I finished the previous blog on the evening of the 17th Dec. Sarah seemed to have got over the worst and Sue appeared to have turned a corner now that the antibiotics had started to do their magic. We had kept the rest of the family at bay to ensure that we didn’t swap any more bugs or make those that were already poorly, worse. It seemed to work.
We did permit Lee to drop Mia off for the day (on the assumption that canine bugs aren’t compatible), Jamie to drop off the Christmas meat and on our behalf Charlotte spent a hectic afternoon enduring the manic atmosphere of Harborough’s shops, tasked with doing the Christmas food shopping in readiness for the gathering of the clan. Conveniently, the male mind is incapable of coping with the complexities of festive preparations and my services were not called upon. It is a wonder how I managed to run the house and prepare all the meals over the past few days and still remain relatively fit and moderately sane.
On the 19th I returned the blood pressure monitor to the surgery, smug in the knowledge that despite the heavy burden of running the family home, the readings had remained unerringly normal over the previous 7 days. Later in the afternoon I took Sue for a chest x-ray to Harborough’s new hospital, St. Lukes.
After returning her safely home, I attended a ‘leaving do’ at Farndon Fields Primary School to celebrate a past colleague moving on to a new job in Cottingham. It was nice to see other retired colleagues present, they have seemingly aged very little over the ten years since I left, while the present new staff seemed far too young to be qualified to teach. I think my eye-sight may be deteriorating! I was treated to a tour of the school, which has already undergone major alterations and is presently due to go through £2.5M more of them. I work that out to be £12500 per child! The school already looks as secure as Fort Knox and there are several empty classrooms. I do wonder if the money could actually be spent more productively on the children, rather than the structure of the building.
On the 21st I attended our annual Pool Player’s Christmas meal. Unlike previous years where we have dined in one of the town’s hostelries, this year we opted to dine at our pool venue, the Catholic Club. The barmaid had volunteered to cook us up a meal suitable for the occasion and despite some reservation on my behalf, that is what she did. The food and drink (as in previous years) is paid for mostly by the unused 50p’s that are unspent on the table after our evening of games, this does amount to quite a largish amount over the year. It was excellent, four courses, finishing with a very extensive cheese-board. I was veritably stuffed!!!
The Clan arrived on Christmas Eve. Late in the afternoon, minus Sue, we set off into town to stretch our legs and soak up the Harborough atmosphere. As expected, it was busy with people grabbing those last essential items, care had to be taken crossing the roads as people were in a rush from finishing work early. After thoroughly investigating any shopping opportunities of our own, we attempted to visit ‘The Beer House’ for refreshments and to rest the little one’s now weary legs. However, though they had no issue with Mia the dog, the boys were under-age and contravened their licence, so like Mary and Joseph we moved on. We were to be disappointed again at our usual watering hole, The Admiral Nelson. Here, they accepted dogs and children, but the place was packed and again there was no room in the inn for our little tribe. As we headed back to Willow Bank, yes, I do believe there appeared to be a star illuminating our destination. Some pessimists might say it was just the security lighting sensing our approach, but I know what I believe.
For tea we feasted on tasty things (pizza), then played games until the little-ones couldn’t keep their eyes open anymore so we retired upstairs to our snug little nests, secure in the knowledge that NORAD had successfully plotted Santa’s sleigh somewhere over Russia and was expecting an ETA in Harborough within the next few hours.
He did indeed make a very silent appearance some time between midnight and 5am, leaving parcels of all sizes and shapes under the tree. He also left a special message for Ellis who had requested at the end of his list if Santa could get his toy scorpion off the roof of the school, as it had accidentally been thrown up there the previous week. Santa apologised, he had looked for it but it was too dark, so he had instructed his elves to make him a new one and he hoped that it would do. What a nice man Santa is.
Christmas Day was unseasonably warm and windy. The boys had quietly checked out the tree, now the centre of an island of glittering surprises at 5am, before sneaking back to their nests to open over-sized socks stuffed with goodies. I woke at 8am.
After breakfast it is customary to begin opening presents until all is done and the lounge is a sea of wrapping paper. This year there was to be a new postman. After enduring just under a decade of study and training, Suraj had officially obtained his licence to sort presents and distribute them by elf mail. As retired postman, I should say that he did the job admirably, no doubt he will continue to maintain the high standards set until inevitably, he too will gracefully give way to the next generation of posties.
