26 December 2017

24 hours later

We made it. Or not, actually. Having given up on a "real' tree and come up with our own home-made interpretations over the last few years, we hovered on the brink of having no tree at all and a very low key Christmas, until, that is, John walked in with a stuggy little specimen from the local market and I relented. Baubles, tinsel, shine - the die was cast.  He even managed to repair the large hole in the hearth which appeared after an "uh-oh" from the little fellah as he dislodged a piece of the marble fireplace, precipitating a mini-earthquake in the cellar. It seems the hearth had been kept in place by a stack of 19th century builder's rubble which, bizarrely, included a collection of cockle shells. So the low-key indoor picnic I had planned turned into a full-blown Christmas, including some very last minute cake making and gift wrapping, and a traditional lunch fitted in between visits to the hospital*. Everyone stepped up to the mark on the day and  you could hardly see the joins. I got the coloured pencils I asked for, the little one vroom-vroomed his micro scooter around the house, and after much to-ing and fro-ing we finished the day with a glass of whiskey and some first class ginger shortbread.

And now I'm heading for a complete BBC 1 slush-fest in front of the fire. I hope your post Christmas interlude is also suitably indulgent.

* Still in hospital, hopefully a corner turned in spite of delirium and weakness.

06 December 2017

winter comforts

Let's face it, visiting someone in hospital in December was never likely to be a delight, but I've found that if you open your mind it us  perfectly possible to find some lightness in the labyrinth that is a modern hospital. Not a day goes by without having at least one conversation and a shared smile about the enigmatic system required to call a lift and the act of faith that it will in fact deliver you to the right floor, or the ironic notice suggesting that using the stairs would be good for your health without any indication of where you might find a staircase. I've yet to solve that one. What is apparent though is the desire of everyone to make the journey through illness as gentle as possible. The hyper-alert doctors - so young, so thin - manage everything from a difficult conversation about resuscitation to finding just the right vein for taking yet another blood sample with understated expertise. The keenness of the staff to decorate the kafkaesque labyrinth of corridors (where exactly am I?) with gaudy tinsel and trees and chubby paper snowmen is above admirable. I am in awe.

And so the search for extra comforts turns to the everyday, the repetition of the known and familiar. Walking home along the Mile End Road I stop at one of the fruit and veg stalls set up outside a shop and buy a bowl of bright clementines. I cheer up at the sight of the neon lights of the local independent cinema which also makes the very best decaf latte in the Burg, marvel at the width of the road and imagine the drovers driving their sheep from the eastern counties towards Aldgate and beyond. When I arrive home all I want is toast with, ooh, how about some marmalade from the cellar ('Whole Orange Marmalade, January 2012' it says) and a giant cup of fat cocoa. Just for a change.

To finish off this feast, I open the bag of clementines and discover that the man has muddled my bag with one meant for another customer. Inside there are four luminous persimmons. I've never eaten a persimmon before. I pick one up and it feels dense, ripe, a gift I was meant to have to brighten a cold winter's day.

It is, it was,  a most unexpected delight.