Friday night and the stress does not abate.  The fact that The BBC Election Debate is emanating from the television is serving only to exacerbate but the real source of my aggravation stems from a late email from my accountant – that, itself, sounds incongruous!  We live in a world, now, in which one’s job title is all important; important in terms of one’s identity and important in terms of the respect one is afforded.  I think I have related, before, a dinner party I attended many years ago at which the other women attempted to dismiss me on discovering  that I was merely a stay-at-home mother!  What?  Has she no brain?  No ambition?  No thought for equality?  On the contrary.  I had – and continue to have – self-esteem, dependent on and related to none of the aforementioned.  Not only do I have a brain but, thanks to my parents, I enjoyed an education second to none.  I am, however, – and have always been – an individual.  I make my own choices and one such choice I was lucky enough to be able to make was to look after/bring up my own children; to afford them the same secure childhood I was privileged to enjoy.  There is no more important job.  Commanding no salary, it is devoid of ‘perks’: no automatic ‘prestige’, no business card, no office lunches or nights out; no overseas conventions with the obligatory ‘booze cruises’ and drunken misdemeanours; no company ‘brainwashing’… etc., etc..  Instead, someone who is ‘just a mother’ is required to be selfless, caring, patient, multi-talented and responsible for the moulding of another human being.  She doesn’t have to shout from the rooftops that she is intelligent, educated, well-read and has a degree – she knows she is all that and more.  What anybody else thinks is, quite frankly, irrelevant!

Phew!  Got that off my chest.  Suffice to say, accountants, lawyers, no more than money-making ‘machines’!  Deserving of respect?  Only that earned.  Moving on …. Everything and everybody is getting a bit manic.  First of December – admittedly freezing – and Christmas songs abound.  I love them, particularly the old favourites, but it’s as though the floodgates have opened and any resistance is futile.  Money!  Money!  Money!  A time for giving but has that sentiment been buried beneath the price tag?  Most definitely.  Sad because the real magic of Christmas cannot be bought.  It is family, friends, tradition and memories.  Home?  If one is lucky but ‘home’ is where the heart is and not every house is deserving of one’s heart.  Discussing Christmas only recently, Manny admitted that those we spent at Lyndhurst were his favourite.  My childhood home, that big old house drew us all back, year after year, enveloping us in warmth and family.  It was magical.  Nothing lasts forever, though, hence the importance of memories.  My parents are gone, as is Lyndhurst, but in the words of one of my favourite songs, ‘The past has been bottled and labelled with love.’  Squeeze.

For the past three years, regular readers (ok, the ‘s’ is poetic licence!) will know that we have spent Christmas in Austria making new traditions and wonderful memories.  Truly magical, the little village of St Wolfgang nestles on the edge of the lake, from which it takes its name, beneath snow-capped mountains.  As though straight out of a fairytale – or The Sound of Music  – the pretty houses are an array of colour with their wooden shutters, balconies and window boxes as the cobbled streets glisten beneath the twinkling lights.  The little huts of the Advent Market bring the Square alive serving mugs of Gluhwein and Austrian delicacies as, wrapped up, we mingle with the locals serenaded by the brass band playing Christmas carols.  Believe me, we savour every moment.

That’s what I mean when I question the importance of ‘home’ at Christmas.  Lyndhurst, once, brought us all home but the years pass, life moves on and, sadly, bad things happen to good people.  In 2016, Austria and St Wolfgang beckoned and, together, we have found a new familiar, adopted new traditions and, instead of ‘driving home for Christmas’, we fly!  Lucky?  Rather, living for now.  Life is short and Christmas is all about family and loved ones.  Memories carry no price tag but last forever.

Enough about Christmas.  Back to the nitty gritty.  I think Ant and Dec read this!  The eagle-eyed amongst may have noticed that, following my comments about their choice of attire last week, they have upped their game.  No longer the drab navy and black uniforms, they have branched out into olive, cream, beige … and what a difference it makes.  Uplifting!  Amazing the power of the written word.

Still on television, the latest series to grip the nation seems to be Gold Digger, BBC One on a Tuesday evening.  Last week was the first episode I caught and, whilst I recognise its appeal, I found it too contrived and predictable.  The statutory black actress, the supposed best friend who ‘stole’ the husband.  Really?  Is it just me?  Isn’t this Devon?  The way it has been written, the two women, as friends, are not believable and that, to me, is crucial.  We tread such a delicate line, today, and the demand to be politically correct is ever-present but racial prejudice has many guises.  This pairing, to me, is not natural but, rather, enforced and I find that insulting.  I remember when Harry and Meghan announced their engagement, I wrote how it was upheld as some sort of victory for those of black or mixed race origin by those of black or mixed race origin.  Why?  Irrelevant. It was just a couple in love and heralding it as some sort of coup only served to promote racism.  I’m not sure if I am making myself clear?  I hope so.  My point is that I believe enforced acceptance merely hinders the natural; spotlighting something feeds rather than dispels.

At risk of further controversy, Michael Jackson …  For a while, there was debate as to whether or not his music should continue to be played on the radio and there was a noted absence.  No more.  Normal play seems to have been resumed. What of the inconsistency, though?  I suppose Gary Glitter is a convicted criminal, hence the enduring ban on playing his records, but all evidence of Jimmy Savile has been removed from the media whilst details of his heinous crimes only came to light after his death.  He was never convicted.  Why is it, then, that the allegations of James Safechuck and Wade Robson have, seemingly, been ignored?  I defy anyone who watched that two-part documentary to question the authenticity of their pleas.  Michael Jackson spent the latter part of his life defending himself against multiple claims of misappropriate behaviour involving young boys.  Yes, he was exonerated of all charges but …  Innocent until proven guilty?  One rule for one; one rule for another.  The way of the world.  The commercial value over-rides all else.

I don’t know about anyone else but I have not enjoyed this!  What happened to the mood?  The world is not a nice place and, aside from that, everyone is cold and tired.  Oh, to be a bear!  Seriously.  To hibernate underground for the entire winter, sleeping in a warm and cosy environment free from bills, the need for food shopping, chores and politics, only to emerge, in spring, svelte and raring to go … We have got it so wrong!

I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six.  Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked me for my autograph.’    Shirley Temple

That would do it.

This is Trish, signing off.