Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Dorset Day

Today started in Cheshire and ended in Dorset. Surely no Boxing Day would be complete without an epic car journey and judging by the number of people at the M40 services, the world, his wife, and their angry children were also on the road today.

The weather was glorious. Boxing Day often seems to behave itself in that respect. According to my Mum, in the good old days, you could usually rely on Boxing Day snow. These days it's often sunny but cold. That was certainly the case today.

The drive down to Poole was a breeze. There was a delightful moment when we passed a field in Shropshire which was full of birds of prey, probably buzzards. It was a rather curious sight. They were all sitting down quite happily in a field right by the side of the road.

We listened to a Kate Bush album as we travelled. Passing through Warwickshire, I tried to get Nathan to notice the sudden change in the colour of the earth from brown to a pinky-red. "It's not as red as the earth in Devon," he said. We listened to the news: Lots of talk about George Michael, and a fair amount of discussion about the recent Russian plane crash, which has killed some of the world's most talented musicians. The Russian authorities are claiming that the crash was definitely not an act of terrorism. They're making bizarrely specific suggestions about what might have happened, including the notion that a "foreign object" might have got into the plane's engine. It all smacks of a cover up to me. A military aeroplane, whose passengers are a much-loved band, heading out to Syria to entertain Russian troops in a deeply controversial conflict, strikes me as a fairly legitimate terrorist target (if that's not an oxymoron.) You can certainly understand why the Russian government might baulk at their citizens realising quite how unpopular they are on the world stage. These sorts of events can be quite destabilising.

My entire extended family met in a hotel this afternoon somewhere near the town of Ringwood. There were 28 of us in total, and my cousin Boo had got us a staggering deal where each room only cost £28 for bed and breakfast. The only drawback to this amazing offer was that the special deal was called "Twixtmas," denoting its occurrence between Christmas and the New Year: An unacceptable portmanteau!

We ate a meal at three long tables. Cousin Matt did the seating plans and place most of the Tills on an all-male table. It's not difficult to find men in my family. It's an overwhelmingly male clan - particularly when you take into account all the gays and their partners.

Food was lovely, but I was too busy nattering to tell the chef. Cousin Simon ran a Secret Santa where we took it in turns to pull out a present worth up to £5. Each of us had brought something with us. I brought a Rubik's cube which I've subsequently discovered was invented in 1974, the year of my birth. The first to draw a present was the oldest family member (Uncle John), followed by the youngest (Ned), then the second oldest, the second youngest, and so on... It was actually rather interesting to discover who would be last to draw, thereby revealing the average age of our family. Turns out it was Sascha, who is 40. I reckon this denotes a degree of familial longevity! I was the second most average-aged person. I can't think when I stopped being the youngest...

We had a night cap. I had whiskey. It felt so important that all of us had made the effort to be there. Some branches of my family have had really rough years and it was vital to show them solidarity and a collective finger-up to the horrors of cancer. The older I get, the more I realise that blood is thicker than water.

As I settled down to sleep, I read the news that Liz Smith from the Royale Family has died, less than six months after her on-screen daughter, Caroline Aherne, shuffled off this mortal coil. And so it goes on. I reckon there's going to be one celebrity death a day between now and New Year's Eve.


  1. ah it would be very sad if there were more deaths , far too many taken this year , so love reading your blogs ,

  2. It was a wonderful day and I agree getting everyone together is very important and this year more than ever I found myself really appreciating the huge effort it took with long journey's to attend and late night departures to be elsewhere today all in order to keep a family tradition alive but as you say also raise a collective finger to the big c! I remember being one of the youngest at the extended family Christmas gathering with 3 generations stretched out ahead with the Potters, Tills and Dean's then Garner's and Grandma Maine still there. Now I am the eldest of the second generation and the 5th from the top in age (who had a reasonable choice at the Secret Santa table!). It has been a sobering year and yes the Dean's have had a bit of a poor hand this year but it's the love and support from the rest of the family that help us through...Matt summed it up with his little speech that sometimes love is all you need. Sometimes it really is.

  3. Thank you, both, for your messages. Simon, thank you and Boo for organising such a wonderful day. I dearly wish I had a memory of Grandma Maine. Love to Sarah.