The big hamstring update, Merry Christmas everyone.

It’s now been 17 weeks since my accident so before we say goodbye to what has been our very own annus horribilis perhaps it’s time for a final update, to give those who have followed my story some christmas cheer . It is actually a good time to do this as I had my first real physio appointment yesterday. After weeks of this horrendous stage 3 hamstring injury how far have I come? Have I done as well as expected? Would life ever be the same again? Well I am pleased to share some good news with you at last, we are going out on positive note.

For the last two weeks, I have been managing around the house without crutches, the home physio team were more than helpful in setting me on the path to this independence. Small flexion exercises and encouragement from my Lion made this transition seamless. I am now able to make dinner, sit at the table ( albeit for a limited time) and more importantly lie on my side in my bed. Ah the simple things we take for granted!! After we had to cut our Caribbean holiday short because of my father in laws recent fall, the home physio team from the NHS came back for a second visit and were delighted with my progress, particularly managing without the crutches. And tout suite I was discharged back to the hospital physio where the real work could begin.

But first I had a big test, our regular catch up with old work colleagues, affectionately refereed to as the ‘tapas crew’, was planned for 15 December. This was a daunting prospect for me because the meal was in Edinburgh and of course this meant I had to revisit the scene of this terrible accident and this particular meeting (other than the delight of seeing good friends) can be a wine fest. It had been almost 14 weeks since I had a proper drink, so this, aside from the good points, had all the makings of it being a disaster.

The simplest of train journey’s was one of mixed emotion; I could remember so well that fateful day, messaging my family, responding to emails, making plans for the future and, I thought, well prepared for the torrential rain. Today I wasn’t travelling alone, my Lion was by my side and was an assured presence, and I had crutches. The train station was busy with people and I was instantly overwhelmed, terrified I would be knocked over or trip, it was the weirdest feeling. But the crutches were akin to having the power of Moses, and on sight of these I was able to part the crowds.

I should have known the day would have gone well these friends, who started out as work colleagues, are now among my closest friends. Their support as with so many others, had been incredible and mattered so much on my lowest days. We had a great time and after much chat, laughter and copious amounts of wine we opted for safety and took a taxi home. Another day and another achievement, it had made me feel almost normal.

This was the last day I took painkillers, I only had them in the morning that day. And since then have managed without them. For the last week I have only taken them on the very odd occasion when I have over done it. Admittedly there have been times when small changes or improvements lull me into a false feeling that I’m back to normal, only to find actually I’m not that well yet and I need to remember to take time. The date of the physio was looming and I was looking forward to making it into the actual appointment and staying for the duration.

The Lion dropped me off, and I confidently strode into the hospital. I didn’t falter, I made my way directly there without stopping and took a chair and waited comfortably for the therapist to appear. She was instantly delighted at how I responded to her arrival, I stood up with ease, I walked toward her without hesitating and she had a look of sheer amazement on her face. The last time I had been here she had to wheel me out to the car in a makeshift bed. So it was no wonder she was incredulous at the sight before her now. It was akin to a miracle.

I almost hopped onto the bed; it was incredible how my confidence grew just on the back of her reaction and admiration. She was so pleased with me she wanted to write down the positives; I was back working, I had stopped the pain killers, I was still managing without the crutches in the house. A recent day out without them had reminded me I couldn’t rush this, but on the whole things were so much better.

The therapist got out her meter to measure flexion and movement in my ‘bad’ leg. This was a comparative excercise looking at the difference between each leg to give me a more informed insight as to how it was progressing, The good leg had, on a scale of 0-5, a five, while the bad leg had a four. A FOUR, go girl! I was so delighted with this news I could have coasted out the door fuelled by sheer ecstasy.

When I first visited the Physio I had to complete a questionnaire, setting out among other things my goals and one of these was to get back on my bike. And after this meeting I have been promised a work out on the static bike at the next appointment. I cannot believe my good fortune. And yes it is good fortune, not to be sniffed at, but a timely reminder of how important our health is and how quickly it can alter.

In what is my last blog before Christmas, I am happy to share this good news, it’s by no means a full recovery but a bit of recovery that has kick started hope as we head into 2019…………………..

