’Tis the season to be jolly

We need to be better organised this year, we said. Get the Christmas cards out with our change of address before people start sending things to Woking. We were firmly agreed on that.

So on December 18th, our cards caught the last post for Christmas delivery.

This year, Ellie and Joe were spending Christmas with Joe’s parents in Petersfield and came to us from 21st to 24th, so we started Christmas eating early, with a large roast ham for when they arrived, followed by a large roast beef the next day and a large curry at the Raj the day after that. We didn’t want to inflict too much turkey on them, you see, with no doubt a turkey to come at Petersfield.

We have a family tradition that goes back countless years to the time when Ellie and Tris became too old for Father Christmas, but we still wanted some of the thrill of opening lots of small presents, and at a more reasonable hour of the day. So Diana invented the “Christmas Box”, which is, quite literally a box – at first wooden, but latterly cardboard – into which everyone puts some wrapped but unmarked presents. Then we take it in turns to pick out a present based on size, shape, weight and solidity (or squishiness) and open it. There is a joy in watching a sci-fi action movie fan open what they are sure is a DVD to find a romcom. But that doesn’t matter. When all presents have been opened, the fun begins. ‘Swap you this romcom for that Michael Moorcock Elric novel?” Usually, everyone ends up with a bunch of stuff they quite like.

This year, since Ellie and Joe would be gone by Christmas Day, we had the Christmas Box on the morning of Christmas Eve, followed by brunch, followed by scrutinising with an intense scrute the road conditions as shown on traffic websites, trying to find a route not under water for some of its length. Ellie decided to take the safe option on the motorways and they got to Petersfield very easily.

For Christmas Day, having eaten a lot of meat, Diana, Tris and I opted for a side of salmon, despite Diana having tracked down and captured a half-price turkey in Tesco. We ate that on Boxing Day – well, some of it.

When Tris opened the front door on Boxing Day to go for a walk, she called out, “Dad, I think you need to look at this.” “What is it?” I said. “I think it’s obvious,” she said. Across the path, broken in two, lay the cast iron gutter from the porch, brought down in the storms. Either the storms, or local vandals swinging on it. (I know what I’m telling the insurance company.) The gutter was, we believe, original and matched the one on the neighbours’ porch, with which ours joined up. Closer examination revealed that where the two bits of gutter had been joined, a third, very small bit had broken off the corner, meaning that I couldn’t just put it back up and slap in some sealant.

When I was at school, we discovered that a full-sized piece of chalk when dropped on the floor would always break into three parts. Being good scientists, when we observed this phenomenon, we had to go on to perform a proper scientific test with a large enough sample of chalks. By the time we were satisfied, we had used up most of the box. We had to use up the rest of the box to demonstrate the finding to our unbelieving fellow pupils. Sorry, I digress.

I await the call back from the roof and gutter specialist I telephoned after the insurance company said their people were very busy, what with there having been a storm across Britain and all.

On Friday, Tris and I went in search of a pool table. She needed some practice ahead of returning to Oxford and trying out for the university women’s pool team. Having dropped in on the Bridge on Wool after WREN board meetings, I knew they had a pool table. We went in and I looked round to where the table should have been. “No, we’ve taken the table away over Christmas because we have functions on,” said the person behind the bar. “Come back on January 2nd. Sorry.”

We crossed the road to the Swan and found an unoccupied pool table. While Tris put in 50p and set up the balls, I bought some drinks and just as I was paying, the barman said, “Sorry, but some joker nicked the white last night and the brewery hasn’t sent a new one yet. Have your 50p back.” We drank the drinks (mine a not very nice pint of St Austell Dartmoor) and used one of the reds as a cue ball, watching it closely so we used the same red each time, to play a not wholly satisfactory game (which Tris won easily).

We walked back up the hill, looking in on the Molesworth Arms and failing to spot a pool table, before being forced into trying the Churchill Bars, in which lurks the local Conservative Club. There were half a dozen customers, all sitting round the bar. We walked past to where I had once seen a pool table, and my heart sank as I saw loudspeakers and lighting stands. “We’ve got a function on…”

Which doesn’t bring us quite up to date, but we had a lazy weekend, nothing to see here, move along, please.

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