The Christmas season. As soon as I wrote my final email to colleagues on 19 December, wishing them all the best for whichever winter ritual they followed, I signed out from my professional identity. My son and his father were visiting from Canada and I wanted to make the most of our brief time together. Fitting with the theme of my Human Seasons posts and my Facebook statuses this year, Christmas has involved a lot of loft-based activity. The loft in the old flat needed emptying because the ceilings are cracked and threaten collapse. I’d moved most things out in the great August upheaval, but I called a halt to the loft emptying when I realised that I was paying good money to move defunct electronic equipment from one loft to another.
My ex-partner and I therefore spent the 23rd emptying that loft into a van and were pleased to find that we’re still very good at heavy lifting team work. Then came the vinyl and the books and the archives that filled my new house. Half a life fits neatly into a Transit van. And then up another ladder into another loft in another part of the UK. Difficult, yes, but an important part of a process that was never going to be pain-free. All the things that archaeology doesn’t ever access.
So, today, I am ready for a new year to begin. We make our first visitation after a day of brunching and mooching around the house and listening to the vinyl that M bought for me and that I can now play because I press-ganged J to sort out my AV tech. The dog in this photograph and my son share a name. While we like to think that the dog was named in my son’s honour, it’s actually a different story that does not belong to us. A portmanteau name of dead grandfathers and their own long-departed pooches. None the less, this silky dachshund is a delightful creature. His ears call out for obsessive stroking.
This cocktail hour gathering involves huge amounts of cheese and a new-to-me drink of gin, elderflower and prosecco. It’s also a slightly awkward meeting of two childhood best friends who are now on different trajectories. My child is, I think, uncomfortably aware of this difference and how the macro scale of affluence, luck and opportunity is enacted through our individual families. The one boy is confident, sweet, intelligent and seriously dedicated to his studies. The other is sweet and intelligent but suffers from my own unhelpfully masked teenage confidence issues while not suffering from my guilt and sense of responsibility that assured serious studying when young. But the boys meet in their silky ear appreciation, an unacknowledged mutual sensuality.
We walk up the road in my old beloved neighbourhood to collect Z. She still lives in my much-missed flat but now shares it with a woman who precisely decorates. It’s now a ‘proper’ living room with a real sofa and lovely palm leaf trunk and non-veneer table. It’s even lovelier than before and I can’t help but feel that I’ve failed in life somehow because I don’t have these things.
Affluenza and envy are quickly drowned in another glass of prosecco before heading to our final destination. A friend and colleague from another university is having a party, with music and projected films and charcuterie transported from Aberystwyth. A 16mm projector is set up and we watch the flicker of photo-chemical film and listen to the gorgeous sound of the gate repeatedly opening and closing, which creates film’s illusion of movement. I adapt my earlier gin cocktail into something I call a Bleeding Heart: gin, prosecco, creme de cassis. I eat more cheese. I drunkely DJ while my sober son gets into jazz mode.
We watch public safety information films and a wonderful film of fierce women wrestlers soundtracked with Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name. An unexpectedly brilliant pairing. And suddenly it’s 3am and I need to show that I still have some sense of parental responsibility so I take my people home to sleep and to dream of the fry-up to come….