Christmas: magic in the gospel.

The magic of Christmas can be found in all areas of our lives. It’s no secret that Christmas is an annual delight for me. From the rehearsals to prepare for the big Christmas Morning discovery, to the loss of the Christmas cash, there are many stories that add to the magic and the mystery, and none more than the divinity of Christmas.

I was a slip of a schoolgirl in Primary 5, when I was selected to read a passage from the bible at the Christmas Eve service in our local Church in Shotts. Not only was this a great honour, it was also being recorded by the BBC for their Songs of Praise programme. So my delivery of the gospel was now centre stage and about to be heard by people all over the United Kingdom, that was if they had actually tuned into BBC Radio Scotland.

This was about as close to famous as I was going to be as a child and it was both a thrilling and daunting prospect. It was no real surprise I had been the recipient of the reading prize in many of my primary school classes. But to deliver this live on the radio was about to test the quality of my Received Pronunciation. Perhaps I might be snapped up by the BBC, who knew?

So I got down with some serious rehearsing, and it was full on, so much effort went in to this I can still recall the opening verse of the passage, which was from St Luke’s gospel. This was the moment I fell in love with the real story of Christmas. Day in day out I recited it, practiced it, looked in the mirror and mouthed it, exaggerating the words, investing more and more in the meaning until I truly felt it.

St Luke was one of the many apostles of Jesus, his gospel in the New Testament is noted to be peppered with evidential information that situates events in time. This historical account draws you into the era, and although Scholars are split on the accuracy of his writing, it is credited with being an historic account of events. The gospel passage is one of a census, under the direct request of the Roman Dictator Julius Caesar, an event that places the story within a time frame. This passage, because I became so familiar with it, strongly shaped my beliefs as a young girl. It always reinforced the real meaning of Christmas for me every year since I first learned about it.

Later in life I learned more about St Luke that only served to reinforce my personal religious beliefs and add weight to them. If you are looking for evidence then Luke of all the apostles was arguably one of the most evidentially informative and historically accurate of the gospel writers. He was also strongly believed to be the probable author of the Acts of the Apostles meaning his contribution to the narrative of Christianity was substantial. There’s no doubt he was capable, as a physician he was an educated man who lived until he was 84 years.

The radio programme, much to my disappointment, was actually being recorded and not live, so we had to do this in November. As it happens this day was not without its own dramas. It was to be a memorable day for me for all of the wrong reasons. My Grandad had been ill in hospital, I now know that it was bowel cancer but as a child I was not informed about that. It was a complete surprise when he died and it was on the day of my recital. I remember the pain forming a lump the size of a golf ball in the back of my throat, forcing the emotion upward, forming as tears in my eyes, stinging and smarting as I tried to keep them from tipping over the lid and dribbling down my face. I will never forget the memory of my father unable to conceal his distress and letting the emotion fall over at the loss of his beloved father. Having spent most of the day crying and feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness, like I had never before experienced, it was clear I had to gather myself together and get ready for the big recording. I was not sure I could even walk to the Church never mind stand up and deliver the gospel.

In the Catholic faith, the Gospel is read by the priest, but the readings in the Church of Scotland, could be delivered by anyone. Looking back from where I stand now on my religious belief, the enormity of being asked to read from the gospel of St Luke was an incredible honour. I recall that my cheeks were glowing, red from all the upset. My throat felt as if it had glue poured down into my gullet and attracted all the dust disturbed by the parishioners as they entered the church in their hundreds. It’s amazing what a BBC recording can do to people, even if they were only on the radio.

“And it came to pass in those days” ………….I began to read with no sign of nerves full of confidence and self-assured knowing Grandad was there, right there beside me telling me I was doing just fine.

Looking for Christmas (part 2)

My mother was clearly distraught, at 7 I wasn’t all that adept at knowing how to respond it these situations but her distress seemed to search inside me for the best response I could find. I gave her a hug, tapping her shoulder repeatedly and slowly to affirm my concern and telling her it would be ok. I had no idea if it would be ok, but it appeared to be the right thing to say. She released me from my hug, indicating for me to sit before her and drew in a deep breath.

