The Russian Grinch who is trying to steal Christmas

One miserable early December evening, whilst driving across town it seemed that something wasn’t quite right. When on reaching Welland Park Road, it suddenly dawned on me, in the past, nearly every second house in the town would have been brightly lit with flashing Christmas lights of one sort or another, heartening the souls of passersby, now, most were dark and sombre. There are some cheery, festive tableaus,  but they are few and far between and I think not as substantial as their creators would like.  Indeed, a blizzard of falling snowflakes usually projected onto the face of Willow Bank at this time of year, sadly,  will not happen. Yes, Vladimir Putin, it is not just the men, women and children of the Ukraine you have tried to steal the spirit of Christmas from, but also here in Europe, we are feeling your spite. As energy costs rocket because of your loathsome desire to roll back history and reinstate the Soviet Union, all you have done is successfully unify the free-thinking people of the west. We have no desire to suffer the horrors that you are inflicting on the innocents in Kyiv and beyond, we will stomach your attempts to switch off our lights and heating and continue to arm and support the brave heroes of the Ukraine and you will lose. Russia could be a great and respected country, its citizens and commerce welcome throughout the world, instead of the pariah you have made it. Your oppression of the Russian Federation and abuse of all that is right in the world has ensured your name will certainly be recorded in history’s list of tyrants.

On the 29th of November, we welcomed Sue’s sister Philippa to Willow Bank. She arrived late afternoon after a long journey from Totness. Sue met her at Harborough station and after a brief call to see Doreen who lives in the apartments opposite the station, brought her home in time for tea and to watch England beat a pretty ordinary Welsh side 3:0 to qualify for the knockout stages in the World Cup. Philippa stayed for a few days before moving on to attend a University reunion in Birmingham.

Philippa & Rocky.

Sue, Philippa & Alice.

Sue and her sister went to see Charlotte and Suraj the following morning, choosing to take Harry for a brisk two-and-a-half-mile walk before returning to Willow Bank for lunch. In the afternoon they went to see Jamie and Ruth in Waltham in the Wolds., returning in the early evening after picking up a fish and chip supper in Harborough. In the evening we watched a video of a recent trip to Greenland.

December began cold and foggy, but despite this Sue and Philippa drove to Newbold Verdon to spend the day with  Sarah, Lee and Alice. A long walk with Mia wasn’t on the cards as Sarah is now unable to walk far without discomfort, so a visit to the local park was an exciting alternative for little Alice. They returned in time for tea before again heading off through a developing fog to Desborough for a second visit to Charlotte’s. As Lucas and Ellis had been in school on their first visit Philippa was keen to see the boys before she left. Suraj had just returned from a few days in London attending an IT conference and Sue and her sister received a few early Xmas present courtesy of the goody bags often given out at such events.

There was controversy at the World Cup in Qatar as Germany was knocked out of an international tournament early for the third time in a row. Ironically, the issue centred around whether the ball was over the line or not (shades of ’66), to my eye the ball was clearly over the line, irrespective of an unworkable Fifa rule that requires a measurement of 1.8 mm (so Fifa say)s or even less. Surely, as in other sports, if the ball touches or crosses the plane of the line, it should be deemed it has crossed it and is therefore either out of the field of play or a goal between the posts. Simples!!!

Philippa left us the following morning. She had been planning to depart Harborough by train to her reunion in Birmingham, but a strike by Midland Mainline train drivers meant that she had to change plans and catch a bus to Leicester train station to complete the rest of the journey on a train line which was still operating. She made it.

Birthday breakfast

On Saturday the 10th, Lucas reached the grand old age of 16 yrs. I was surprised to learn that he had requested (and received)  a wristwatch for one of his birthday presents, a sign perhaps that he has reached adolescence. As a treat the following day the whole family visited Jeremy Clarkson’s, Diddly Squat Farm.

Over the same weekend, Sarah and Lee took Alice to a ‘Dear Santa’ production based on the story from Rod Campbell’s book at a local theatre.

Having progressed to the knockout stages of the World Cup England came up against France in the quarter-finals and lost 2:1 in what I can only describe as an injustice. A combination of strange refereeing decisions, VAR and a missed penalty enabled the French to go through to face Morroco in the semi-final. It was a solid performance by England and an undeserved defeat.

Tragically, late that same evening poor Maddie passed away. We are not sure what caused the rabbit’s death, but he was quite old and he died while Jamie was cuddling him. He was quite cantankerous when he was young but as the years went by he calmed down and we all grew to love the mischievous bundle of white fur.

The following day, Jamie and Ruth called in briefly on their way to London to drop off Rocky and Nala to stay with us. They were spending just a night in the capital, having a very pleasant meal and seeing some of

Hyde Park

the sights. Overnight the city was hit by a snowstorm, which closed the M25 and shut down Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports for a while.  Thankfully the roads were clear enough for them to collect their dogs, late on Monday afternoon.

The same afternoon, Sue drove me to Leicester Royal Hospital for another eye injection. Considering the pressures that the NHS is under I was surprised to have my vision test, eye scan and injection in less than half an hour. We were back home just over an hour after we left.

The weather has become bitterly cold over the last week and is expected to remain so for at least a week. Harborough seems to miss any considerable falls of snow, but we are making serious inroads into my mountain of logs stacked behind the garden shed. On the 13th, I bought our Christmas tree. Having left it so late, most outlets around the town had already sold out and what was left were sorry specimens indeed. Nonetheless, I found one acceptable (and much reduced in price) and gave it a home in the corner of the lounge.

After a run of Christmas meals for Sue over the past two weeks with her U3A groups, it was my time to get into the Yuletide mood and enjoy some festive fayre. On the 15th Dec. nine of us met in the garden room for mulled wine and sloe gins before boarding a mini-bus to the Red Lion in Welham for a Christmas dinner.  Despite an earlier, near disaster when the glass container of (too) hot mulled wine shattered, spreading its contents across the kitchen surface. Managing to quickly make more with our very own home vintage red wine, honey and spices, this time leaving it in the pan (lesson learnt). Our little group had an excellent night, finishing off with further refreshments in the Red Cow, back in Harborough.

Maddeningly, my sore left foot which has refused to mend since a very long ramble several weeks ago decided on my late-night walk home to take the pain it has been inflicting on me to another level. The following morning I rang the surgery and made an appointment to see a doctor.


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