Deck the halls with boughs of holly . . .
I'd managed to mess up the telly again ~ it is always the same ~ if the phone rings while the telly is on I very often turn it off clumsily and produce a bloody snow storm ~ phoned Peter (of Little and Large) first thing and he popped in, re-set the program and would not let me pay ! Unbelievable ~ the phone call was from Vera in Germany to tell me about poor Willi's death from lung cancer ~ Willi and Vera were kind-of honorary residents of Clarks Yard ~ they had been coming for two or three weeks a year, sometimes coming twice ~ to start with they rented number 3 and then the White House and after that was sold, next door, number 7 ~ they were wonderfully hospitable and invited everybody up for drinks and supper ~ they both smoked and Willi quite heavily until we all got at him but by then the damage will have been done ~ they share a house with her mother, another Vera, they had the upstairs flat and her mother the downstairs one ~ Mother is still going strong, Vera told me, at 92 ~ so that was sad news.
Thinking about bygone days, it was our first year in Winchester when Richard was still at All Saints Primary (Howard's school) ~ on the day they broke up for Christmas Georgina Jenkinson had sent me £10 and I had popped down to the town to buy a few treats for their stockings, leaving Will (4) and Kate (3) with a neighbour ~ I wasn't long but the awful thing was I locked the doors, back and front, a thing we never did ~ Richard had made a special Christmas decoration for me ~ a fir cone with a sprig of greenery and all sprayed with snow ~ ruching home from school with this treasure he found the house locked up and he was locked out in the cold ~ in a fit os rage, frustration and disappointment he smashed up his delicate creation and trampled it under foot : "Why did you lock both doors, Mum ~ why did you lock me out ?" Oh dear ~ the pain we inflict on those we love ~ and quite inadvertently ~ a bit late now, but I am still sorry about this, more than fifty years later ! There was another painful episode shortly afterwards ~ oh Lord ~ there was a nationwide competiton for under tens, drawing and painting something to do with Cadbury's chocolate ~ the day she received her prize she rushed home from school and dumped it on the dresser while she went off to the baths ~ so without realising this, as we sat there later with a pot of tea, I suddenly spotted this big box of chocs ~ "Oh how lovely ~ where has this come from !" and (I could weep with shame at the memory, shame and remorse) we opened it and all had one ~ when she came back, Georgie was really hurt : "That was my prize ~ I was going to open it to share after tea . . . I hope they both forgave me in the end ~ though odd times when we have sat round the kitchen table chewing over old wounds, the things I remember with shame nobody else did but they remembered other incidents which I had completely forgotten.
Christmas Eve : BNBarbara came and opened all the Christmas cards which I'd saved up since the first was delivered in November ~ I have not sent any other than the ones I can access on Google ~ pointless as my hand writing is practically illegible ~ I have phoned one or two SPECIALS otherwise that's it ~ Mary brought me down a tasty plate of cold meat with sausage rrolls and delicious crunchy cheese straws ~ Barbara brought me a chunk of the cake her sister had sent her ~ you can see how spoilt I am ! Have heard from all the family and a pile of presents waiting to be unwrapped in the morning ~ when the children were young I used to allow them to open one small present each which helped settle them down for the night ~ Howard is going to Georgie for lunch though she wont be cooking ~ they'll have cold meat and salad as they do every year ~it is her birthday on Boxing Day (her sixtieth) and for years now she has insisted on spending it alone which is her idea of heaven. I had a spare pot of hyacinths after giving them out to various friends and was wondering who should have them when it suddebly occurred to me I could keep them myself ~ Barbara has put them on the stair windowsill with plenty of light but not sunlight and probably the coolest spot in the house ~ inevitably at this time of year our minds float back to bygone Christmases but I think I've told you all that already ~ Christmas at home, in Lausanne during my au pair days, and later on in the little Eccles School house and then in Quarry Road Winchester which reminds me of an incident our first Christmas there ~ there was a Christingle service for children at the Cathedralad I took them all ~ it was a long sevice and cold on the stone floor ~ Kate would have been coming up to 3 (her birthday is January 11th) ~ it was all too much for the poor child and to her shame she wet her knickers ~ I only became aware of this when Will announced in horrified tone " How could you fo that with God watching you " God may have been watching from on high of course but the disapproving figure was a verger at the end of our pew ~ Kate with enormous resourcefulness had taken off her knickers and was wiping up the puddle ~ Kate is still immensely resourceful ! PI'll find a picture of them at that age in the morning)