“I’ve lost some money,” she said, and continued, “this money was for Santa to pay for the presents he was bringing”. There was a lot of information in this statement, I took time to digest it. I wasn’t aware you had to pay Santa for presents, I was trying to work out how payments might be made or where the conversation took place to barter between humans and Santa? I knew we had sent letters, perhaps Santa sent a receipt in the post, and you arranged to leave the money beside the mince pies and carrots for collection on Christmas Eve?

Usually there was a limit on spending, we knew about it, not always sure what it was but knew it existed because if we asked for too much the retort would let us know it was too expensive. ” That’s just not possible, move on” my mother would say and we knew we had to forget about it. There didn’t seem to be the same regulation with things we asked for in our letters to Santa.

Then the realisation began to dawn that if she couldn’t pay what would Santa do? Did he take tick? Tick was the colloquial term for Credit in Shotts, I had no idea what credit was either but I knew, or rather had pieced together meaning from adult conversations, that sometimes things could be bought now and paid for later. A man in a smart suit and hat would come to the house weekly and write things in a book and mum would give him money. I understood him to be the ‘tick-man’. Did he know Santa? I was perplexed by these revelations and worried about the consequences.

My mother wept into her handkerchief and I asked how much she had lost. She looked straight at me for some level of insight or understanding about how much a 7 year old could appreciate the loss of £300. In today’s terms that is about the equivalent of a purchasing power of £6, 700. I recall thinking we must have been getting a lot of presents! Dad was due home on Christmas Eve so we had to bear this knowledge alone. Mum had done what she had to do and finally called the police. It was unthinkable for her that someone had stolen it, but as it had been lost for so long and every corner searched, every piece of furniture overturned, every nook and cranny examined and still no trace, it was all we had left.

Two days til Christmas and there was a gloom around the house; the sparkle of the Christmas lights had dimmed and, as a 7 year old facing her first major crisis, I experienced a deep sadness and insecurity. The order of my world had been turned upside down by this loss; it had affected my mother so much there was an incredible change in her personality, she seemed to switch between hopelessness and anger. We kept out of her way. And we kids started to accept that Santa might not come and there would be no presents, or at least not what we had asked for.

On Christmas Eve, eve we went to bed and mum was settling all three of us down for the night. The wardrobe door was lying open and as she chatted to us she walked over to close it. In mid sentence, she stopped in her tracks. My bed was at right angles to the wardrobe, I could see her face, it contorted from realisation to horror, a memory flashed before her eyes, which diverted to look at me. And suddenly she was in the wardrobe pulling out a fur hat. This was my grandmother’s hat, it was real fur (a thing back in the day) with satin brown lining. Part of the stitching holding this lining in place had parted the satin from the fur and offered you a fabulous hiding place. She put her hand into the lining and pulled out the missing cash.

I leapt out of my bed, jumping up and down on the mattress nearly banging my head on the ceiling. My sisters knew something amazing had just happened but not what. My mother threw the cash in the air and it fell like feathers floating to the floor, just missing the roaring fire in our bedroom. Santa would be coming after all………………..

Looking for Christmas.

There is one Christmas that always stands out, it is quite a memory, but it’s not because of the joy and laughter I remember it, no it was because there was almost no Christmas that year.

We were living in Shotts with my Grandad at the time, both parents were working. Dad was driving long distance and often away for long periods and Mum part-time, as most of the time she was looking after us and my Grandad too. We three girls shared a room, so I must have been about 7 or 8 at the time. It was a big room for the 3 of us, there was a single bed, a double bed, a wardrobe, dressing table and fireplace. The wardrobe was about 5 feet tall, walnut with a pewter handle. It had a single door, with clothes hung to the left and right and shelving at the top on either side. It wasn’t for our clothes, they were stored in drawers, but my mother stored all of her glamorous gear in this wardrobe so we often sneaked in here to look at her clothes and dress up in her shoes.

