A Very Little Christmas
My family was never big on occasions. My parents forgot my 21st birthday (back when it was the ‘key of the door’, the key of the door now being 14), we all regularly forgot or failed to mark each other’s big birthdays. My brother always actively avoided his and my mother decided that it was ‘a Hallmark conspiracy’ and refused to accept cards.
You don’t want to be around scientists when they cut loose. They work so intensely that when they celebrate they fall down and windows get broken.Â Consequently Christmas days were often a mopping-up exercise as my mother tried to find out which hospital my father was in.
This year brought a pleasant luncheon, the Queen’s speech and geese, who spent the day peering in at our food and knocking their beaks on the glass, a sound you have to learn to live with.
At least there were no visiting relatives. WithoutÂ children or grandparents, I’m left phoning people to ask if they’re all right, as if they might have slipped over in the bath or something.
As the new variant rolled into view, all of our long-term events started to drop from the calendar. The local restaurants, caught in the pincers of Covid and Brexit, failed to find Â any chefs and waiters and closed. Every Christmas I treat myself to a Shakespeare play, but this year’s, ‘The Comedy of Errors’, was cancelled.
The Husband came down with Covid and took to his bed. Then I got it. People at extreme risk were supposed to be notified about the availability of a protecting anti-viral drug, but that didn’t happen.
Omicron proved to be a winter cold – one evening with a temperature and a week of coughing. Now we both await a clear lateral test. Meanwhile, Maggie Armitage announced that she was on her way around to give me Christmas presents.
‘No,’ I cried, ‘Pete and I are self-isolating.’
‘Stop being silly,’ she said, ‘My whole family have Covid and I just spent Christmas with them, and I’m still negative. Our local pub is open but the church is shut. Where is Jesus when you need him?’
‘Please protect yourself – where are you?’
‘On your landing.’
I opened the front door and there she was doing yoga exercises. ‘There’s a gift in the bag. I can’t stop. I have other people to see.’ She was wearing jeans, big furry boots and a peculiar hat with giant fluffy pompoms. Before I could stop her she rushed forward and hugged me, then left. Ten minutes later I looked out of the window and she was still in the courtyard taking photographs of our building. It’s worth bearing in mind that Maggie is 80.
She had stapled money inside a Christmas card for me with twelve razor sharp staples that took half an hour to get out. Someone had given her a staple gun for Christmas.
All of which is a good reminder that Christmas is made by people.