This will be the first Christmas Do for Caring Crafters since 2019 so let’s choose something everyone will enjoy. Did you all get my email?
I can’t do Wednesdays I’m playing every Wednesday evening.
So that won’t be a problem if we go for the afternoon tea.
We haven’t settled on that have we?
Out of those that replied to my email three quarters were for the afternoon.
A Christmas Do surely means turkey and crackers, why can’t we go back to The George?
Afternoon tea at The Refectory promises to be lovely and we have to think of Andrew.
…and Ian can’t drive at night with his eyes.
I don’t know if I can get the afternoon off, it’s our busiest time.
And I would have to get someone to pick the children up from school.
Suits me as long as it’s not a Thursday… or a Tuesday and Mondays I have to take Mother for her infusions.
I’m sure Andrew won’t mind if we go to the George, where is he anyway?
Therapist, he sent apologies, he’s doing very well.
Have they got a ramp at The Refectory?
Yes they have nice new toilets and super disabled since we used to meet there. So let’s have a show of hands… raise your hand if you would like to go to the Refectory for afternoon tea…. So that’s twelve For, five Against. Now, I’ll pass round the brochure with the seven different party selections.
£17.99, bloody hell, I know prices have gone up but…
The other selections are cheaper.
Yes, but they haven’t got samosas.
C selection has sausage rolls, will that do you Roger?
We might be able to wangle a discount if enough of us are going.
D £13.99 would suit you Di, looks like it’s vegetarian.
With tuna mayonnaise sandwiches!
So how about New for 22, Vegan Value… ‘cucumber curls with our delicious homemade yeast extract.’
That just means marmite sandwiches, if I’m going to have afternoon tea I want a decent ham doorstep.
‘You can’t expect Tim to come after a morning’s dog walking and survive on a humous finger sandwich. How many clients have you got now Tim?
More now the winter weather is here, I have to do two rounds in the morning, large and unruly for two hours by the river, then handbag dogs round the park. Anyway, I think we should splash out on the dearest.
Not all of us have a big appetite, I don’t want to pay eighteen pounds for a cup of tea and cheese roll.
Do we have to book at all, can’t we just turn up and choose what we want, put a few tables together and hope they don’t notice?
Oh no, we want the Xmas tablecloths and crackers.
And a quiz.
Hang on, have you looked at the bottom line… groups of more than eight must book Christmas Afternoon Tea at The Refectory by 5th December.
We had our second, proper Christmas on Tuesday 28th as Team H felt well enough to drive 180 miles on Monday and had negative results. People still get coughs, colds and winter lurgies nothing to do with Covid. It would have been a waste of totally rearranging and child proofing the house if they couldn’t have come at all! With my son and daughter-in-law living with me it has tripled ( octupled? ) the amount of equipment needing protection from three and six year old boys, not to mention the mountain of Christmas presents they had given each other.
A favourite children’s present, sent by Nanna in Spain via Amazon, turned out to be very popular. Seasick Sam is a game, along the same idea as Buckaroo, but they just liked playing with Sam. You see how much food you can stuff in his mouth before he is sick. We five adults had Secret Santa with all presents to be bought locally or in charity shops and we all came up with a great selection.
Writing did not take a back seat as six year old wanted to write his own Frightened Freddy Lego story and being six it revolved around vomiting, with Seaside Sam having a starring role and toilets. We took lots of screen shots and edited the pictures on the computer. When I suggested we start writing the story he said ‘I think I’ll make the story longer…’ who would be an editor!
The next day we edited more photos and whittled them down to 33. Then he narrated and I typed, no easy task with someone who bounces around like Tigger the whole time, whilst leaning on my desk… We printed it out and sent the photos to his mother’s ipad in time for the deadline of going home .
I can’t abide reviews of the year, any year and especially not the Terrible Twenties! Sport, politics, war, disaster or disease, I don’t want to see or hear reviews; it started days before the chimes and fireworks …
Revitalizing, reviving and rambling is what we need. You can ramble around having exercise or you can ramble on when you are blogging…
I haven’t completely left 2021 behind; Christmas was delayed for three days Chez Tidalscribe, so I am a bit late arriving in 2022 and I have only just started reading the book for tomorrow’s Zoom book club.