The three windows in the bedroom overlooked the front of the street and our garden. The hall, accessed by the front door in the middle of the front elevation, gave access to this bedroom on the left and the living room on the right. I don’t recall if the front door was ever locked, when Grandad lived in the house he was never really out and we had a dog, which was the fashionable and affordable security back in the day. Anyone could have come in, I guess, but everyone had an open door back then and if we heard the door we would rush to see who had come to visit and what delights they had with them.

At the rear of our house we had about 6 steps leading to the back door, into what we called the back kitchen and a door out into the T-shaped hall. Within the T part were the other 2 bedrooms and bang in the middle was our bathroom. It would have been easy to access our bedroom but hardly unnoticed.

As Christmas approached we had already put up our tree, but something was not quite right. By the age of 7 I could tell when things were far from harmonious in the house, call it intuition or just being alert to the dynamics but I could tell my mother appeared distracted. We girls were all at school by now, apart from the youngest sister who was only just 4. Being out of the house at school meant we missed a large part of family life and by the time we returned home the usual rush to have dinner before brownies or the salvation army meetings meant you were pretty much oblivious to what everyone else was doing.

There was a sense of panic one night just two weeks before Christmas. Dad was off ‘down the road’ as we used to say, and mum had been searching for something for days. While this began with periodic glances behind cushions, or digging out old handbags, it built slowly toward a crescendo becoming more frantic as days went on. Grandad, who never did anything around the house, had even joined in taking to turning cushions over and even tipping the sofa upside down.

Looking on I was trying to make sense of the emerging chaos, but in all honesty had no idea what was happening. I knew however what ever it was it was bad; the adults were distraught. Our dog just looked on bemused while this tornado of torment continued. She was trained to recover things, but I’m guessing they thought her skills were just for the dog shows as no-one thought for a moment she could assist. I pushed this childish idea out of my head. While I guessed they were looking for something I was clever enough to know I was not able to help because my requests fell on deaf ears. What ever had been lost was significant. At one point my mother was in tears.

These were the days long before telephones and with dad away she had to bear it herself. She was 25 years old when I was 7 so her youth combined with her isolation seemed to add considerable weight to what ever it was she was seeking. Finally three days before Christmas she clearly had no options left but to take me into her confidence.

By 7 I guess you are mature enough to hear bad news, I mean, I might not have been prepared for it, but she must have had no choice but to tell me as my father was still not back from his travels. I sat down, and looked at her, my steady little childlike world about to be rocked by the news she had to share. I was a little nervous and could feel my heart start to pick up the pace as she looked me in the eye and began to tell me her story. It must have been a dilemma for her, knowing what I would make of this loss, knowing too it meant the end of my childhood. She clearly had no other option but divulge what was ailing her and end my fantasy right there and then………

Lapland

So while we were completely overjoyed at the early and safe arrival of our new grandson we were about to top this with the trip of a lifetime (for me at least) and taking the mermaid with us. I’m not sure whether this one was more for me than her but it was an incredible deal so I booked a trip to Lapland. I do love Christmas and have never lost the magic of the season, even into adulthood Christmas remains such a special time, evoking memories of long ago. I don’t often broadcast it but I am still a believer, ignoring the inevitability of reality, and clinging onto my desire for magic for as long as possible.

It was only a day trip so we had an early start, therefore the mermaid spent the night with us. This was not the best idea as I tend not to sleep when she’s here just because of the overwhelming responsibility that comes with keeping someone else’s child overnight. We had read that we needed to have plenty lairs on so we had prepared double of everything to pull on once we were up. I was wide awake with excitement at 4 am, then woke up the mermaid at 5, who was distinctly unfazed, to get dressed then head to the airport.

There was a jingling, jangling atmosphere in the airport where several day trips to Lapland were scheduled and little children, dragging their reluctant parents behind them, amassed in unprecedented numbers in the departure lounge. Gabbling with excitement, gleeful in anticipation their cheer was infectious. They raised the roof in the security hall with their chatter and staff had to work hard to focus on the more important task of making them all safe. Staff too had joined in the festive frolics, adorned in festive garb, tinsel tied in their hair and baubles replacing their earrings.

