We spend a very merry Christmas in
with my parents. The kids are old enough now to make Christmas special and enable us to recreate the Christmas of our childhood, complete with being yanked out of bed at 11pm on Christmas Eve to see Dad (now Grandpa) preside over Midnight Mass in the local village church. Somerset
"Will Grandpa come back with us?" whispers Joe after the service.
I assure him he will.
"Will he put his clothes on first?"
On our return to Lancashire we take a detour via
Sheffield for the funeral of Joy Hope, an inspiring 101-year-old and close family friend. We're a bit early and it's too wet for the park so we pop into Sainsbury's to kill some time. The post-Christmas toy/chocolate/clothes sale are a materialistic argument waiting to happen, so we steer the kids down the vegetable aisle instead. The only pretext I can come up with is buying a carrot for the guinea pigs (waiting patiently in the car). Funny looks at the check-out are a small price to pay for happy children who are allowed to hand over 20p, share the change, and give half a carrot each to Holly and Nutella.
Joy gets a good send off at her church. We sit precariously near the front and there's a tense moment during the address when the penny drops for Joe and he asks in a stage whisper, "Has Joy died?"
But all is soon forgotten over sausage rolls and cheese straws.
We continue our journey to
Lancashire in the dark and I wonder what it will feel like returning to our rented farmhouse. Will it feel like coming home?
Well, no. Not immediately.
Then we pile into the house, open the post, light a fire and suddenly we are home.
Rosa's happily telling a barbie story, Joe's happily transferred to bed, the guinea pigs are happily coo-ing in fresh sawdust.
And Malcolm and I? I guess we're happily here and happily us and curious as to what 2012 will bring.