Went for a run this morning and I can’t think of a better way to start Christmas. Whilst my wife and elder daughter went to church, I ran alongside the canal. In our own way each of us were contemplative and felt in touch with the wider world - before we got down to the serious business of opening presents.
My run felt fresh. There were few people about - the odd dog walker and some couples out for a stroll - so I was determined to greet all of them. This is not my normal behaviour as us southerners are trained at an early age to avoid all eye contact and act as if we are invisible. I was thus not cheery and effusive but even my limited greeting was a bit too much for some people. Others though were really warm and that made it feel like Christmas day.
Down by the canal there were some narrow boats with smoke coming from their stoves and the smell of the burning coal was quite evocative. Open coal fires are now a rarity so the smell takes me right back to my early life. Even beyond that as I thought of early photographs of the canals and industrial towns, with smoke coming from a mass of chimneys and a black pall. From a few canal boats the smell can be nostalgic but it also remind us of how quality is now o much better. (I say this of course from Hemel Hempstead, which had an enormous black cloud of smoke overhead for a good few days).
There were other things that heightened the reality of the run. A woman dressed as an elf loading presents into a car made me smile, seeing kids out on new bicycles was just how it should be and the peeling of the church bells as I returned to the High Street brought everything together.
To all of you who read this have a very happy Christmas and to all of you who have posted comments in the past I would like to say how much I have appreciated them.