Merry Christmas everyone

Christmas means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But I don’t really care about them. For me Christmas is cold and wet and dark weather, my little felt stocking (ooh er missus – that didn’t sound quite the way it came out), all the Christmas decorations me and Simon made when we were kids. Well mostly Simon’s cause mine were mostly unrecognisable and were more ‘general pagan festival’ material.

Of course it changes as you grew up. When I found out that Santa was in fact real and not one of my Da’s mates in a funny suit then it changed my world entirely. Such a thing would. I don’t get up at 4am any more to open my Star Wars toys. Not this year anyhow.

I’ve worked the past two Christmas days but have woken up at home and slept at home, and this is the first time I’ve actually been properly away. I took my first real bout of homesickness the few days before Christmas as I realised how much I missed everyone. Plus it was grey and wet (unusually) and it just reminded me of home. I sat in the flat watched whole discs of Scrubs and read Johnny Cash’s autobiography. Feeling sorry for myself – needlessly so, a bad habit that I indulge far too often. Imaginary hard times and troubles are the excuse.

I’d planned to have a wee lie in on Christmas day itself – mostly cause I hadn’t slept the night before. A lie in round here means 9.30 or 10.00 or so. The people next door (a nice young family with an alarming number of pets including one of those miniature dogs with a rude name that I found trotting my flat one day when it managed to crawl under the fence) were up early cause they have kids and they were all excited bout Christmas. Though that wasn’t what woke me. I woke to the pumping bass of ‘crocodile rock‘, ‘rocket man‘ and I was convinced there was ‘don’t let the sun go down on me‘ in there somewhere. Sometimes Kiwis let themselves down so badly. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the kids CD, I think it was the missus who got the lovely Elton John CD. At least I hope so…

So lie-in ruined, I had brekkie, had a shower then got up and realised I’d got it all in the wrong order again and now had very wet jammies. Took a walk round the marina and was amazed by the emptiness of the place – it’s always buzzing round here and it was the first time I’ve seen it empty. Walking round the car park at the harbour mouth there was a wee old man in a car throwing bread at the sea gulls. I did my usual guessing what brought him here on a Christmas morning and I figured he was an old ANZAC war vet whose wife died a few years ago and now he spends Christmas mornings here feeding the sea gulls for company. This felt kind of tragic, but I do this to people all the time. I then realised he was aiming the bread at the sea gulls and was trying to hit them and given that they were really crowding round his car now I figured this was a self-defence tactic.

One of my bosses had invited me to spend Christmas day with his family and I took him up on the offer. It was great craic as we went to his friends house (an Irish couple, ex-teachers in Kenya,  the husband from the Castlereagh road and currently reading a Van Morrison biography – I liked them immediately). Had a wonderful Christmas lunch of turkey, ham and wait for it – beef as well. The day was going well. And even though it was someone elses family it was still kind of cool to be with a bunch of folk who grew up together and share their own idiosyncrasies and jokes. And they couldn’t have been more welcoming. They even bought me pressies which was entirely uncalled for.

Unfortunately I’d suckered myself into having to work from 5pm. One of those moments when you offer to do something for someone else for ‘brownie points’ but hoping, of course that they’ll not actually take you up on the offer. So I made a token gesture to one of the other bosses that I could work Christmas evening so he could get home and have a feed with his family. And of course he took me up on the offer.

Got home about 11.30pm and fell asleep in my clothes on the sofa while looking up Fructose 1,6 diphosphatase deficiency (we had a a patient in the unit with it) on the internet – guaranteed to put you to sleep I suppose. Woke in a sweaty, confused and nauseous manner at 5 am to ring home. I was top of the bill at the annual Neill family Christmas. I think I even managed to bump the queen off the top spot this year.

And so 14 of my family greeted me via webcam and skype from the far side of the world, and suddenly they didn’t seem nearly so far away. Disturbingly they had a cardboard Santa with an A4 sized head shot of me stuck over the face of the santa. Effigy is a word that springs to mind.

Fell asleep in the calm knowledge that I’m not forgotten (and that maybe I should ring my family a bit more often…) and that maybe I’m not that far away after all. Woke at 7.30am realising that I’d fallen asleep on the sofa again and I was now late for work and I was mostly adhered to the sofa – darn leather (sofa, not trousers that is…)


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December 2006
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