Before long we were all aboard and ready for take off. Flight attendants wearing elfin chic served mulled wine and mince pies, but the mermaid was busy colouring in, now feeling the early rise, she was looking for a more substantial breakfast. Santa (posing as the captain) was flying the plane, without Rudolph! But fear not for he was still there, colourfully shining brightly on the overhead lockers with each of his fellow reindeers painted along side him. Bells jingled, children were laughing, adults were singing and suddenly (but really after about 3 hours) we landed in Lapland.

It was 1pm and we had only 1 hour of daylight left. There was a lot of snow at the airport and it was hard to distinguish the roads from the pavements, shiny, slidey snow that was hard to walk on or find well trodden pathways. Once we had disembarked we had to locate our bus to transport us to be fitted for the required Lapland attire. It was -28 degrees and even double lairs weren’t enough to cope with this cold. After a few seconds outside, taking in the wonderful sights, it was onto the bus desperate for the heating. But you could not fail to feel Christmas had arrived.

At the changing station we were provided with onesies, in navy or red, hats, snow boots and gloves, especially essential as fingers and toes felt the bitter cold first. Once suitably kitted out the mermaid wanted to make snow angels so we ventured outside hoping our new winter attire would keep us cosy. She had the gloves off instantly making snowballs, falling down and loving it all laughing. At one point papa fell into the snow completely disappearing engulfed by a 10 foot drift. We pulled him to safety, covered in snow just in time to get back on the bus to head to Santa’s pad.

It was now about 3 pm and pitch black, our little village lay in a valley and was flickering with fairy lights welcoming our coach, it was so magical just as you would imagine. A white reindeer with bells along the red straps that attached him to a sleigh where animal furs were piled on for warmth, pulled us around the village, the wind factor reducing the cold to -36 below. After this we found the kitchen and had a warm meal served by elves; traditional in its offering, just what the people of Lapland would live on, chips with meatballs and spaghetti. Back outside, once we had managed to climb back into the onesies we took a husky ride. Our snot forming frozen laces stretched across our cheeks. The mermaid stood watching the dogs and was mesmerised, worrying where they might be sleeping tonight and how they were going to get warm.

Finally after several sleigh rides, snowman building, tobogganing and sleds we joined the queue to be transported to see Santa. In no time our sled loaded with blankets and fur skins arrived. Jingling with excitement as we climbed in and our safety helmets suitably secured against the elements. The snow was thick, laden on the fir trees feathery branches and frozen solid, the additional weight pulling them to the ground. The full moon shone creating an eerie runway amid the trees and as the huskies dragged us closer to Santa’s house there was an ethereal glow and calmness provided by nature in all its glory in this winter wonderland.

The sled flew along the hard packed snow and we could see smoke, still and steady, in the distance. An elf, scantly clad for this weather, waited excitedly while we climbed out, our faces red raw, our fingers and toes toastie from the extra clothing and the blankets. The gingerbread house door opened into a sea of warm, red felt and velvet curtains, a little log burner glowing in the corner gave warmth to the room and illuminated a massive gold throne. As we ventured inside following the scantly clad elf, the mermaid hesitated a little; fear rather than fascination the feelings at that time. Then I caught my breath, my stomach flipped and there was Santa, he emerged cloaked in glorious deep red velvet, lined with ermine and the white flowing, curly beard. Be still my beating heart….

Social Bite is lucky to have my girl.

This year my daughter and her husband are sleeping in the park for the charity social bite. They’ve been raising money throughVirgin Media and I think so far they’ve reached their target. Of course they are not homeless, but are nevertheless unselfishly willing to sleep out in the extreme Scottish Weather to raise awareness and much needed cash for those that are less fortunate in life. By any stretch of the imagination this is quite an impressive commitment; they have stepped right out of their comfort zone to make this unselfish commitment to people they’ve never met. Granted you might be thinking “that is no big deal for one night is it? ” so I’m using this opportunity to provide a little insight to what her “comfort zone” actually looks like and then you can make your own mind up about it being a big deal.

