Many of you will have gathered that we are back in Dundee. Even if we hadn’t intended to spend Xmas and the New Year with the family, we would have been back anyway, as I’m sad to recount that Auntie Cissie passed away in her sleep on Monday 15 December, aged 93. Despite being sad at her passing, I think we’re all a wee bit relieved that she is no longer worried or frightened about where she is or what’s happening to her. She looked a bit lost once she was no longer in her own house, even though she had her furniture and familiar objects in her room at Northlands in Blairgowrie.

Cissie outside her house in Coupar Angus

Cissie outside her house in Coupar Angus

We bury Cissie tomorrow. She’ll be laid to rest in the new cemetery in Coupar Angus where she lived for most of her life along with the other maiden aunt in the family, her older sister Lizzie. Both these aunts played a significant role in my upbringing right from just after my birth when Mum had a stroke and couldn’t look after me. Cissie in fact outlived her six siblings by quite a margin, being the youngest of the Casciani family and also having led a sober, restrained life avoiding all extremes of behaviour and habit. But she was still a whole load of fun, loved by everybody and always ready to lend a helping hand if required. Her real name was Helen, but her brother Patrick used to call her “my wee sissums” when she was a child and the name morphed into Cissie then stuck.

And that will be that. My Mum’s entire generation will have gone, Julie, Lizzie, Mary, Katie, Pat, Peggy (Mum) and Cissie along with two I never knew, Jeemy and Joey. And all their partners too! The inevitability of death has even crept into my own generation already with the untimely passing of cousins Joe, Tony and Mary. I guess I’d better get on with living life while I still have it.

As fate would have it, Auntie Cissie passed away on the same day I was due to play Santa Claus for the schoolchildren at Times English School, the first of two evenings I had committed to. I was therefore wearing a bit of a painted smile in the school that night, but the joy on the faces of the little ones at seeing Santa lifted my spirits immensely and the whole thing proved perfectly enjoyable. I was out by seven and able to drive round to the train station to pick up Mike and Het on their return from a brief visit to their families in England. I also went back for Mary at nine when she finished the last of her three classes she’d been asked to do and we had tea back in the caravan.

"You better watch out...."

“You better watch out….”

We repeated the act on Tuesday but only after driving Dutch friends Tom and Greeta to Terminal 1 for their flight back to Holland for Xmas. And on the way back from the airport we of course had an unexpected adventure. Just as we passed through the toll barrier at the end of the tunnels, I spotted a guy in a Hi-Vis jacket next to a caravan with a British registration. I pulled in in front of him and offered assistance, only to discover that he and his wife were on their way to Vilanova Park and had broken down just 15 kms from their destination. When we could make no progress with the car, I offered to hitch up his caravan and take his wife to the safety of the campsite and send someone to take a look at the vehicle. That’s why we found ourselves towing a caravan (with no electrics!) along the C32 with a stranger and 2 dogs on the back seat.

We got there safe and sound, sent a mechanic from the staff to check out the problem then we all helped get the caravan set up on the pitch they had booked on G Block. The husband arrived a couple of hours later minus car with knackered gearbox but they soon got into the swing of things Vilanova style. I felt damned righteous by the time I’d entertained the kids back at the school again and reckoned that might help atone for a whole bundle of naughty things I’ve done in the past!

On Wednesday we packed our bags for the flight home and filled our one checked-in case with all the Xmas presents we’d bought for the family. Then, at six in the evening, I donned the Santa costume for a third time to take part in the carol-singing I had organized with my friends. A dozen or so of us went around the site singing carols in 5 languages, English, French, German, Spanish and even Catalan, although that version of “Jingle Bells” was one taught to me by Guillem the previous Thursday and as you can imagine dealt with matters fascinating to an 8-year old!

The Vilanova Singers

The Vilanova Singers

We all then attended the Wednesday meal up at the restaurant and it turned out to be an excellent Xmas occasion. Everyone wanted their photo taken with Santa and our choir (The Vilanova Singers!) did another set at the end of the meal. On our way back to the caravan, Mary and I were called in by Norwegian neighbours Mae and Jon who had missed the earlier singing, so we agreed to duet a rendition of “Away in a Manger” which brought a smile to their faces and ten charitable Euros from their pockets! All the money collected was added to the box up in the bar for a little girl who has a lesion on the brain. Poor soul!

Clockwise: Mary, Santa, Chantal, Lise and Het

Clockwise: Mary, Santa, Chantal, Lise and Het

Up with the lark on Thursday, Mike got us to the airport in loads of time and we were in Edinburgh by two in the afternoon. No hitches until we got to Haymarket where we had to wait almost 3 hours to catch the train to Dundee due to cancellations. But on a positive note Gavin was on the same train and we had a grand catch-up on the journey home. The weather was quite reasonable on our arrival so being back in Dundee wasn’t the total shock it could have been. That evening we saw both Mum and Uncle Gerard but later we spent it quietly discussing things with our son Scott.

Next day we were up early to drive Scott to school (his last day as a trainee teacher) and then we drove to Blairgowrie where cousin Stef took me to the funeral rooms to see Auntie Cissie before they closed the coffin. She was absolutely beautiful, in her own clothes, hair in a clasp and rouge on her cheeks. Not scary at all, just Auntie Cissie as if asleep and untroubled. God bless her. I’ve been asked to say a few words about her at the requiem mass on Xmas Eve and I hope I can acquit that duty with merit. She’ll no doubt be listening!

George and Ben came over for an hour on Sunday so it was brilliant seeing both of them again. That was after Scott and I had escaped from mass early to get down to the Hawkhill Tavern to see Dundee United beat leaders Celtic 2-1 live on the TV. I have always delighted in seeing both Celtic and Rangers come a cropper in games and you’ll recall that last season I was with Fred, Bob and Emile at the Camp Nou to see Barcelona stick 6 past the green and white hoops. It looks like the other ones (those in blue) are still struggling fiercely to stay afloat despite a ridiculous amount of difficulties both on and off the field, but it’s Ally McCoist I feel sorry for, having to watch his beloved Rangers wallow in such shameful circumstances. I honestly think it would be better if that club disappeared completely and their Glasgow rivals went and played elsewhere.

Speaking of Glasgow, how terrible is the news of that bizarre incident in the centre of town yesterday when an out-of-control bin lorry mowed down a load of Christmas shoppers, killing six and injuring even more. Following on from the helicopter crash there last New Year, once again the proud people of Glasgow will have to call upon their famous spirit and big hearts to see them through another devastating tragedy.

Ok, let’s cheer things up a bit! “Wee Georgie” has done us all proud, selling like hot cakes in Waterstones of Dundee to the tune of almost 150 copies. This is way beyond my wildest expectations and gives me the boost I need to continue churning out the pages of the follow-up, as yet without a title. I recently read the eight or nine chapters I wrote a couple of years ago and I have to say I found myself laughing out loud at certain moments, especially at the more outrageous things that happened to me and the rest of the family. No sneak previews however: you’ll have to wait until next Christmas which is my target date for publication.

By the way, I’m posting up a Christmas gift to you all, a chapter from my Campsite romp “Vamos!” Hope you like it, but try to read it with a Scouse accent.

It only remains, dear readers, to thank you for your support with my adventures in writing this year about to end and to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy 2015. Cissie now knows all the answers, the rest of us are still scratching our heads.George, Ben and Cissie

George, Ben and Cissie