An upbeat message from Deannie and Ian at Christmas, 2020 – an unusual “Round Robin”
written by Ian and amended & approved by Management (aka Head Office / Deannie)
This is version 2, folks! I wrote our Christmas card letter yesterday and reading it back was really depressing as it was a litany of disappointments, failed holidays, restrictions, not seeing family and friends, lockdowns and so on, all caused by Coronavirus. I spent the night thinking about it (having fractured my right kneecap a week ago – 7 weeks in a splint – the pain keeps me awake at night) and decided to rewrite the whole shebang in upbeat mode instead of downbeat, so here we go! It is long and rambling and you will be forgiven for ignoring it. If, on the other hand, you have time and not much to do, it could pass a few minutes.
Last Christmas was wonderful. We were at home and we enjoyed the company of all the family, spread out over the festive period, with cousin Jennifer and Graham visiting after Christmas. The house was decorated to the eyeballs, facilitated by Isabelle two weeks before Christmas, and I had festooned most of the outside of the house with icicles, flashing lights and even a laser shower. Our front gardens are narrow and the family opposite also have lasers. The effect would have been better had we each illuminated the house opposite but it occurred to us that we could blind all passing drivers so we stuck to our own side of the road.
Having recovered from Christmas, we set off in the middle of January for a tour of my Scottish relatives. We had been invited to Robin Hood’s 75th birthday party in Harome, North Yorkshire on January 18th. Having accepted, we thought, “Well, if we are going toYorkshire, we might as well nip across to Ayr, back to Stirling and then up to Aberdeen”. So, we did. We started with a night in Liverpool, staying with Clare and Duncan, Imogen, Maggie and James and visiting one of their ethnic restaurants. That was a great visit and, next morning we set off for Wainstalls, near Halifax to have lunch with our Yorkshire friends, Angie and Mick, who have renovated farm workers’ cottages in the middle of a field with no access road – tractor or 4 wheel drive required. They collected us from the nearbyy road and Angie plied us with Ox cheek and Yorkshire pudding which was brilliant. Later in the day, we travelled to Shipton-by-Beningborough where lives the Sidings Hotel. Situated on the East Coast Mainline north of York, all the accommodation is in 1950’s railway carriages. The restaurant is in another couple of carriages and the whole place is full of railway memorabilia. Fascinating, and the noise of main line trains flying past the window all night, making the bed shake, is very soothing. Then it was on to The Pheasant in Harome, where we spent a couple of days celebrating Robin’s birthday. It was a wonderful little hotel, a real home from home, prompting Deannie’s reaction “I could live here”.
Next, we set off for Ayr to visit cousins Patricia and Lindsay also seeing their son, Gordon and cousin Evelyn. We had a lovely, relaxing time with them before crossing the country again to The Stirling Highland Hotel, a shadow of its former glory, where they do not serve mint sauce with lamb as there is no call for it! WOT?! We spent three days there and were royally entertained by cousins Fiona and Martin who live nearby. There were two gems to that stay. Firstly, Deannie and I were able to have two long afternoons with my Cousin Margaret now in her 90’s, sharp as a tack but very hard of hearing. Twice, we took her to a garden centre restaurant where the acoustics were just right and we had some great conversations. This was real quality time, much appreciated and all the more poignant because Margaret died, quietly and with great dignity, two months ago. The second gem was Burns’ Night, hosted by Martin with great vigour – the first time we have celebrated Burns’ Night in Scotland.
The next trip was across Glenshee to Ballater, near Balmoral, where Carole and Robin have bought a lovely little cottage near Crathie Church and the royal residence. Ballater is a bustling little town full of security men in dark suits driving black range Rovers. We stayed with Lesley and Ian Scott in Aboyne and enjoyed another Burns’ Night with a piper (their paper-boy) playing the bagpipes outside on the patio. We broke the journey home in the Lake District, taking the coast road because there was now snow over Glenshee and spending the night in The Punch Bowl in Crosthwaite. We recommend this place highly – do eat the cheese souffle if you go.