My daughter found out a little too late she was allergic to pregnancy; 6 weeks too late to be accurate. She suffers from severe hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Described as a pregnancy complication, it results in severe nausea that can lead to weight loss and dehydration in pregnancy. It can also lead to deep vein thrombosis. She spent most of the 9 months of her first pregnancy in hospital due to complications with this condition. Then toward the final three months, as if she hadn’t suffered enough she developed Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction (SPD). This misalignment of the pelvis is common in pregnancy, 1 in 300 will get it. This condition causes, extreme discomfort and, sciatic pain and can affect simple tasks like walking. In her first pregnancy she was using crutches for the last three months

Her second pregnancy magnified both the HG and the SPD which were much worse, simple walking for the first six weeks was a problem. So my treat for her recent graduation; a trip to NYC was a bit of a flop since she struggled to walk at all for any of our short visit. ( it was a holiday could we expect anything more??).

SPD is caused by production of the hormone relaxin necessary for the ligaments to loosen and enable delivery, but in her case her body reacts badly to this hormone so much that by the 3 months her pelvis had separated so much she was on crutches. By 6 months she was in a wheel chair and had started to develop several DVT’s. Her delivery was a finely tuned performance with a team of over 10 specialists on hand to support delivery of her second baby. The risks to her own health, led the consultant obstetrician to propose that any more children were out of the question. Neither condition disappeared after the pregnancy as she was advised they would and her health has continued to deteriorate over the past 3 years. On the positive side her children are both healthy, and well (thank the lord). But SPD in pregnancy in particular has left her with constant nerve pain, pelvic and sciatic pain and a recent MRI revealed she has two bulging discs.

I don’t know the last time she had a full nights sleep, she cannot find a comfortable place in her bed. She has basically been advised by the NHS that they cannot do anything for her except to dispense a complex concoction of pain killers to help her get through the day. It seems pretty inevitable she’ll need them for the rest of her life. It’s so heartbreaking to watch, she is such a young woman. Like my daughter in law, she has had so much to deal with so young, and the total lack of any positive prognosis for this condition it is bound to affect your equilibrium.

As a mother myself I’m not sure where her parenting skills were honed, it certainly wasn’t on my watch. She does a very good impression of Mother Nature; her devotion and commitment to her children appears an inherent trait, it takes so little effort. She has also become involved in supporting the community and is becoming an amazing role model for her children. She rarely if ever complains about the constant pain she is in and is first to support any one that needs her help. She has continually made herself available to me during my challenging few months.

It’s hard to remember when she’s doing so much for me that she is struggling so much herself. Although she rarely gets a sleep, this week has been incredibly hard as her youngest has had an awful cold. He has a bit of a weak chest and struggles to breath sometimes. On Wednesday night after a prolonged period of nose-bleeding she had no option bit to take him to A&E. It was 3 am before they were allowed home but she didn’t get any sleep that night as a child that has trouble breathing is like living with a hand-grenade without a pin. And it’s been pretty similar for the last two nights. In addition to a sick child she was on civic duty yesterday flying the flag for the gala day at the Christmas light extravaganza. As if she hadn’t enough to do!

She has recently started a nursing course and is busy trying to write her first essay and prepare for her first exam this Tuesday. And it is her youngest’s birthday today so she has of course organised a party for family and friends, leaving her just enough time to organise her sleepover in the park tonight. It’s the reality for any young parents that sleep deprivation is a fact of life for the first 8 years (if you are lucky). Nothing can alter this, it has to be accepted and managed as routine as preparing your breakfast.

So tonight it is a bit out of the ordinary for them, they’ve put aside their own needs to support others. I am immensely proud that they are doing this. And I am sure that she will actually sleep if the conditions allow and the pain relief she needs work their magic.

I cannot say she is a credit to us, this girl is a credit to herself, determined, altruistic, generous in spirit and kind. While I am glad she has her prince with her tonight who will protect her but I am almost certain she has her own reserves to drawn on if she needs them. Sleep tight baby girl love you………………………..

Rehearsals for Christmas have been curtailed.

It has always been my favourite time of year, from a very young age I was mesmerised by Christmas magic and it’s never left me. My earliest memories of Christmas were full of joy and excitement reinforced by the happy times when we lived with my Grandad, my parents and two younger sisters in Shotts.

