Monday, 17 December 2012

A quick review...



Goodness me it’s grim up North [by up North I mean here, where I am, which is significantly more north than where some people are.] It’s freezing. Although warmer than last week. Last week i was sat at mey desk in several layers, one of which was a Fat Face hoody and another of which was a snowboarding standard bodywarmer. I was  also wearing sheepskin lined boots and gloves, had the heating on 5 and a fan heater pointed right at me and I was still unbelievably cold. Last Thursday night I babysat for Daisy, I bet I was there for all of 4 hours and  I still had to de-ice my car before I could go home. Nothing about any of this is fine.

Speaking of Daisy she gets cuter by the minute. Last week we played with the camera. I really wanted a photo of the two of us; a nice smiling picture of me and my niece would be lovely on my office wall. Daisy was having none of it. To her it was all a big game, let's see how many funny faces I can make Auntie Jo pull: ‘say cheese Daze,’ ‘show Auntie Jo your prettiest smile Daisy,’ ‘like this Daisy *I smile* see, you do it’ ‘Daisy, smile.’ I think out of about 12 pictures I got one where we're both smiling.  Then yesterday we met up with some other friends with small children at a farm. Daisy had a donkey ride. Two donkey rides actually and it was the cutest thing because she's so small and she was sat there bouncing up and down on this donkey [his name was Patch] all 'giddy up, giddy up.' Adorable.

Anyway.

In April 2011 Helen and I fell in love with Major Pettigrew. If you haven’t read the story of the retired Major and his friendship with his Pakistani neighbour, Mrs Ali, gorgeously detailed in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, then I suggest you rectify that post haste.

This December I fell in love with Harold Fry.

Helen hasn’t read about Harold’s unlikely pilgrimage just yet, but I know when she does she’ll fall in love with him too. I challenge anybody who doesn’t have a heart of stone to not read this book and come away just feeling better.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry tells the story of 65 year old Harold, distanced from his wife and having not heard from his son in 20 years, he’s recently retired and he’s at a bit of a loose end when one day he gets a letter from an old colleague and friend, Queenie. She’s sick, dying of cancer and she wanted Harold to know; the letter is her goodbye. Harold scribbles a hasty [and what he feels somewhat lacking] response and heads out to post it, reaches the post box and just keeps going. He needs to save Queenie, he needs her to not give up, he needs something tangible to focus on and somehow the belief that his walking from Devon, to Queenie in Berwick on Tweed will save Queenie’s life becomes it. He walks and he walks and he walks, in his boat shoes, to save the life of a woman he used to know and it’s the most wonderful, touching, real story. It made me laugh and it made me ache and it made me believe too. I rooted for Harold all the way: I wanted it to work, I wanted him to make it, for Queenie, for himself.

Reading this felt a little like huddling under a favorite blanket on a winter day but as well as that, this book is a lesson. It’s undeniably emotional and sentimental but not tooth-rottingly so, and it’s a story about  human nature I guess, about love and loss, friendship, kindness and self-value. This is a glorious book, and I am so so glad I took this walk with Harold Fry. I feel better because of it.



[Apparently Jim Broadbent reads the audiobook. I bet he’s the perfect Harold….]

Thursday, 13 December 2012

we may not have it all together but together we have it all...




un·der·state·ment

[uhn-der-steyt-muhnt, uhn-der-steyt-]

noun

the act or an instance of understating, or representing in a weak or restrained way that is not borne out by the facts:


 

My boy loves Christmas. This is an understatement.

Things you should probably know about my boyfriend: he’s an adorable brand of crazy.

