As with many of our past Christmas celebrations, this year is mostly a family affair. It’s also a busy one (perhaps even more manic than normal for this time of year) with our festive and new-year celebrations almost blurring into one continuous festive family/friends/food/film-fest! (it’s a tough life!😉)
As a result, this is probably the longest post I’ve ever written! 😴😴 Here we go then…
Christmas Eve – Final Prep For Christmas
Like most people on the planet today, it was the final opportunity to clean, tidy-up and prepare for the Christmas period. It took us most of the morning (and in truth, we’d also had the luxury of starting a few days ago) and by lunchtime, everything was ready!
So, after a quick walk…
…all that was left to do, was to double-check the Sky Q Box to make sure all the Christmas TV was sorted for the next few days whilst we were occupied elsewhere – pretty much BBC all the way again this year! 😁
6.30pm: To end the day, and to properly get us fully in the Christmas mood, we drove into town for the ‘Carols by Candlelight‘ event at the Salvation Army Citadel (having missed their Carol Concert over the weekend). We guessed it might be popular, so we aimed to get there with plenty of time to spare to ensure a choice of seating for 7pm! We met up with Janet, Jo and Helen in the JS car-park and after some quick hellos headed for the Citadel. The event turned-out to be well-supported. Led by Major Nigel Govier the sixty-minute celebration featured an ideal mix of well-known Carols (thank goodness!) with just the right amount of the Christmas Story thrown in! The hour passed quickly and we were soon saying our goodbyes.
8.30pm: A G&T with a bucketful of crisps watching Carols from Kings (recorded earlier) ended Christmas Eve perfectly! 😁
Christmas Day – Denis’s for Christmas Lunch
6.25am: Up at just before 6.30 (more out of habit than necessity!) to a cold but frost-less Christmas morning. I packed everything in the car ready for our journey to Dad’s and skipped brekky to make room for what was to come. We postponed opening our presents until we got back.
9.09am: We left ours at just after 9am. With Denis’s’ health on the decline, we decided to simplify Christmas Lunch somewhat and take most of what we needed with us – ready for final assembly!
10.25am: As expected, it was a hassle-free journey by road to Denis’s. After a quick coffee and a longer natter…
10.55am: …we headed for the kitchen for vegetable duties. We cheated slightly this year by opting for frozen roasties and that certainly made the prep a lot quicker! 😁 Ann had also pre-prepared the stuffing, so that saved us a job too!
11.25am: Time for a break from the chores, to exchange presents from Dad and Bev. Muppet Socks and DVDs for me! 😁
11.55am: With our present-ritual over, we finished off the veg. All that was left was the bird, and in keeping with the national trend, it’s a turkey-crown for 2019 – just an hour in the oven – simples!
1.35pm: Slightly later than last year, everything was ready, and we served-up the Christmas main course.
Denis seemed to enjoy his (as did we) although we did have to cut up his food and add a plate-guard to spare the table-cloth!
2.01pm: We finished with Dad’s favourite – Christmas Pudding! – and he demolished his in no time (in spite of his ailments, there’s nothing wrong with his appetite, and especially his love of desserts!)
2.17pm: With pretty-much empty plates all round (plus an empty bottle of Moscato too!), it was all over for another year. Denis had done himself proud!
2.30pm: I returned to my natural habitat – the kitchen – to clear-up the wreckage (although, thanks to our prep-work, there wasn’t much to do!
2.50pm: Twenty-minutes later, the kitchen was spotless. Almost time for the Gambles Ritual of watching the Queen’s Speech!
3.00pm: Afternoon Ma’am!
3.25pm: Denis was now drifting-off into the land of nod, so we said our goodbyes, packed-up the car and headed back to Kettering.
4.35pm: Just like the journey there, heading home was hassle-free with hardly anything on the road. As a result, we were home in 70 minutes – that IS a new record for us, although at one point (just before I felt a sharp stabbing sensation in my left leg) I proved that Robert CAN top triple-figures! Naughty (but briefly, nice!)
It had been a great time with Denis. These days, what he lacks in conversation, he (still!) more than makes up for with his appetite! Barry and Bev are visiting him tomorrow and Roger, Jane and Oliver, the day after, so he’s seeing the majority of the family over the Christmas break – just how it should be! 😁
4.50pm: We’re home, For me tohugh, where else? Back in the kitchen, preparing a bucket of potatoes for tomorrow’s feast!
5.30pm: With the potatoes in the oven, it was time for ‘Pressy Opening (Part 2)’ – this time, gifts from Jo, Janet, Carol and Sal – and of course, each other!
