Week 678

Sunday, 19th December, 2021

A cold, crisp morning which was chilly on the face and hands as I walked this morning. Didn’t go out until 10.00 am because I was watching the final Marr political programme ever. With the chaos going on in government currently, he chose a good day to go out.

Covid, Brexit and Sleaze dominate and thread through every pore of power. With Frost resigning, there are two, major possibilities. Firstly, Brexit is really falling apart. Giving in over the ECJ and now over Northern Ireland look major planks of the right wing extremists policies falling away. Secondly, Frost knows that walking out leaves Johnson incredibly more vulnerable to the lunatic fringe that John Major called The Bastards

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world ..

W.B. Yeats: The Second Coming

With Covid raging, Johnson incredibly weak and in hoc to his extremists, he is in little position to be mandating strong, new restrictions even though that is exactly what is required to save lives. Got a Whatsapp message from Julie this morning telling me that they suspect Nigel – who is immuno-compromised – has caught Covid from their son and is being taken to a testing centre this morning.

The Sleaze story might have gone quiet but it will be back very soon. Frost resigned, we believe, on a promise of a top job from Sunak. – probably Foreign Secretary. Frost resigning moves Johnson closer to the edge and brings Sunak to the fore. The rumour is that a newspaper (read probably the Daily Mirror) will be running a scoop on Johnson’s former lovers and illegitimate children which could really pile on the pressure. How much will he want to take before running away?

What do you give someone like me for Christmas? There is almost nothing material I can think of that I want. It is a lovely position to be in until someone wants inspiration. I’ve asked for a delicious bottle of Greek Olive Oil. Hope Santa brings it!

Monday, 20th December, 2021

Cold here today although quite bright. Going to need a few extra layers on to go out walking. I’m certainly going to disappoint the lady who complained I wasn’t wearing shorts the other day.

This is the scene on the Greek island of Evia yesterday. Amuses me to think they have snow and we don’t.

Over night, we took the difficult decision to cancel our Christmas plans. We don’t need government to tell us what we can and can’t do but we haven’t come this far to take a risk for a few hours on one day this week.

We certainly won’t be short of food. Pauline has been doing the catering preparations for quite some time. The cakes were finished this morning. There are two Christmas Puddings, two sides of salmon, Starters to feed the 5,000 and wine to drown the 5 million. We will drive up to Surrey to deliver food parcels and then anyone else who needs feeding should just write in.

Just received a card from our friend and former neighbour, Colonel Vicky. Back in 2010 we found a property in Surrey which fitted our needs at the time. Vicky arrived at the same time. She had just retired and was looking for friends and sailing/golfing partners. She was a fit, energetic mid-50s girl and lovely to get on with. Soon after she arrived, she found she had breast cancer. It was successfully dealt with and she went on with her life. We sold and moved on. She sold and moved on. We continued to write to each other. 

This morning her card brings awful news. Her breast cancer is back but much worse. It is now Grade 3 and Invasive. She is on her second round of chemotherapy and trying to stay cheerful. Life treats some nice people so badly.

Tuesday, 21st December, 2021

Today is the Shortest Day – the Winter Solstice. Everything improves from this moment. Hold on to that thought. The sun is very low. Even so, it does feel distinctly raw outside right now.

Just written back to Vicky having heard about the recurrence of her breast cancer and offered her support. Then I had a message to say that Nigel & his wife had tested negative for Covid which in his condition and at his age could have proved dangerous. I’ve written to him congratulating him on the result and pointing out I’ve considered him quite negative since 1969.

A Ripon friend sent me this graphic this morning and it appeals to my sense of humour. You will smile at least:

I’m going to wear a woolly hat for my walk today. I’ll look ridiculous but feel warm. Age dictates that I ignore the former and embrace the latter. Lovely day which feels very happy and optimistic. I feel so thankful for my life. Just got to arrange the next 30 years!

Wednesday, 22nd December, 2021

Up really early this morning to a sparklingly clear sky of stars and bright moonlight. Just 4C/39F and felt quite cold. Quite a lot to get through today so out to Sainsburys at 8.00 am. The roads are empty. The carpark is quiet. Even the shelves are not well stocked.

Down to the beach for a walk. Very few people out. I prefer it like this. Space to walk, think and talk. Space to breathe, dream and plan.

To the east, the sun was barely rising over Brighton but it was too cold to stay long and the car drive home was comfortingly warm.

Over hot coffee, I took a telephone call from the Diabetic Paramedic at our Health Trust. It was a follow up to my blood tests. She said immediately, I’ve just been checking your blood test results and then had to check I was phoning the right person because there is no trace of diabetes in your tests. The results are fantastic! It is nice when you’ve been trying hard and consistently to do the right things to be rewarded with that sort of assessment. I was going to ask if she would award me a badge in recognition but thought that was probably pushing it a bit at my age.

Pauline is making jam, preparing food for the Christmas meal we won’t be attending, preparing to home-cure smoked salmon for our own meals plus fit in two hours of walking with me. I’m playing my favourite game of ticking off on my database the addresses of all those who have sent us Christmas cards and those who haven’t yet. I don’t stop sending them even if they have because, quite often, they start again if I don’t give up on them. Got cards this year from people we haven’t heard from for quite a while. It’s a lovely surprise when that happens.

We didn’t manage to get to the Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy because of the pandemic. I now hope to see the Whistler, Woman in White exhibition next Spring.

There is so much in life left to enjoy. I demand 30 more years as a minimum to experience it!

Thursday, 23rd December, 2021

The morning is amazingly warm in contrast to yesterday. Yesterday morning – 4C/39F – and this morning – 8C/47F. My computer has a new picture each day which appears out of the websphere. Today it is the wonderful Canaletto, Venice Grand Canal.

