Not driving home for Christmas

After reeling from last night’s Boris bomb shell, when I hear people joking that they have seen Chris Rea reversing back down the motorway, I feel proud to be British; a little dark humour always gets us through.

I take a moment out to diagnose myself with Cancel Christmas Sadness (CSS) for my symptoms seem plainly apparent and I do not want to bother the NHS. Then I allow myself to grieve for the abbreviated Christmas that I foolishly thought – after many iterations – was actually going to happen.

I feel quite ashamed, because after hearing Chris Whitty’s top tips for unpacking a Christmas suitcase, my own immediate self-indulgent thought had been , ‘I will not be blogging this week for I need a big old cry. I have no upbeat left to put into words. Readers will also be so busy crying that they will not notice the absence of my blog.’ However, I realise that if people can joke – darkly – in their sadness, then there must be hope for all of us. I am chastened.

Humbled enough to rethink the blog decision (voila readers!), I do still indulge myself, allowing myself an overnight wallow during which time my brain pretends to be a Grand Master navigating itself through a family hybrid game of Covid Chess and Musical Chairs. Like everyone else around the country I feel the need to open a bottle of red/gin/both, watch Strictly and then start thinking about where those I love are, where they hope to be, and where I would really like them to be on December 25th. (Oh, and ‘well done Bill! You gave my CCS a run for its money’).

On waking from my wallow, I realise that I am none the wiser, but at least I have followed wellbeing advice and acknowledged my own emotions before regrouping. I go for a run – not because I want to, but because I know that I will then at least feel that I have reined my CCS in a little before it threatens to leak in to 2021 or become viral.

While on the run, again I am reminded how lucky I am to live where I do as every single person I come across gives me a big cheery ‘good morning’ as if we are all just gently ambling into our traditional mince pie alignment before the usual Christmas run in. There is no U turn on the smile front; I am impressed.

Dark humour and a cheery smile can only get you so far though, and as I shower and put my face back on, my tendency to over-think kicks right back in. I should really have practised some mindful thinking at this point – focused on a chocolate orange to bring my breathing rate back down, for example – but instead I feed my anxiety by listening to the news.

Fortunately this does the trick because Favourite Man (FM) has absolutely no time for anyone crying into their Christmas sherry about family plans being ripped to shreds. He responds to any sadness expressed by anyone being interviewed by telling them to, ‘stop your whinging!’. FM thus unwittingly gives me the perfect target for the rant that I have been working up to since last night.

I begin by pointing out that his graceful acceptance of revised festive plans may be because his plans were to be very simple this year and because he already has a perfectly sized turkey sitting in his fridge and some high hopes for some uninterrupted DIY. It is as if he and Boris have had an Exit Plan all along. My plans were to be further afield, standing in for the carer of my 94 year old mother.

I haven’t finished venting yet.

I point out that as a teacher, I am also allowed an additional rant because in education we are still just getting over the Williamson & Gibbs’ rendition of a Muppet Christmas Carol – delivered as schools break up – and gifting us a shorter holiday and a chance to put, ‘ administer Covid tests’ and ‘roll out remote teaching’ on our New Year resolution list.

FM is loving this argument – mistaking my feistiness for strength and resilience rather than the distraction from reality that it really is. He tells me to stop my whinging and points out that teachers are lucky to still have a job in such a wobbly economic climate.

In truth I am also enjoying the argument because it is distracting me from my over-active imagination and making me sound quite worthy. I ignore the easy target of tearing into his Work From Home Covid-secure bubble – ‘a luxury a teacher can only dream of’, and decide instead to wrong-foot him by returning to the topic of his turkey.

‘It’s ok for you Tiny Tim’, I opine, ‘you have the perfect sized turkey – which I, a vegetarian went out to purchase for you yesterday so that you could get on with your DIY, while other families around the country are now wondering what to do with 20kg of surplus bird when they will be dining alone. This is not how Christmas is meant to be.’

FM parries with a thin argument about this being an opportunity for people to extend their turkey- based recipe repertoire. ‘You might even get your mum helping with that sour dough loaf,’ he mutters, ‘a sour dough turkey wreath perhaps? But do check the rules – are you still allowed to be her Christmas Carer? You had better check in with the Covid police before you make any more promises.’

‘No,’ I respond, ‘Strictly speaking, there is now no room for me at my mother’s inn. Boris wants me to unpack my bag and #stay at home; I can visit for the day, must not stay overnight and must keep a long social distance from her stair lift’.

‘Well, look on the bright side, love,’ he retorts, ‘at least you’ll be able to bring home some of the surplus from that huge on-line Waitrose order you placed when you issued those invitations for a ‘party’ at your mum’s. I could do with a bit of her cranberry sauce by the way., it would be a shame for it to go to waste.’

I suddenly fancy some uninterrupted DIY myself; I walk towards FM brandishing his power drill. I am figuring that he will enjoy a little alone time over Christmas.

Anyway reader, it is not for me to confirm or deny what my plans now are for Christmas. I feel sure you will be feeling exactly the same way. My closing thoughts are these:

  • We are all amazing – we will not realise this now, but we will in the future. We will feel proud that we have navigated through another tricky month.
  • Let us not judge each other. Rules is rules but humans are humans and we will all do what is right for our loved ones in our own individual contexts. Let us keep our opinions to ourselves.
  • Let us not fall out when other decisions do not marry with our’s.
  • Next Christmas, let us remember what we are grieving for this Christmas and make sure – if we are able to – that we return to the things and people we will miss the most.
  • What ever the size of your turkey, enjoy it (nut roast equally applies).

So to update Chris Rea a little for these Days of Covid:

‘So I sing for you
Though you can’t hear me’ (thankfully for you).

We may be top to toe in tailbacks but I promise you that we have got those red lights on the run. Let us drive Covid back to its own home for Christmas.

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