Thursday, 17 December 2009

Who Knows Where The Time Goes...

So it is December again, I'm not a big fan of this time of year. It is too dark for too long and if anything is going to go wrong, it'll do it now. It's only saving grace is the speed times moves at in this lead up to the 'festive season'. I guess it is the shortening daylight hours which make the days seem shorter, I don't really know, but sometime in the beginning of November the days seem to start going past a bit too quickly and before you know it it is New Year. In an act of monumental bad timing I managed to give birth to our first child, Sarah, on the 19th of December 1985. She was delivered by emergency cesarean section so they wouldn't let us out of hospital until New Years Eve, almost a fortnight of hospital food, we almost died of starvation although on the up side, 'matron' was very old school and firmly believed that a bottle of stout a day was in order for new mothers. Who am I to argue!

Sarah will be 24 on Saturday and every year since 1985 we have had to make an extra special effort to get the birthday remembered or even recognised. Each year it has become harder and harder to concentrate on the birthday with Christmas hard on it's heels. Try buying a good birthday card this time of year, and if you really want a challenge try getting a birthday cake that looks half decent, oh yes, then there is the birthday wrapping paper, but that is only part of it. We all know you get presents at Christmas and on your birthday but there is just less than a week between the two events. Sarah was due on the 1st January, and in so many ways this would have been better, the big Christmas hype over and done with.

When I was a kid Christmas always involved my Uncle Jack, Aunt Molly and cousin Christopher arriving for Christmas dinner and going home after the sporting fixtures were over on Boxing day. Christopher and I were roughly the same age except I was born in March, he was born on Boxing day. We were the only children in the family, both of us an only child. They only lived a short walk away, but Christopher never had a birthday party as a child, he never had any of his mates round as they lived in a tiny one bedroom flat on the third floor above a shop on a busy main road, the kitchen was on the landing, the toilet was one flight down and shared with the tenants on that floor. There was no bathroom so of course no hot water, just a big sink on the same landing as the toilet, as far as I was concerned they were light years ahead of us because they had electricity and therefore a television, although all I can remember seeing on it was Popeye! I digress, back to the birthday/Christmas dilemma..

We had the traditional 'sack' of presents from Father Christmas in the morning and a few more in the afternoon with the grown ups after dinner, not much compared to the excesses children receive today, the Rupert Annual was always the best as far as I was concerned and the only other thing that lasted is a teddy bear called Hug Me who survives to this day, in pretty good shape, both eyes intact. Possibly the wisest bear in existence. But Boxing Day was Christopher's day. While the menfolk took themselves off to the pub and then some sort of sporting event, most likely football, the women made sure Christopher had a birthday. There were three of them, all around the same age, my two aunts Moll and Nell, and my mum who was known as Doll. Well those names fix them in time don't they! All three put their lives on hold for the war, Moll was a Land Girl, Nell sewed uniforms and Doll built Spitfires, a formidable force when together and once Boxing Day breakfast was washed up, dried up and put away it was Christopher's Birthday, Christmas was over and done with and there were birthday presents to open, which in our family for some reason were always better than Christmas presents, working on the quality not quantity principle, birthdays were for bicycles and scooters, Christmas was for jigsaw puzzles and fuzzy felt. By the time the football was over and the menfolk were home there was a good spread of turkey sandwiches and a birthday cake and Christmas was gone and forgotten by the time birthday boy was blowing out the candles.

Small point of interest, the names of the menfolk: Grandad was called Jim, my dad was Joe and the three uncles were called Sid, Alf and Jack. Strange that their names do not sound as dated as the women's names.

So anyway, over half a century on, I've got the annual dilemma to deal with... what is she having for Christmas and what should she have on her birthday. Thankfully now the family send her money, that can be divided neatly between the two events, but she has been known to receive one present nicely wrapped with the message 'this is for your birthday and Christmas'. Someone tell me how you explain that to an autistic ten year old! Of course It is always tricky to explain to those who don't know that it is not so much the content of the present as the number of presents opened. We had to make sure the Christmas present haul was the same for both of our kids, and to be honest, we gave up trying to get anything meaningful for Sarah in the end, because as long as she got a calendar, a box of paperclips and some chocolates she was happy, she just needed to know that her sister did not get more than her numerically. They are grown up now so it isn't such a problem, we just make sure Sarah gets a few more to open than the rest of us, but the birthday has to be dealt with first.

I am not very keen on Christmas decorations, I have no desire to light up the house like a beacon, or having the living room looking like Santa's Grotto. I keep it to the minimum. We have a Christmas Tree and a few bits and pieces that come out every year, but they don't see the light of day until the 20th December. At home Christmas does no show it's face until after Sarah's Birthday, What is the point of having birthday cards if there is nowhere to put them because of Christmas cards? And lets face it, the aesthetic of the birthday trappings clash horribly with all the Christmas crap! For the sake of sanity and good taste we'll do them one at a time!

Also, of course, we've got the whole out of routineness of the season, the air of excitement manifest in the giving of cards, and the visits to pantomimes, Christmas concerts, parties and, heaven help us, the Christmas disco. All this has always unsettled Sarah, people you haven't seen since god knows when tend to reappear. Hell! That unsettles me and I'm not autistic! We are currently in the middle of a full scale autistic maelstrom which isn't going to calm down until Christmas is over, we should be used to it by now, but it creeps up on us every year which brings me back to where I started. It is the middle of bloody winter! It is cold, it is damp and it is dark, these things do not make me happy and endless adverts on the television for crap I can't afford and really don't want.. personally I will be glad when it is all over. But time is moving at a pace and in truth, it will soon be New Year, the days will have started to lengthen and we will see spring again, which brings me to title of this post which is the title of a brilliant song which I have had on my mid winter playlist for a few years and would like to share with you. Hope you enjoy it......