Two days later… well it turned out only one person in the group had read the book and the lady who runs the group had not even opened it. Everyone cited Christmas as the reason.
Four more Christmas cards just arrived, one of which I will definitely have to answer with a
review resume an update on 2021. Just when you think the Christmas card nightmare is over… remember those days in the December twenties when you realise you have not sent out cards early to tell old friends and relatives you have moved, got cancer, been widowed, made redundant… or you realise you did not reply to those old friends and relatives who wrote last January to apologise for not sending a Christmas card because they had been widowed, busy moving house, got a cancer diagnosis, lost their dog …
Covid has given us a whole new string of excuses for not sending cards, or more importantly getting out of actually seeing anybody next year…
We must get together when things settle down.
Would love to take you up on your invitation to come up and stay, but I’m working 24/7 at the hospital.
Just tested positive so New Year’s party is cancelled.
I’ll send you the link for the Zoom funeral, such a shame you can’t come, Dad would have loved a good turn out…
CHRISTMAS EVE – THAT GREAT BRITISH TRADITION; A CLIFF TOP WALK IN THE RAIN FOLLOWED BY MULLED WINE AND LUNCH AT THE BEACH HUT.
THE OTHER GREAT CHRISTMAS EVE TRADITION IS THE MORNING PHONE CALL… WHICH STARTS WITH ‘BAD NEWS..’ AMIDST ALL THE COVID TESTING, BOOSTING AND WAITING TO BE TRICKED BY THE PM INTO A LAST MINUTE LOCKDOWN, THERE ARE OTHER WINTER LURGIES LURKING. NOW WE ARE DEFERRING CHRISTMAS FOR A FEW DAYS UNTIL TEAM H HAVE NEGATIVE PCR RESULTS AND FEEL BETTER.
IT’S STILL RAINING BUT WE’VE HAD A GOOD DAY, GOOD LUNCH, FACETIMED, WATCHED ‘ARTHUR CHRISTMAS’ AND EVERYBODY GOT MORE LEGO…
I HOPE YOU ALL HAD A PLEASANT DAY WHATEVER YOU PLANNED OR HAD TO REARRANGE…
I logged in on my dashboard computer – Friday 15th January 2040. I was getting a new work experience person today. It didn’t matter what day of the week they started, we worked seven days a week and every day was the same, though today was going to be rather different. Their name was Hope, sixteen years old, no idea if they would be a boy, girl or other, I would have to wait and see how or if they self identified. Dressed in biohaz suits it was difficult to tell, so it didn’t much matter. What sort of name was Hope; parents must have been optimistic, must have been optimistic in the first place to have a baby in 2024.
‘Good morning Hope, welcome to the team, what the hell made you want to try this job?’
‘To get away from home, get outside.’
‘They all say that, outside’s not all it’s cracked up to be, every day’s much the same, but I have to tell you we have an NR7 to deal with first today, did they tell you about that in your on line induction?’
‘Nope, don’t think so, wasn’t really listening…’
‘I thought not, well you can back out now, it might not be very nice.’
‘No way, I’d have to go to the back of the jobs queue.’
‘NR7 means No Response for seven days, weekly food parcel still on front path and housebot has set off the alarm – no signs of life detected. We have to go in, it’s almost certain resident is dead, probably of old age.’
‘Whaat…’ came the gruff exclamation through their mask voice box.
‘I’ve seen a few cases. Rich relatives paid or bribed for them to be exempt from the euthanasia programme, unkindest thing they could have done, but I guess years ago they thought this would all be over and Granny would come round for tea again.’
‘Why would you want your Granny to come round, when you could see her on Omegazoom?’
‘So she could play with her grandchildren… oh never mind, let’s get on with this. According to our records all her family predeceased her, otherwise they would have notified us that she was not responding.’
