Denning had a rotten
Christmas. He has a disabling back problem (one of thousands), takes heavy painkillers which bind. They did, he took senna and blew his bottom off, making him proper poorly – from which he was rescued by a dear friend who, after two days of temporising, took him by car to the overworked and wonderful A&E. And for the first time, on New Year’s Eve afternoon, he watched Zulu (1964). Ignoring the fashion to pour scorn on anything redolent of empire, Zulu tells the story of a battle, of course pointless and bloody, gave Michael Caine his atypical breakthrough and features large numbers of Zulu playing themselves.
I’d watch the whole movie for a terrified soldier who asks “Why us, sarge ? Why us ?” of Nigel Green’s colour sergeant,
who replies “’Cos we’re ‘ere, lad, ‘cos we’re ‘ere.” Motto for 2023: ‘cos we’re ‘ere.
The price of Christmas trees was like lots of other things prohibitive but I was given flowers – pink roses and lilies from one source, dark red and syringa from another while Lydia sent me mimosa and alstroemeria, still going strong.
The cards came through and I was ashamed I had faltered in sending more once I’d asked my postman to look out for a big envelope due by Royal Mail, would he put it under the bin ? “Of course “ he said “ but there’s no delay in this street, Anna …” I gawped at him.
“I can’t have all that hanging around, it’s Christmas. So I went back and loaded the cart again, and did another turn.” His daughter is at university, I hope she is as proud of him as he of her. (The envelope was under the bin with the chit through the door saying “BIN”, bless him.)
My granddaughter gave me her first ever Christmas card and my son coined the best name for that odd sag of days between Christmas and New Year – Twixtmas – when he came to see me for a belated present swap and protein boost, he having poor devil
a foul cold.
He gave me a book I had asked for by Neil Oliver who presents history intelligently and likeably on tv called The Story of the World in 100 Moments
which is, as he says in the introduction, ridiculous – because yours are yours and mine are mine . But I like the writing and I am always provoked by choice and this is no sillier than 100 favourite tunes or 100 favourite poems – they always miss out something you would choose.
And I gave my son a year’s worth of political cartoons which will I hope provoke the odd giggle, that or he will be sick with tears.
I met three young women collecting for a local scheme for adolescent mental health, my eye caught because the smallest started to smile at me before they spoke and then did that charming thing of putting her fingers over her mouth, the movement of course drew my attention. And we laughed about them only wanting money and I said spontaneously to them and their slightly older mentor “I’m sorry , we screwed it up for you, the country is in a mess. I hope it will come again and you’ll have a better chance” whereupon they beamed and shook hands with me.
When I went out to get the paper on New Year’s Day, there was the usual sprinkling of bikes, beside one of which was something I couldn’t make out – so I crossed the road, to a neat little pile of pizza boxes. I returned home, got the bags the council gives us and people despise if they are distributed, but nick if you pile up outside your door (I do). Happy New Year wrapping somebody else’s rubbish.
But when I waved to the bus driver, he waved back, beamed and we swapped thumbs’ ups. I went to collect my paper, and I forbear to compile a list of things I never want to hear about again, because it will be different from your list. Oh heavens I wish you well, I really do .