Wednesday 31 December 2008

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers

What an odd year this has been. For our little family, 2008 began with sorrow and is ending with optimism. The rest of the world examines its cuts and bruises, and wonders ... what next? 2009 is waking up.

For me, the new year is a time to hug my loved ones close and give thanks for all my blessings. Whatever might have pulled me down last year, it's time to bounce back and start afresh this year!

May all you delightful writers and readers out there in the blogosphere be blessed with fine fortune, rosy-cheeked good health, a spring in your tail, joy in your hearts and fun fun fun fun fun. x

Saturday 27 December 2008

The Wrong Kind of Cough

I can't sleep because every time I lie down I start coughing. Sitting up helps the cough, but not the sleep. I spent Christmas night on the sofa so Big G could sweat out his flu fever in delirious solitude.

So I went to the chemist today and asked for some medicine that would suppress my cough at night.

"Is it chesty or tickly?" asked the pharmacist.

"Chesty", I wheezed.

"Sorry, no, we've only got tickly", she said firmly, with a sidelong glance at a large shelf groaning under the weight of at least 30 different types of cough medicine.

"But I bought Benylin for chesty coughs", I explained, coughing, "but it just loosens everything up and makes you cough more. I want something that stops me coughing at night".

"Well, I don't know ... if it's chesty ..."

"What about that one?" I blurted, pointing at a serious looking bottle labelled NIGHT-TIME COUGH SUPPRESSANT MEDICINE.

The pharmacist frowned. "Hmmm, well it won't cure the cause of the cough, it'll just stop you coughing".

"I'll take it", I said.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

The Sick, the Sicker and the Very Excited

The Sick = Big G and Me. We are wretched with earaches, headaches, sore throats and rattling coughs from the deep that make 40-a-day smokers sound healthy.

The Sicker = Grandad G. He flew in with wheelchair assistance and is hobbling around the house, able to walk only when leaning on a rail or an arm. The slapdash doctor who's trying to avoid the inevitable Knee Operation will have an ear-ache of his own in the new year, when Big G gets on the phone.

The Very Excited = Who else? At 7 and 8 years old, the children are still splendidly Santa-Centric. They leap and whoop their way past the presents and the tree, the lights and the chocolates, all the way to Thursday. I really hope I feel better by then ...!!

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Oh, Tannenbaum

I can smell it now, that magical whiff of pine needles and oven-fresh mince pies. We dust off the Bing Crosby carol CD, and his velvet voice competes with the shrieks of the children. I love that cold afternoon when we turn up the heating and put up the tree.

The twinkling trees that light up the land between December and twelfth night have their roots in sixteenth century Germany (‘Tannenbaum’ means ‘fir tree’ in German). Folklore tells us that the triangular shape of the fir represented the holy trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – and that originally Christmas trees were hung upside down.

Even the right way up, they didn’t really catch on with the English until, in December 1848, the London News printed a woodcut illustration of Queen Victoria with her German Prince Albert, standing in front of one. Victoria was a popular queen, and Christmas trees became quite the fashion after that.

Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Christmas tree fashions came and went. In World War II they were forbidden except in public places where they were put up to boost moral. They returned in the glow of post-war nostalgia, and families gleefully shopped at Woolworth’s for baubles, tinsel, angels and stars. The psychedelic 60’s brought us tacky, pre-lit silver trees, and 1970’s housewives bought plastic green ones that didn’t drop needles on the carpet.

I have always thought that, like dogs, Christmas trees say something about their owners: Some are small and neatly tucked in the corner; some lush and gloriously overcrowded with quirky baubles; others a simple, quiet statement of elegance. Oh Tannenbaum, what a lot you have to tell us.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Tea-Towels and Tinsel

An obedient hush came over the audience as the Head Teacher stood up on the stage in his courdoroy suit, with his rosy cheeks and shaggy rock-star hair. "If you're expecting a Christmassy feel to the show, you won't be disappointed", he grinned, "there are tea-towels on heads, lots of tinsel and glitter, it's really wonderful".

Aaahh, the infants' nativity. Every child - the good and the naughty, the dim and the sharp - has a little part to play. My son was a Narrator and wore a white shirt and black bow tie. The Donkey plodded about and looked embarrassed. The Sheep wiggled their tails and got a hearty laugh. The Innkeepers shook their heads. The biggest girl was in charge of holding the extra-large star on a stick, and got some extra-loud applause. Twenty more Stars in yellow t-shirts and golden crowns waved their arms and sang about twinkling in the East. The Angels sang too - a little out of tune perhaps - but it sounded heavenly to me. The youngest Shepherd yawned as it got close to bedtime.

It's delicious, the school nativity. It makes us parents do those proud, misty-eyed, movie-mother sorts of smiles.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Outside Looking In

I went out running the other night. I'd left it too late and it was dark already. Not just darkish, but freezing cold, icy black dark, with tiny stars peeping through the wispy fog hovering above the trees. I wished I'd worn a hat.

I started running up the hill and did a bit of a skid on a patch of ice. Shit, I thought. Turning round and going home was not an option, I'd been waiting all day for this run. So I jogged on slowly instead - taking small, careful granny steps - treading on piles of old crunchy leaves whenever I could, to reduce the chances of slipping.

I love running in the dark. Gardens are spooky and all is quiet. People sit in their brightly-lit lounges with the curtains wide open, scratching themselves and feeding their faces, watching TV and not caring that I can look in and see them as clearly as if they were on TV themselves.

I run slowly past, invisible, breathing in icy gulps of air, glad that I'm outside and they're not.