Well, it’s been a few weeks since I wrote...
Life has been hectic; it’s the run-up to Christmas, after all, but being a chump I went away on holiday and have now got dreadfully behind on everything. I have just managed to post my UK Christmas cards, on the last safe posting day for second-class stamps – but I missed the last safe posting dates for parcels and for international post – by miles, in the latter case. And I still haven’t finished dealing with the problem of Christmas presents.
I remind myself that Christmas isn’t about presents. Or cards, for that matter. The problem is, when you are not a churchgoer, and can’t really call yourself more than a fellow-traveller of Christianity, it becomes ridiculous to say “Christmas is about Christ”. But the capitalist subtext (“Christmas is about spending and consuming as much as you humanly can!”) is thoroughly sick-making in every sense.
So for me, Christmas is about the people I love; seeing friends and family, catching up on news from people I don’t see much of (because they have done outrageous things like going to live in another country); it’s about sending greetings cards to say “I am thinking of you and I hope life is going well & hope you and yours really do all have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year”. So giving gifts (which needn’t be anything fancy - I am doing a strong line in socks and home-made jam this year) becomes a tongue-tied-and-terribly-British way of saying “Um er, and I love you”- mumble mumble turn-pink-and-look-at-your-shoes... So I want to buy and send cards, and buy and/or make presents, because they are my annual “Um er I love you”s.
I’m off down to Kent tonight to do something practical and, hopefully, helpful; my mother always has a big, real tree, and lots of greenery and decorations all over the house, and really appreciates a hand getting this all done. She also appreciates a hand with some of the grocery shopping. She is 79, after all. So that is my weekend sorted; lugging a wheely basket of bottles and biscuits back up the hill from Sainsburys; dragging the tree in and setting it up; cutting and gathering armfuls of evergreen from the garden; and decorating the lot. With the final of “Strictly Come Dancing thrown in for good measure on Saturday night. And, you know what? – I’m really looking forward to it. Maybe this is one of the signs of adulthood - good heavens, did I get there at last? Instead of regarding a weekend spent helping my mum as drudgery I am thinking “Great – this will be a lot of fun!”
In a week’s time I will be heading down to Kent again, for ten whole days off. Ten days of peace and quiet with my family; eating decent homemade food, playing board games, walking by the sea. It’s a time I always look forward to, and this year more than most, as I feel in serious need of recharging my metaphorical batteries. The week in Cornwall, though it was lovely, didn’t give me as much of an energy boost as I had hoped for. The picture at the top is one of my holiday photos and makes me feel very nostalgic - wintry afternoon sun over the sea, with the Trinity House daymark on Gribben Head in the distance.
Part of the problem has been stress at work. Things here have been over-stretched and understaffed for quite some time now, and everyone has got more tired and frazzled as the months wore on. Then in late November we were told that the team I work in is being restructured. In the end this has turned out less horrendous than some restructures I’ve heard about elsewhere, but it has still led to a very uncomfortable few weeks of uncertainty, not to mention the hassle of filling out all the forms to apply for new roles, or in some cases our own existing roles, again. For me, matters were not helped by the fact I can’t find a copy of my CV (being as I am a nitwit), so I had to do it all from scratch. I found myself earlier this week laboriously working back through my entire employment history, listing all my jobs and my duties in each, in order to fill in an application form. Given that I’ve done some fairly odd things in my time, the end result does look a bit as if I’m taking the mickey. They can’t see many cvs that include a degree in Fine Art preceded by being a chef, an actor in street theatre, an artists’ model, a cleaner and a furniture restorer. Plus a lot of retail work. I even know how to clean vellum book-bindings, courtesy of my first-ever job in Canterbury Cathedral Library...
Anyway, off for my weekend of hauling and decorating duties. By Sunday evening Mum’s place should be bursting with good things to eat and looking like Christmas at Dingley Dell.