Unusually the winter weather witches have been kind to me whilst I have been busy demolishing the pool; they could easily have turned the huge volume of soil to be shifted into something resembling the Somme or maybe even the arctic tundra. Dull and temperate days made for easy digging, wheelbarrowing, and relaying of turf, at times I even found myself enjoying the task, surveying my handiwork at the end of a session has been quite fulfilling. The tired bones and aching muscles of a few weeks ago are but a distant memory though I am wary of pushing too hard, frequent sit-downs and perusals were the order of the day. I aimed to complete the job before Christmas and with just a couple of mornings help from a friend I made it with a week to spare.
The 15th of December was a significant day. During the morning I met John in Ridlington for a walk to Belton and back with lunch taken at the Horse and Jockey in Manton, in the afternoon Sue joined up with her U3A group for a ramble from nearby Maidwell. Late in the afternoon, we met up for a Covid-19 test at Harborough Leisure Centre, as a member of the Zoe Covid Research group they suggested we took a test, reassuringly it returned a negative result. However the day belonged to Jamie, he was notified that his company Fx Learning Ltd. is the 2021/22 winner of the Central England Prestige Award given to recognise small and medium-sized businesses that have proven to be the best in their market over the past 12 months. His company will officially collect the award in May and it will be broadcast on TV. Great recognition for the effort he has put in over the years and well deserved.
The following day I visited the barber for a haircut. With Omicron on the rise and restrictions in place, both the barber and I wore masks, making for some dexterity on his part to unhook my mask from each ear with one hand while snipping away with the other. In our chatter, he mentioned that the Plant Man in Braybrook was discounting Christmas trees, and freshly cropped that is where I went next. A half-price tree was a bargain not to be missed, and there were plenty of choices late in the day. It wasn’t until the following Saturday before the tree was placed in the lounge and decorated.
In other news, Jamie and Ruth continued visiting Christmas markets with a trip to Lincoln. Charlotte informed us that it seems likely that their house move will be going ahead towards the end of January. Sarah and Lee seem intent on taking Alice to see as many Santas as possible over the Christmas period, I do wonder what the little cherub makes of it all?
With infection rates continuing to rise rapidly throughout the country I guess that it came as no surprise when on the evening of the shortest day of the year we received a video call from Sarah informing us that both she and Lee had tested positive for Covid and wouldn’t be able to make it to Harborough for Christmas. Very sad, as a family, we are certainly not alone in our disappointment, the evening TV news contained many interviews from families in similar circumstances and restaurant owners who were despairing of late cancellations. Though Sarah professed to feeling fine she looked quite pale and seemed to be having difficulty in swallowing. They have both been double vaccinated, ironically Sarah was due her Booster in just a couple of days. Fingers crossed they will make a full recovery in time for the New Year.
On the eve of Christmas Eve, Sue and I drove to Newbold Verdon to take the Covid afflicted family their presents, we stopped briefly in the village to collect a prescription for Lee and to purchase some bottles of Lucozade. On arrival, I stacked the gifts outside the front door watched by the stricken family from an upstairs window. It is such a shame that yet again the whole family can’t share Alice’s Christmas with her. Waving goodbye we made our way to the Windmill Inn in nearby Brascote for lunch. Sarah and Lee had thoughtfully arranged to have their Christmas dinner delivered from here and it seemed right to try out their turkey dinner. It was delicious!
Christmas Eve. On the morning of Christmas Eve, Sue busied herself preparing the house for the arrival of the family and I planted a hundred tulip bulbs in the garden in readiness for the arrival of spring. As a precaution, those family members who were spending Christmas at Willow Bank took Covid tests and posted the negative results on Messenger. Ruth visited briefly during the afternoon to bring a turkey crown large enough to feed a team of ravenous rugby players before driving on to Desborough, she returned with Jamie later in the evening. Joey was spending Christmas day with his father.
Late afternoon, Charlotte and family made an appearance, Suraj soon made himself busy cooking pizzas that we had pre-ordered from Waitrose. We spent the evening playing a variety of fun family games while Sarah, Lee and Alice did likewise in Newbold Verdon. The ability to video call helps estranged families keep in touch in times such as these, yet it is a poor solution to a situation that I am sure only history will reveal the truth of.
Christmas Day. Sometime during the night Santa came and emptied a very large sack of presents underneath the Christmas tree. At 4 am, Ellis and Charlotte were the first to discover his visit, relieved he had delivered to the correct address they returning to their beds. The rest of the family took their time stirring from a deep sleep and didn’t venture downstairs until well after 7.30 am. Traditionally, presents are not distributed by the designated ‘family elf’ and opened until after breakfast, this year that task fell to Ellis who very efficiently sorted and stacked the gifts into separate piles well before cereals and toast were scoffed.
With presents already sorted, their opening went leisurely, leaving plenty of time for drinks and thankyous. By 11 am torn wrapping paper was securely bagged and disposed of and Charlotte and Sue were in the kitchen preparing lunch while the rest of us ‘tinkering’ with new possessions managed to sink a few more refreshments. A splendid Christmas meal with all the trimmings was followed by an afternoon session of game playing and gift appreciation. Harry, Rocky and Nala (the dogs) had been quietly bemused throughout the morning by the excited human activity and by late afternoon, with stomachs full of table scraps found it all too much and found cosy little spots for a snooze.
After tea, Jamie, Ruth and their dogs left and travelled to Bottesford while the rest of the family watched a Christmas film, played yet more games, scoffed and drank some more before finally retiring to bed.
Boxing Day. Sue and I woke early, as usual, the rest didn’t arise until much later, it can be quite exhausting celebrating the birth of Jesus! Usually, this would be a day to visit the first of the sales and the younger members of the tribe would be off early to catch the bargains, but with current restrictions and the family, Covid split there seemed little motivation, instead, we took Harry for a muddy walk along the canal path.
After lunch, Charlotte and family left for home and Willow Bank returned to its usual state of peaceful equilibrium. That evening Sue and I quietly watched a film on Netflix. Jamie, Ruth and Joey went to a pantomime in Nottingham to see Cinderella. Sarah, Lee and Alice continued isolating.
As in 2020, this has been a very trying Christmas, as a family, we have made the best of it as we can. There are many not so lucky. Let us hope that 2022 will be different.