This time last year Heather and I were preparing to spend Christmas and New Year in India. Ben and Jo were spending time with her parents in Blighty. Kate and Pedro were on honeymoon in South America. Heather and I gazed into each other’s eyes and considered spending the shortest days of the year in each other’s company, walking Elmo and enjoying quiet nights in. Bog that. We went on a tour of the Golden Triangle instead: Shimla, Delhi, the Taj, Jaipur… We both enjoyed the tour; the sounds, sights and colours are amazing, of course – and we have the photos to prove it. But the poverty is overwhelming and the disparity between our lucky lives and theirs is jarring.
That was last Christmas. This year we are staying home. Jo, Pedro, Ben and Kate will be with us – as will our wonderful two year old grandson, Wilfie and his new sister, the serene Maggie and Kate’s yet to be born grandchild (due March). There are babies and children to be enjoyed and looked after and spoilt. So we won’t be doing much long haul for a while. The only trip we have in our diaries is a few weeks in Portugal next September.
We have managed to squeeze in a trip to Puglia. The sights were terrific. Matera is jaw-dropping. The tour director was excellent, a gifted natural comedian. That said, we’ll try and avoid 50 person guided tours. And the supplied meals were mediocre; we should have ditched them and eaten locally and better.
In July it was off to Fil and Eric’s daughter’s, Meaghan’s, marriage to Adam at James Naismith’s (he of basketball invention fame) homestead. It was great to see much of my family there. We spent a few days with Annie and Jim in their new place in the Beach in Toronto, squeezing in a lunch with my sister, Beth, and dinner with uni friend Chris and Louise. We polished that off with a few days with Barb and Terry in Chalfont and their menageries of family, friends and animals. Rupa (ex-Herbies) and Ram came along to their farm to amuse us with their delightful children.
Given a choice Heather will always choose somewhere new to visit over revisiting an old haunt. But this year, for my birthday, she organised a few days for us in Rome. We lived there 40 years ago and had been back with our kids 20 years ago. Many warned us that Rome wasn’t like it was in the ’70s. And they were right; Rome is much improved. Grim, almost “no go”, areas have been transformed. The once ever constant threat of handbag theft seems no more. We revisited our first flat in Trastevere – as lovely now as it was then. We ate in the Pollarolla, our then favourite restaurant, although our grumpy waiter retired a couple of years ago. And we found a new favourite. I could go back to Rome again tomorrow.
Closer to home, we had met Nancy and Jim in Kew whilst they made the odd foray south to look after their daughter’s dog. So we went up to visit Scarborough and see them. And my inappropriate gift of choice for them was a couple of bottles of plonk…which look very nice beside their two large dedicated wine fridges filled with vintage wine. 😦
We met the lovely Jenny and the almost as lovely Kevin on our tour of India; they’ve visited us and we’ve been to see them in Teignmouth. I continued my tradition of inappropriate gifts. I created a book with my photographs of India for them only to discover they too had made a book – a bigger book, with better photographs. 😦
Anne and Cecil were our bridesmaid and groom in 1980. They were in great form.We joined them for a weekend in a much rejuvenated Bristol, a city well worth a longer stay some day.
Domestically we’ve had the outside gloss painted and all the bathrooms redone. One year we will attack the bare floorboards upstairs.We’ve had a go at organising our kid’s storage from the time they left home. Maybe this is the year we will empty the loft. Then again, maybe not.
So we’re well, ignoring dentistry and feet. Our kids and their partners are well, with houses and jobs and kids of their own, either here or en-route. Jo and Ben have extended their Walthamstow kitchen whilst Pedro and Kate have a moved into a newly renovated house in Tooting. We’ve seen lots of good theatre, been to a few art shows and photo exhibitions. Elmo is a terrific dog and keeps us fit.
Without delving too deeply into our politics, Heather and I have found our values of openness, tolerance and decency challenged this year. We believed our small-l liberalism was pervasive; we were complacent. Now we know those values need to be worked for. We were thrilled to find our delivering thousands of leaflets, putting up activists to stay and opening the house as the local party headquarters for the day of the Richmond Park by-election helped result in a victory. The nicelash starts here.
A happy holiday to all.
Heather and John (and Elmo)
ps Thanks Fil and Barb. I still haven’t lost the 2 kilo I put on in North America. J 🙂