O Little Town Of [enter name of city here]

“It must be surreal for you,” wrote a friend in a recent email, “spending Christmas out there in the tropics.”

“Not really,” I replied, “this is the fourth year running that we’ve had a hot one.”

That’s odd, chimed in one of my many internal voices (the one in the elf suit). For a homebird like you who, apart from the last four years, has only spent a few Christmases away from Cornwall (London, Marlow and once, randomly, Portugal) – that is a very odd statement indeed.

He had a point, my elf-voice. Our Christmases were always spent in Cornwall at the cottage, where the only other location decision we had to make was whether to spend it with one set of grandparents on the south coast, or with the other set on the north and then in whose house. Stockings were dragged into Mum and Dad’s bed, and then we’d meet with cousins for the big lunch.

We kids always had to wait until after the meal to open the big presents under the tree (yawn). The youngest child was postman, and went around the room lobbing gifts onto people’s laps, often without really reading the label, so that Granny was often in danger of unwrapping a wrench set or HMV voucher. Sometimes we’d play a game. We always watched a Christmas film. There was always Quality Street, and we always had a walk on the beach at some point. Our best set of crackers was bought by Mum and contained frilly knickers; there’s a photo of me, my sister, cousin and aunt having a race to jump into the pants over our tights: good, clean family fun. We always had a banquet, and I would count the separate dishes: turkey or goose, a big juicy ham, sausages tucked up in bacon, both mash and roasties, parsnips, sprouts, peas and carrots, swede (not the pop group, the vegetable), two types of gravy, a nut roast, stuffing, cranberry sauce and bread sauce, then Christmas pud, Christmas cake and mince pies. Sausage rolls, often, for later on. We had an adults’ and a kids’ table: Schloer for us, bubbles for them. I can smell the log fires crackling. Yep, I suppose in my heart Christmas will always be about Cornwall.

Yet here I am again in the tropics, and as I just don’t seem to be able to get myself back to the UK for the festivities these days, I adopt a tropical enthusiasm for Dec 25 and I’m perfectly fine about dollops of melting whipped cream on the mince pies, Santa hat selfies on white beaches and ice cool beer replacing mulled wine (although I do still stubbornly make my mulled wine, and why ever not). Doesn’t really sound too bad, does it?

What matters most is who we spend the day with, and for me there should always be either a crowd or family – preferably both, but I’ll take them separately if I have to. This year we’ve a small group, just the three PCs and my sister, who is sledding into Changi just in time for lunch on the big day. Our Dads won’t be there but they’ve both got the next trips already in their sights, and just knowing that makes it OK. I’ve already got the crackers and Quality Street; we’re ready.

May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be spent just how and where you want them.

A side order of sulk

Another lunch, another eavesdrop:
‘And then you go back and not a thing has changed, apart from the children of course, but these days it’s just not worth it.’
What a pity it wasn’t a juicier snippet. If I have to sit around waiting for people in restaurants (cough, #firstworldproblems), at least let me overhear something original/funny/steamy.
Of course, what the people at the next table were really talking about was Perspective, with a big pee. A move gives one a different perspective, so yes, once you have relocated you may get the sensation that you’ve changed more than those left at home. Actually, plenty of things give us perspective: a new love, a new job, an affair, a life loss. It is sheer arrogance to assume that nothing changes at home just because you are not there. It is the same as saying: “You haven’t done this, therefore you haven’t grown as much as me.”
In replying I feel tired, trite even, in disagreeing, panto-style, that in fact oh yes they have changed, they’re just doing it under different skies, that’s all.

Meh. Don’t go back, then, I doubt anyone will mind. Cheque please.