Thursday, December 3, 2009

Countdown to Christmas

Phew! I am pleasantly content - today I started the countdown to Christmas and am beginning to feel festive.

I have decided to behave quite normally in my preparations for the festive season - but I shall have to be more economical with the present giving, and everything else will be as it has been for the past 23 years. I have been slowly accruing presents since September and have rather enjoyed having to really think about the expenditure. T K Maxx has turned up trumps as ever, although I do think the quality and choice is not a patch on the past. Very few recognisable branded goods - but not too bad. The junior daughter has been coaching me as to where the special offers are lurking - so, thank you M & S, you have enjoyed a lot of custom from me this year. And - I am learning to hoard, then redeem, all sorts of money-off vouchers.

To be frank, I am rather ashamed of the cavalier way I used to shop. Being brought up short, as I have been, is no bad thing. Times have changed, and so must I. I resonated with the senior daughter's recent blog about not hoarding, and how it was so much better to actually use things up - which is exactly what I hsve been doing for the past 18 months. So - I have had many wonderful baths, luxuriating in bath oils that I had lined up prettily in the bathroom instead of enjoying.

Dear S, the husband of the lovely H, who helps me in the house, came today and took me to buy my Christmas tree. I climbed into his van, little trailer attached, and off we drove. I nearly died when, after I had chosen the tree, I was told the price. No No! That will NOT do. Down the scale we went - and finally we loaded our choice on to the trailer and we trundled home. I have to confess that I am rather enjoying myself. Life can be quite fun I have discovered, much more fun than it has been for years.

By the end of today, S had mended locks and broken security lights, rehung a kitchen cupboard door that kept fouling the dishwasher, put up the Christmas tree and fixed its lights, piled a whole delivery of logs in the drawing room inglenook ready for Christmas, and dismantled my bed so we could clean underneath it What a star! Much better than a resident husband - more biddable and more charming. The senior daughter spoilt it all for me by saying "Get real, Mamma, you paid him to do it" I know, but they were not jobs I could have done myself.

I then took the dogs for a long walk up the track. It was soggy, damp and muddy - why is it that dogs love the conditions to be so horrible? They raced about and snuffled and snorted, in and out of the hedgerows and ditches, as I trudged along behind them thinking of my Christmas arrangements, the decorations, the food, and all the fun to come.

Billy then went missing and my heart missed a beat. Suddenly he came flying up the field to my right, and I realised he was trapped - I had no idea how he had got into the field, and there was no visible means of escape. He started to panic, seeing me on the other side of the fence, and unable to reach me. He and I are joined at the hip, so I knew he was getting distressed. The fence was solidly wired to ground level, and I too started to panic. Luckily I saw a small tunnel through the grass under the wire, and was able to persuade him to elongate himself enough to squeeze underneath. What a welcome, licks and whines and how I hugged him. Maud just stood, disdain written all over her face, and then when he rejoined us, she turned her back on him and caried on up the track.

Two days ago, Billy had caught his first rabbit. I do not actively encourage the dogs to catch rabbits, but this one looked as if it had been hit by a car, or perhaps was diseased. I called Bill over, and he quickly despatched it. Much kinder to do that - he was so proud of himself. It was his baptism - he is now a grown up boy.

So - the countdown to Christmas. The invitations are lining up on the mantelpiece, the first cards have arrived, we have started our Christmas choir practices, my tree lights are twinkling at me to decorate the tree itself, and all is right with the world.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A final Christmas

It seems impossible that a whole week has gone by, so now I must put fingers to keyboard. I have to confess that there is no eloquence, no flash of inspiration lurking here - I feel flat, uninspired - it is damp, misty, dull and miserable outside and I have much to do inside and no will to so do.

The senior daughter is in London, returning sometime today, so that will cheer me up. It is so good to have someone else in the house, I hadn't realised just how inward looking I had become. Eighteen months almost entirely on my own has made me crabby and fond of my own personal space, and it is a joy to have her here now.

Tiger, the solitary cat, Billy and Maud are very happy indeed to hsve new company - another bed to invade, another person to inflate their egos even further!

I am still waiting for my one-to-one laptop lessons, but we have achieved much in other directions. Huge piles of my clothes have been sorted through, and she is going to E-Bay them for me. Needs must - at a very late stage in my life I am having to resort to all sorts of measures to generate myself some income. My life has changed so radically that I simply will never wear most of my lovely clothes again - we have started with the lesser stuff and are slowly moving upmarket!

I sit and remember exactly why each piece was bought, and when it was worn. A wedding, a fantastic party, a wonderful corporate 'do', my previous life flashing past.

I have unearthed the camel felt hat I bought for the junior daughter's christening, a Philip Somerville, no less, must have been one of his first! My wedding dress, into the dustbin! My mother's silk tulle wedding veil, circa 1939, unfortunately as I unfolded it from its box, it fell apart. I remember that I lent this veil to my lovely friend Rachael, for her wedding. She is one of the senior daughter's much loved godmothers. The outfit I had made for our 30th wedding anniversary party, the dress bought for my 60th birthday lunch. So many memories -all touched with great sadness and poignancy - a life gone for ever, it seems almost as if it never happened.

I feel as if I am giving my life away - for a mess of pottage? Once all this clearing up and sorting out is done, I suppose I shall be able to draw a line under this previous life. My great sadness is that this house has been a wonderful family house for 23 years, and notwithstanding the fact that my husband had behaved appallingly for the entire time we lived here, the girls and I have had a good life here. They have brought their friends home, held their milestone birthday parties here, still come home regularly, still bring their friends, and moving away will be a seismic change.

This house is a Christmas house, it comes to life at this time of the year, and I am immeasurably sad that this will be the last one here. We have a country Christmas -big boughs of spruce over the inglenooks in the dining and drawing rooms, a large tree in the corner of the drawing room, log fires sometimes gently smoking, candles everywhere. We walk up the lane to Christmas Communion on Christmas morning, the church is full and everyone hugs and gives Christmas good wishes to all. Afterwards - a quick breakfast, table laid, lunch organised, then, Champagne and presents in front of the drawing room fire, followed by a late lunch. Every single year, the same routine, set in stone.

Over the years, the numbers have swelled and contracted, as loved ones are no more, and then their places filled by friends or friends of friends, a lovely jolly mixture of people. Yesterday I found a pile of photographs of our Christmases over the past 23 years. I had a little weep, we all looked so happy, why was it not enough for the philanderer? Even whilst he smiled and clowned for the camera, year after year, I now have found out that he was always in other relationships, two-timing both his family and his mistresses. I find it unimaginable, to behave like that.

The thought that keeps returning to me is the one that throughout my marriage, I have given up successive much loved homes and lives, to follow my husband as he changed his jobs, I have gone out to work, commuted long hours, supported him in many ways.

Finally, he has delivered the coup de grace, and the home that I have built to shelter myself and my two girls, where I have made a good life to cushion myself against his treachery, will be taken away from me, for what? He has cheated and deceived, he refuses to maintain me, he still spends thousands on expensive cars, and holidays with his mistress, he lies to the lawyers and the Court, he appears to have no conscience at all - but I know who will ultimately be able to look at themselves in the mirror. He will have to face his conscience mirrored in the faces of his girls.