Article 28 :The worst present of all

Hello. How are you doing? Looks like we are not out of the woods yet, even for this year. As I write this we are half way through Lockdown Two, with no certainties about the days ahead. But that’s alright. We’ve got this far together. Let’s turn to something a little more light-hearted.

What I am certain about as I think about Christmas gifts this year is that last year, one of mine was a complete disaster. It looked cool at first, blue, leather, pencil attached and just the right size for my shoulder bag. You’ve guessed – a diary. Initially it was great. Whilst it was primarily for choir events, The Musicmakers, I entered those times we would be away – yup – that’s where it all went pear-shaped. We were going well in January, trip to Keswick, tick. February, four days hostelling and walking in Hope, Derbyshire, tick. Entries were in pencil as I had the neat idea that they could be changed if necessary and the diary still maintain a pristine look.

First for the eraser was my daughter’s birthday. Lockdown One, March 23rd: birthday March 24th. She managed to sneak in a trip to London before it started, to see her cousins while I looked after Little Man, but there was no family meal out. Next for the obliterator was a weekend in May climbing Ben Nevis, via Steve and Rosie’s sumptuous house and garden on the banks of the Clyde. This was intended to be a reunion of all the fabulous people I met while walking part of The Mont Blanc Trail, last September. We are just about to attempt to rebook it for 2021. Watch this space.

And so to June. Was I excited about this? You bet. First was a family trip to the South of France to stay with friends of my daughter. She had been there for a week in 2019, for a little break from motherhood and it sounded idyllic. Restored farmhouse with pool, 20 minutes from the nearest village. The mind spun with sun lounger, books and well more books, the odd walk, meals and chat late into the evening. Much as I love Roker Beach, it didn’t quite compare! June was also the month for my sister’s wedding. Well that eventually went ahead in September, but what didn’t go ahead was a few days in a cottage in Keswick with son and partner, daughter and ourselves. Get-togethers when some of the family live abroad are to be treasured and I was looking forward to this as much as the wedding. It’s on hold for 2021 but …

By the end of July, this fortunate lady was off to walk The Dales Way. Fully supported – I’m a bit past carrying the rucksack – we hoped for 8 days of hills and valleys, with kind MB to recover us at the end (and treat us to a celebration dinner). All on hold for 2021! You would think by now I had got the message and the ‘worst present’ would be in the bin. But the indomitable Jean has been developing resilience as I am sure you have. With great faith I booked three nights in Boot, Eskdale which felt remote enough to be safe and four nights near Berwick. They were great days walking, some dry some wet, but all enjoyable. I am delighted to say I have now walked, at various times, from Seaham to Dundee! Redemption. The diary restored to a place of honour – well for a while.

The rearranged September wedding was delightful and I squeezed in a birthday meal to celebrate the arrival of my state pension and bus pass, just the day before Lockdown Two. Sadly the house swap to The Lakes went the way of the current restrictions as probably a weekend with the newly-weds in Linlithgow will in December. We have not seen our son since autumn last year, but they have relocated to Lisbon which we will visit ASAP!

I’m sure my useless present tells a similar tale for many folk, and probably one far more heart-breaking than mine. Usually I would be quite disappointed with so many lovely times cancelled or postponed but we were fortunate to have a lot of good weather at home and we made the most of the fabulous countryside and seaside on our doorstep. We have not had some of the other anxieties we could have had, with health or finances and have everything to be grateful for, especially brilliant neighbours and faithful friends and of course Little Man.

Before you audition for Christmas Claire, the wrap goddess, take care with your gift buying this year. Forgive me if I say I do not want a mask, whatever is on the front! I might think twice about ordering the 2021 inset for the nice blue leather case this year. My consolation? He wrote all my days in a book, when as yet there was none of them. It just didn’t quite sync with mine! But that’s alright. I can still have the best present of all, to keep and give. How about you?

by Jean Wilson #2, 20/11/2020