Spirits of Christmas

'Spirit of Christmas'? I'm having trouble finding it, this year. Sure I've read all the 'Xmas' cards, (how Dee disliked that X abbreviation), cards well-intentioned but overlapped in our postman's bag with the last of so many beautiful condolence cards. On TV I see the street gaiety, the shopping frenzy, the drinking / party-time extravaganza and all the notices of upcoming Christmas comedy specials. I hear and try to pay attention to the carols. I've always loved carols. In imagination I smell hot roasted birds and the spices and the sherries and port wines of Christmases past. But still the 25th of December doesn't mean very much, this year.

I think back to last Christmas when our lady friend Chris brought round a complete lunch because Dee was deep into that awfully aggressive chemotherapy so could neither move much nor eat much, and the one before last when I volunteered to cook and I won't comment on the outcome except to say that we had a choice between laughing and crying - and chose the former after her tongue in cheek, well merited reprimands! And all the Highlands ones before that when we had the dogs looking up at our loaded, steaming plates with longing in their eyes, and afterwards the long walks in the wildest places. Never long enough for Mati and Sorosh. Often cold and/or wet but who cared? We did not.

I would walk five hundred miles if I could have any one of those, over again.

And I think about before that in Laundry Cottage, Winchester, with our two families fast becoming one family. I see there the opening of presents and the wonders of excited discovery on grandchildren's faces as pretty papers and golden ribbons fell before the onslaught of small fingers. And B.D.B.G (before Delia before grandchildren) in Lee-On -The -Solent when I made the first of my two lifetime contributions to the Christmas cuisine. I cooked oysters manhatten as a starter using those oysters dredged up by my son Robert in his new boat, forgetting to properly scour the shellfish first. I hear the toilet being flushed all night long. My lovely Joan accused me of trying to kill her poor old father, Ted. Joan had that same ironic sense of humour as my Dee, see.

And before that, long before that, 1955 in fact when Joan and I and our four month old baby Kairen were tucked up in a tiny bedsit in Cherryhinton Road, Cambridge. We had literally no money left and the only food we had for those long days and nights until my next payday was a shot pigeon from my sister Shirley and her farmworker huspand and a huge fruity Christmas cake from father and step mother just back from their years living high on the vine out in Singapore. Oh, and we had our Silver Cross pram. All that Christmas day we walked ourselves and baby Kairen around the streets and the parks of Cambridge. I so well recall the bells and I so well recall how happy we were.

We had our faith in each other and our hope for the future and the warmth of our love. Whatever else do you need? Apart from life itself, of course.



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