In the kitchen, the nine lessons and carols from King’s comes on. The high, pure voice of the lone chorister starts to sing. I miss my mother so much I cannot breathe. I cry for her.
There, I think, after five minutes, that’s done. I should really have written it down on my list. Let the emotion out, I think. Let it run around and feel the wind in its hair. It does no good if it is kept inside.
I go to the village for the last of the errands. ‘Happy Christmas, happy Christmas,’ I say, to my favourite ladies in the shop and to the kind woman in the chemist. The Christmas lights twinkle gently against the indigo sky. Children in festive hats are literally jumping for joy. I smile, thinking that I am not jumping for joy for tomorrow but for the day after. For the lovers of racing, Boxing Day is the real Christmas day and this year there will be the old king up against the young prince and nobody can tell who will come out on top and it will be a clash of the titans.
I drive back along the lime avenue where families are out walking their dogs. The grandparents are there and fathers with tiny infants hoisted onto their shoulders and mothers corralling the canines.
Down at the field, the mares are very happy because the kind farmer has appeared like Father Christmas to fill their shed with hay. That is their best present and they are content. I rub their sweet spots and murmur in their dear ears and smell their beautiful, honest, earthy scent.
I take the dogs out along the burn, where they rush and race and bark hysterically at the resigned old heron, who flaps off in faint indignation. The sky is translucent as the gloaming falls and, above the hill, there is the evening star. It is so glittery and magnificent that at first I think it must be a spy satellite. But no, it is its true self, as eternal as the ages. I stare at it for a long time.
I’ve got my iPod with me and I stick the earphones in and decide to have a song. I don’t want Dean Martin singing Let it Snow, so I put on The Rolling Stones instead, singing You Can’t Always Get What You Want. I belt out the words, into the still evening air. As I walk over the meadow I see a light burning and suddenly remember that I have new neighbours. I hope very much that their windows are not open. I imagine them peering out into the half-light, to see a lunatic in a strange hat bawling ‘I sold my soul to Mr Jimmy.’ I suddenly can’t stop laughing. Poor neighbours. They have no idea.