Husband, pillar of the church, run off with the Sunday-school teacher? Partner of twenty years gone and died on you, after harrowing illness, leaving you bereft and penny-less? Wife of even longer, your right-hand and practice manager (married to the job, not you, apparently), upped and off on the day you retired? Daddy/ Mummy just gone to have some me-time — but what about me? Gone to live with your grown-up daughter and her family’s just fallen apart?
That’s who we all were that first Christmas, the first Christmas after Armageddon, our own personal Armageddons — so what could we do?
As it approached we all knew that it would be terrible, that Day so laced with expectation and us with our open sores.
For the first time we realised that there were people who were alone, not freaks but people like us. Not all strictly alone; some had children, but all were bereft, abandoned. We felt bad that we’d never thought of them before — you see good things do come out of bad.
On Christmas Day four women, all supreme in their own kitchens, their own Christmases, stood stirring around the central hob, with no vying for dominance, we stirred as one. Tom attended the Turkey and the children watched their new almost grown-up friend, almost a cousin, eat fire in the garden and had goes on his unicycle and tried their new diabolos and blew bubbles that made rainbows in the winter sunshine. When the sprouts boiled over we laughed until the tears ran down our faces, it was the first time that had happened to me (the tears of joy, I mean) for years and years but, you know, it was to happen more and more.
After lunch, we lolled on the sofas and on cushions on the floor to watch the Queen’s speech, in the euphoria of full stomachs and alcohol, moulded to each other, inspecting singed hair and smelling slightly of paraffin, in comfortable congestion, like a pride of circus lions.
That was how we had our best-ever Christmas.