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My late father always referred to this period as the “fag-end of the year” – endlessly repeating this term at regular intervals over the 5 days after Boxing Day because he knew it annoyed everyone. We’re in that gap between the full-on family celebrations – enforced or otherwise (happy for me, luckily) – and the New Year’s Eve alternatives of mad partaying or reflective hunkering down, before January hits us either with the excitement of new beginnings or the remorseful dryness of calorie-related resolutions.

This year, we had a good old-fashioned family Christmas. It is the time when I am at my most traditional and can somehow produce the necessary festive fayre despite having no appreciable cooking practice throughout the year. Mind you, standards are not high here, as long as everything is familiar, not actually disgusting (apart from the mandatory sprouts, of course) and there is lots of it. It helps that I have done Christmas for these people for years now, and they have no real benchmark apart from previous efforts of mine, which includes the year when I accidentally grilled the potatoes instead of roasting them.

Now we have reduced a) the human occupants of the house from 7 back to 2, and b) the leftover mountain to a small spoil heap, I can focus again on retirement plans which are very exciting.

Excitement tempered slightly and quite rightly yesterday. Exactly 33 years ago I was bridesmaid to my best friend on her brilliantly sunny but freezing cold wedding day. My friend died this summer. I still can’t quite comprehend that she is no longer here, nor the fact that she and I will not be sharing retirement walking together as we had planned.

Up and down we go – but onward to 2019 in anticipation of new experiences, and something interesting and upbeat to say!

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