit that thereafter and for the next two days I have indulged in a fair amount of binge-watching (accompanied, unfortunately by binge snacking). I am a fan of the TV police series Inspector Morse. I enjoy the clever scripts of Colin Dexter, the good acting by John Thaw and the nostalgic glimpses of the city of Oxford, which I love. I had been told that ‘Endeavour’, the recent BBC series, which goes back to Morse’s early years as a policeman was very good. What’s more, it portrayed Oxford in the late sixties – the period when I was working on the Oxford Mail. So I bought the DVD’s and have been hooked on them. They give a fascinating view of an intelligent young man with high ideals but little time for pleasing those in authority, as his superior officer (another well crafted character) observed “an excellent detective but a lousy policeman”.

It has been a good time to hibernate, as after that clear sun ten days ago, we have had rain (snow on the hills above), and too many days of violent icy winds. Yesterday the electricity was on and off all day (no doubt caused by branches hitting electricity cables), so much so that this morning I found my central heating system had failed to turn itself on: cold water and cold house – now rectified.

The one delightful break to this period of self-indulgent hibernation was the splendid lunch that our friends Charles and Pierre offered to Hans, Margaret and me. They had pulled the stops out with a beautifully laid table in front of a huge open fire. The meal was delicious – and no mean feat, given that everything was carried from the kitchen below, up the huge circular staircase to the main room of the house. And not, as in the olden days by an army of servants, but by two men in their eighties who refused offers of help. As we left, hours later, Margaret and I both declared that this had felt like the real Christmas lunch, rather than the meal we had eaten alone or as a couple on Christmas day itself. And of course Le Caladon – Charles and Pierre’s little chateau – is so big that social distancing was possible even if masks soon disappeared.

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