Well, the tree is outside the kitchen door waiting to go to the tip, the decorations are back in their box to go back to Grandma’s tomorrow (anything we don’t have room for goes into the shed there) and it’s finally stopped raining – although sleet and snow are forecast for the weekend.
And since I haven’t written anything for 25 days, here’s the rundown of the O’Neill’s Christmas and New Year.
Our tree was small but perfectly formed – and now that it’s gone Kevin can see all the television screen again. We didn’t put up any decorations, but we brought out the Christmas candles and put them on the windowsill where passers by could see them. And only remembered to light them twice. Our cards – more than I had expected – were stuck into a card holder from the pop up Christmas shop near Michael’s shop on the back of the living room door. The slots in the card holder weren’t really big enough so all the cards stuck out at precarious angles. But hey, Christmas isn’t about looking perfect, is it?
My birthday was less busy than usual, a little shopping in the morning but we already had everything except the sprouts for Christmas Day. We went out for dinner to our favourite Italian, where the entire restaurant sang Happy Birthday to me, and then walked home, chilly but not damp, to a cognac before bed.
Christmas Day dawned mild and dry and was a quietly successful day with no dramas and a chat with all the family via Skype. It was the first time in 37 years that Grandma (sans Grandad, who died more than ten years ago) had been to our house for Christmas lunch. We regaled her with Bucks Fizz (of which she had two glasses ), prawn cocktail (she has fond memories), a Tesco chicken crown, ready stuffed and cooked from frozen (she doesn’t like turkey), finishing with Christmas pudding and brandy sauce. It was the easiest Christmas lunch I’ve ever done (thanks, Tesco) and the driest. I had a sherry while cooking, and we each had one glass of wine with lunch, since we still had to take Grandma home. This we did, in time to watch the Queen’s speech with coffee and mince pies (the only thing I made from scratch), leaving at 3.30 so Grandma could have a quiet snooze in her chair until her next lot of visitors. We went home, finished off the wine, and had cheese and pate for supper. A most enjoyable day.
On Boxing Day it was back to normal as Michael had to go to work. Kevin was off for the week between Christmas and New Year but Michael was working. I even had a dental appointment! On New Year’s Eve, after Michael got home from work, we walked into Gateshead for dinner, had a couple of drinks at the Gloucester on the way home, and left Michael to enjoy himself while we went home to bed. But Gateshead was quiet, and even Michael was home before midnight. We saw the fireworks up the hill from our bedroom window!
We did a day trip to Carlisle by train (and came half way home by bus due to a landslide), saw the new Star Wars picture at Vue in Gateshead, and now everyone is back at work with a vengeance. Michael has got a pay rise now he is permanent with Greggs, had lots of positive feedback and will not countenance the idea of returning to Perth. So we’ve bought a flat two minutes from his shop and will rent it out for a year, then upgrade the kitchen and bathroom and he can move in. What we do after that will depend on Grandma, Glynis (who arrives at the end of January), various taxation departments, weather, and South Shields Marine College. We are expecting visits from friends in Australia this year, and making a trip ourselves back to Perth in August. And, as is always the case for the O’Neills, who knows where we’ll be in a year’s time. I’d say watch this space, but only if I exercise more self-discipline. I have started writing a book though, and if you’re interested, let me know. It’s aimed at young teenagers, so if you’re old and grey you might not want to know!