Christmas Eve dawned early with a six o’clock awakening of my wife. One bleary eye opened when I announced her cup of tea. ” What time is it ?” she asked. “Getting on for eight” I replied fearing the Wrath of Khan before the tea was drunk. Knowing that for some reason she generally sleeps without a watch helps. The reason for my duplicity was twofold. Firstly, I wanted to get to the shops before they became too crowded and secondly, I wanted to go without the girls having been given playtime or we’d be lucky to get out before ten.
Anyway, by 6.30 we’d made real progress in that the tea was drunk and not thrown at me and Ju was looking much more bright eyed than I’d hoped since she’d been in some pain on the Sunday. By 6.45 we were in the car and on our way. The road was quite busy with people rushing to work or rushing home from the party the night before. It was quite foggy and atmospheric with the lights of approaching cars coming towards us. In the supermarket there were quite a few early shoppers but not enough to worry me. Yes, it’s me that has a thing about crowds….more on that later.
I left Ju to pick up some cigarettes for me and go for a coffee while I shopped. Normally I wouldn’t do so alone in case someone spoke to me but today everyone was conscious of their own needs and getting what they needed before someone emptied the shelves. Not wanting much other than fresh bread, milk , ham and some coleslaw I was ready to head for the tills when I spotted some trifles. I bought one then decided to look at the Christmas puddings and fresh cream. By the time I’d got the extra things and gone to the tills it was eight o’clock. Smiling at the cashier to avoid speaking I paid up, packed the shopping and wheeled the trolley to the MacDonalds where Ju was sitting with coffee. As she saw me approach she tipped her hand asking if I wanted one and I nodded. Reaching the table I asked her to order a bacon roll for me too, I passed her some money then dipped into her bag for my ‘before food’ tablet and sat down to take it. “Brown or red sauce ” she called from the counter. “Brown please” I replied wondering why I bothered since it’s so thinly spread it’s questionable whether it’s really there sometimes..
Ju brought me a latte over and a fresh one for herself since I must have been feeling so generous. The bacon roll arrived, was eaten and for dessert I took my two ‘after food’ torpedoes. Ju asked me the time. “It’s almost 8.15 sweetie” I risked with a smile. “Hmm, we’ve made good time this morning then” I heard and wondered which of the Pantheon of Gods I owed that favour to. We were soon on our way again heading for the trading estate which has a handy pet shop where we could get some treats for the girls. One of my favourite shops is there so I was allowed to look round in case anything new and interesting was in. There wasn’t so we hit the coffee bar where the staff treated us to a latte each before we head for home.
At ten o’clock we were home and had the shopping inside. Unfortunately you reach the kitchen of our home through the lounge and as we entered we were greeted by four wide awake and very hopeful faces from one cage and the sound of frantic activity from the other. I knew what was coming so as Ju removed her coat I put the shopping away. She’d no sooner opened the rats cage than Priya ran down her arm and plunged inside the neckline of her cardigan. Bernie wasn’t far behind preferring to sit on her shoulder and nestle into her neck. Penny and Amy climbed inside one of the tubes in the cage and patiently waited to be lifted out. Ju put two large picture frames against the degu cage to stop the rats climbing up it and upsetting the degus . They’re not enemies but they certainly don’t get on. If Bernie climbs on to their cage to see them in her friendly way they set up an almighty chittering sound. Anyway, Ju played with the girls on the settee for half an hour as usual and then put them back in their cage where they happily settled down to sleep. Removing the picture frames she then got the degus out one by one and put them into balls. First Poppy then Honey with Mummy degu Saffy last to go. With three balls hurtling round the rooms aiming for your ankles it’s easier if you’re not on your feet. I swear if they catch you a Dick Dastardly snicker comes from them. I beat a hasty retreat to catch up on emails I hadn’t finished earlier. The eventual call of “Sweeties” has the balls tolling back to the lounge so they’re given a sweet before going back in their cage.
The rest of the day was a light lunch, television. emails and an assortment of phone calls before Ju went to bed at 6.30. I was luckier than usual and she went to sleey just the right side of midnight so I was able to turn my computer off and rest myself.
