New Year’s Eve gets off to a reluctant start...

Oxford Mail: Peter Unsworth Peter Unsworth

Is it just me or have you found the Christmas/new year break to be confusing? In particular the period from Boxing Day until New Year’s Day seems to have been filled with nondescript days that had no bearing on the usual scheme of things.

Not helping was the decision to play only football Premier League fixtures on Saturday and scheduling the football league games on the Sunday seemed strange.

Monday seemed to be a non-event, while Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, appeared reluctant to start. As the clock struck 9am, there were only 11 pedestrians between Carfax and The Queen’s College in High Street. I counted ’em! The only drama came when a young woman turned on her heels to recover a new, self-rolled cigarette she had dropped in one of the entries to the Covered Market. Her face bore a life or death expression.

The middle-aged couple from London, nearing the end of the three-day break, were unimpressed with Oxford. They made a point of telling me so. Everywhere was closed; they were even unable to get into the Old Schools Quadrangle, as the gates were locked. My suggestion that they could probably have St Mary’s Church to themselves was no consolation. “We’re not into churches,” said the woman as she rattled the stout gates opposite Hertford College.

Other ideas were rejected, so I headed for Cornmarket and the Lush cosmetics store where cheerfulness is guaranteed. Even here there was a ‘down side’. One of the long-serving girls, Miranda, was on her last day; she is leaving to start her own business. You don’t find smiles like hers every day.

I drove home. A letter on the doormat did nothing to brighten my day. It was from the Churchill Hospital informing me that an already re-arranged appointment for mid-January had been postponed to early March. I phoned the hospital to ask why. The unimpressive explanation for both changes was something to do with lists being cancelled and doctors booking holidays.

But I refuse to let 2014 approach on a dull note. As I returned to my car, a young mum, mobile phone clamped to her ear, was trying one-handed to control her 20-month-old daughter whose heart was set on testing her new colourful wellingtons in a puddle. Not for the first time in my career as a disruptive granddad, I encouraged her. Mum broke off her call and smiled. “Are you going to give your new friend a sweet?” she asked her daughter. I was handed a wool-covered wine gum from a tiny gloved hand. A sweet has never tasted so nice.

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