The Christmas season kicked off when we began preparations for the end of term school party. From the end of November we learned Scottish country dancing and were introduced to the delights of the Gay Gordon’s, Strip the Willow and the Military Two Step. If you were lucky (and your parents could afford it) you got a new outfit for what felt like a never-ending run of Christmas parties. It was such a busy time for budding socialites like me. Largely dependent on the social standing of the organisations that you attended and their predisposition for throwing parties, like the Salvation Army, the Sunday school or the Brownies.

As is true with every fanatic there are bizarre unexplainable behaviours associated with your obsession. For me these centred on precision planning for the Christmas discovery that Santa had been. In my opinion this required a finely tuned and masterfully orchestrated plan to reduce all possible margins for error for such an important occasion. To suppress any anxiety I had that I might miss Christmas Day (hardly likely) I organised weekly rehearsals. These were much to my sister’s consternation, as the rehearsals ran for four weeks up to Christmas Eve and were always in the middle of the night. As an adult you could never understand nor appreciate the necessity for such a rehearsal. However for a childhood fanatic like me it was essential; the order in which we awakened and the precision timing associated with the start of the big day was a matter of significant importance.

This was one operation which in my view could never be left to chance, nor could I ever envisage the circumstances that would mean I was not the person to announce that Santa had been. So in addition to making sure we were up, my priority was all about being the person who made the Christmas discovery. Such was my obsession I was unable to contemplate the scenario that my younger sisters would be the first to the scene. So the rehearsal was designed to reinforce the prevailing status and order among my siblings and that it was absolutely my responsibility to make sure this happened.

After all Christmas was such a rare but exquisite event when you were wee that you couldn’t afford to miss a thing or sleep in. Getting my sisters (who were not yet at school) out of bed in the middle of the night proved to be a very difficult task, they’d rather be sleeping than creeping along the corridor in the freezing cold. Because we shared a room they had no way to escape this drill, but at least this ensured that no-one else was disturbed. However they were sleeping so soundly (and one was in a cot), that it was almost inevitable there was a bit of a racket when I was getting them up. So much so Dad heard us one night and, although we did our best to blend into the wallpaper in the hall ( just as we had been practising), his late night discovery curbed the remaining schedule of rehearsals I had planned.

Therefore I had to find other ways to satisfy my longing for all things Christmas until one year the ultimate happened- I was awake when Santa called. It was Christmas Eve, outside the heavy snow had become hard packed under foot and was glistening like diamonds in the moonlight. I’d been up at the window on numerous occasions that night hoping to catch a glimpse of the man himself. Our fire was smouldering in the room creating a fiery glow at floor level. The windows were frozen on the inside, but the laughter of our neighbours making their way home from the pub caused me to scrape a small viewing pane. They were sliding, throwing snowballs and partaking in other festive foreplay on their way home. This upset me greatly as it was highly unlikely Santa would appear while they were still up. I climbed back into bed unable to sleep, crippled with excitement.

Back in my bed, I’m sure I heard bells ringing. Now I am not 100% sure of this, but something stirred outside making me hold my breath to aid my hearing. There was a rustle of papers and stamping of feet and I heard my Grandad, who was babysitting, say in quite a clear and unaffected way, “Oh it’s you Santa, come in!” Without response I heard his heavy feet stamp on the doormat, I imagined him clearing off the snow from his boots before he entered the hall. I felt the air in the bedroom chill as the door continued to be held open for what seemed an age, and finally I let my breath fly out of my nostrils into a frosty cloud when I was sure he had entered the lounge.

I was terrified and excited all at the same time but I noticed I was frozen to my bed. I was quietly frustrated at my Dad for curbing the essential drills that would have enabled me to sneak out of the bedroom and into the living room where Santa was being entertained by my Grandad. But I was also grateful because I’m not sure how I would have responded coming face to face finally with the great man that Christmas Eve.

Transfixed, I lay there wide awake, breathing deeply, wishing and wondering about the delights awaiting me the following morning when I got up. If I didn’t sleep in I’m pretty sure I would find out…………………..