Christmas has been at my father’s house in Surrey; a big gathering of siblings, and fine meals by stepmother, big log fires, party games and good long walks, and “helping my father with the horses” all part of old rituals. Sophie and I really enjoying long dog walks after the rather too familiar patterns of our walks in Cambridge, and just being away from our labours (although I did smuggle my briefcase down), one walk is with the new pony Magic, who my father keeps admirably in control as the pony is ridden by all but the smallest grandchildren one after another.
My daughters took the collection at the Christmas Day service, in the church of St Nicholas Compton with one of the finest early chancels. I also introduce the family to a new party game, Ex Libris, which I think I read in the London Library magazine, where you read out a novel’s title, author and the blurb, and everyone writes down a suggested first line, which are read out with the real one and then people try and guess the real one; you get a point for guessing the right one, and if anyone chooses yours, you get a point too.
It is unreal that my mother has died this year, who seemed so full of beans and plans this time last year and a sense of loss is always with me. I keep expecting to hear her voice on the phone, or get a card in the post with some new thought or plan written out in haste. I am still in awe of her gift for friendship and for lighting up a room. No words are right. I had a melancholy time too looking at boxes of my late grandparents’ books about to be dispersed from the cottage where my grandfather lived during his recent final decline, wishing I could hang on to them, but knowing I don’t have the space.
I take half a dozen, which remind me of my grandmother in particular and encourage my father to keep the best equestrian titles if he can. It seems odd that some people live to be 90 and others not. I only become close to my grandmother when she was in her late 70s, an age my own mother will never be.
Read the new biography of Somerset Maugham; Selina Hastings is a terrific biographer, and I admire Somerset Maugham as a writer – whatever he was like as a person. I a curious book by Malcolm Gladwell on the story of success, luck with tremendous hard work emerges as his great theory. Well, I feel I have done the hard work bit . . . Let’s see what 2010 will bring. Good things, I hope.