In March, we had a party locally to celebrate Deannie’s 78th, Granddaughter Katie’s 31st and Isabelle’s 50th birthday. Held in the local garden centre cafe (Don’t ask!) it was a brilliant Sunday lunch time “do” and then we went into lockdown, enjoying coffee in the garden and sorting out the garden as the weather was brilliant,
In August, to our great surprise, we managed two weeks in The Vendee, travelling in isolation on Eurotunnel and then isolating with Calum and family and Scott and family in a mini Chateau. The chateau was beautiful, set in its own grounds with a massive swimming pool. Our bedroom had a crack which extended from floor to ceiling, travelled across the ceiling and half way down the opposite wall. Scott (a chartered surveyor) had an “epi” and declared that the building had broken its back – no doubt about that. However, when we spoke to the owner, he assured us that he had consulted the local estate agent when he bought the chateau and had been reassured that there was no problem. Apparently,they don’t have building surveyors in that part of the world. We had a lovely holiday and managed to get home a week before travel from France became impossible.
A Seasonal Tale: Sorry to ramble on, but this is a happy tale. Feel free to use this to light the fire or carry on reading, as you wish, In November, Deannie was reading her Prima magazine (other magazines are available) when she came across an advertisement for two exquisite standard holly trees which would “welcome our Christmas guests in style” They would be 1metre tall with a round lollipop shaped bush and they would be supplied with plenty of berries “Our BEST EVER stock”
Well, “what arrived?” I hear you ask. A couple of scraggy, over pruned trees, with rough hewn upright tops, certainly not lollipop shaped. And, guess what – no berries. There was a note enclosed, telling me that, because of pollination problems, there were no berries this year. (I note that the holly hedges around here are loaded with berries). However, “so as not to leave your Christmas displays ‘berryless’, we have tied a number of artificial berries to each bush. Of course, the artificial berries will look great all year round and you can decide when to take them off”. There were 5 artificial berries on one bush and six on the other.
The note ended by telling me to telephone if I was unhappy with this arrangement, so I did, complaining about the shape and berrylesss situation of the trees. I was instructed to send photos, so I did. Eventually, the reply came back that he had inspected the photos, that they looked all right to him and “what is the issue?”
Enough! I shot back a reply reminding him that he was in breach of the Consumer Protection and Unfair Trading Regulations and that their misleading advertisement had INDUCED (crucial word) me to buy the product. This produced an immediate response, telling me that he had reviewed the photos and that he would refund in full. No need to return the plants. A cheering result.
Deannie had another coronary angioplasty in the Summer and then, in November, she had a large and very active cancer removed from her forehead. She still has a massive healing area but it seems to be “getting there” slowly.
I know this is supposed to be “upbeat” but we both want to say how much we miss all our friends and patients in Norfolk and, in particular, the opportunities to see our close friend, Judith Griffen, with whom we stay when we visit Norfolk. We have not seen her since we went to the Bridgman 50th Wedding Anniversary in February. It is also true that we are extremely frustrated by the inability to see our children and grandchildren who usually play such a big part in our lives. However, when we think about those poor folk who say Goodbye to their loved one with Covid in the back of an ambulance, never to see them again because hospital visiting is not allowed, or we think about those with parents in Nursing Homes, unable to visit and having to wave through a window, we have to consider our blessings. We are not alone, we have each other. We do not live in a tower block with four energetic children and no income. Our house is lovely and warm and we are able to contact family on Zoom or Facetime, Mr Sainsbury and Mr Iceland call with a delivery every week so, comparatively speaking, we are lucky and we appreciate it. Our seven children have all married wonderful people and our 18 grandchildren are all booming so we have a great deal for which to give thanks.
On that note, and with hopes for a better time for everyone next year, we wish you all a very happy Christmas and, most importantly, a healthy New Year.