Thursday, 24th December, 2020

[Day 283]

We knew from the weather forecasts that today ought to have been cold, bright and clear – and so it turned out to be. In anticipation that some of our friends might not be otherwise occupied this Christmas Eve morning, we loaded up various bags with a supply of mince pies, oloroso sherry and some paper cups, and supplies (presents actually) of damson gin. We dropped a bottle of damson gin at some acquaintances round the corner and then knocked on the door of ‘close friends No. 1’ As it happened, they were both in so we made a present of the damson gin and then we arranged an impromptu party in the garage which was airy and windy whilst we could be socially distanced from each other. Then we really got dug into our mince pies and sherry-in-a-paper cup contemplating what a very strange year it had been and how we had had to make adaptations to our normal routines. Then another couple turned up to visit our mutual friends so we invited them to join the party so there we were at our maximum six. As it turned out, we shall see them in church tomorrow morning when we get there at 8.30 in the morning. Then having taken our leave of ‘close friends No. 1’ we knocked on the door of ‘close friend No. 2’ and fortunately they were in as well. Our friends put a little table in their porch so we had somewhere to place our comestibles so we repeated our little Christmas party experience all over again. Our friends just happened to have some of their own home-made damson gin as well as some that their daughter had donated to them (which was actually about two years old) So we seized the opportunity to taste and compare all three of the gins – and I was relieved to say that ours compared very favourably with the other two. By now, full of gin, sherry and mince pies we thought we had better stagger our way to the newsagents. As they had been the recipients of some of my gin the day before, we were favoured by a Christmas and some chocolate treats which we thought we would preserve until we got home. Then we got home very late but just before our son and daughter-in-law were going off to the hotel (French cuisine, very sophisticated) which they had managed to get booked into a few days ago. Fortunately, I had put a ham on my previous Waitrose order and we had acquired some ready-to-heat red cabbage so we managed to rustle up a meal in two shakes of a lamb’s tail as they say. In contemplation of the morning’s events, we have to say that this was of the most impromptu but engaging series of encounters we have ever had!

In the afternoon, I realised that we needed to put our little crib in place and a few tinselly things that we scatter around pictures and the like (the tinsel I got into place in 11 minutes flat this year). Over the years, I have come to the view that the fewer bits of decorations we put around the house, the sooner they can put away on twelfth night – or whenever the deadline approaches when the Christmas tree is due for recycling at the local garden centre. But the major focus of this afternoon was catching up on the news of the trade deal that had eventually been struck with the EU.

The whole of this ‘just managing to get a deal done by Christmas Eve’ was actually tremendously stage-managed. I think it was fairly obvious that Boris Johnson was always going to a deal, or be close to a deal, the day before Christmas Eve. This way, all of the newspapers could say ‘A deal is imminent’ but nothing had been published yet which could be criticised. Some of the newspapers even participated in this ‘deception’ one of them obliging (almost at the suggestion of No. 10) with a cartoon of Boris Johnson dressed up as Santa Claus, pushing ‘goodies’ in the form of a ‘done deal’ down a chimney, making sure that there were lots of union jacks (what else?) Of course, being an ex-journalist, Boris would have known that there would no newspapers published on Christmas Day and by the time any more newspapers did appear (on Boxing Day) people would have lots of other things on their mind (such as Tier 4 classifications) which would distract them from any criticisms of the deal. Although the (subservient) UK press will hail the deal as a ‘triumph’ for Boris Johnson, in the cold light of day it will emerge that the UK has made quite a lot of concessions because we never had a very strong hand to play. Eventually, when it is too late, we will get the full-bloodied analysis of what has been agreed in our name. If we haven’t left the EU, we could have claimed a large share of the 750 billion euro fund that the EU is putting together to cope with the effects of the pandemic. Enough said!