It’s Christmas Eve and I thought I’d take the opportunity to fill you in on what has happened recently and what we intend to do over the festive period. We’re back in the flat, having flown home on Monday past, another eventless journey where everything went well and there were no surprises whatsoever. Except that while Mary was standing in the queue to board at Barcelona El Prat, with only about 150 people in front of her (including a young woman with a trolley case, a backpack and a guitar – no, they didn’t let her through!), I did surprise her with her Boarding pass which included Priority Boarding, allowing us to wander forward and join a queue of about fifteen!

Safely back at the flat, we unpacked all the presents we had brought back with us, got the heating up to scratch to chase away the chill (even though it wasn’t particularly cold here in Dundee) and settled down. Mary was in time to attend her Slimming World class and see her sister Alison being awarded for reaching her target and now being officially “slim”. Mum came round at seven o’clock and we caught up on what’s been happening in Mary’s family while we’ve been travelling. Not much, as is usually the case when you’re working and have kids to look to, but we’re past that now, seen it, done it, got the scars to show, and have so much more time to ourselves.

This week has been devoted to preparing for Christmas. Shopping in Dundee took up Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and the evenings were all about wrapping presents and writing last-minute cards. We saw Greg for a pint on Wednesday night and have since seen Gavin for lunch on Friday and Scott and George on Saturday. George’s visit was to drop off grandson Benjamin for the day and that was a particular joy for us. Among other things, we ended up at the Olympia swimming centre, waves, rapids, flumes and inflatable obstacle course included. Mary and I had the best of times with Ben who eked the last ounce of energy out of both of us. My next nightmare may well include trying to walk along a very slippy, wobbly landscape with a one mile drop below or hurtling down a red tube plunged into total darkness but holding my dearest grandson in my lap!

Then the excitement was cranked up. My cousin Renée called to say she’d just received a delivery of a box of 100 copies of my first book “Socrates, the Sprinting Snail of Sorrento” which I’d ordered for reprint last week. That was great as I didn’t have a single copy for myself, never mind my customers. A couple of hours later a knock on the door announced the arrival of a box of 50 copies of my new book “Bonjour Socrates!” which I hadn’t expected to get until after Christmas. Once again, the thrill of opening a box to see for the very first time a creation that had been in my head for the past 2 years was way up there with my top twenty good moments. The illustrations have been drawn by Becky Moran, the granddaughter of cousin Renée who distributes my books while I’m away travelling. She’s done a grand job and I hope she’s proud to have her name on the cover of a book to show all her family and friends. Here’s the cover.

Christmas will be mass at 10, popping in to see George and his family, driving up to Gavin’s for Christmas meal then back to Dundee to spend a couple of hours with all of Mary’s family. We’ll see all four of our boys, their partners and the 2 grandchildren (plus 1 step-grandson!) which is always a good thing, isn’t it? Unlike the tradition in some quarters, we don’t do falling out with one another at Christmas so we’re looking forward to a really nice day. On Boxing Day, George, Benjamin and I are going to Dens Park at midday to see the Dundee v Celtic game (we’ll probably get reamed!) and that should be good fun too.

OK. Just time to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy 2018. Thank you all for your continued support over the past 12 months. It is much appreciated! I leave you with the new back cover.