We’ve returned from an early Christmas with my parents: first, a week in and around Preston, visiting my grandfather, aunt and uncle, and close friends of the family; second, a long weekend in Cardiff, visiting K’s parents for their wedding anniversary and taking the opportunity to see all of her extended family in one place for that.
Geography, combined with the timescale of Mum’s preventative radiotherapy, has placed limitations on the Christmas we might otherwise have managed to achieve: they’re going back to Spain for the season; whereas I’ll be with K’s family over the Christmas week itself. So last Friday we had an early Christmas lunch, precisely one month before the usual date for such cracker-fuelled shenanigans. Crackers were produced and duly cracked, and turkey was augmented with nut cutlets, which I never usually eat but are pretty much a Christmas tradition for vegetarians.
After we’d made our own way to Preston by train, my own parents took us both on the requisite grand tour, which ended with them driving us home this morning from Wales. Since getting in at around half eleven, we’ve almost entirely settled back into our pre-holiday grooves. The central heating is back on, and cranked up to 20C: this is to reverse a week and a half of our house’s regression to 10C, which is the point on the thermostat marked “mothballing” as far as we’re concerned. K’s bought in food; I’ve hoovered the house; the veg man has delivered the veg. We’ve almost completely unpacked and we might never have been gone.
The original idea was to use this half day to put the Christmas decorations up early, to cheer me up following the end of our pre-Christmas Christmas. But my heart isn’t in it; worse, it feels like there’s a gap where my heart should be. Even though they can be hard work (Dad especially drives both K. and I crazy when we have to deal with him for any length of time) yet when I saw the pair of them drive off waving – towards Portsmouth, the ferry, and the remainder of 2011 to be spent far from us both – I started missing them almost immediately.
Advent, I once joked, really did start earlier every year. Usually I would put the decorations up after returning from seeing my Grandad on his birthday (November 24.) This time round, it looked like it was going to start on November 19, at the point when we got off the train in Preston station wearing Santa hats and grinning like idiots. But right now it just feels like we were storing up for ourselves ten days of rainy, foggy November; now compressed and solidified into one numbing, foggy day. The start of Advent now feels further away than ever.