New Year’s Day and the Story of a Doll’s House

It’s a New Year’s Day burdened with hope and expectations.  Last year we had no idea what lay ahead. Cannyrob confidently filled the 2020 diary with planned events: Zumba and Pilates classes, weekly swimming sessions, singing days, choir rehearsals, art exhibitions, drumming classes and weekend camps. We had tickets for concerts with Cat Stevens and Elton John as well as holidays planned in Portugal, Spain and Tenerife. Cannyrob has just checked annual mileages for our car and campervan; the total is 4,298, compared with 14,954 in 2019. In this year of separation and cancelled events there have been some moments of joy – a postponed June wedding in December in a tree-lined marquee and the welcome arrival of two new babies in my extended family. Anxieties over ill-health among relatives and close friends are exacerbated by lack of information and direct contact. It is hard not to be able to visit. The new diary is a blank canvas waiting for new experiences, maybe some ordinary everyday things which we appreciate more. Last night we played games: Pictionary and Uno. Perhaps we’ll find some more. We’ve already dug out Sing Star for the Play Station, a karaoke game we used to love (well, some of us….).

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight

Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine 1944

This has always been one of my favourite Christmas songs, from the musical Meet me in St Louis, sung by Judy Garland. The lyrics, penned in wartime, seemed particularly apt this year.  ‘Some day soon we all will be together, if the fates allow.  Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.’

Thanks to my Sister for recording the lovely piano accompaniment, so Cannyrob and I can sing along.

Today’s Tarot card is The Emperor, number 4 in the Major Arcana, a ‘seed’ card marking a transition from one phase to the next.  A symbol of male worldly power, it represents authority and order.  Right now we depend on government to make decisions about Covid restrictions and the distribution of vaccines, as well as finalising the Brexit deal that’s been hanging over us for so long. We may not entirely trust the Emperor’s judgement but right now we have no alternative. Following the rules and waiting our turn in the vaccine queue is inevitable. Leaving the house means checking for keys, mask, sanitiser and phone for payment (I haven’t used cash for months).

Our Christmas celebrations were a bit different but festive nonetheless. With B’s input, we had a German Christmas Eve with duck, red cabbage and potato dumplings then a cream and chocolate pudding called Herrencreme. On Christmas Day we had a family gathering in the garden round the fire bowl   A friend who saw the photos thought it looked rather like a gypsy encampment. Woolly hats, smoke….. I liked that idea! Fortunately the gazebo stayed up until the edges of Storm Bella hit us the next day.

Snacks, cakes and a big pot of coffee kept us going while presents were exchanged.  Later, a few of us had our traditional Christmas dinner.

There’s something very special about Christmas food.  As someone who doesn’t do any of the work, I set the table and clear up but otherwise enjoy what other people make.  Older Daughter and Cannyrob excelled themselves this year, with cookies, fondants, tiffin, jam, marmalade, chutney, butterscotch sauce and, of course, marzipan fruits (crafted by OD since she was a very small child).

My biggest surprise was a present from Cannyrob.  He remembered that months ago I had come home saying that I had seen a doll’s house in a local second hand shop.  It reminded me of the one I had as a child.  It was my Christmas present from my paternal grandparents when I was four. When I was ten, my mother decided I was too old for it and it was done up to be given away to the ‘poor children’. I was upset.  I had loved playing with it, creating all sorts  of scenarios for the dolls and objects.   I remember turning it upside down as if some disaster had happened and working out how the family would manage.  I remember being told to play with it properly.

I had no idea that Cannyrob had been researching and negotiating. On Christmas night,  he produced not only a house very similar to the one I had (only bigger) but an almost complete set of furniture. I was completely taken by surprise.  It was very emotional.  To have something lost and mourned so long ago replaced was a wonderful experience.  I have already subscribed to some collectors’ sites and am looking forward to restoring the house and its contents.

Reading is, as always, my favourite activity.  Stuart Macbride’s Logan Macrae crime stories set in Aberdeen are violent, crude and funny.  Binge reading the whole series again is a real treat. I also have new Christmas present books to look forward to. Black Spartacus, continuing my education in black history  and The Binding, a new gothic novel to enjoy.

I’ve been reading and knitting rather than having the usual television binge over Christmas.  What have I watched?   Made in Chelsea, Ghosts Christmas Special. Black Narcissus, Death of Stalin (grimly funny), The Crown, Frozen (deeply disappointing). I’m planning to watch Victoria Wood, The Great British Sewing Bee, Christmas at Chatsworth, Roald and Beatrix on catch-up. Final series of French drama Spiral begins tomorrow night. Carrie and Hallowe’en are on my horror movie list.   Any other catch up recommendations?

With weeks, if not months, of lockdown ahead, keeping warm and cosy at home seems a good plan.  We now have a super efficient log effect gas fire downstairs where I spend my time on the sofa.  My daughters gave me a lovely heated fleece blanket for Christmas which follows me from bed to sofa (what an old lady present but my own choice!) and I have a new hooded black fake fur dressing gown which reminds me of the Russian sable coat my mother used to wear when I was a child.

Thank you for continuing to read my posts – or maybe you are checking in for the first time. It’s great to get feedback.  I’d love to hear about your Covid Christmas and future lockdown plans. The blog has recently helped me connect with friends I haven’t seen for a long time.  Making plans to meet in person will be a priority in 2021.  Leave a comment below, or email me privately at timewithelinor@gmail.com. Of course, you can also reply via WhatsApp.

Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year with new opportunities to enjoy life, whatever it brings.

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