So we left London on Saturday and drove West, having missed the traffic jams of Friday when the world and his wife were trying to leave town. We've holed up up in Hereford for the Christmas season, with occasional forays over the border into Gloucestershire to visit my parents.
R actually worked Christmas Day (for which he received triple time - his favourite Christmas present, so yesterday saw me head to The Oaks, my parents house since 2002 (or it may have been 2001) and increasingly a place which feels like home*.
Christmas Day saw the usual indulgence of food and present giving. With two younger brothers who still count their presents up to compare scores it can get a little fraught at times.
As for the dogs, one of them loves it when you're unwrapping presents. He is the invariable optimist, convinced it's food, and comes over to stick his nose into your half unwrapped present to check. The other dog, of a more nervous disposition, hates the whole things and hides out in the kitchen.
This year my mother was sporting two corking black eyes. Last weekend she had been knocked into the air by one of the ponies when she was getting the horses in to be fed, and as she came down, her head connected with the gate post to break her fall. What with also having broken her ankle in three places last March (the same day I first felt the lump) and with my scars and chemo-chic short hair, we're sporting a few more battlewounds this year.
My sister called at 10am, to wish us all Happy Christmas. She'd spent the day on a beach and was just about to treat herself to a posh hotel dinner somewhere in Borneo. Sensible girl. My brother was somewhere in the snowy depths of Vancouver.
We had all agreed to prepare something 'Christmassy'. To 'do a turn'. Which felt like enforced jollity a week ago but was actually quite a nice way to cut through the orgiastic present unwrapping and Turkey stuffing... My brothers performed carols - one on the flute and one on a guitar with the amp turned up high (not at the same time as eachother). My Dad suddenly remembered how to play the recorder. MY mother read a Christmas story by Jeanette Winterson. And I? Non musical, unable to sing without inflicting pain, I had prepared a Christmas game. You had to gargle three Christmas songs each and get people to guess them. So everyone had a go, and when I had to gargle Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas, I got very wet indeed.
I sloped off back to Hereford to join R for the evening, with a plateful of Christmas dinner, lovingly put aside for him by my Mother. Aaah.
Family at Christmas is a very good thing indeed.
*Never having had a 'permanent' childhood home, what with being an Air Force brat and the family moving on every couple of years, my friends in adulthood don't really understand that for me, there is no childhood bedroom being 'kept' for me, Marie Celeste style, just the way it was when I left it for University. Nope, since I left home for University, my parents have lived in Sussex, Germany, Churchdown (Glos), The Leigh (Glos) and Cliffords Mesne (still in Glos, and where they are now). And that's reasonably static for them. In that time, I've lived in three different places in Scotland, a flat in Bath, a house in Reading, a flat in Turkey, a house in Brighton, a house in Surrey and six different flats in London. So, for me, my sense of 'home' is not based on anything permanent or 'geographical'. It's where my family is, where the dogs are, or where I sleep at night.