Christmas is officially over. My tree isn’t down yet but, regrettably, I suspect today is the day. I am always so resistant to accepting that Christmas is gone for another year. I love it so much and this year it felt more important than ever. All I wanted was to have my family with me and, for the most part, I did. It was lovely. Mum came over from Ireland and my nephews and niece came with her and we were all joined by my brother who lives in Manchester.
Usually when mum comes for Christmas I have lots planned for us to do but this year we kept it very low key. There were no pre-planned outings or excursions, no trips to the theatre or afternoon teas, just simple, quiet family time together eating, going for walks, watching telly and playing games (this year eating enormous mince pies and playing Bingo emerged as the favourite activities!).
There was one exception to this season of sedate social activity and that was our annual trip to Winter Wonderland on Boxing Day. Mum didn’t come as she wasn’t able to, so she stayed at home with my brother. The annual pilgrimage to this festive fun factory has become a tradition in its own right and there were disappointed faces when it looked like it might not happen, so I quickly rearranged things and a trip was scheduled for Boxing Day morning.
We have gone every year since mum started to visit me for Christmas and I buy ceramic Christmas tree decorations for everyone who is with me with all of our names handwritten on them. I also get a horse shoe for everyone with ‘Christmas’ and the year stamped into it by the farrier who makes the horse shoes at the fairground, the idea being that everyone gets a little bit of luck for the year ahead. I now have a row of five of them above my door starting with ‘Christmas 2014’ – it’ll be interesting to see how many more will be added to it in the future; I really hope it’s a lot. In fact, all of this has become such a tradition that those members of my family who aren’t with me for Christmas now request that a ceramic Christmas tree ornament and a horse shoe is sent home to them too. I am happy they want to be part of it as well. It’s a nice feeling.
Other than that, there was very little to report from Christmas. Mum and myself went to midnight mass as always, accompanied by my niece, and all the boys stayed at home (I say ‘boys’, they are all grown men but that is how we all refer to male members of the family – anyone else do this?) They, therefore, were tasked with the heating of the food and the preparations of the drinks, which are also now a tradition in my household after midnight mass.
My youngest nephew and I went for a great walk on Christmas Day while my brother prepared lunch (I know him well enough to clear out of the way and let him get on with it). We ended up walking a maze near were I live and there were lots of other families doing it too. Feels like it could become another Christmas tradition perhaps? Well, next year will tell us whether that one will stick or not.
It was a bit of squeeze fitting all of us into my little two-bed flat. There were six of us, so there were bodies everywhere and the place was an untidy mess most of the time, but I loved having all of us together and it all worked surprisingly well.
It’s all done now though. Everyone has returned to there own homes and I had to return to work on 28th December anyway. I worked up until midnight on New Years Eve. I did a two-hour Charlie Bears show with Debbie Flint, which was a lot of fun. I got a bit giddy as it was New Year’s Eve and was easily encouraged to start giving voices to the bears etc. Debbie and myself had a lot of fun – I only hope everyone watching was having as much fun as we were!
Now, though, it’s time to blow the dropped pine needles and Christmas sparkles away for another year. Time to start afresh and forge ahead into the great unknown of 2019. So many people talk about making resolutions and setting goals at this time of year. I do find that is a lot of pressure for anyone and always feels like setting myself up for failure before I’ve even started. This year, therefore, after everything that has happened to me in 2018, my plan is to simply be kinder to myself. To mind myself. You see, as the youngest child of a working class family who didn’t have very much, and who had a tremendous work ethic instilled in him by his brave, independent mother, I have fought, worked and struggled for everything in life. Pretty soon that sort of pushing, struggling and fighting becomes second nature and you stop noticing that you are even doing it. You never let up because nothing is ever going to be just handed to you in life. Pretty soon that attitude to work and life is directed at yourself too and I am definitely guilty of that. I can’t help wonder, even though I’ve been told my heart condition is genetic, if my health might be better if I just gave myself an easier time and was kinder and more nurturing of myself. So that’s my plan. It’s not going to be easy, I already know that. A lifetime of conditioning can’t be undone simply because I have decided it should. I will need to be an active participant but I know it will be worth it.
How many of us give ourselves a hard time, every day, believing that if we were simply better, harder working, fitter, better looking, smarter, funnier, pushed a little harder, stayed a little longer at work, lived in a nicer house etc., then our lives would be more fulfilling, our relationships happier and our sense of self-worth higher than its ever been? If you’ve ever felt any of these things, maybe deciding to simply be kinder to yourself, to love yourself a little more, to nurture yourself, is the best way to greet 2019. That’s what I am going to try to do. So here’s to love and kindness in 2019, both towards ourselves and each other – wouldn’t that be a great world to live in?
Until next time,
P.S. Speaking of nurturing, I will be presenting Richard Jackson’s first gardening show of 2019 on Saturday 6th at 12 noon. I am a huge fan of Richards and this year, as well as bringing us his hugely successful Flower Power, Compost, Bird Seed etc., Richard will be bringing us plants as well! So do join us for his first gardening show of the year.