Going out for an early walk. Out on the walk, we usually pass our postman at some point. He is an old man with a limp which is not a good sign. All around him delivery vans from DPD and DHL and Hermes are zipping to addresses and away. Paul the Postman limps slowly along with his wheeled trolley of letters and cards. He gets nowhere very fast. Even our post boxes all have Last Collection – 9.00 am on them but we can’t believe collection is synchronised around the area by one postman.

Paul the Postman stops to talk to so many people and is obviously much loved in the community. He sent each one of us a Christmas card himself this year and the community collected £500.00 and presented him with it earlier this week. Even so, the postal service is rather homespun in nature compared with last century with two deliveries a day. We’ve still got one or two cards to arrive and I’ve only had three, online greetings this year so tradition has prevailed. Christmas Newsletters seem to be even more popular but one of my favourite cards came from Kath, my former cleaner in school, who always signs herself, from Mrs Fernandez.

This is a man in tune with my own spirit. His name is Phil and he is my cousin’s Australian husband. They live in the Charente region of SW France. I love Christmas almost as much as him. They are very sociable people and love good food and wine but, like me, don’t need an excuse to enjoy it.

Friday, 24th December, 2021

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
No one was stirring …
apart from me.

A mild, even warm, night for Christmas week – 10C/50F. It contrasts so starkly with previous years. Some snapshots from 2009 illustrate this easily.

Our back garden – Xmas 2009

On Christmas Eve, 2009, we were hit by a blizzard. Pauline’s mum was too old and ill to travel to Surrey any more and so we stayed in Yorkshire and drove over the Pennines to collect her from Oldham.

Cross-Pennine route – Xmas 2009

We didn’t know then although we had some suspicions that this was to be her last Christmas at the age of 96. At least we were able to make sure it was a happy one for her though we were aware she was struggling.

It is impossible to know how one feels until an important person in their life leaves them. We all react differently. Pauline and her Mum had an incredibly strong bond which was fractured by her loss although she coped with it amazingly stoically. However, our house is littered with memories that she managed to collect over the years and sustain her into the future.

I know that’s all a bit sad for Christmas Eve but I’m afraid I was given some more bad news this morning. My old friend and flatmate, Nigel, who I was reunited with a couple of months ago after a 48 year hiatus and who is suffering from blood cancer, was suspected of catching Covid and was rushed into hospital last night with severe chest infection and breathing difficulties. Now is not the time for emergencies and I will be keeping in contact over the holiday in case there is something I can do to help.

We got up early, did a two hour walk and then packed the car up and did an emergency dash to the Home for the Bewildered in Surrey. A couple of inmates were even allowed to come to the door – under supervision – to receive a fully prepared Christmas Dinner which they only need to re-heat tomorrow.

Embarrassingly, we were showered with lots of expensive presents which we don’t deserve. I always find it so much more difficult to receive than to give. I don’t know why but I generally feel unworthy. There is something so positive to giving and so self-indulgent to receiving. Just shows how socially inept I am. They may be bewildered but they are lovely people who are generous and caring. When I reach their stage of bewilderment, I may need someone else to care for me because I’m not sure they’ll be up to it.

Saturday, 25th December, 2021

Christmas morning 2021 – my 70th – and I woke at 4.30 am to the sound of torrential rain battering everything outside. Up at 6.00 am and (whisper it) eating BACON SANDWICHES at 7.30 am thanks to Mandy.

Started to receive lovely Texts, Messenger and Whatsapp messages from around the country including from Kevin in Leeds who proudly displayed his new guitars that he received as presents. Isn’t it wonderful to use technology to cover the world with chat and good feeling in an instant from the kitchen? I love it.

Somebody actually told me yesterday that they read the Blog and found it interesting. I was flabbergasted. Mind you, she was from the Home for the Bewildered but, even so, I’ll take that! Done a trawl this morning of Christmases past for photo memories. It really does have its uses. I know I’m weird but, at 5.00 am today, I was listening to a talk by a neuroscientist about memory and the loss of it.

I have a fantastic memory … sometimes …. but on other occasions I find I have huge blanks. Sometimes, I find that the pain of the past has been erased for my own survival. There are somethings that seem so unimportant to me that I make no attempt to remember. I have a fantastic, linguistic memory. Often I write a word then think that I’m not even sure what it means but on looking it up find it is exactly the word that I needed. The other day, I found myself using the words frisson and illicit. Most people don’t use them every day and I could sense readers Google-ing them. Frisson – a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill. Illicit – forbidden by law, rules, or custom. Aren’t they lovely words? Just the feel in my mouth gives me pleasure.

I can remember long strings of numbers after one reading because I hear them musically in my inner ear but I often can’t remember how to get to Tesco. I can see my house and I can see where Tesco is. Linking the two together to form a route is the problem and I’ve had it all my life. That is the reassuring thing. It is not a sign of deterioration over time and, as I’ve written before, Satellite Navigation was actually invented for me personally.

I wouldn’t normally list Mandy as subversive – she looks at the pictures in the Daily Express for goodness sake – but she is having a very good go with us. Mountains of confectionary, glorious bottles of wine and some exercise equipment. Which will win. I think she’s trying to kill us!

Deep Fried Fish Goujons – alternative Christmas Lunch

It was lovely to have an alternative Christmas Lunch of goujons of Monkfish, Cod and King Prawn with roasted Fennel and Asparagus. Wonderful Christmas present wines followed by homemade Christmas Pudding and Double Cream Custard. Can’t wait to get back to the diet.

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