Let me give you an example or two here. He loves Sherlock Holmes. Like, loves. He’s more old school though, where I am [for obvious reasons pertaining to the attractiveness of RDJ] all about the Guy Ritchie films, he likes the books. And Jeremy Brett – although he did devour Sherlock  and is quite taken with the Cumberbatch. 
He’s kind of a Sherlock Holmes fanboy, really.
Which brings me to the point. Have you been watching Elementary [and if not, you need to rethink your life choices because Johnny Lee Miller is hot] – a modern day take on Sherlock Holmes with Johnny as Sherlock and the fabulous Lucy Liu as Watson, set in New York? It’s amazing. And Ian loves it. As in he actually made these funny little noises in the back of his throat when we watched the first episode and does a little sofa jig whenever we watch it and gets ridiculously excited at all the little nods to ACD, like, that one time when Sherlock wore a t-shirt with some kind of bee print on and he practically fell of the sofa in excitement. He loves it. He also [I suspect and he would mostly deny] has a bit of a boy crush on Johnny Lee Miller. In one episode Holmes was texting Watson but was trying to save time by using acronyms. Like OMG but for every word. Ian adopted that habit for like a week. I almost went insane. You would too if  'what would you like for tea, I'm home early so I'll cook.'  became 'WWYLFT? IHESIC.' And then another time Sherlock started doing some weird ass kind of squats. A couple of days later Ian could barely walk, turns out he’s been doing these squats at every available moment  ‘and Jo, they actually work!

My boyfriend is Sherlock Holmes, as portrayed by Johnny Lee Miller. Or at least, he is in his head. And you can’t even care because he’s just so damn adorable when he’s excited.

Which brings us to Christmas. 

He loves Christmas, ‘like, more than my birthday’ and he gets all bouncy and grins this face splitting grin that’s all teeth and wide eyes and he sings Santa Baby really loud and drinks more Bailey’s than is perhaps good for his health.

And insists on a real tree.

Even though we live in a terraced house and have no money.

Tueaday night we went tree shopping. I had my eye on a reasonable sized little tree, all bright green and you know, cheap. Ian fell in love with some kind of tree giant. The Hagrid of Christmas trees. All big and bushy and ‘Jo, look how beautiful it is.’
‘It’s massive’ I told him, ‘it’s never going to fit in our lounge.’
‘It will.’
‘It won’t.’
‘It will.’
‘It won’t.’
And then he did the grin, and a bit of a jump and ‘pleeeeease, I love Christmas so much and I love this tree and I will never be happy again if we can’t have it.’ 

Jesus. Never happy again, like I wanted that on my conscience. So we bought the tree and hauled it home, with me wedged against the window of the car and him still grinning as he patted it gently before starting up the engine. ‘Hello Mr Christmas Tree.’

Answer me, please: how has this become my life??

Guess what.

The tree didn’t fit. Or at least it fit, but only if we moved all our other furniture out of the way. Ian surveyed it. I swallowed down my ‘I told you so.’ He looked at me, said, ‘Oh fuck.’
And I couldn’t help it, ‘I TOLD YOU SO.’
And then he laughed, this deep proper belly laugh, ‘but look how lovely it is.’

I wanted to be mad, because God, it was insane, this massive too expensive tree that was too big for our house but he’s putting on Christmas Crooners and thinking he’s Frank freaking Sinatra and hacking at it with the secateurs and all I could do was roll my eyes and go and cook, telling him crossly to think about what he’d done and looking away before he could see me smile. Which just made him laugh more, ‘it’s such a lovely tree. Look what I’ve done.’

So there’s half the tree in a pile by the door and the rest, the tree that’s not been hacked away, pushed against the wall and half hanging over the sofa and Ian singing Twelve Days of Christmas and drinking his Bailey’s and having a minor breakdown because he has a mild case of OCD and ‘I can’t remember where this decoration went.’
‘Doesn’t matter, put it somewhere else then.’
‘It needs to go in the right place.’
‘There is no right place; just put it where it looks nice. It looks nice there.’
‘It doesn’t GO THERE. It has to go in the right place. I AM NOT HAVING A NICE TIME RIGHT NOW.’

And I’m just curled up on the sofa watching him and laughing and trying to help but not really and I had an epiphany; I thought, this, this right here is what matters. I have been so stressed about Christmas lately and it’s all for nothing because Tuesday night with Ian being like some kind of puppy dog with all his excitement and the pretty decorations – and we buy something new every year so when we trim up it kind of tells our story – and our too big tree and my Pop-Up copy of The Night Before Christmas, that’s what it’s all about and it just made really realise that it doesn’t even matter how hard times seem to be, how there’s not enough time and not enough money and so much seeming to be not-quite-right; it made me so so grateful for the memories I have and the memories I have still to make and the people I get to share my life with, even if one of those is a Sherlock Holmes wannabe who’s spacial awareness goes out of the window when confronted with a pretty tree. 

I really really am the luckiest.