Friday, 25th December, 2020

[Day 284]

Well, Christmas Day has arrived at last. I imagine that for many families around the country, Christmas Day in 2020 is to be enjoyed for itself but then got over with as quickly as possible. Bereft of family members, Christmas Day will seem a very strange experience for many families and some couples will be spending time along with their spouses for the first time in years – or ever. For Meg and I this is is not a particularly strange experience as we have spent quite a few Christmasses in each other’s sole company but we can imagine that it is a source of some heartache for many families. Knowing that we had to make a fairly early start this morning to get to church at 8.30 we did not want to oversleep and so so employed an additional alarm to make sure that we did not just turn over at 6.30 and go back to sleep. As the night had been particularly cold and we had several degrees of frost, we decided to line our stomachs with a good bowl of porridge before we set off for church at about 8.00am. The porridge strategy turned out to be a useful one as the church’s heating system has been out of commission for some weeks and this, coupled with an absence of hot bodies to warm it up over the weeks, meant that attending church was a pretty chilling experience. Of course, hymns are not allowed but we did hear Berlioz’s ‘A Shepherds lament’ which is a particular favourite of mine. On the way out of church, I did manage to smuggle a bottle of damson gin ready for the priest’s ultimate enjoyment – I am going to remind him when we next meet face-to-face that I hope it doesn’t get it mixed up with communion wine (although I think, in an emergency such as a POW camp priest is allowed to used anything of alcoholic content to act as a substitute). For Christmas dinner, Meg and I know what we like and we generally avoid turkey preferring to have some good topside of beef with a good bottle of Rioja to wash it down.

Christmas present opening time is always a source of pleasure and if we do it one present at a time it fills out most of the morning. I acquired four books which I know will keep me occupied for weeks – and was made a present of a fifth which was ‘All New Dad jokes’ which Meg has commandeered for most of the day. But fair exchange is no robbery because I have similarly requisitioned some classical music CD’s which I bought for Meg as a ‘stocking filler’. Actually, when I was in town a couple of weeks I happened to see in one of the charity shops that they were selling 5 classical CD’s for £1.00 (evidently, 20p each!) One of these proved to be absolutely superb. It was the classic recording of the three tenors (Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti) in that concert recorded live at the Caracalla Baths in Rome in 1990 on the occasion of the World Cup held in Italy of year. This CD has 17 tracks altogether and each rendition is accompanied by the applause of an enthusiastic audience which really added to the sense of occasion. I played the whole CD at quite a loud volume which I would not normally have done if Meg and I had not been alone in the house. As our kitchen is 27′ long and the heritage Sony sound system we keep in the kitchen is hardly ever extended to its real capacities, I really indulged myself whilst I was preparing the Christmas dinner. As I generally do, I had already prepared some parsnips, carrots and sprouts the evening before and had them chilling in the fridge overnight. Then I prepared rather a super onion gravy, supplemented by the meat juices from the slow cooker receptacle in which the beef was cooked. Then came the job of par-boiling the parsnips and carrots before getting them plus roast potatoes plus Yorkshire puddings plus dinner plates into the oven at the right temperature and in the right sequence. I found myself actually working quite heard as I also had to fit in preparing the smoked salmon starters, getting the Rioja wine prepared and ensuring that all of the necessary sauces were on hand. No mishaps occurred, I am pleased to say (because there is quite a lot that could go wrong) so Meg and sat down to our starters at 1.30 precisely. Needless to say, we treated ourselves to another hearing of the ‘Three Tenors’ CD which had given me so much pleasure during the morning.

We had intended to attempt to get into contact with our ‘family’ (i.e. closest friend) in Spain at about 4.00 in the afternoon. After trying FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, their mobile numbers and their landline – all with no reply – we had to give up on our attempt and hope that nothing untoward has happened. I only mention this because Laura’s last email indicated they were going to have a pretty miserable time isolated and cut off from the rest of the family when Christmas time is normally a time when they are all together! No doubt, we will get the whole story in the fullness of time.