Five Years

23rd December 2022

Tomorrow will be my fifth Christmas Eve without Gail. This barely seems possible.

Christmas Eve 1987, under the clock on High Wycombe Station (Eat yer heart out, Trevor Howard), was the first time I told Gail I loved her and it subsequently became ‘our day’. Though we tried to make sure we spent every subsequent 24th December together, situations at the time dictated we were sometimes apart; though we never really were (if you know what I mean).

When we moved in together in 1994 we made sure we made every Christmas Eve after count but now, strangely, it’s those missed ones before ’94 – the ones where all I had were feelings and memories but couldn’t see her – that get me through every year. I get strength from those. The others rip me to shreds.

I was looking for some festive photos for the Calendar and unexpectedly found this from 2014 and I wanted to post it here. We were doing our usual Christmas Eve West End thing; Harrods, lunch where we first met, Selfridges, Billecart-salmon champagne in the Hix Cocktail Bar overlooking the designer bags area – watching everyone buying last-minute presents that cost us more than we made in a week – then a top meal after Hix (occasionally) threw us out.

As we’d entered the store she’d found this purse. It was pure Gail Thorne Ted Baker ‘Itty bitty’, pink and stupidly expensive. I feigned a lack of interest (not the hardest acting job I’ve had, to be fair), but when we stopped at the Bar I made an excuse and went to buy it for her. I loved buying stuff like this for her, loved seeing her face as she opened it. She could make you feel like a King at times like that. It got good use too, it was the purse she always kept the coins in when we went abroad.

It’s a lovely memory.

I hope you all make your own memories this year and cherish them forever.

Merry Christmas to you all x

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24th December 2022

I’ve always got on well with my brother-in-law from my first marriage. Although we are very different people, there is a meeting of minds of sorts and he ‘gets me’ really well. He emailed me the other day; ‘I won’t ask what type of Christmas you’ll be having. I know you’re a traditionalist. You’ll have been playing Christmas music since November; you’ll have seen at least one production of ‘A Christmas Carol’, you’ll be wearing a Christmas jumper and on the day you’ll have a Champagne breakfast, the speech from the Crown, full Turkey dinner at the table with a decent red. You’ll even share the table with the Ghost of Christmas Past”

It made me laugh a lot.

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1st January 2023

The 5th anniversary of Christmas and New Year without Gail and I thought I managed it reasonably well. I did the usual Christmas Eve thing; bought some after-shave in Selfridges, glass of champagne at the Oyster bar and even got a late booking for a production of ‘A Christmas Carol’. I locked the door a bit after I got in, but I saw some friends later in the week and even went to a Pantomime with another friend. Caught up with someone I’d not seen in a good while on NYE afternoon then sat down later with a decent port and some fine cheese to watch Jools Holland’s Hootenanny. Ten minutes in and The Real Thing are on doing ‘You To Me Are Everything’ – Gail’s funeral entrance song if you’ve arrived here late. I mean, ten minutes into 2023? I really don’t believe in anything but sometimes I do feel greater forces are at work. “That’ll larn ya” I hear her say.

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6th January 2023

A serious advocate of the 12 days of Christmas I refuse to take my decorations down before Twelfth Night. So today it’s time to pack away the Christmas decorations and ruminate on the fact that I’m possibly the only heterosexual man in the UK who has a tree full of white and silver shoes and handbags, fluffy white balls and feathers. Once again, I’ve promised myself I’ll change them but I doubt I ever will; not because of the fear of change but because if/when I do change them I will have a fair number of decorations that I will then be faced with getting rid of. I know myself well enough to realise I couldn’t put them in a black bin bag so it would probably be a donation to a charity shop somewhere and I’m not sure that is a journey I can make.

It made me consider how strange the grieving mind works.

Had Gail been here it’s unlikely I’d be wrapping these shoes and handbags in tissue paper for another year. Gail was a force of nature who brushed all aside when she felt something needed to change. The existing decorations relate to the ‘white and silver phase’ but I’m sure we’ve probably had a red & green or purple & gold state since then but I’ve just missed it. Gail never missed these things. She had an uncanny knack for knowing when the next thing was coming along to the extent that I’d see her looking for, say a mustard dress or a pair of teale boots and I’d say ‘Is Mustard/Teale this year’s black?’ ‘You’re larning’ she’d reply. It got to be one of those standing jokes that couples have and it used to make her laugh when I spotted a colour trend on the High Street and managed to get in a ‘Is that this year’s black?’ before something had even entered the house.

I recall traipsing all over Marmaris one year, going into shop after shop until I eventually asked her what the hell we were looking for. ‘Pandora jewellery’ she told me. “Who’s Pandora?” I stupidly asked. “It’s the next big thing” she answered. I knew better to ask how she knew because she always did. There were never any fashion magazines or web sites scrutinised; it was as if she just had some sixth sense or some fashion clip beamed directly into her brain. Sure enough the following Christmas was a rush on Pandora jewellery and Gail had a drawer full to wear or sell. “Wow Pandora” they’d say “Where’d you get that?” while I’d recall a baking hot summer day haggling in a Bazaar with an entranced Turkish trader.

So, deity of choice willing, next December I will again open up the Christmas tree box – almost certainly in a new house – look at the shoes and handbags and wonder if it’s time to seek out the latest thing.

I dunno. I still don’t feel like ‘I’m larning’.

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