COVID-19 grabbed hold of me and took me down on Christmas Day. I spent most of the first half of the week lying on the sofa, as getting up led immediately to watery eyes and sneezing fits. It’s such a strange illness; highly contagious — every time I’ve had it, I’ve been one of many that tested positive after a social event — and yet I don’t think we’ve ever passed it onto each other at home. It wasn’t fun, but it could have been worse. I didn’t develop a fever, and by Wednesday evening I felt that I had turned a corner, with my tests being negative by the weekend.
In my infected haze I somehow managed to get the dishwasher and laundry tablets mixed up. I can report that washing clothes with dishwasher tablets does no discernible harm, apart from to your ego as you have your geriatric moment pointed out to you.
We managed to make the most of Christmas Day, getting around the table for a rare family game of Ticket to Ride before the lovely dinner that had been hastily bought the day before.
I don’t think I’ve watched so much television in years. I’ve recently rediscovered the joy of putting on an old classic film that doesn’t require a lot of thought. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) — my favourite film of all time — is in that category, as is Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and White Men Can’t Jump (1992). You can put the film on, half-watch it, stop it at any time and come back to it whenever you feel like your brain needs to veg out. My mission of trying to get through the first 14 seasons of _Grange Hill_1 is entering its third year and has slowed up; I’ve lost interest a bit as the key characters and storylines are now in the past.
We also watched some excellent TV series and films. AppleTV+ seemed to be on a roll with both Slow Horses and Severance. The last episode of Severance literally had me on the edge of my seat, exclaiming out loud at how good it was. We continue to love The Orville on Disney+ with season two taking things to much greater heights than I had expected. Disney+’s documentary of the Brawn F1 team’s incredible lone season in Formula One was also excellent. We caught How To Have Sex (2023) on MUBI, a superbly-acted portrayal of a hedonistic holiday in Greece which tackles issues of peer pressure and consent. On Saturday we even made it to the cinema to see Everything Is Illuminated (2005); it’s amazing how something so recent already feels so distant, with its story of an American visiting Ukraine for a road trip to trace his ancestors being something that is sadly impossible to conceive of as we enter 2024.
I turned 47 on Sunday. We spent the day with my wife’s parents, as my illness had meant that we couldn’t visit them at the start of the week. It was lovely to see them and to get a couple of things done to help them out. While we were there, the boys were fishing around on the television for something to watch and discovered the World Darts Championship. Like most sports, I don’t follow it but love to watch it when it’s on. The remaining matches have now been etched into the family calendar.
My family and friends bought me so many lovely gifts for Christmas and my birthday. I’ve got a backlog of vinyl records to listen to and new books to read. Some of the books have been put on the shelf next to others that were bought for me this time last year that are still unread. The speed at which the years now whizz by make me more aware of how the only real limiting factor is the time available to me to sit and listen to music or burrow into a book.
New Year’s Eve was a quiet night in, save for picking up my eldest son from a party. I’m looking forward to 2024. It’s going to be a very busy year at work with some critical deadline-driven projects to deliver as well as taking on some additional responsibilities. We are also likely to have an election here in the UK for the first time since 2019. I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to finally see the back of the dreadful government that we’ve had for the past 14 years and start to have a positive vision of the future again.
Next week: A few more days off before getting back to work.
- Headteacher Mrs McClusky — probably the most famous of the Grange Hill headteachers — retires at the end of series 14, so this seems like a suitable place to stop. ↩