On the twelfth day of christmas . . .
Family. I'll be untypically emotive. Years ago now, I remember reading someone who, when asked which was more important, health or wealth, said: neither, it's family, because when you're sick or broke at least there is support around you.
I'd add friends but, basically, it's true, isn't it. Few of us prosper without family and friends. In a meaningful sense, that is – which does include financially. Unhappiness is not just a product of not making your way in the world, it's also a reason. Unfair, I know, but . . .
I've been blessed, I guess. I have family and I have friends. Quite a few people occupy both categories. So . . . Xmas and its twelve days?
Well, over the break I read a piece by Ian Jack in the The Guardian in which he pointed out that London over Xmas has now become the kind of family place it used to be. Leaving aside the fact that in my area the exodus to second houses is so notable that you could have a half hour kip in the middle of the road, that is certainly true. Further, he added that the break has become a kind of retreat where families get to spend time with each other, across the generation. Some use the opportunity to fight and relive old wounds, I guess. But not everyone.
In which light, I can report that, over the break, my time-spent included . . .
* family outing to Billy Elliot matinee (young cousin is in the cast)
* Xmas dinner (cooked with my daughter) for a baker's dozen — on Boxing Day, it's a family tradition, leaving Xmas Day itself free for, well, nothing
* dinner with a couple of friends in Cornwall, one of whom I probably won't see for a while as she's heading off east to interior design junks (honestly)
* not one but two football matches with my younger son
* takeaway curry round our table for a dozen family or so
* a formal sit-down meal at a cousin's which I missed because of a bad cold - but got to eat takeaway the next morning
* a nuclear family meal on Xmas Eve
* giving phone cooking advice to a friend when the leg of lamb (an odd Xmas dinner choice, I know, but tradition isn't what it was, clearly) got left in the freezer by mistake and dinner was due in four hours - they say it was the best lamb they ever ate so maybe I stumbled on a new recipe
* brunch with cousins at their house in the far reaches of the known world (Bury St Edmunds)
* a friend's birthday party in his brother's pub
* a New Year's Day party at a friend's
* a completely private New Year's Eve – another family tradition
* picking up my elder son and dropping him at the airport - and, because of Luton's parsimony, having to pay a pound each time for the privilege
* more, probably, that I've forgotten about
And so that's your lot, folks.
Tomorrow (or perhaps the day after), I'll post the sleevenotes for my Xmas music selection.