I stand stock still in amazement as I approach the post office counter. There is no - and I repeat, no - queue!
can’t believe it!” I tell the young lad behind the counter, “There’s no queue!” He looks across the counter, as if needing to check the veracity of my statement, then proceeds to tell me that there have been queues all round the
shop since opening time this morning - as if he needs to apologise for the fact that, for This Moment Only, he isn’t rushed off his feet.
On my departure
from home, armed with several small brown packets, one belated birthday card and a clutchful of Christmas cards, I told Mr B that - in the words of gallant Captain Oates - I might be some time. On my last three forays to the post office, I had queued for the
best part of twenty minutes before reaching the head of the queue snaking round the aisles. This meant exercising a considerable amount of patience, a heavy preventative dose of Christmas spirit, and trying to avoid looking too closely at the shelves groaning
with seasonal goodies, lest I be tempted - through sheer boredom - to buy some flashing reindeer ear-rings, a Santa’s Little Helper hat and a white chocolate snowman. Fortunately queues consist of people, so there were plenty of opportunities to strike
up Meaningful Conversations. I have found that the question “So will you be home for Christmas?” is an excellent starter for ten, as Wotsisname on University Challenge ( you know, the one who isn’t lovely Bamber Gascoigne of days gone by)
likes to say.
Because I am the only person at the counter, the sales assistant clearly feels able to engage in more conversation with me, over and above the usual
“First or Second Class?” enquiry. Have I, he wants to know, put up my Christmas tree yet? Now this is a question which can reasonably be answered with a simple yes or no and, had a queue been forming behind me, I hope I would have restrained myself.
As it was I find myself explaining at length that I am awaiting the arrival of Team Baldwin on Wednesday so that I can send one or all of them up into the loft to recover All Things Christmassy which have spent the last year up there, waiting for their magic
moment to arrive.
My new Best Friend Forever nods, sagely, only interrupting my long-winded story, to ask what is inside my brown parcels. I explain they contain
nothing more dangerous than Christmas tree decorations on their way to various grandchildren, some of whom, at least, will be awaiting them with anticipation.
leads us onto an animated discussion about decorating the tree and whether we favour the traditional - as in red and gold - or something more, well, edgy like silver and blue. My post office mate confesses that he is of the traditional mould and his tree is
decorated thus. No tinsel, though, as he hates tinsel. It seems rather a harsh verdict on the sparkly stuff.
Lest I may be seeking an explanation for why
this very modern young man goes All Traditional at Christmas, he muses that this is probably a result of having been brought up, and so influenced by, his grandmother. We grandmothers have a lot to answer for.
My oldest grandson, Jack, is probably thinking much the same thing, especially when my birthday Banner arrived this morning. “Jack is twenty,” it reads, inarguably. Well, you can’t argue with a banner, now
can you? I expect my very grown-up grandson sighed when he saw it, knowing that his mother, Youngest of the Darling Daughters, would insist on stringing it up across the doors leading into the conservatory and - even worse - taking his photograph standing
underneath it to send me. His father, obviously feeling his son’s pain, has rearranged the letters in his customary fashion, so that the banner now reads: “Jac kist Wenty.” Who Wenty is, nobody knows.
Dear Jack is far too kind to make a protest. In a few days time he will arrive at ours for more Birthday Shenanigans. I expect he will bring his banner with him. Meantime, he heads over to the home
of the Rampaging Rascals who, like the (Not So Very Little) Welsh Boys, see him as not so much a cousin, more a Hero. He sits on the sofa, with the Trio all around him singing their own unique version of Happy Birthday after which all three blow out his candles
before he can draw breath. I know this because his mother sent me a video - it was (almost) like being there.
Happy birthday, dear Jack. Despite all attempts by
your grandmother (that’ll be me, then) to influence your life, you are, indeed, the best of boys.
And I should know.