It’s Christmas Eve.
People ask why I don’t like Christmas. I could reel out a string of reasons long enough to knit you a yuletide pullover, but here are a couple of the more poignant ones.
Thirty years ago today, we cremated my wife’s father after he died suddenly in the run-up to Christmas 1987. Yesterday would have been my mother’s 91st birthday, but she passed away almost 20 years ago.
Christmas serves to remind me of these two people who were important in my life. I had a great deal of respect for Ronnie, my father-in-law, who was a genuine military hero. As a crewman aboard The Amethyst, he lost a leg when she ran the gauntlet of Chinese guns on the Yangtze in 1949. My mother was a tiny, fierce woman, and she was the only person who ever had any measure of control over me.
There are other people also missing from my life: my younger brother (pictured above with me a long, long time ago) and my brother-in-law, both comparatively young men when they died. I also have stillborn grandchildren who I’m sure would have grown up into fine young women had they survived the trauma of childbirth.
If all this sounds a little gloom and doom, it perfectly sums up Christmas from my point of view.
There are upsides. Tomorrow, we’re at the first of the season’s parties, when we get together with Carol’s family. We don’t see so much of one another nowadays, and it’s always pleasant to see them.
And of course, reverting back to the original, pre-Christian midwinter celebration, the passing of the solstice means spring is right around the corner… Well, twelve weeks round the corner but it’s surprising how quickly time passes. Another few weeks and the days will be significantly longer, we’ll be sprucing up the lawnmower ready to swing into action, and we’ll be actively anticipating Benidorm.
Having said my piece, I will now clear off and let you get on with your festive frolics.
From me to all of you, have a happy Christmas, and I will be pestering you again this side of the New Year.