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Lockdown diary: The ghosts of a merry Christmas past come back to taunt me

Mark Bain


'We always start Christmas the weekend after Gina's birthday.' (Nick Ansell/PA)

'We always start Christmas the weekend after Gina's birthday.' (Nick Ansell/PA)


'We always start Christmas the weekend after Gina's birthday.' (Nick Ansell/PA)

It is one of life's great mysteries how you spend all week struggling to get out of bed, fighting off lethargy and trying to shake yourself awake, yet when Saturday comes you just can't bring yourself to take advantage of that extra hour under the duvet.

Switching on my phone, Facebook takes great delight in reminding me through a gallery of photographs that five years ago today we were on a family Christmas weekend in London. How mean.

We always start Christmas the weekend after Gina's birthday.

Normally we all pack on to a bus to avoid paying a fortune in all day car parking to take a family trip to the Christmas market at City Hall.

Hats, scarves, gloves, pocket money for the children to buy their Christmas presents for friends and give them subtle hints about mum's favourite hand cream or dad's penchant for a new book.

Then there's chocolate crepes or waffles as we sit on the wall at City Hall and watch the crowds pile in. Perhaps then grab something to eat in Victoria Square, and if there's something we all want to see at the cinema, top off dinner with popcorn and wine gums.

For the past decade or more it has been a traditional adventure. We'll have to be content with those memories this year and try to find something different to kick-start the Christmas mood.

As we are thinking of the ghosts of Christmas past I'm casually reminded of the year we ran out of gas on Christmas morning. Thankfully the turkey had been cooked on Christmas Eve, but there were several frantic trips to my mother-in-law with full saucepans.

I'm prompted to order some home heating oil as we have always said we'll never run out of anything on Christmas Day again. There goes another lump off the Christmas fund.

Instead of the annual Christmas trip to Belfast, we instead try to arrange Christmas films into a hierarchy of watching with a view to gathering around the fire for the evening.

Elf and Fred Claus will not be suitable for another two weeks at least. Unable to decide, we postpone the official start of Christmas for another weekend, We watch The Crown instead.

Sunday starts with a shiver at the freezing fog outside and lighting the fire to take up position on the sofa for a marathon day of football on TV.

Disappointing news from my sister-in-law who arrives. She has been desperately seeking a cat to tackle her mouse in the house situation.

One of her daughters has been revealed to be allergic to cats.

I don't think she will want to be sacrificed for the greater good.

The tub of Celebrations is now reduced to a smattering of Milky Ways and Bountys, but there's something new on the kitchen table. Louise tells me it is a stand-by present, but the tin of Sticky Toffee Pudding filled cookies is taunting me.

Resistance will be tested to the full. Odds on them making it to Christmas are slim.

Belfast Telegraph