The last of the Christmas stories

I’ve been sharing stories from my family’s Christmases over the years during the twelve days of this Christmas. I’m thinking I might tidy them up, rewrite in places, and make into a small book as gifts for my cousins next year… by then I might have remembered some more stories!

I realise that last night I unintentionally drifted into writing about twelfth night, so today for my last stories I only have a couple of brief tales to share, this is a story from seventeen years ago:

Christmas – a moving story

For several years we had been hoping to move – not just our house, but my husband’s job too. To go back a little in time, we had both been working at a school in Oldham, in different departments, over many years and apart from the occasional conversation in the pub with the rest of the staff after parents’ evenings or such occasions, we didn’t really know each other. Fast forward from the time we started at the school, go forward twelve years when one Easter he was bored and rang me to ask me out… I was busy (writing of course) and agreed before I realised what I’d said… the rest is the history of our very happy life together.

The school where we’d taught had been a happy place – great students, great staff, happy times… but various things changed, and by the time I was able to leave because we were expecting a family, I was more than thankful. Husband however had to soldier on in an increasingly fraught and unhappy place (nothing I must emphasise to do with the people he was teaching – they were the only bright lights in the whole gloomy situation) Once our children were at school I returned to a different sort of teaching, in what was then called a pupil referral unit, for young people not in school, many very troubled, many very difficult… but I loved it! Once again I was in my element, with colleagues I loved, with kids I really liked and felt I was helping to change their lives… all was joy for me… However, my position was only temporary and I couldn’t support the family and household if my husband should give up his job… and then I saw something advertised in Weston-super-Mare… full-time, permanent work… problem sorted!

We were fortunate enough to have a property in Uphill belonging to my dad, who had died six years, before so we had somewhere to live. Husband’s work finished Friday 21st December, moving date was set for the 22nd, as usual we were having Christmas in my dad’s house with my sister in her wheelchair coming home, mother-in-law arriving from Surrey, aunty and uncle from Cambridge, and two friends from the village… hosting Christmas in a two-bedroom bungalow! Aunty, uncle and mother-in-law were staying in a hotel opposite, but disabled sister would be in the house with us and our two young children…

W had spent a couple of weeks packing, around husband and I still working, children at school, but we’d just about got everything ready. I think the removal men must have packed most of their van the previous night, and the plan was husband would drive children down in our car with all the last-minute things (I think we must have slept in sleeping bags on bare mattresses) I would do all the final cleaning, tidying, checking and would supervise the removal men, then eventually follow the convoy down the motorway.

We were too busy to feel emotional about leaving our little bungalow – I had moved into it when it was brand new, no-one had lived in it but us. I said goodbye to the neighbours, and with a load of forgotten items in the car, set off. What I didn’t know was, that despite leaving much earlier than the furniture van, husband had broken the journey for the children aged six and eight to eat etc , the removal’s van arrived just half an hour after my husband! Apparently it was chaos with boxes piled up randomly from floor to ceiling – the friends who lived across the road took the children to the park to escape.

I arrived thinking the van would still be there and I could help organise and sort… but no, it was gone when I arrived… heck!!! And it was December 22nd!!! Family arriving 23rd!!! Sister in wheelchair coming home 24th!!! Father Christmas… heck!!!!

Other friend in the village kidnapped the children for that first night as we worked late to make room for everyone. Luckily my dad’s bungalow was fully equipped with everything so it was a case of unpacking clothes and putting much else into the garage and stacking under the covered driveway at the side of the house. I think we must have given ourselves an hour off to nip to the pub next door to revive our flagging spirits and muscles…

Somehow it all came right, and of course we had a marvellous Christmas. On Christmas Day our friends who were joining us for dinner suggested that instead of us hosting, they did. We always spent Christmas Day together and usually we provided the turkey and pud and they brought the vegetables, include roast potatoes, and parsnips. So our first Christmas dinner in our new home was with our friends, and then they returned to us on Boxing Day…

Looking back I wonder how on earth we did it – how did we manage to fit it all into such a short amount of time? Who knows, but we did have a splendid day, and it was a life-changing move!!

Oh and I did make a Christmas cake!

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