December 2013

The year ends in a swamp. It’s very muddy out there. What appears to be a significant fraction of the soil of West Yorkshire is in our hallway stuck to various footwear. Some further significant fraction has been washed off the boys’ clothes over the last few weeks. They don’t simply play outside when there happens to be some mud around; they embrace the mud. Sometimes literally.

The weather affected my life rather more dramatically on the first of two spectacularly bad train journeys in December. That was the day of what they called the “St Jude storm”, most of which I spent sitting on an East Coast train waiting for a trampoline to be removed from some overhead wires near Newark. When I told the tale to the boys afterwards, Peter was very sad on behalf of the children whose trampoline had blown away. (Second disastrous train journey was just a common-or-garden broken train, or as the announcer put it, a train that was “declared a failure”. Compensation for that one was being in the seat behind Ed Miliband and getting to watch him and his team re-planning their day and handling the media).

Gavin had more success travelling to and from his regular appointment with a very large concrete box and some very large experimental equipment.

Back at home the boys did Christmas at school all month, or so it seemed. They sang carols at home and at school, a lot. Peter practised for the Christmas show (in which he was a brown stable animal of somewhat indeterminate species); Matthew was for the first time in years only a spectator at the Christmas show. Then school finally finished and we did Christmas at home with family and friends, and after-Christmas away with more family. We reaped some of the many benefits of living in a city by going to two gloriously unique, very different and entirely under-the-mainstream-radar Christmas theatrical productions: The Narnia Experience at Left Bank Leeds (complete with huge lion puppet) and Hansel and Gretel In Jurassic Hyde Park (aka the Hyde Park Unity Day community pantomime with added bingo. You kind of had to be there. Oh yes you did).

2013 goes down as the year in which Peter learned to swim and to read. (Matthew of course learned an enormous number of things – most notably, perhaps, to read music – but Peter is the one who’s at the age for enormous step-changes). As we get to the end of the year it’s clear that they’re both, basically, happy.

And we’re very aware of how fortunate we are. I hope this blog reflects that. Gavin has had a difficult work year. I’ve spent a lot of the year getting angry with various aspects of the state of the institution we work for, the country and the world. But any serious counting of blessings rapidly loses count. Happy new year, and we’ll see you in 2014.

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