Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Dinner

N.B. All of the following 18 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

I don’t like eating alone. In fact, I don’t even much enjoy living alone, hence the cat. It’s quite depressing to come home after a long day knowing that the next time you will speak to another human being will be either the Pizza delivery man, or when you return to work the next day. Living alone makes cooking a chore. Especially in the winter when the nights are long and cold.

I was born into a house full of people: Mum, Dad, Mel, Laura, David and Stephen (eventually) plus the various pets. Even after my sisters went off to University there were still a few different children around that my Mum looked after during the days. Our house was never quiet. I was very rarely alone. But I loved it. Sure, sometimes brothers can be a right pain in the backside, but it was life. Most Christmas’s back then my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin would come and stay, and Nan and Granddad would come to Christmas dinner too. There were often 13 or so of us squeezed round the dinner table. That was normal.

Unfortunately as I got older, life began to change. Mum stopped looking after kids, Dad started working again, Mel and Laura both settled elsewhere for good. During my teenage years, Mum and Dad separated, and then even David left home. Seven went down to three: Me, Mum and Stephen. Loneliness set in. I’m not surprised now why so many of my friends spent lots of time at my house. The house needed more people. It was too empty. Too quiet. There would be days when I would leave the house in the morning having not spoken a word to anyone, return home, spend the evening in my room until I went out, and then returned to my room immediately, having no conversation with my family other than “I’m going out!” or “I’m home!” I guess that’s part of the reason I’m not a bit fan of living alone now. Long days and nights remind me too much of that part of my life.

Things at home are a lot different now. A lot of the hurt from that time has healed, and we’ve all moved on. Mel, Laura and David are all married now. Mel and Jon have a gorgeous little one called Layla (who will be 3 in a few weeks!) As well as being my niece she’s my God-daughter too, and I love her to the moon and back. Mum and Dad are both in new relationships, (so now I kinda have 4 parents… great!) David has a couple of little kids too, and Stephen is no longer my ‘little’ brother, and will most days appear with a massive beard/moustache. His friends have replaced mine on the living room sofas. They’ve all moved on with their lives. I can’t help feeling I’m stuck.

A big part of Christmas is family. Sitting round the Dining Room table, swapping stories and (in my families case) toilet jokes. Laughing over current matters, funny comments and stupid things celebrities have done recently, all the while scoffing down huge portions of meat, vegetables and fizzy drinks. Sharing a meal together is part of sharing life together: even though we don’t live on top of one another any more, it’s an important part of our lives, to be together for special occasions.

Cottrell says: “We don’t invite people round to dinner because we think they’re hungry. We invite them round for their company. It’s the human craving for friendship and community that we need to fill.”

If I’m going to make any New Year’s resolutions this year it is to invite more people round to dinner. (If they can endure my cooking!) To share life with people. I’m pretty fed up of living on my own to be honest. If you want to come round anytime, just come. (Although if you want to eat let me know so I can make sure I have food in the fridge…) A good friend once said to me: “Mi casa, en su casa.” (My house is your house.) If you just read that, it applies to you too. And who knows. Maybe in sharing life with more people, that loneliness that sits in the depth of my stomach will begin to fade.

DNCIC recommendations for today:
• Get out the recipe book. Making a Christmas cake or a Christmas pudding is not that hard and not that expensive. And if you have someone else to do it with, all the better!
• Bring back mealtimes! Start a new regime where dinner is on the table at a certain time and you all sit together.
• And who else will you invite?
• And say grace before you start. Even if you can’t give thanks to God, be thankful that there is food on your table when so many in the world today have nothing.

No matter how busy our current lifestyles are, or what is going on outside, family meals are important… I am determined to get families back around the table.” Gordon Ramsey
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