23 December 2011


Here in Chorley, the supermarkets will be closed on Christmas Day. Yes, you've heard it right. Closed. All day.

As I write, the news appears to have spread far and wide. People are sitting in cars waiting to join the queue to crawl around the car park looking for a space.

Shelves are being emptied faster than pimply youths can fill them up. Items of dubious quality and doubtful value are being snapped up, thrown into trolleys and buried beneath shiny things from the seasonal goods aisle.

You are getting a first hand account from a man only recently returned from his own foray. The harassed checkout clerk told me it is Mad Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. Tomorrow may, however, be worse. And I have to return.

Despite buying most of what was on my list, it turns out that this document was by no means exhaustive and lacked certain essential items which are needed for Christmas Dinner. I'm talking vegetables here. I also need two cat presents and a box of cereals. Ah well, I'll make an early start tomorrow.

All this buying leads me to contemplate the whole Christmas process. All the excitement and expense, all the effort and anticipation followed by anxiety and disappointment.

Everyone has to be happy at Christmas, even if they don't feel happy, they have to pretend in case they spoil everyone else's joy.

Everyone has to be grateful for each inappropriate gift and smile through the sadness of money ill-spent.

I have spent many Christmases in fear of unhappiness and discord. I have felt responsibility for the wellbeing of everyone around me. Not concern, not compassion but responsibility. As if I can somehow make everyone else's Christmas a happy one.

This Christmas, I am content. I have bought some interesting presents that will make my family smile. I have, as usual, sent very few Christmas cards yet continue to receive many.

Christmas is looking good from here, even if there may be no vegetables for dinner. As long as we have crackers and pigs in blankets, it will be glorious.

Happy Christmas, everyone. Or not, if you prefer.

7 December 2011

Making the Best of Things

I feed the cats twice every day. Two pouches of wet food and a handful of dry.

Most days, I open the cupboard in the utility room, take out two pouches, tear them open and plop them in the bowls. Not a lot of trouble and I am rewarded with two appreciative cats munching happily.

Yesterday was different. It was like I was treading through treacle all day, the more effort I made, the less progress. The simple process of cat feeding became a major chore. When I opened the cupboard door, I knocked over a bucket containing various household cleaners in squirty bottles. This particular bucket is used to carry the cleaning fluids and cloths from one bathroom to another and is a handy piece of kit to have around. Unfortunately its proximity to the cupboard containing the cat food meant that I either had to take the trouble to move it or allow the door to shove it aside. The latter choice proved to be the wrong one.

At this point let me point out that the difference between moving a bucket and knocking it over is the difference between a good day and a bad day. A happy day and a miserable day. An day full of positive energy and a day of listlessness.

The way I approached the bucket was the way I was approaching life.

When the contents of the bucket spread over the floor, I also knocked the box of cat food off the shelf. In trying unsuccessfully to prevent its fall, I grabbed at the foil packages, cutting my finger. I stood for a moment amongst 48 packs of food and several bottles of cleanser and bleach, then decided that my finger was dripping blood which would also need cleaning up unless I attended to the wound first.

I found a box of plasters, applied one to my poorly finger and apologised to the cats for the delay. Carefully, I gathered up all the food than fed the little angels. A pungent smell led me to the discovery that the top had detached from one of the bottles of cleaner, allowing its contents to leak over the utility room floor. The stuff was called Lime Lite, a particularly powerful little blighter which I use to get the most stubborn deposits off the sides of the shower. The scale of the spill was reasonably small, a few sheets of kitchen towel were all that was needed. All I had to do was to go upstairs, pull down the loft ladder, ascend, fish about a bit then descend clutching a fresh supply of kitchen towels. I then cleaned up the spill. When I went to throw away the soaked tissue in the kitchen bin, it was so full they wouldn't fit. With great difficulty, for the bin had been subject to several days of intense pressure every time an additional item had been added, I managed to extract the bin liner and carry it out to the wheelie bin. There were no bin liners left under the sink, I had to go out to the garage for a fresh supply, pop one in the bin and dispose of the tissues.

Feeding the cats was a microcosm of my whole day. Nothing was easy. If a thing could go wrong, it seemed to. Even my chickens were misbehaving, invading the conservatory when I have told them time and again not to come in the house. I got one egg, that's all, only one egg from four chickens.

Today, I also got one egg. Yippee, one beautiful egg just for me.

The hot water stopped working. I bathed using a kettle of hot water and the bucket. It was like being in India again, joyful.
The wind and rain snarled at me all day, I rejoiced at the warmth in my office.

I can't help having good days and not so good days. It's not what happens, it's how I'm feeling. If I had the choice I'd choose happy, but I don't always give myself the choice.