I really ought to be pressing on with my last Christmas cards, but I need a break!
How many people will be spending Christmas quietly this year? Quite a lot, I should think, and not only on grounds of cost. Somehow the Old Ritual has lost its magic.
How pointless it all was - buying costly presents, always better than last year's, and the immense labour of wrapping them all up; staggeringly long greetings card lists; relentless Christmas Eve preparations till way past midnight; Buck's Fizz for breakfast on Christmas Day; hot, red-faced slaving in the kitchen till halfway through the afternoon; the same old stodge; the same old Christmas crackers; silly hats; too much booze; indiscretions; arguments; bad temper; tears; more slavery in the kitchen to get a mountain of pans, plates and cutlery washed up; the struggle to stay awake; the headaches and the bloated feeling, and the occasional tummy upsets. How much nicer to have an easy-cook oven pizza or curry, and just chill.
In their heyday, in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, I generally found Christmas at Mum and Dad's very congenial, with singsongs in the kitchen and a crisp afternoon walk later on in the park, or up at Waggoner's Wells. But on other occasions, in other homes, including my own when married, it was much as described above. Each year you'd swear not to do it again. But you did.
And staying away over Christmas seemed such a cop-out, the abandonment of family. And yet, at a price, it was in fact a very good solution. I've had two Christmases away. In 2003 Mum, Dad, M--- and myself went to a country hotel near Worcester. And in 2010 I took the caravan down to snowy Cornwall on my own.
This year, unless I get lucky and receive an unexpected invitation, there is every prospect of spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day entirely without company. It has just worked out like that. I really don't mind at all. At the very worst, I can cook myself a yummy lunch or evening meal without the pressure of people arriving halfway through the day. I can if I like - and I probably will if it's sunny - take myself off in Fiona and drop in at some village pub. It'll be heaving with locals. I may get drawn into whatever is happening. It's company. Why not? I'm certainly not a timid stay-at-home person.
But if the weather's foul, and it seems like a waste of car fuel to venture out, I won't be bored. Nor introspective.
But some will be.
I hope that everyone who has lately been cast out of their old home, and is making the best of it on their own, and is hurting, will find a way to stay cheerful. It will take a very big effort. In the dark days at the end of the year it's very hard to smile.
But I have a tip. Turn off your electric lights, and light a candle. Then sit and watch it. Candles are things of warmth and hope. Lighting one will help.