With my birthday on Christmas Eve – I was born at twenty minutes to midnight – I feel as though I wait all year for a celebration and then two come along almost at the same time.
The world is alight with happiness and fancy decorations so why wouldn’t I love this time of the year? The young Elaine felt differently when she could never have a birthday party on the 24th as everyone was ‘busy’ and my mother decided that a cake would be wasted as she had made one for Christmas Day. One year we had an ice cream cake for my birthday, which was a novelty as at that time we only had a fridge with a small icebox so my cake had to be eaten with a spoon and a bowl. Never the less I grew up knowing that the end of the year would be an extra special occasion and even in my aged years I recall that feeling with glee tinged with sadness because of my parents no longer being with us.
Christmas Day there’s a quiet atmosphere in the Everest household. It will be the three of us, me, Henry the dog, and my husband. It is a time of peace and relaxation with the laptop turned off, apart from a quick hello to my friends that is! My husband used to be in the electronics trade and the lead up to the holiday would be his busiest time of the year. We’ve even had people banging on our front door with a broken television in their arms as we sit down to lunch.
We open presents after breakfast alternating between a present for us and one for Henry. If he had his way he’d open ours as well. It is my husband’s job to collect the small pieces of wrapping paper as Henry rips apart the parcels for his toys. We get as much enjoyment from watching him as we do opening our own gifts. I love to plan and cook for Christmas but each year my husband asks if we really do need to have a turkey. So, each year I will serve a rib of beef with a port, Stilton and redcurrant sauce. However, each year there is also a turkey in the freezer, as I cannot bear to think of not having one. It is traditional after all.
We are not ones for church but I’ll have the traditional midnight mass on the television as well as Carols from Kings and join in with favourite Christmas Carols. I make a point of buying lots of DVDs so we can enjoy a new film. Gone are the days when television brought a special film out on Christmas Day although we do like to watch a Christmas special – if we feel it is ‘special’.
Henry will have his usual walk along with a kick about in the garden with a new football. Have you ever tried wrapping up a ball? Come Boxing Day we are ready to escape and will visit a local National Trust property to walk through the grounds and blow away the cobwebs. This year we will remember not to get locked in the grounds of Knole House! Who knew the car park closed early?
Once home I’ll be getting twitchy to return to my writing and my husband will be looking longingly towards the garden and his greenhouse where his prize orchid collection live. We may meet up with friends for a meal but for us the holiday will slowly slide towards the New Year and thoughts of plans of holidays and new books for 2018 – and that turkey in the freezer!
Christmas at Woolworths by Elaine Everest is published on 2nd November by Pan Mac (£6.99, paperback)