Hope gazed out of the window of my solar powered vehicle as we turned into the ‘Granny’s’ street.
‘I’ve never been down a street before, we live in a tower block, those gardens look so pretty, how do they get them all the same?’
‘Gardenbots, programmed to create the sort of garden the average person wants to look out on. Ah, here we are, Click and Collect food box still out on the front path, regulation two metres from the front door. Only time residents are allowed out; to click on the box, collect it and take it indoors, but obviously you know all that.’
‘Yes, I always volunteer to go out in the corridor and collect ours.’
‘NR7 is the only time we are allowed to enter a private home, I had to sign out the entry device, let’s hope it works.’
I pointed and pressed the button and it showed entry code overridden. I pushed at the front door, but it didn’t give easily; we soon saw why and I thought my other half had a lot of pot plants. It was like a jungle, not that I have ever seen a jungle. Through the leaves emerged a four foot angular housebot. It was no use asking it what had happened, one of the outdated models that didn’t speak, programmed only for house maintenance, not companionship. It didn’t need to speak, I knew at this very moment it would be signalling back to base, alien human life detected. I quickly tapped my wrist phone to register with base my arrival here.
‘Okay Hope, I’ll go first into each room, starting with the front room.’
Obviously the housebot was programmed to stay out of the little old fashioned sitting room; in the corner was the skeleton of a tree, beneath it a carpet of dead pine needles and under that thick dusty layer could just be discerned some grey shapes that had once been Christmas parcels.
Hope pointed in horror as if this might be the body we were looking for.
‘What is thaat?’
‘It was once a Christmas Tree.’
‘Before your time, a relic from the last Christmas of 2020.’
I felt a lump in my throat. I remembered that last Christmas. We never did go round to Granny’s to have a ‘proper Christmas when things are better’ – it seems I was not the only child who didn’t get Granny’s presents that year.
We moved through the kitchen, all neat and tidy; the housebot would have cleared away any clues as to when the resident had last eaten. Out in a little conservatory was another housebot free area, the plants had run riot and on a table covered in cobwebs, a closer inspection revealed a half built Lego set, like I used to play with. But the smiling faces of the Lego people could not be seen under the thick coat of dust.
‘Wouldn’t she have been a bit old to be playing with Lego?’
‘I imagine that was the last time her grandchildren came round, she left the Lego out ready for them to play with next time, but next time never came.’
But Hope wasn’t listening, they had wrenched open the filthy patio door to gaze in wonder at the back garden and it was a wonderful display of colour to cheer us up. The rich relatives must have paid out an endowment long ago for a personal gardenbot.
Reluctantly I lead the way upstairs, the worst part of our job was still to come. I pushed open the bedroom door and there she was, lying tucked up in bed, the blank Omegazoom screen at an easy to see angle beside her. I wondered when was the last time she had spoken to anyone on the screen.
‘Well Hope, you should get your parents to check in to the home bidding, there will be a house and garden available in a week or so.’
‘Do you think we stand a chance, a real garden I could go out into?’
‘Tell them to get in quick before everyone else hears about it.’
Lockdown Three has none of the drama of Lockdown One, though it is more cutting edge than Lockdown Two when schools were open and we thought we still had Christmas to look forward to. In an echo of the brilliant dramatic twist twixt lockdowns when Christmas was cancelled at the last moment, because Covid 19 reneged on its promise to give us five days off, the director instituted a brilliant scene from Downing Street in which the PM closes all schools, not the day before, but the very day after they started the new term ( a sentence nearly as long as lockdown ).
Lockdown Three promises to be longer than Lockdown Two, but with the same advantage of covering winter months, so people will be glad to huddle indoors. Are we prepared? I think it would have been more dramatic if we could be like the French and fill in forms to produce to show we have a good reason to be out. We are allowed out for exercise, to get immunised and to buy food and some people might actually have to go out to work… My freezer now has one drawer full of sliced apple from the tree in my garden; it thrived during last spring and summer’s sunny lockdowns, with no desire to leave home. Another drawer is devoted to the Christmas feast postponed till Chreastersummermas. I still have enough room for regular rations.