6.15pm: G and Ts all round and an opportunity to watch BBC’s ‘Call the Midwife’ and for me to catch-up with the final part of rather spooky (and IMHO, rather good) ‘Christmas Carol’ adaptation from the BBC starring Guy Pearce, Andy Serkis, Stephen Graham, Vinette Robinson and Joe Alwyn. It was about as far away from the Alastair Sim version from 1951 as you can get, and I think it’s going to give a few people nightmares tonight! 😮
10.00pm: We’re done for today! 🥱😴🥱😴
Boxing Day – Roger, James and Oliver at ours
7.00am: Ann was up with the lark, to attend to the Beef (a six-hour sloooooow cook) whilst I caught up with the latest Christmas EastEnders murder! (Merry Christmas!) 😁
11.00am: Tree presents placed around the tree and Christmas Music playlist prepared — CHECK!
11.30am: Roger, Jane and Oliver arrived, and we spent a good hour catching-up with everyone’s news especially how Oli had got on with his recent Mocks.
1.30pm: Some things don’t change! Lunch was ready bang on time, we all agreed that the beef was yummy…
…and the cracker jokes were as corny as ever
Q: “What does a frog do when its car breaks down?”
A: “It gets toad away”
Lunch was along leisurely affair (just as it should be at this time of year)…
…where Jane had made a very scrumptious Sticky Toffee Pudding…
…and where Ann and I experimented with a new creation: Mulled Cider Jelly with an Apple & Creme Fraiche Topping….
…and Cheese to finish, of course!
3.30pm: With the final mouthful consumed, it was time to attend to the
bomb-site kitchen! Actually, it didn’t take long to return the kitchen to its former state (with a little help from the dish-washer — human AND mechanical!)
4.00pm: Tree-present time! 🎁🎁🎁🎁🎁
4.30pm: Time for a movie, and we chose one that Oli hadn’t seen before (that also happened to be one of my Christmas presents from Ann… in 4K of course!
6.45pm: We really enjoyed it. As usual for Marvel, mind-blowing special effects but with some occasional humorous scenes which worked really well.
7.30pm: More food! 😁
We caught up with one of my recordings from yesterday: Channel 5 had managed ot create a compilation of Two Ronnies sketches. Nothing unusual there, except these were from the time in 1986 where they spent a year in Australia on Channel 9. They were as hilarious as ever, and it was interesting to see the slight variations in the scripts compared with the UK version.
10.00pm: We ended the day ‘putting the world to rights’.
27th December – Normality (briefly!)
6.30am: I was up first, quickly followed by Ann, who had a plan!
7.00am: And that plan was to create another new culinary masterpiece, this time for breakfast!
It was a ‘Breakfast Quiche’ – a sort of Full English encased in pastry (but no ordinary pastry, this was
M&S Ann’s Parmesan Crusted Pastry!) The egg was blended with double-cream to make it extra delicious 😋 As expected, it went down a treat, with Roger and I tucking into seconds!
10.15am: With breakfast over, Roger, Jane and Oliver packed up their stuff and bid us farewell. They headed off to see Denis, whilst we (briefly) returned the house to ‘normal’.
11.00am: I caught up with a bit of recorded Christmas TV whilst pressing-on with the ironing. Meanwhile, Ann took over the kitchen and some serious food preparation for our next culinary get-together (Sunday, with Jo, Janet, Carol, Chris and Pete).
1.30pm: Time for a break from the kitchen and the ironing. After watching the thoroughly depressing couple of Christmas episodes of EastEnders (why do I do this???), we settled down to something altogether more uplifting — The 2019 Glyndebourne production of The Magic Flute — courtesy of BBC2. No deaths (well, excluding the serpent!) and not a cockney in sight! Fab! 😊 We’d actually seen the touring version of this back in August at the Royal Albert Hall.
4.00pm: An excellent production — even better than the version we saw live!
6.30pm: We’re done! All the ironing is up-to-date and the food is prepared for Sunday. Time for ‘feet-up’ and a bit more Christmas TV. First, the movie: The Duchess – better than I remember it first time round in 2008. Next up: the Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special which, according to the papers, was the most-watched TV programme over the holiday period (and also the decade!) so we thought we’d give that a go! I loved it, but Ann was to be convinced. Superb cliff-hanger though!😁
8.15pm: Got my fix of EastEnders! Did Mark really kill Keanu? Oh, the suspense! The Internet is full of rumours and counter-rumours!😯
9.30pm: That’s it for today, it’s an early start tomorrow, as we’re heading south😴🥱😴🥱😴🥱
28th December – Bromley: Neil, Debbie, Alfie & Frankie
We headed to Bromley to catch-up with the Palmer Clan today — Debbie, Neil, Alfie and Frankie. Neil had booked us a table at our normal haunt — ASK in Bromley and as usual we did the journey by train.
8.50am: We drove over to Huntingdon Station (Kettering Station is completely closed for an extended period, whilst they upgrade the line). Although the car-park was busy, we found a space about as close to the entrance as possible!
