When we first went to the forest for our tree that is all there was - lots of trees, but now each year there is something else as well - stalls selling sweets, then Shire horses pulling traps, a small grotto for Father Christmas with a queue of children grizzling impatiently, then another year hot potato shops and sausages and chips...until this year there was live music, falconry displays, a chocolate fountain, a marquee with local produce - cheese, meat, alcohol, jams, chocolate, fruit and vegetables - as well as the usual display of Christmas decorations. I am not sure I like this: inane music piped into loudspeakers fixed onto trees, car park attendants wearing ridiculous hats and fixed smiles and everyone buying and selling as hard as they can, not missing an opportunity. When we first came to get our tree here about fifteen years ago it was a peaceful place. You could hear dry twigs snap underfoot, there was a chance to see something alive that was sharing the world with us - a squirrel or a mouse, but now everything hides away, shy of the noise.
Still, Christmas changes and develops, nothing stays the same, and so many things remind me of how this Christmas is different from the rest: presents for just one brother instead of two, a card that says 'Season's Greetings' for my brother's widow which I start to write then put it aside for days unable to finish it because for once in my life I don't know what to say, and so it goes on and on...But each time it hurts a little less until I have to tell someone else and it seems just as raw as it ever did.