“I’ve finished, Mrs Jellywoman.”
I scoot across the ICT room to see Chiyedza’s work. Although she only started using the computers a couple of months ago, she has made a jolly good job of the picture which will end up on the front of her Christmas card. She chose the angel outline; then added colours with the Fill tool. Her cherub has a dashing green dress and is winging its way through a purple sky. Like Chiyedza, it has gorgeous mahogany brown skin.
“That’s beautiful,” I tell her. “Let me show you how to use the Spray tool. You could use it to add tinsel, perhaps, or stars, or snow.”
Job done, I scoot over to help Ezra. His Father Christmas has a yellow face and blue hair, so all good children this year will have their presents delivered by Marge Simpson. That beard is fooling no-one, Marge – don’t flutter your eyelashes at me.
Up against the clock as always; it’s time to save and print the work. When I go back to Chiyedza, I find that her angel now has sprinkles of tan coloured spray on its face.
“Is that angel dust?” I ask. Chiyedza looks at me scornfully. Fair point. I try again. “Tinsel? Snow? Just a general sparkle?”
Chiyedza gives another withering look and adopts a tone of voice appropriate for the deeply stupid.
“My angel,” she explains with exaggerated patience, “has got chicken pox.”
The thing about working in a school at Christmas time is that it is so manically busy; what with the nativity plays and the carol services and the decorations to be made and cards to be made and calendars to be made, not to mention end of term assessments, reeling and writhing and fainting in coils, that getting ready for Christmas outside school is put on hold. At the end of next week, we’ll be taking down the tree, the decorations and the cards and hey – that’s Christmas done for another year!
Except we have to do it again, in that strange parallel universe that is Not School. Apparently the first time didn’t count. And yet again –yet again – it is almost the last date for postage and I haven’t written any cards.
This year, I was so determined to get the cards done early. I even bought them in half term: lovely Parkinson’s UK cards with a great Quentin Blake picture on the front. They sit on my bedroom shelf now, calling to me. But I fear I am avoiding the task even more than usual because, frankly, I’m not sure what to write.
We’re not full-on Round Robin people, ActorLaddie and I. Such letters have the feel of a long-distance game of Top Trumps. So, Jocasta got Grade Two oboe this year, did she? Well, my nephew, LegoBoy, got Grade Three piano and he appeared on TV looking for his hat. Sebastian is studying at the Royal College of Music? Well my niece, Rezza, made a cat-suit for Angelina Jolie (or as Ma will have it – Angela Jolly.) Enough. I’ll tell you where the priests are hiding.
But I do, generally, put a couple of sentences in the cards about how things are going. Like you, I expect, we exchange cards with ex-colleagues and friends. People we no longer see regularly but with whom we want to keep in touch. We’ve already opened quite a few which share key bits of news and hope we are keeping well.
So do I mention the Parkinson’s? If I do, does it look like attention seeking? But if I don’t mention something that has been that mind-blowingly significant in my life, is there any point at all in that particular friendship?