1. Seeing my children and grandchildren
And I mean properly – not through a glass darkly or standing shivering in sub zero temperatures as we meet for a fun walk outside with the grandkids crying with cold despite Nanny’s efforts to thaw them out with hot chocolate. One of my children lives in Amsterdam and I’m glad when I said goodbye to her a year ago that we didn’t know what was round the corner. Neither of us thought to say ‘Well there may be a global pandemic coming which will put paid to international travel for the foreseeable so we’d better have a long goodbye and an extra special teary hug.’ At that stage the pandemic was a couple of sentences on the Business pages of the Times and the politicians’ rhetoric was it would never make it over the Indian Ocean.
2. Seeing the sea
My husband has just looked over my shoulder as I’ve typed that we hadn’t had a holiday by the sea for two years and wanted to know if our last holiday before Covid didn’t count. We went on a cruise to Norway and he commented that we wouldn’t have seen much sea, what with sailing from Southampton, across the North Sea, up and down a few fjords, calling in at several coastal towns, back across the North Sea and then up the Channel back to Southampton. I told him that he was missing the point, and I mean I want a seaside holiday where I feel the sand between my toes and eat a Cadbury’s 99 and go for a freezing cold paddle. The ports of Norway didn’t offer any of that although they did a brisk line in smoked fish and knitted socks.
Remembering the Norwegian cruise has made me reflect on the whole living simply thing of being a Franciscan. I wasn’t a postulant then, but what would I do now, I wonder? However my husband says that he’s not Franciscan and he wants to go on another cruise. He says he could always see if Deidre up the road is free if I don’t feel able to come. (Joke).
3. Meeting friends of a coffee/beer down the pub
I put that second bit in for my husband who pointed out that my latte in Truffles equates to his pint in the Holly Bush. To be fair, we did manage one or two socially distanced social occasions when the virus retreated for a while last year, shouting to one another at a distance of two metres, but it wasn’t the same. You had to self-consciously talk about things which you didn’t mind the whole place listening in on. You couldn’t share what these new tablets were doing down below, or the finer details of the row you’d just had with the Tax Office.
It’s these interactions which make the world go round. Other people. A problem shared is a problem halved so they say (whoever ‘they’ are but they seem to know a lot). There are so many whole problems going around at the moment that need to be divvied up – we’ll keep the coffee shops and pubs packed to bursting for five years when we can all go back. Good job.
4. Having people in the house
My husband and I (sound like the Queen) have six children between us and six grand-children so with partners and passing friends, there could be the equivalent of a couple of football teams around the dinner table pre-Covid. We’ve even had to convert the garage into a dining room to accommodate them all. But we love it. We like having people round, not for a cheffy-designer-bits-of-blobs-on the-plate kind of meal where you end up being so hungry that you have to fill up on a peanut butter sandwich after they’ve all gone, but a vat of home-made-curry-type-of-affair where everyone digs in and there’s enough left over for breakfast, lunch and supper for the following week.
I think offering hospitality is quite Franciscan. Making others feel welcome and comfortable and offering a listening ear and a convivial space for them to be who they need to be. A space which is warm and cosy and inviting. I enjoy doing that. A space which isn’t so perfect that visitors are not holding their breath as they juggle a glass of red and a mince pie. Although our carpet has seen better days and could really do with an upgrade but it isn’t worth it until all our children have finished procreating and everyone is out of nappies. Could be some time.
5. Singing a hymn in church
Now at the moment, we aren’t allowed to sing in church in case the virus hops onto the back of a lustily bellowed ‘Guide me O thou great Jehovah’ and does the rounds. This is hard for a seasoned choirgirl like me. To be fair, I have sung a couple of hymns in my cathedral church as part of their Voluntary Choir and it was like all my Christmases and birthdays had come at once. But that is finished for now. We do follow our service on You Tube at home though, and the words of the hymns, sung by our professional Lay Clerks are helpfully put up on the screen. Then we have the obligatory conversation which goes something like this:
Husband: ‘I don’t know this one.'
Me: ‘You do. You’ll know it when its starts.’
Him: ‘Don’t think I will.’
Me: ‘Told you.’
Francis was a musician. He was something of a singer and a lute player and so I’m in good company. And of course, he wrote his ‘Canticle of the Creatures’ which is an awesome piece and one which I love singing in various guises. He’d have been pretty hacked off I think about not being able to sing hymns although it was a lot warmer in Assisi so they would probably have had services outside. Just saying.
So those are the five simple pleasures I’m looking forward to this year -sea, kids, coffees, suppers and singing. At the moment I’d be overjoyed to settle for one of them.
What are yours?