11.52am: All our connections were on time, and we met just outside Bromley South station. After the fifteen-minute slow walk through the ‘high street’, we were soon seated in ASK, in East Street, and studying the menu.
12.10pm: I think we were so busy nattering with each other, the waiting staff had to err… Wait! 😁 Eventually though, we placed our orders, and in typical ASK fashion, it was cooked to order and delivered without too much of a wait.
1.30pm: Our time at ASK passed in a flash. Drinks, Mains for all, Desserts for Neil and for me came to about £125, which we thought was great value. We exchanged Christmas gifts and then took the return walk back to the station.
1.53pm: Talk about perfect timing! On arrival at the station, we said our goodbyes and then caught the connection to Blackfriars with literally seconds to spare! 😮
4.21pm: The rest of our connections also worked out, and we were soon home. It had been great to catch up with ‘The Palmers’! 😍
6.02pm: No rest for us! After a quick catch-up with more of our Christmas TV recordings, the excellent Queen documentary Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender (thanks Sky Arts!), it was back to the kitchen to finalise things for tomorrow.
7.35pm: With the parsnips pulverised and the pheasant and partridge gently fried-off, all the heavy lifting was now done for tomorrow for the ‘Twixmas’ Lunch!
7.45pm: We finished the evening in front of the TV – this time, Paddington 2 from Boxing Day (BBC1) and the Not Going Out Christmas Special (BBC1).
29th December – Lunch at ours: Jo, Janet, Carol, Chris & Pete
7.30am: Bah! Having managed to avoid a cold for the Christmas period, I think it’s finally got me! 😮 But on a positive note, I laid-in until 7.30!! 😁
So, today, it’s our final festive meal, and we’ve invited Jo, Janet, Carol, Chris & Pete round for a slap-up meal. And it wasn’t a case of finishing-up the leftovers either! Meal? More like a banquet, thanks to Ann’s culinary expertise! 😍
11.00am: The table is ready!
12.30pm: The gang’s all here, and we’re ready to eat!
3.10pm: And we certainly did! 😁
Wow! What a meal. Ann really excelled herself this time! 😍 And as a bonus for me, in spite of the complexity of the menu, even the washing-up seemed more straightforward 😀
I think we all felt like a nap afterwards (well, that’s what Sunday afternoons are for surely!!??) but instead we nattered and nattered (and nattered!) Possibly, the only thing that pre-occupied our minds more was that Denis had had a fall at home, hurt is back and was waiting with one of the Carers for the ambulance to arrive! 😮
4.45pm: By the time our guests left, Denis was STILL waiting for the ambulance, so we said our goodbyes and quickly jumped on the phone for an update on Denis. Eventually, they took him to Boston, whilst Jet was taken care of by Alan, one of his neighbours.
5.35pm: And whilst we waited for more news on Denis, we headed for the Sly Q planner to catch-up with some more of the recordings from over the Christmas period.
An old but one but a good one! 😂😂
7.15pm: At last, some news about Denis. The ambulance took him to Boston hospital.
9.10pm: No further news on Denis! I tried to distract myself by watching Channel 5’s Susan Hill’s Ghost Story, but I guess I was thinking of other things. I gave up 40 minutes in — I’ll try again, once we know more about Denis’s condition.
30th December – Lunch at Chris & Gill’s
7.45am: The latest on Denis, as we went to bed last night was that he was at Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, waiting in the ambulance whist they arranged for him being admitted.
10.05am: Some news! Denis is in A & E.
11.55am: We’re off to Chris and Gill’s, and that meant got a break from the cooking… and me from the washing-up! 😁. We took the short drive there and also caught up with Steve and Denise — Abi too!
1.15pm: Another yummy Lunch! Melt-in-the-mouth gammon and a rather splendid Cumberland Sauce thanks the ‘Chefs Amos’
4.15pm: We got back from Chris and Gill’s and awaiting news of Denis. Looks like he’ll be discharged at some point and then move to a respite Care Home. We’ll visit him tomorrow (which was originally our prep-day for friends coming round on New Year’s Day for a meal). So, that meant a bit of hurried re-scheduling, and we headed for… (yes, you guessed it!)
5.05pm: The kitchen! – where we prepped all the vegetables and then laid the table.
7.15pm: Phew! Jobs done! We finished our day and watched a couple more of our Christmas recordings: Cinderella: After Ever After (Sky 1) which was absolutely dire! 😣 and The Great Christmas Bake-off (Channel 4) — much better!
31st December – Boston Pilgrim Hospital & Jo and Janet’s
6.30am: Neither of us slept well as we were thinking about Denis.
8.00am: Again, by way of distraction, I dived into the Christmas TV recordings. This time, I watched the new two-part adaptation of Worzel Gummidge, written by, directed and starring, Mackenzie Crook. What a production! I really enjoyed it and, maybe not surprisingly, it had more than a slight ‘Detectorists’ feel about it! If they don’t make a series out of this, I’ll be surprised! 😁
10.15am: Ann rang Boston Pilgrim Hospital for an update on Denis. It looks like they’re keeping him in for more observations and to ensure his health stabilises.
