My last day with family in Lymington on the south coast, so a brief reflection on some memorable moments.
I arrived at my parents on Christmas Eve and spent the first three days just with them. A cosy detached house in a quiet cul-de-sac, everything on tap for a comfortable and pleasant time – not least telly, which I’m currently without in Bradford (DVDs and iplayer notwithstanding). And lovely welcoming parents. But despite these boons, the reality is that after leaving home it really is only healthy to stay alone with parents for short periods of time (especially when you’re 40). So the whole scenario improved and livened up considerably from Friday, with the arrival of my sister and her two young daughters, Maia, 4 and Freya, 2.
Now the third word in the phrase about ‘familiarity breeding’ is too harsh here, but that doesn’t stop the old truism having applicability in family situations. Family, familiarity – the words are hardly a million miles apart are they? Comes with the territory; in a family we can think we know each other, don’t always take account of how each other’s grown and changed – and are sometimes just lazier than we are with people with whom we feel a more pressing need to make an effort. And it can be sometimes be a hindrance to profound conversation:) My sister’s partner pointed out that at 2 and 4, Maia and Freya might not be able to provide too much of this either; but as young children they offer the significant bonus of responding to you with freshness, cos you’re still an unknown quantity. And the sight and smell of their sleepy tousle-headed cuteness when they come down first thing in the morning – hard not to warm to!
It’s no doubt partly a first born, second born thing, but Maia and Freya’s personalities are the proverbial chalk and cheese. One is tempestuous, the other chilled. At a slight provocation one shuts me in a room, insists I don’t go anywhere and that she’s going to call the police(!) (Thank you Lisa for insisting she use a plastic phone). Freya meanwhile, playing hide and seek, opened a kitchen drawer under the strange impression it was a realistic place for grandma to be hiding. Kids.
I mentioned ‘politics’ in the title so a brief word on that – really just an example of the bizarre course a family conversation can take. At the outset I should point out I’m by nature more 'beta' male than 'alpha'. More Nick Clegg than David Cameron; more Louis Walsh than Simon Cowell. No point feeling inadequate about it – can’t take the receipt back now. Can also sometimes be hesitant and a bit of a mumbler – a bit like Hugh Grant it’s been pointed out. So with a brother and brother-in-law of more alpha tendencies, and an equally competitive sister, conversation with any combination of the three of them can feel like a work-out. One evening after dinner, I asked Lisa about TV Danish crime drama The Killing, which I knew she’d seen and of which I’d seen series 1. Within seconds she and my brother were locked in an intense discussion of the last series, leaving me to spectate from the sidelines. The worrying thing is, this has happened to me before – more than once. Ah well, they were more up to date than me, so if nothing else it’s a prod to get a TV license sorted out.
With different family members appearing at different times, our Secret Santa also disintegrated into degrees of chaos and confusion.
Hey ho. Happy New Year!