Dot writes: so, we ate the cake, threw out the wonky whisk attachment, finished teaching for the term, sang in the ecumenical carol service (actually, that was just me, but I did the Once in Royal David’s City solo for the first time in my life so I thought I’d mention it), visited the site of Ken’s new job (yes, there needs to be a separate post about this), started looking for an au pair, went to Hugh’s school carol service, packed the car remembering the presents and the keg of beer but forgetting my deodorant, boarded the ferry, had a queasy slumber in a pitching cabin, drove all night and arrived in Norfolk for Christmas.
So here it is, Merry Christmas etc etc.
This year there are nine of us and, my parents’ house having been something of a squash for four, my mother splashed out and hired a house in the village. It is on the riverside and has beautiful views of the river and across the marshes. Actually the river in its grey turbidity is slightly alarming; it is twenty feet deep and tidal and came very close to breaching the flood defences in the storm a couple of weeks ago. But it’s fascinating to watch how it changes, sometimes running low and rapid towards the sea, sometimes high and swollen and seemingly trying to go in two directions at once. The ducks cope.
We like the house very much. We are all people who live in rather small houses and are enjoying a little go at a bigger one. The house is basically a bungalow but with two large bedrooms in the roof space. Ken and I were first in and bagged one of these. The bed is tremendously cosy, the sound of wind and rain against the skylight makes it even cosier, and we like the little ensuite bathroom. I was always a bit snooty about all those boom-time Irish new builds with more bathrooms than bedrooms, but it must be admitted it is nice to have an ensuite. My sister and brother-in-law have taken the other roof-space bedroom. Downstairs there is a large L-shaped sitting/dining room that obviously started out as two rooms now knocked together. In the angle of the L is a twin room that has been assigned to Hugh and Frank, with a bathroom opposite that’s being used by the children. There’s a decent-sized kitchen with more attractive river views. On the kitchen side of the house a room with a door into the garden has been fitted out as another twin room. We didn’t think we’d be making much use of the garden so my sister has moved a bed across the back door to make room for a cot for my niece. On the other side of the house at the back is a little self-contained apartment with its own kitchenette, bathroom and back door with a path to the side lane, and this has been taken by my parents.
We have been reading the guestbooks and marvelling somewhat. Mostly the comments are favourable but it’s amazing what people will complain about. Apparently the sofas all need to be replaced and should be sent to the great skip in the sky. (They are floral and rather old-fashioned, but otherwise there is nothing whatsoever wrong with them.) There should be a second television. (The television provided is one of those large flat-screen affairs that will do everything short of teaching you Greek. Why come on holiday anyway if all you want to do is watch television?) The dishwasher wouldn’t work at first but we (undersigned guests) got it to work. (An instruction book is provided.) However, the comment that most sticks in the mind is cheerfully uncomplaining: it warns future guests to avoid the roller coaster at Great Yarmouth, but warmly recommends the local A & E department.
We hope not to try the A & E department.
So, we have settled in – Ken, Dot and boys, Grandma and Grandpapa, Auntie Meriel, Uncle Ben and Jessica – and have embarked on an ambitious programme of eating. The boys are behaving rather well though perhaps spending more time than is good for them on the iPad. Little Jessica keeps approaching them with an imperious cry of ‘Boy! Boy!’ and taking Frank’s octonauts off him, which he finds a bit distressing. My mother has planned and partly prepared meals for the week but keeps feeling compelled to buy more food. I constantly load and unload the dishwasher without ever seeming to finish the dishes. Ken tells people about beer and Ben tells people about gadgets. My sister, who has the tail-end of a horrible cold, makes heroic but doomed attempts to go to sleep. My father thinks of useful tasks for himself that just happen to involve leaving the company of his grandchildren. And a delightful time is had by all.
The compliments of the season to you, dear reader.