To friends. Everywhere. A seasonal greeting and a hand across the years and miles, oceans and land. A track and some words. As they say…and why not? Merry Christmas to you.

The Shout. A group I sang with for many years.

Christmas. Lights in the dark, all glittering, woven into the trees in the park and on the promenade, winking in the streets in towns, cities, villages and hamlets, lighting the long winter nights in the north. Village greens, community halls, squares, crescents, estates, towers blocks and Avenues, all with Trees a twinkle. Windows vibrating with flashing lights, giant Snowmen, Santas and Reindeer. Inside homes, the rustle of paper as gifts are wrapped. Laughter as drinks and Mince Pies are consumed. Chocolates enjoyed .. jokes told as crackers are pulled. Silly hats on heads.

Christmas now, 2021. What does it mean to me? I hang lights and baubles collected over the years, infused with memories of Christmas’s past. A few tears. Then joy. My daughter will visit. Down from her home in Manchester. My son will be in Portugal. Working.

Families gathering.. feasts planned and eaten, as we greet and … step back. Can we kiss? Can we hold? Do we act as we are told? When leaders do differently, one rule for them another for me? We the little people. Are we laughed at and mocked? We the working bees, the elderly, the young. The hoi polloi. Of no consequence to those who rule over us.

Another solstice, another year, another notch on my body and my time on this earth. My ageing gradually erasing my presence here, my fear increasing. I have little family.. I did not really know my siblings. They have lived far away in other lands since my young age. I did not meet a father, barely knew my mother. Until I was in my forties, I did not know cousins, Aunts Uncles.

In early teenage years.. ” Are you going home for Christmas?” A question often asked. “I am home.” Was my answer. Be it bed sit or shared house, a friend’s sofa or sometimes, scarily, when younger, the street. Occasionally homeless. I dreaded Christmas. Then I had a son. Christmas had meaning, a reason to celebrate. Presents to buy and wrap in bright paper from Woolworths. A tree, lights, candles glowing. 20 years later another child. My family was growing. A beloved young woman from New Zealand. A Niece. She was 16 years old when we met. I loved her immediately. Another love in my life. I met and got know my Mothers sister. An Aunt. Related through her Father, my Grandfather. We have become not just related, she is a valued and beloved friend. I have got to know some cousins. More gaps filled in.

I still have that old hole in my belly as Christmas approaches. Over many years I held a waifs and strays gathering. Friends like me, or friends living far from family, in London, not able to get back to hearth and home. As the years have gone, friends are dying.. the loss sometimes unbearable. They were my family. I feel those pangs once more.

The old feelings from my younger years will still surface. The loss of dear friends will continue to hurt. But I will wrap a few gifts, light a few candles and celebrate life, whilst I still have life. May your singing and dancing be joyous.

A track from an album in the 1980s … I love to dance.

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