December brought the year to an end with dramatic plot twists and lots of exits and entrances.
It was the month the heating broke and the temperatures fell into the minuses.
It was the month the kids finally got that snow day.
It was the month I told a British Gas workmen where to stick it.
It was the month I strode out of the door with a suitcase and finally felt like I was ready for a break from our hilltop cottage, for a luxury ski chalet in the snowy Alps.
It was the month I decided enough SAD was enough.
It was the month we nearly finished the holiday barn. In fact nearly moved into the barn ourselves, because it was beginning to look quite homely, and had functioning heating.
It was the month we realised Christmas involved entertaining 6 different sets of overnight guests, with only two nights respite.
Where do I start?
Massive highs and massive lows.
As December wore on I decided that despite my best efforts – lamps, diet, exercise, sunlight, SAD was particularly bad and so went to see my new doctor who is as wonderful as my old one thank goodness. I decided I would take a low dose of SSRIs again (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Overnight they kicked in and I felt pretty invincible again.
Different things work for different people, some years I can get by on a SAD lamp and gritted teeth, but not this time. It’s been a really grey Winter. I’ll write about it in more detail one day, but basically, a low dose works miracles for me and so rapidly I can only assume it is what my body needs.
I’ve also managed to get CBT really quickly on the NHS which is really interesting and helps to keep a happy structure in place. Once you start feeling the effects of SAD its easy to let go of things that you need to stay sane.
Feeling better, I went on an amazing ski press trip to Morzine. You can read more about the luxury Alpine Ski trip here. Or carry on for more tales of country living.
I came home to broken heating and an unwashed family. The house was a mess because the cold really gets to you and it’s hard to wash up or function after a while. Mr A apologised for leaving us in chaos and went to London overnight. Having spent 3 nights in luxury being fed and looked after in a ski chalet I soon realised I’d only been functioning so well because I was in an alpine ski bubble.
Faced with Christmas prep and the kids finishing for Christmas I had a massive wobbler.
The lowest point was shouting at the British Gas engineer (he started it not me) and crying on the phone to Mr A, telling him to ‘get that man out of the house’.
Complete Christmas overwhelm set in and I realised how little I had actually achieved and still needed to do.
However, with lots of list making, a few trips to the shops and by letting the kids watch a lot of movies and dealing with the accompanying guilt, I slowly realised it was doable. They might not have been my most inspired gifts – sorry family – but they were gifts.
We also remembered we had an immersion heater so at least had hot water. The trials of getting used to a new house.
Over the holidays I switched off social media because I couldn’t cope with other people’s Christmasses unfolding in a more organised and fun fashion than mine. It’s okay to do that from time to time.
By the day before Christmas Eve, by some kind of miracle, everything we needed was in the house, even though nothing at all was wrapped, and I was calmer.
The local plumber, our hero, got another part for us, and fixed the heating, on a Saturday for us.
Friends from school came over the same evening. Our first party with new friends. It was lovely. With enough people around to help, we carried the sofa that’s been taking up half the kitchen over to the newly decorated barn in fits of giggles. The kids played hide and seek and computer games and the adults talked solidly for 5 hours.
On Christmas Eve the four of us had a walk across the fields and then decided to call in our nearest neighbour half a mile away. They turned out to be a lovely retired couple who made us tea, fed the kids J2Os and chocolates and chatted for an hour in a beamed living room decked with foliage and twinkly lights. We now know where to go to borrow scaffolding, how to line a chimney ourselves and where to buy rat poison should we ever need it. They now know how to get their internet from 1mgb to 9. A good trade.
Our visit made me a little sad we didn’t quite achieve the Country Living magazine standard of decorations in our own cottage. But amid the utter overwhelm I did manage to get a tree with the kids and to decorate it. And I have such happy memories of sitting in the lounge with the fire burning, of my shattered brother and sister in law sleeping by the fire while I played with my youngest nephew. Of playing cards at 1 am on New Year’s Day by the fire, as the last embers died.
Christmas decorations are a life’s work and as I packed them away I explained to L that they may not look perfect, but they tell our story over time. Things we have made, bought on holiday, added to mark special occasions. The silver stars G bought me for Christmas are so lovely they are staying up all year round now.
Christmas Day Dad and I drank champagne and cooked dinner while the others played, and it was perfect. G got a remote control boat and I will never forget the sight of us all out in the garden racing it around the pond and building it a landing stage on the island, L in a new penguin onesie.
We even managed to get the TV working in time for Dr Who, after 7 months without normal channels which was exciting. The kids wore pjs and onesies all day.
On Boxing Day we built the trampoline Dad bought the kids. It was a little bit bigger than we expected – I told my Dad our old one we left behind in Nottingham was 10ft, so Dad bought a new 12ft one, but I think our old one was probably more like 6ft. So it caused a few headaches to build, but we survived without a family rift.
Dad bought me and Mr A a tawny owl box, which if you have followed my owl stories, is hugely exciting.
New Year saw 5 of my uni friends arrive, some with families for a New Year Extravaganza. We got soaked crossing the stepping stones at Dove Dale, ate, drank, danced, played games and all managed to get out the house by 11 am to see about 20 people leap off a 30ft bridge at Mapleton for charity.
All holiday our guests helped with cooking and cleaning and brought lots of food and drink. It wasn’t the least bit stressful in the end, it was wonderful to have the house full of people, love and laughter.
As each day went by I felt more happy return.
On New Year’s Day I put the fluffy teddy bear material loungewear on, a Christmas present from Mr A and went to show the kids. I laughed so much at the sight of myself as a giant teddy bear that I cried, then I fell asleep next to G who wanted to cuddle a giant teddy bear.
I was back.
Happy New Year!
How was it for you?
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