Saturday, 23rd December, 2023

[Day 1377]

Today being a Saturday, we were quite looking forward to meeting up again with our friends. After one or two days of early starts, Meg and I were more than pleased to have a little lie-in this morning but, nonetheless we got ourselves up, breakfasted and then located in the Waitrose cafeteria by just after 10.30. We were about the first to arrive but pushed some tables together and were soon joined by our three regular friends plus our University of Birmingham friend who had phoned us yesterday. There was much exchanging of Christmas cards and a little last minute Christmas shopping as we, individually, discovered things that absolutely had to be bought just before Christmas. We are a jolly little bunch and I helped the jollities along by showing our friends an illustration of the children’s character, Mog. This is because within the family I have the soubriquet of Mog (the initials of which stand, incidentally, for Miserable Old Git) Everytime our daughter-in-law went into her primary chool and mentioned ‘Meg and Mike’ her collegues would exclaim ‘Don’t you mean Meg and Mog?’ and so the name has stuck with me for years, even being used on one famous occasion in a hospital ward where there was confusion over the multiple ‘Mike’s’ as patients and so I volunteered to be known in the hospital thereafter as Mog. Now the Sunday Times made a feature of Mog on the front page of their Culture magazine last weekend and so I was flattered to have made it to the front pages of the High Street Media at last. This illustration was cut out and pasted onto some card and passed around the table so that my friends could appreciate how Mog was making an appearance. I had also been sent an extremely amusing Christmas card so this was taken along to help with the general jollities. So after all of this, we made for home and started to think about a simple lunch. But the doorbell rang and it was our next door neighbour who had popped around with one or little Christmas delicacies for us to enjoy. As his wife was at work for the rest of the day, he was inclined to tarry and we invited him along to our Music Lounge where we explained some of the musical offerings that we now access via YouTube. Our neighbour has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music from about about the 1940’s to the 1980’s at a guess and, as a hobby, has installed several of the old style juke boxes in his converted garage. By the way, these have the most wonderful and vibrant rich sound on the occasions I have been played one or two records in our neighbour’s system. So although our musical tastes differ wildly grom each other, we have enough in common to remember together some of the tracks that we remember fom our youth. For example, I have quite vivid memories of my sister and I buying an EP (= ‘Extended Play’) 45rpm record on which recording there was Harry Belafonte singing ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ I am pretty sure that Harry Belafonte is in his mid 90’s and still alive but I have not heard it played over the airwaves for many a long time now. After all of this, our normal lunchtime was so delayed that we thought we woukd improvise a quick as lightning lunch. We had a bowl of soup, followed by some tea loaf augmented by a slab of cheese and this was easily enough for our lunch.

After lunch was over, we received a telephone call from the daughter of a niece who had texted us yesterday, suggesting that we have a Christmas style chat. As it happens, Meg and I were able to view, over a YouTube link, the Sunday morning service in a church in Gateshead in which there two children were christened.So this turned out to be quite a joyous occasion and I doubt that Meg and I would have managed a journey to Gateshead in the first place. Our phone call lasted about 50 minutes and we had a lot of family news to catch up on both sides. I intimated that I hope that Meg and I might travel to York by train and have a family meal at a bistro that we know which is immediately adjacent to the station and thus easy both to find and to access. We will probably make some arrangements to see if we can organise a family get together like this, probably in the Easter vacation. Later on tonight, Meg and I feel that will indulge ourselves in yet another viewing of ‘Paddington‘ which we have seen so many times that we have probably have forgotten some of the words. I remain of the view that this is much an ‘adult’ as a ‘children’s film’ because there are quite deep matters of identity, attachment to UK culture and the way that, as a society, we treat strangers to our shores, which actually chimes today with current matters of political debate over migration. There are also some fabulous little ‘in jokes’ as when Paddington seized a dog to carry down the escalator in response to the notice that ‘Dogs must be carried’