For all my family and friends.
To write, or not to write. A Christmas reflection or newsletter, that is. This year has been so busy that I have sadly neglected many people – I’m sorry. I think of you all when I wake up in the small hours, and am consumed with guilt. So, I hope you will understand.
Last Christmas, the first after the pandemic, was probably the best Christmas of my life. I had finally let go of my childhood demons – where I was always disappointed that both my parents could not be with me– and so last year I was able for the first time to truly enjoy the fact that my whole family really was together. Hosted by my youngest daughter and her fiancé, I spent Christmas Eve with my husband, one son, two daughters, two fiancés, my father’s wife, and the mother and uncle of one fiancé. It was the most loving and magical event and one of those extremely rare occasions when you are acutely aware of how happy you are. This feeling seems to have lasted well into the new year. Every time I am a little bit down, I think back to Christmas Eve 2021 and the contentment returns.
Then came the new year. Two weddings in the offing. The excitement was palpable, the preparations were underway but meantime we had to go to Poland. We were finally able to visit my dear mother-in-law in her “Palace for Senior People” (the name of the Home) after the rigours and restrictions due to Covid. I hadn’t seen her for two years, and it was a shock to see how thin she had become. We went for her 94th birthday, but despite the thinness she was as alert as ever. She noticed immediately my new red shoes (we’d been for a fabulous four days to Rome for my husband’s birthday in February) and she read all her cards with pleasure. We left her confident that we would be back soon.
Meanwhile Marysia was getting married in April.
What an event that was. I was a little bit nervous (I was privileged to be asked to make a speech – luckily it went down well) but the whole day was beautifully organised with military precision, so about 150 people, including the bride and groom, had the time of their lives. It was a glorious sunny day though not quite as warm as we would have liked. But the ceremony and reception were wonderful, and Marysia started her year of 13 weddings with her own. Brilliant.
A few days later she was on honeymoon, also celebrating her birthday, which unfortunately was the day her grandmother decided to quit this mortal coil. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as it was, but we were grateful that she had waited until after the wedding. So that began a few months of constant toing and froing to Warsaw and back again.
A lovely funeral (though Polish priests need to up their pastoral game a bit) with another extended family reunion,
seeing lots of friends, and doing all the paperwork involved with the transference of property etc. I have to say in Poland things are much, much easier, and more efficiently organised than in England. It was an actual pleasure to visit all the offices, and everything was done within a month.
Sorting out the flat was a different matter. My mother-in-law was a scrupulously tidy person. Everything was ordered and packed. But there was so, so much. She had kept a lot of things which meant a lot to her. She had been to Zambia with her husband in 1968. She had brought back a lot of things which made life easier but were unavailable in Communist Poland. And she had kept a lot of them, including Gladwrap or clingfilm as we know it.
She was very frugal with it. She did use it, but very, very sparingly.
Anyway, we went for quite a few long weekends to try and get things done.
We needed a holiday, although I also managed three wonderful days in Vienna with Marysia and Andrzej and a couple of days with Marysia in Penarth. I also managed to go to Sheffield for Kasia’s hen do – I am now crazy about crazy golf – adult style -unfortunately I had Covid when Marysia had her hen do in Brighton and could not go to that.
So Jacek and I went for a fortnight to Mallorca. It’s years since I’d been on a fortnight’s holiday. Too long. Though we did break it up by going to two places and Marysia came to join us for a few nights, which was very nice.
The weather was wonderful and the food even better. But I didn’t manage to buy any shoes. Jacek did. It’s not fair!!!
Meanwhile my eldest daughter was getting ready for her wedding preparations in December.
We spent most of the autumn in London as Jacek was still working, with weekends in Cookham. Building work is now almost finished and the extension should be ready enough to have people round at Christmas.
I can’t move in yet as there is no room yet for my books – we didn’t get permission for the vast garage we wanted so now we have to think again. But the garden has a pond (at the moment it is a little skating rink) and so will be lovely when we plant some water lilies. Like a miniature Giverny.
Although I haven’t done any paid work this year, I have been extremely busy. Translating war documents and diaries for people who are examining their heritage and do not speak Polish. I am still involved with the best care home in Kent, and work for several other charities in a variety of capacities. All very interesting, all quite time consuming. I’m not complaining at all. But I thought that when I stopped working full-time, I would have more time to read. But no – a few minutes in the morning to set me up for the day and then just a few minutes to send me to sleep. I still manage about a book a week, plus some poetry, though that is good. I’ve also managed one film, a couple of concerts and a few trips to the theatre. Some exhibitions and galleries. A few walks. Not to mention an hour of crime drama on tv almost every day. Although the football has slightly got in my way.
Anyway, I’ve held off writing this piece until Kasia’s wedding was over. The absolute culmination of the year.
Winter wedding in Bolton. They should make a film. We spent four nights in the Last Drop Village. Now there’s a name to conjure with. Very pretty, very quirky; the wedding itself was delightful.
The bride, in a dress of her own design, did not have to scrabble around for a most interesting collection of guests. They came from around the world (she collected many friends during her ten years or so of teaching abroad) and it was lovely to meet many of them again. What was even better was to meet most of my son-in-law’s family for the first time. And to hear him sing. Now there’s unusual. The best thing though was the cake, in the form of a Scrabble board.
They met and fell in love over a game of Scrabble. Not bad, eh?
I haven’t yet mentioned the elephant in the room. It is too awful to contemplate. I was hoping to go to Lwów again this year, but for obvious reasons it did not happen.
So -that’s been my year. Now you know why I have not had much time to write. Next year I want to see more friends. Could that be you?
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very, very Happy Christmas and a peaceful and healthy new year. I am looking forward to Christmas with my family again. Must go and start making the pierogi!