There was a time when boxing day meant the start of planning for the new term ahead for my 10 and 11 year olds. My desk would be strewn with spider charts and textbooks and in later years with a computer screen glowing among the Christmas lights. It was not until about six years into retirement that the nightmares about not having done planning or marking ceased – but to this day I give thanks for being retired and still wake early on Boxing Day.
I loved my job when I did it but I don’t miss the planning. the marking.the assessments the data analysis, the spreadsheets and the report writing. Consequently on Boxing Day, I woke at five and felt I should be doing something! So this year it was rewriting chaplain’s website and learning how to use some new software called WordPress and no….. it wasn’t present!
By ten o’clock the rest of the household was ready to go for a walk and the computer was abandoned for another quiet moment. That walk amongst the laughter and the chatter of the grandchildren contained some silent spaces when atop Carn Brea I prayed for all teachers I know whose minds would be on the school term ahead-some with enthusiasm and some with trepidation and some with a sense of foreboding at the threat of impending performance management.
By the time I retired, I really was a dinosaur in teaching, belonging to a school era when teaching was a performance art which was done to a whole class rather than the very different animal it is today. So I thank God for that pneumonia and the need for a new hip released me from school and into new adventures.
So in your prayers spend a few moments praying for all teachers battling through the darkest time of the year.
So the fairy light and the decorations are away for another year although the bare tree remains in the conservatory destined to die slowly before being dismembered to fill up the brown recycling bin. The Welsh dresser is populated with bottles from Christmases past and present although I’m aiming to get through the beer by epiphany; the single malt may still be there next year and southern comfort will probably light its sixth Christmas pudding in late 2019.
But somethings are left when all is said and done, the candlesticks, a present from the artist stand either side of the cross as I say evening prayer and the memories of Christmas reflect back with joy. Eight year old Ellie and arrived for Christmas lunch dressed as Harry Potter’s Hermione and younger Brother Patrick as a Dalmatian dog complete with spotty ears and tail. Before lunch it was a time of contented conviviality balanced with an awareness of time passing, and of absent friends, in the knowledge that it will not always be like this, just as the knowledge that in so many households not so far away, the scene would be entirely different, threatening, foreboding and fearful with the expectations of the season for letting them down……… again.
As I waited for all to settle at the Christmas table my prayer brain flicked through the list of those, especially, readers for whom I pray often and I gave thanks but the reverie was broken by the grandchildren who ‘prayed’ the shark grace which. although horrendous, was not as bad as the version on YouTube, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jCyjW1I6aU)
The chatter at the children’s table was joyful until Ellie, disgruntled with the three boys pleaded, “can I come and sit next to you grandad?” Of course she joined me at the adult’s table and my Christmas meal was made.
Good food, good company and love – long may it last.
Saturday 5th January – I feel sick!
Literary rather than metaphorically although there is a little of that too! After a very early start (5:30) having been woken in a flood of adrenaline by my dreaming spouse screaming and flailing all limbs in a nightmare, I worked on the chaplain’s blog, said Morning Prayer and ticked off a few things from the to do list. At 9:15 I determined to set off for a walk, and boots on, I strode in the direction of Carn Brea where I suspected Redruth Baptist church would be taking down the Christmas cross. I was very pleased to have climbed up there just as the trailer and the first volunteers arrived in the car park.
After greetings from Phil, an ex-pupil, and Jason and Andrew, pastors is of Bethel and RBC we prayed and the first tasks allocated. I helped to reel in the several hundred metres of armoured cable for the lights that lit the cross at night and then attempted to help carry the cross but found it very difficult to find a useful place to stand. Hopefully I can be more useful when it is raised once more on April 13th for Easter.
Once the cross was on the trailer I had bade them all farewell and set off down the other side of the Carn to call in on the grandchildren for coffee.
Back home I felt pleased with myself for taking so much exercise and merely had fruit and soup for lunch to complete the self satisfaction. More work on the website and intercessions for Sunday were the order of the afternoon, broken by vacuuming upstairs and washing the car. A chap called Paul with a staff walked up the drive and began to tell me about his Ph.D. thesis while I scrubbed the wheels – something about corporate mind control or something similar- I listened and muttered something about neuro linguistic programming which made him nod enthusiastically before setting off and leaving me to the soapy sponge!
Back inside, it turned out the children and grandchildren when not coming to dinner the next day after all so that meant there were two spare bottles of beer that would not be consumed by my son and son-in-law and I could have one with supper.
Although I only had one bottle of beer which, pleasant as it was, reduced my resistance and I finished the Christmas chocolates from the bowl on the table.
I feel sick – both literally and metaphorically- the good work of exercise, piety and self-control having disappeared in a rustle of chocolate wrappings.
Well there is always tomorrow!