As my first winter being a widow it seems apt for normal life to be suspended, not that I would wish a pandemic on the rest of the world merely to take the pressure off me deciding anything. While half the population, from politicians to front line services, are busier than ever, the other half may be shielding or out of work, life curtailed to the banal or at least a gentler pace. There are plenty of positives; new hobbies, putting your CD collection in alphabetical order, having cooking fun. Gardening may have taken a back seat, but you can fill your home with pot plants and cut flowers; perhaps your family will not be able to find you in the jungle when at last they can visit.
There are new experiences for most of us. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra tomorrow starts its second series of digital, livestreamed concerts. You can buy tickets for individual concerts or the whole season on line. We had a camera club zoom party and I won the Bingo; no need to go out on a cold night with plates of food, or clear up afterwards. Every Saturday night I join in a Zoom quiz; a window on the outside world.
If you get bored you can always order yourself more presents from Amazon ( yes I know we shouldn’t, but we all use them because you can find what you want, or even things you didn’t know you wanted, and it always arrives ). Nearly everyone in my family from four to forties is obsessed with Lego ( Lego is certainly not just for children ) and after many hints I was given my first Lego set – Lego Architecture mini London. It was tiny, fiddly, fun and addictive; a total change from blogging and writing. I have ordered myself a big box of Lego bricks and bits so I can make my own creations.
My little real Christmas tree in the front garden has been undecorated, but today I had a Glastonburyish idea; I am going to leave it there and tie a ribbon on every day till we’re out of lockdown.
Cassie felt deflated, empty, tired. She tried to summon up the positivity that had kept her going since March, but a new year was not going to bring a new start for anyone. It was no consolation that more of England had joined them in Tier 4, lockdown in all but name. She knew she was lucky to have a job and a home, didn’t have to do home schooling or shop for elderly parents, but the positives she had nurtured this year seemed to be fading away.
Christmas Day had been good, as if her presence had made it easier for Sam and his long lost son to talk, telling her things about their lives that they hadn’t told each other. She had found herself smiling several times; Christmas 2019 spent alone and this Christmas spent with a homeless man and a runaway teenager. Now her little house seemed too quiet, though she had been glad enough of the peace on Christmas night after the two of them and the dog had clumped off on their way.
She would be more than happy to have them as regular visitors, but Christmas had been one day of freedom for Britons; now it was back to having no visitors, no visiting. Even her regular walks with Sam and his dog had ceased; the new rule was meet only one person outside your household, outside and Sam’s long walks were now with his son. Though James had done well getting the MPJ building as suitable as possible for his clients, it was a roof over their heads, not a home for a father and son. Sam was keeping Lucas out and about as much as possible, desperate to keep him from getting bored or depressed and doing a reverse runaway back to Scotland and the comforts of his step father’s highland estate.
Cassie could no longer visit the MPJ homeless project, even with the careful Covid regime James had set up. He was all too aware, as he never ceased to point out, how vulnerable some of his little group of homeless were, nor did he want any possibility of the project being blamed for an increase in cases in the town.
She was still working from home, management were pleased with her team, but would they all keep their jobs in the long term with the double blow of Covid and Brexit? Work was hard, not at all the easy lounging in pyjamas outsiders might imagine. Supervising her team was difficult; she was propping some of them up, carrying them. The continual ups and downs of what she assumed was normal busy parenthood, doubled in stress with parents worried every time a child coughed or felt a bit hot; Covid tests, waiting for results, keeping children home in isolation, whole classes being sent home because one child had a positive test, schools closed with teachers ill…
She was jolted out of her glum mood when her mobile buzzed, she was surprised to see it was James calling, wanting to Facetime and get some advice. How long since they had chatted on line? She was never sure if he had been disappointed that their spring on line friendship had not developed into anything more, when they got the chance to meet up for real. But now she was pathetically grateful for the chance to have a chat on this lonely New Year’s Eve.
March seems so long ago now, but we first met Cassie in a queue for the chemist…