Met a lot of people over Christmas and everyone was nice to me. Maybe I should be nervous. There will come a point in the future when people won't be instantly kind but I shall be flabbily used to it by then. I feel like I'm being fattened up for something. Cruelty will come as a surprise.
The first person I met, other than mother and brother Barry (we went shopping around an un-recognisible Basingstoke until mum wound down like a clockwork toy and we had to take her home) was Tori and I had an ace time laminating things with her and the redoubtable Arch. Next Kasch drove down from London and I took him on a long and filthy walk in the pissing rain out to Old Basing, where his endless whinging and carping ended as soon as he saw the original civil war brick-work. Show Kasch a bit of proper, manly engineering and you have him on side forever. Later we met up with Tori again and danced until dawn. A staggering feat for a man in his forties.*
Edward arrived in Basingstoke on the 24th like a drunken, bellowing Santa who had left his sack of toys on the train and was convinced it was someone else's fault. It is his standard approach and he rarely deviated from it.
(In the interest of fair-mindedness I should add that while I often saw Edward drunk over Christmas he was often very amusing, never more so than when he was showing me East 17 videos in the kitchen at three in the morning. In fact I have rarely laughed as much as I have over those few days.)
Christmas day and it was time for me to cook the second Christmas dinner. Barry and Maria and their son Thomas and her mother Martha arrived for dinner. It was good to see them, though it was hard work getting through dinner, looking at them with their pleasant fruitful and successful lives, in a room with my wedding picture staring down from the wall. Envy is not a nice quality but there was little I could do: I'm fated to be a "funny" uncle.
Boxing Day was more of the same. Doug and Gwen popped over with Eirlys and their present - a book of locations for films made in Britain and Ireland (startling fact: Superman IV was made in Milton Keynes, a fact that Christopher Reeves (described oddly as "Superman's alias)blamed for the film's lack of success). They know me so well. My sister Laura, her husband Stew and their two beautiful children Alec and Rose turned up as a dizzying ball of colourful, well-dressed energy. And once again dinner in the dining room under the smiling face of my beautiful wife on the happiest day of my life, a geologically distant five years ago, was difficult to get through. There is a lot of talk on her (still extant) Facebook page about how her friends and family feel guided by her love and her strength and I am jealous of those people too. All I feel is an aching physical lack, and her continuing absence is thrown into stark relief by the lives of every body else, who have got on with their lives because they've had to get on with their lives - there are people depending on them. I'm the only one who has the luxury of being completely alone. The only one with nothing else to do but miss her. The only one not to feel her as a sort of mystical sat-nav. I feel nothing but her absence, a huge punctured hole in my life. Which is not to say I didn't love seeing my family. I'm only intermittently a selfish wallowing prick. But I still measure myself against Kelly and find myself wanting. She would have loved to have been here and given those the kids her nurturing unadulterated love, not the mealy-mouthed, conflicted and wary love they get from me. I'll do better. I remembered all three birthdays this year. A first.
The next day was an all-dayer. Family friends the Cummins arrived with new edition (alarmingly five years old) Patti, and then Jess and Si, en route to Cornwall decided to spend a night in Audley Wood Lodge specifically to see me (check my friends!) and show off their tiny two-monther Esme. Who was well worth showing off and resembles a bonsai cutting of Jess. I left there to go directly to the Bounty, to witness my first Basingstoke bar fight, and meet up with an old school friend Robin and his fiancée Katya, who have been living out in Spain but have, rather fashionably, failed to get a tan. I haven't seen Robin twenty years but barring a bit of extra lagging on the pair of us, and an alarming Pampas growth on my head, very little had changed. Except we both seemed to be a bit less ridiculous. We were joined by Doug, Mike and some dentists and fun time was had by, if not all, then certainly me.
The 28th saw a delicious if outrageously filling Colombian meal at Barry and Maria's delightful new home where we were joined by Ange and Phil and THEIR two princes Mani and Remi. After dinner a brief meeting with Tori again and home.
And at this point I feel like I'm fixin' to die. I cannot wait until January 1st so I CAN FINALLY QUIT DRINKING.
There's still New Years day.
*and yes, you may well find a "staggering feet" pun here, if you wish.