Christmas day I was up at 4am. I answered messages and sent messages of greeting out to friends around the world. At 6am I took Ju’s stocking ( a carrier bag really) and placed it one her bed before going to make a drink. Turning the lounge light on I gave all the animals a sweet and went through to the kitchen. While the kettle boiled I turned the tank light on and fed the fish. I took my meds then made the tea and took them through to Ju to gently wake her. Unusually it didn’t take much. She moved over for me to get in and passed my stocking ( a large sack) to me to open. We always do this together and in the past when Yvonne lived at home or stayed with us she joined us in bed to open her stocking too. There are always fantastic treats and always something funny. One year Ju go me some washing up gloves with a fur trim. This year I’d got her a rubber horse head mask and used bags of her favourite sweets to fill it out. It looked like a scene from the Godfather.
Tradition says we would normally go and have breakfast next before being allowed to open main presents but since Ju can’t face breakfast these days it’s just me. Up went the barriers and out came the girls. When they heard me put cereal (Shreddies) in a bowl they all rushed to my end of the settee to wait. I sit down gingerly to try and avoid sitting on anyone before the fun starts. Four heads in unison try to get to my bowl first and I have to rush to get a shreddie on the spoon before one of them snatches it off. I usually manage a mouthful in between each of their courses which is usually three each though Bernie only eats one and squirrels the others away behind a cushion for later. Priya usually finds them within minutes.
After both sets have played and been returned to their cages it’s our time. We opened our gifts from Santa , or each other if you like. This took quite a while and was accompanied by lots of Oohs and Aahs. After that it’s time to open gifts from friends and family we won’t see on Christmas day.After each one we phoned or texted our delight. Finally finished Ju collects the wrapping to go for recycling while I make another cuppa and it’s time to get dressed. I show Ju a tee-shirt I printed up with a picture of us both on with wording that says Happiness is Love shaped. I have on new warm socks, new underwear, tee-shirt, new black jeans, black cardigan and black winklepicker cowboy boots with a cuban heel. Suddenly I’m as tall as I used to be. Ju spends some time picking through her finery before settling on a nice outfit and we’re ready to go. Yvonne’s first Christmas as a wife and her first cooking Christmas dinner for us all.
We have a great time at their home swapping and opening presents before settling down to dinner.She’s cooked a small beef joint for me and done my favourite onion sauce with it. For Ju she’s cooked a small lamb joint with her favourite mint sauce and for Ugo and herself she’s done a 3 bird roast. We wouldn’t normally undertake such a large task but she wanted us all to have our favourites. I struggled to eat a small Christmas pudding afterwards.
A nice couple of days started to go downhill then. Ju was very quiet and excused herself to go to the loo. She was there quite a while and when she eventually rejoined us looked very pale. I asked her quietly what was wrong and found she was in great pain and her bowels were not holding again. We had to go home. Sadly we made our goodbyes saying we wanted to give them plenty of time to travel to Ugo’s family in the Midlands. Fortunately they accepted this. We made our way home where Ju took some fast acting morphine and got into bed. It was about 2 pm by then. There were a couple of trips to the loo early on and I couldn’t persuade her to have a cuppa at all. She lay there watching TV and resting while I worked on emails just occasionally sticking my head in. When I did so at 8 pm she was well away. I turned the TV off, and her light, went back to my room and just listened out for her waking.
I woke Ju at 7.am after eleven hours of solid sleep without waking once.She seemed to be a lot better and got up to see to the varmints. By half eight they were done and dusted and Ju said “Come on then. let’s hit the sales.” After checking I wasn’t hallucinating and she wasn’t running a temperature I ran to the car in case she changed her mind. She hates shopping…..I love it. It was well worth her while though since she got some nice outfits.We we’re home by half eleven though and things still seemed OK. The rest of the day went well. Today it wasn’t such an early start but the girls were still done by 9 am and Ju was taking me to a different sale. We’d done quite well and got some nice clothes each before we stopped for coffee. As she finished I noticed something wrong and knew it was time to go.We made it home and Ju’s stomach betrayed her again. She’s back in bed. She’s very unhappy at what’s happening though I ask her to remember what the alternative is.Tomorrow I’ll get some imodium and see if it can stop the problem for now though as soon as she takes it there is usually a period of painful constipation. Sometimes the morphine helps and sometimes not with the pain. Her biggest worry is letting herself down in public but I try to say it can’t be helped and she can’t isolate herself on the off chance.That’s no life for anyone.