Well, Christmas Eve has arrived and in some ways this is a day of blessed release in that what has not been done will remain undone for the time being. The only remaining task today was to post various Christmas cards through the letter boxes of friends who live down the road. The card should, in all honesty, have accompanied the bottles of damson gin distributed yesterday but they had been ‘forgotten’ in the rush. Halfway through the morning, we got a telephone call from our domestic help who indicated that one of her senior elves (aka her husband) was on his way round to deliver a Christmas present to us, some of which consist of some of home baking for us to enjoy. At the same time, I managed to share some of the supplies of vermouth with her which was desperately needed for some cocktails but could not be got for love nor money at short notice. I also let her have some of the special biscuits which our new neighbours kindly gave us us a present. I trust her judgement in helping to decode the interesting flavour but I have a feeling is probably a combination of both ginger and cinnamon. After this visit, Meg and I made our towards town, delivering the last of the Christmas cards and picking up our daily newspaper. Of course, tomorrow being Christmas day it is a non-publishing day but I always think it slightly strange that the production staff on newspapers have to work on Christmas Day to produce a newspaper for Boxing Day. We had not visited the park and sat on the park bench for what must a couple of weeks but as it was a fine day, but cold, we prepared some elevenses and sat in the park to consume them. On our way out of the park, we met up again with a lady who we know by sight but whose name I did not know until I enquired further. She said that she had not seen us in the park for some time but we pointed out that with the spell of cold weather, we had tended to avoid the park and to drink coffee in the warmth of the Waitrose cafe as well as having been away for a few days. We exchanged some gossip about the huge new housing development which is now taking place on a bare hillside not far from her house – why this area was never designated as ‘Green belt’ in the past I do not know. We were both wondering whether when hundreds of new houses are built but the road network remains substantially the same, whether an additional 2.5 cars per household (both parents and eventually teenagers when they acquire a licence) might mean that Bromsgrove becomes one of the first towns in the country to be absolutely gridlocked in the rush hours with nobody going anywhere.
We had a simple lunch this lunchtime and then at 3.00pm I engaged in the traditional task of preparing the vegetables for the Christmas meal tomorrow, accompanied by the annual service of carols and readings from King’s College, Cambridge which is always broadcast at 3.00pm on Christmas Eve. My mother, whem she was alive, used to say that Christmas started at this point of time and on this occasion, I agree with her. The preparation seemed to be be concluded quite quickly and I do not think I have forgotten anything vital. I have tried to make the Christmas dinner not too big this year which is a constant fault of mine to which I admit being prone. We are going to leave a quarter of an hour earlier to attend the church service this evening as I suspect a full house for a change. The church was eventually filled to the rafters, as you would expect at Christmas and Easter. But we had a duo (guitar + vocalist) who were playing/singing Christmas carols. As you might expect, the service was longer than usual with several of the usual Christmas additions. Most Christian services at this time are heavy on symbolism and even to the convinced atheist or agnostic one can always appreciate the symbolism of the transition from darkness into light. In our church, this is evidenced by the church in semi-darkness until such time as the child Christ is taken from the crib at the back of the church and brought up to the altar (symbolising birth)and the lights are gradually restored. We were delighted to see two old friends who used to attend the Saturday evening service but have now transferred their allegiances elsewhere. One is a Geordie and the other a Liverpudlian and they are both great chatter boxes. I had the forethought to take some Christmas cards with me (signed inside but not addressed to anyone) and I was pleased I could pass them onto old friends. We returned home to a really nice soup I had found in the supermarket (chicken and smoked bacon) and then we finished off with ardennes pate and roquefort cheese so we felt we had had a rather superior homecoming to our normal fare on a Saturday evening.