1. Sipping a glass of Pimm’s Cider on Christmas Eve. An efficient way to combine seasonal wassailing with seasonal longing for sunshine. Disgusting.
2. Learning how to speak the Queen’s English - most notably the tongue rolls for “A Verry Heppy Crrismus” - whilst watching a whole series of The Crown.
3. Exchanging our annual whisper by phone rather than in bed: “Merry Christmas, Yoko.” “Merry Christmas, John.” Still cute, at any distance.
4. Being alone for Christmas lunch, which ended up being a carefree pickled onion sandwich followed by Turkish Delight. I’d bought the ingredients for a full English (vegetarian) roast but just couldn’t be bothered to pretend I could be bothered.
5. Sitting opposite Westbrook Bay beach on Christmas Day afternoon watching the sky lower itself into the horizon: strips of grey and pink leaving my world and sinking into someone else’s across the sea - where it’s probably not Christmas.
6. Visiting my mother in a female elderly ward and verging on getting facey with the staff. They are point-blank ignoring one of the patients who is begging for help in finding her husband. It’s only when she starts chanting “Percy Dick, Percy Dick, Percy Dick, Percy Dick, have you seen my Percy Dick?” that I realise this is what dementia looks like, and feel guiltily glad that Mum ‘only’ has a broken arm and hip.
7. Drinking my first tea of the day from a cardboard cup in a service station one afternoon and finding it to be the best thing I have drunk over the entire holiday. Forget about a pencil under the charlies - this is the test for having reached middle-age.
8. Facing my nightmare again and again: wintry scenes in The Mountain Between Us, Victoria and Little Women were all scripted for someone to travel across and fall through a frozen pond. These characters deserve as much pity as those who call out ‘Hello?’ when they hear strange noises upstairs on arriving home.
9. Neglecting shin depilation for a fortnight. Winter legs are (as nature intended) really quite cosy.
10. Attending the gym after the feasting is mostly over and noting that several people are wearing shiny new outfits in primaries or pastels. Very 1987. I spend the session imagining what the fitness retro-fashion might be thirty years from now in 2047. If Brexit really does turns Britain back a century to 1947, my guess is string vests and plimsolls.