11.15am: We decided to drive up to the Hospital to see how he was. Just our luck then, as the road was closed just past where we normally turn off for Denis’s, meaning we took a slightly convoluted route to the Hospital!
1.10pm: We eventually arrived! Parking was slightly challenging, but we found a space and then after a quick cuppa, took the lift to floor 6, where we met Becky the Ward Sister for a thorough update.
Denis was as well as could be expected. He was sleepy, but we managed to have short bursts of conversation with him. The room seemed cold, so we got him another blanket and a piping-hot cup of tea to warm him up. I found the cause of the temperature drop – his two windows were ajar and after closing them, the room warmed-up nicely.
The hospital confirmed that there was no hurry to move him into respite care (that’s a relief!) and he was going to stay where was for the time being. We stayed for about an hour attempting to have a conversation, but it was proving difficult as he slipped in and out of slumber.
4.30pm: We had a good journey back, with just enough time to gather our thoughts before joining Janet and Jo at theirs (with Carol) to see in 2020!
6.30pm: We set off for the 300-metre walk to Janet and Jo’s! Janet was cooking and after a natter and a couple of Gin Cocktails, we sat down to an M&S three-fish-roast.
9.00pm: Unusually for us, we were all too full to handle dessert straight after, so we headed for the lounge where J & J had helpfully prepared a shortlist of movies that would get us through to midnight. We planned to enjoy dessert later… and maybe some cheese too!
9.30pm: By a unanimous decision, we settled on the Green Book, the story of a working-class Italian-American bouncer who becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.
For us all, it turned out to be one of the more enjoyable movies of 2019…
…where even Oscar enjoyed it! 😻
After a short pause in proceedings, we all managed dessert (eventually!). Ann had taken along Baked Apricot Croissant Pudding and the Plum Crumble from earlier in the holiday! None of us had enough room for the cheeseboard though!
Collectively, it didn’t feel like it was our ‘cup-of-tea’, so, after we watched the fireworks on the stroke of midnight, and did our own rendition of Auld Lang Syne, we switched to ever-reliable Jools Holland’s 2019 Hootenanny on BBC2. Boy! I’m starting to feel my age, as most of the stars, I’d never heard of — Stormzy (OK, I’d heard of him!), Brittany Howard, Eddi Reader, Pauline Black, La Roux, Rick Astley (yes, him too!), Ruby Turner, Tom Walker, YolandaDa Brown, Stereophonics (Yes!) and err… Melanie. It was the same Melanie who gave us; “I’ve got a brand-new pair of roller skates” back in 1971. She struggled with the song, and additionally, the intervening years don’t look as if they’ve been too kind to her.
Actually, Rick Astley aside (who was fab!), all the singers seemed a bit lack-lustre and together with the weird replies from many of the so-called ‘celebs’ in the audience when interviewed, it produced a show that was, in my eyes, a tad disappointing. At one point, even Jools commented that ‘people were off their faces’ – and it certainly looked and sounded like it!
1.10am: Whether it was the music or just our age, but just after 1am, we were done! Janet surprised us all and gave us all new-year presents and with the dessert-leftovers (and our gifts) we said our goodbyes and hobbled up the road.
1.25am: Happy new year! 😴💤😴💤
Well, that’s it for another year. Such a lot of preparation and build-up – and then it seems it’s over in a flash!
Visiting Denis for Christmas Lunch was as enjoyable as ever, but slightly more poignant this year. His health in 2019 has deteriorated rapidly, and it was sad to see how much he’s lost his mojo, compared with this time last year. As I write this post towards the end of the year, I think the whole family is reflecting on his ‘innings’ and recognising that this MIGHT be his last year with us – but having said that, he a tough cookie, so who knows!?!?
It’s felt extra-busy this year (mostly in a good way!). We’ve seen more of our friends, and hosted more meals at ours during the period between Christmas and new year. Luckily, we had more time on our hands than some, and that allowed us to get super-organised (even more than we normally try to be!). Our perfectly ordered plans were somewhat disrupted by a deterioration in Denis’s health towards the end of the break, but that’s just the way it is, and we managed the planned and unplanned aspects without any bother.
Christmas TV was as varied as ever. From the rather excellent adaptation of A Christmas Carol; the predictable EastEnders whodunnit; the dire Dial M for Middlesborough and Cinderella: After Ever After, through to the better-than-I-thought, Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special. Worzel Gummidge was an unexpected treat as was our choice of New Year’s Eve movie – Green Book.
One again, a beautiful selection of gifts from friends and family — I’m always amazed at everyone’s generosity. Merry Christmas!, here’s to next year!!! 😍