A light flurry of snow is falling outside, refusing to settle on the sodden ground. Meanwhile, our energetic border collie is wrestling with my in-laws’ equally boisterous alsatian/labrador cross, both of whom are feeling trapped indoors thanks to the weather. At this point, I have eaten a late breakfast, so naturally I am following it up with the occasional chocolate from the tin or a sporadic half-handful of twiglets. It’s not even 11am.
Yes, it’s that time of the festive period where time takes on a new, somewhat fluid meaning. The weather is either too mild or too wet or too cold or too dry, and so one feels constantly over/underdressed for the occasion. Step outside and you wish you had put that extra scarf on, but by the time you’re all bundled in the car to drive to Aunty Maureen’s house you’re regretting putting on that 3rd cardigan under your ski jacket. Nevermind, you can cool down on the condensation fogging up the window as you lean away from the other two over-fed adults who are also squeezed into the back seat of the Nissan Micra with which your cousin is shuttling the entire extended family around.
For our family this year, it seems that we are all experiencing the same dysphoria but in our own personal ways. My wife, a teacher, broke up from school on the 15th and has completely lost track of what day it is. Without her routine of daily registers, marking and lesson plans she is somewhat adrift.
My mother-in-law also works in a school, but broke up much later, so didn’t have quite the same wind-down time before we invaded their house for Christmas. As a result, I sense a degree of ‘oh-my-god-I-just-want-5-minutes-to-relax-and-shut-my-eyes-without-worrying-about-yet-another-bloody-meal’ about her at the moment. My father-in-law must have also picked up on that vibe, as both of us are busying ourselves on our laptops in quiet parts of the house whenever we can.
“It doesn’t feel like a Wednesday…” I overhear from another room. I’m not too sure who said it, but it needn’t matter as I’ve heard at least one person a day say this for the past week now. Personally, I’m not too sure what a Wednesday ‘feels’ like. Spongey? Metallic? Corrugated? I suppose it’s just that losing track of time is part and parcel of these post-Christmas pre-New Year days, with the absence of routine serving to remove all identity from one day to the next. What exacerbates this is that with Christmas falling on different days each year, one is never quite sure when it’s a weekend or a weekday.
Later in the afternoon, my dog looks at me with confusion and desperation. She has lost her routine completely, and holds me responsible for this. With the days being at their shortest and us humans enjoying the rarity that is a lie-in, I can’t blame her. Luckily, this occasional reminder from the dog gives us the perfect excuse to escape the re-runs of old war movies on TV, put down the mince pies, and head out for a welly-boot walk through the Kent countryside for a good few miles.
After a couple of hours in the fresh air, just me and the pooch, we both feel a sense of normality returning. By the time we get back to the house for lunch, the warmth and the food are very much appreciated again. Cosying up on the sofa with a well-earned plate of cheese, I slip happily back into not knowing – or caring – what day it is, blissful in my ignorance, for all too soon the new year will arrive, and it’s back to the daily grind. In the meantime – more cheese!