Friday, 23rd December, 2022

[Day 1012]

Today has been quite an interesting day. We allowed ourselves a little bit of a lie-in this morning and then realised that we were probably going to meet up with friends in Waitrose cafe so decided to get our skates on. It was raining this morning and not the best morning for delivering Christmas presents – nonetheless as we made our progress down the road, we delivered two lots of damson vodka and damson gin to some of our nearest neighbours and another three lots of the same spirit to some of our more distant frinds before making for our newsagent. I had written a Christmas card for him but although I remember writing it, I do not remember actually delivering it. The message that I put inside was something like ‘Thank you for all of your magnificant service during every day of last year’ and suddenly I got smitten with a degree of self-doubt.If I had actually written this, to whom had I actually delivered it? I just hope it wasn’t one of my female friends or acquaintances who was the recipient of the message. To show I am not the only one going a little ga-ga during this Christmas season, we actually received two Christmas cards from our Italian friend down the road. One was a huge and magnificent card received about ten days ago whilst the other was a more conventional card popped through the letter box just today so our friend, too, was getting confused about whether we had been the recipient of a card or not. I was pleased to be lightened of the delivery of my bottles of cheer even through the pouring rain and then Meg and I made for Waitrose cafe where we were soon joined by our University of Birmingham friend. We had an interesting chat about some films and other programs we had seen on PBS America. This is broadcast on Channel 84 Freeview and, according to Google, ‘PBS America showcases the best of Americas Public Broadcasting Service, with a rich factual schedule including landmark history series by Ken Burns (Vietnam War, Jazz, The Civil War), FRONTLINEs in-depth current affairs investigations and NOVAs science documentaries.’ When we have tuned into it for the sake of anything better, there seems to be a preponderance of material relating to past world conflicts and I do not recall any science documentaries but perhaps better luck in the future. After our friend departed, we took the opportunity to buy some extra Christmassy type things like extra supplies of sherry in case any of the neighbours pop around, some French vermouth which I needed to make myself a good dry martini on Christmas day morning and I found some chestnuts as well.

Meg and I had a fish-based ready meal which we enjoyed with ‘cavolo nero’ kale which seems to go particularly well with fish and then we settled down to watch some afternoon Christmas TV, We had just started watching a modern day version of ‘Call of the Wild’. I had not realised before that this book is one of quite deep meaning. It is a story of transformation in which the old Buck— the civilized, moral Buck— must adjust to the harsher realities of life in the frosty North, where survival is the only imperative. Although not a true story, Jack London’s novel is a fictional adventure novel. However, London did spend time in the Yukon area before writing this novel, so his descriptions of the area are accurate and realistic. The novel is now 117 years old but a cuddly, animal story it is not, nor is it meant to be. The novel is quite a savage commentary on modern life but we did not have time to digest any of the deeper significance of the story because after about ten minutes or so, the doorbell rang and it was one of our new (Asian) neighbours coming to introduce herself. Yesterday afternoon, we had bumped into her husband and givem him a bottle of wine and a Christmas card. Today, she was reciprocating but with a wonderful box of biscuits which we enjoyed over a cup of tea. When time permits after Christmas we promised ourselves a more intimate sherry-and-mince pies type of get together where we can get to know each other better. I think we are going to have an enjoyable set of new neighbours. They have three grown up sons all working in the area but spend a certain amount of time back in India where they spend some 2-3 months a year. In the meantime, when we intimated that we had aways enjoyed a good curry once a week when Alastair, one of university friends and flatmates, had shown us how to prepare a ‘proper’ curry, the offer was made to come round and enjoy a good authentic curry which they will make for us so we are looking forward to this. The biscuits which were the gift were a most interesting flavour – at first taste, I thought they were just ginger but they have another spice and I think that they actually might be a ginger plus cinnamon mixture. Later on this afternoon, I got our little cribs put into operation – one is modern, Indonesian made balsa wood whilst the second is a beautiful creation in a curved wooden design (vaguely like the palm tree in the Koranic version of the Nativity) which we bought in Chester cathedral a year or so back.