Sheffield at Christmas
The Christmas race has truly started. December and last night was frosty - the first proper frost of the winter. Crystals glistening whitely on windscreens. I have been Christmas shopping twice in the last few days - mainly because we need to get gifts posted to our relatives in Ireland and France during the first days of this month.
As we grow older, time seems to accelerate. Was it really a year ago that I crammed those presents in shoeboxes? And here I am doing it again.
During school termtime, I had never previously been Christmas shopping on a Monday so yesterday was a first - strolling through Fargate, along The Moor and into Orchard Square - I was surprised to see so many people around with colourful Christmas bags. Two or three Christmas shops have sprung up overnight - presumably with month long leases. I bought crackers and wrapping paper. Whenever I saw adults with children in tow, I felt like challenging them - "Why isn't this kid in school?" but of course I didn't.
Shirley has steamed several Christmas puddings after following her mother's ancient recipe and I bought two pounds of best Italian sweet chestnuts ready for turning into simple chestnut stuffing. Over in Alabama, our daughter is looking forward to coming home though she spent the Thanksgiving holiday with her room-mate's family in Snelville near Atlanta and had a lovely time. Many Americans are particularly kind that way.
Some people say they hate Christmas - it's too commercial, it's lost its meaning etc. but I always love Christmastime which I see as a pagan midwinter festival - celebrating the fragile birth of a new year as the winter equinox completes its cycle. And at Christmas I remember dad and mum, Nana Morris, Charlie and Winnie (Shirley's parents) knowing that we are all just links in the chain of life. It's a time for reflection and taking stock and wondering what will have happened a year from now.