Helen didn’t get home until turned ten o’clock. She had warned me over the weekend that she’d be late every night until Christmas Eve. She was exhausted. Customers were stripping the shelves before there was time to re-stock them fully. Fresh supplies from the storage area – ‘backstage’ as they called it – were almost impossible to get through the crowds of customers jostling to fill their trolleys. When, on the Wednesday night we had a major row, about not being able to have a holiday abroad until July at the earliest, I put it down to her being stressed-out because of the built-up exhaustion.
On Christmas Eve, getting Paul to go to sleep was murder. He was so excited, wanting to know whether Santa had been able to get enough money out of his magic money tree to pay for a PlayStation. Other than that, there was the routine of leaving a glass of wine for Santa, plus reindeer food for Rudolph and his team. It was lovely to see that he was still so innocent but we still felt guilty at caving into societal pressure to conform by telling lies to him.
From six am on Christmas Day, Paul was in our room, shaking us awake. We were being summoned to join with him in unwrapping all the parcels around the tree. He’d already been downstairs and had noted the empty wine glass and the diminished remains of the reindeer food. Above all, he’d noticed how many parcels there were.
The joy on Paul’s face was a delight to see when he opened the big box containing his new smartphone. I think that, for a moment, he’d thought that the phone was a great consolation for not getting the Playstation, but when he opened that parcel he was jumping with delight. I knew that the remainder of the morning would have to be divided between helping to get his gifts set up for him and helping Helen in the kitchen. We left the remaining parcels for later when both our sets of parents would be arriving for their Christmas dinner. We’d asked them to arrive at one for two, so as to get out of the way the giving and receiving of the remaining presents.
By the end of the meal, once all the wrapping paper, and food-waste likewise, had been binned for recycling, we were all able to sit down to talk and relax – except for Paul who was upstairs in his room with his new sources of amusement. Charlie eventually asked my parents, Harry and Christine, what they thought about my situation. I hadn’t told anyone other than Helen yet about the job offer, or my acceptance of it. My Dad had never heard of the printing company, but he seemed concerned by how Charlie described it. I felt that I’d better enlighten them and explained how and why Helen and I had decided to accept it.
The two sets of ‘oldies’ came to agree that I’d probably done the right thing – provided that I bailed out, if working there turned out to be as bad as Charlie had heard. Other than that, when the conversation turned to politics, Helen suggested that we all watch a programme on the television that she’d been waiting for. I refilled everyone’s glasses while Helen navigated the TV to select the show she’d chosen.
When it came to time for them to leave, we thanked them for their gifts and wished them a safe journey home. We’d already arranged to return the visits around the New Year. Charlie didn’t leave without cautioning me again about the company and its reputation. Helen and I went to bed early that night. We’d managed to get Paul to bed and sleep about ten but, I was concerned by how tired and irritated Helen seemed. She’d be in work again the following morning. Boxing Day might be a Bank Holiday for banks, but not for lots of shop workers.
On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, we had a welcome break from entertaining – visiting our respective parents. Paul had been allowed to take his presents to both houses, and Harry disappeared after our meal at my Mum’s house to play with Paul, on his Playstation, using the second controller. My Mum thought that he’d probably end up buying a set for himself by claiming it would be there for whenever his Grandson visited.
Helen had been quiet all week, but had been snappy when I asked how she was or tried to cheer her up. As I thought about it, she’d not really been herself since the week before Christmas – on the other hand, she had been working long hours.
Today I continue my series of Christmassy shots in black and white. My Featured Photo today was taken of an illuminated reindeer in the Liverpool One area of the city.
The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera with a 35 mm mm f/2.4 lens at 35 mm and f/4. The shutter speed was 1/250 secs and the ISO was 1600. The camera was handheld and the post-processing was in Lightroom.