The Christmas meal this year was prepared and cooked by Charlotte and Sarah with the peas being rustled-up by Jamie. Another success, calmly executed by the younger ones in the family, perhaps they have set a precedence? Bloated by good food and drink, the family settled back to play with recently acquired gadgets and thingies in the lounge. It appears that Santa has yet again seemed to satisfy everyone’s wishes, reassuring to know that none of the Palmer’s have ever appeared on his naughty list!
Late in the afternoon we gathered together to accompany Mia on a damp and muddy walk along the Millennium Mile through Welland Park to aid the passage of an excellent but large Christmas dinner. It looked like during a delivery run Santa had dropped a soccer ball from his sleigh as he had passed over the park and it had fallen into the River Welland, being caught up in some reeds. Suraj and Lucas managed to liberate it and no doubt will give it a good home with the dozen or so other soccer balls in the garden.
That evening Lee and Sarah left us to travel to Nottinghamshire to spend Boxing Day with Lee’s parents to celebrate his birthday. We played a variety of games interspersed with lots of seasonal drinks and nibbles. I would hate to guess the number of calories consumed to date!
It snowed heavily in the night. Though there was the usual chaos on the roads of Britain, it didn’t stop us driving to Peterborough to enjoy the customary Christmas Greyhound Races. For the last few years we have reserved our booths in order to ensure that we all get seats, the benefit is that we do not have to arrive early and queue to grab the unreserved ones. This year we seemed to be more successful than on previous occasions. Jamie seemed to hit on a particularly profitable strategy.
Driving back while the snow and slush hardened on a frosty night was particularly tricky, but we all arrived safely, keen yet again to consume more calories (an excellent turkey curry created by Suraj) and play games for the rest of the evening.
The day after Boxing Day is the day we traditionally go to the Pantomime. This year it was ‘Snow White’ at the Lighthouse Theatre in Kettering. Jamie had to work that day and the Rothwell’s visited the sales in Harborough prior to us meeting up and driving along treacherous roads to Kettering. Also, this year we had invited Doreen to join us and she was picked up by the Rothwells. Sarah and Lee had returned from Nottinghamshire and they travelled with us, collecting Jamie on the way.
We all agreed that the performance was one of the better ones we had been to over the years. Very well acted and very funny. Lots of pyrotechnics, artificial snow falling in the auditorium and a thorough soaking of the audience by the pantomime dame and her/his side-kicks using super-soakers.
After returning to Willow Bank, Sarah and Lee left for home as did Jamie, as they have work the following day.
Today, 28th Dec. after lunch the Rothwell’s left to return home. Peace and calm once again descended on Willow Bank. Tonight Jamie and Ashton have volunteered to cook us a meal. A lovely gesture, but why does it makes me feel old?
Uncle Stanley: Throughout our Christmas celebrations we have been concerned about Stanley. On a recent visit to Lancashire we had become so worried about his health and circumstances that we thought it best to see if he would be prepared for us to arrange for him to move down to Harborough. As expected he refused.
We were determined to keep close contact with him and attempt to persuade him to allow us to set up some support from Social Services in Salford. However, illness to Sarah followed by Sue getting pneumonia distracted us from this.
With Sue getting better, on the 21st I rang Stanley to discuss this with him, but the phone was picked up a lady called Selena saying that Stanley was fine and he would ring me back later, I could hear him coughing and wheezing in the background. I rang again later with no answer. Ringing on the subsequent days brought the same result. Knowing that Philippa had also tried to contact him increased our concern. When he didn’t pick up my call on Christmas Day, as we had no other telephone numbers to hand I rang Salford Social Services Out-of-hours emergency number and explained the circumstances.
A visit by social services that afternoon, discovered Stanley at home, not well and refusing any help. The care worker advised that I should discuss the situation the following day. They rang the following day and I explained in detail Stanley’s circumstances, they had equal concerns about his welfare. A later visit by a doctor showed that he had pneumonia, he has been prescribed antibiotics and told that it would be best for him to be hospitalised. He refused this. However, further visits by care workers and doctors over the next few days and a natural deterioration in his condition seems to have persuaded him to accept a halfway solution to hospitalisation. He has agreed to be moved to a local care facility where it will be warm, his food will be supplied for him and there will 24hour help available. At present, he may be moved to tonight (if a bed becomes available) but certainly tomorrow. We await developments.