The weather outside is frightful, but I don't care because I'm sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop and a glass of wine while my Paramour makes his delicious blue cheese gnocchi and pleasant music plays. It's nearly Christmas. I don't feel very Christmassy yet, which is probably because I'm still at work - till lunchtime tomorrow - but I expect I will be feeling all festive by the time we leave tomorrow to go to spend Christmas with our dear friends.
I was feeling a bit pouty this morning (yes, I know I'd better not, but sometimes a girl can't help it) because I was sitting in my office inputting some incredibly tedious data while the whole of the rest of the world seemed to be on holiday. Then I thought about my mum, who has always advised me, when I feel like that, to count my blessings. And do you know what? It wasn't very long before I lost count.
I am such a lucky person. For a start, I live in the developed world. Yes, I know our society isn't perfect. In fact, there are lots of problems with it. But I've never had to go hungry or stay cold for more than a few hours. It seems very fashionable to gripe about 'the system', but the NHS sorted me out most efficiently when I had to have my operation last year. Again, there are problems - my experience wasn't perfect - but it was pretty damn good, all things considered. I'm healthy now; I live in a comfortable house; I have a loving family and a whole bunch of terrific friends, including you; you're one of my blessings. And the Internet, for goodness' sake! It's a miracle! I've only been using it for 10 years and already I take it for granted most of the time, but this morning I heard a song on the radio, thought 'that would be a great one for my Paramour to sing at acoustic nights,' got onto Google, found it on YouTube, and emailed him a message and the URL in less time than it takes to tell. I guess most of us do things like that, but when you stop to think about it, isn't it amazing?
And this year, I'm lucky because I look set to have a truly happy Christmas and New Year, for the first time in several years. I can't quite trust that - to some extent, I'm waiting for the bad news phone call or the climatic or domestic calamity that will pull the happiness rug from under me - but the signs are good.
Yet there's still a bittersweet quality to this winter holiday. Although it looks as if I'm going to have a terrific time with people I love, I'm well aware that others are not so fortunate. Some people I know are out of work and skint and trying to make a good Christmas for their children on very little money. Others are recently bereaved, or know they are probably facing the last Christmas with someone they love. Some people have other problems which stand between them and a good time: health problems, homelessness, job insecurity, relationship difficulties, money worries. I'm only an onion skin away from being in their position. At this time of year, for some reason, the fragile, precarious nature of the happiness and comfort I am privileged to experience is more vivid, more real than at other times. I am so aware that at any moment, a chance event could transform happiness and comfort into misery and woe - and yet perhaps that's no bad thing. It certainly helps me to appreciate the many ways in which I am such a very, very lucky person.
And on that note, as the gnocchi is ready (oops, forgot to count my Paramour, don't tell on me!), I wish you happiness and love over the winter break.