CHRISTMAS is ready to swoop – my favourite time of year.
But this one will be shaded with sadness as it’s the last one we’ll spend in the family home.
Ma Goulding is selling up and moving on, so by 2012 a new clan will be in situ.
We moved there 15 years ago out of the blue. My dad came in one night and said we’d bought the house down the road and would we like to come and have a look?
To the 14-year-old me it seemed like a palace. I had never lived in a house with dimmer switches and my parents’ tiny walk-in wardrobe was a source of serious pride.
A few days later we were carrying the rabbit hutch round with all our other belongings and we became official residents of number 64.
Not long after I made the wise jump from village paper girl to waitress/barmaid in the local.
I worked there for years and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
Imagine chatting to your mates all night, drinking gin and tonic and eating chips for supper – and then getting paid for it.
It was absolutely golden and our landlord was the funniest man ever.
He loved a good laugh and used to do his version of the Riverdance when he was well oiled.
I’d wander home sometime in the early hours, stumble through the front door and say hello to my dad who used to sit up to make sure I got home safe.
Then I’d crawl under the three duvets on my bed and fall asleep in a haze of booze and tab fumes.
I’d wake the next day, hear the radio downstairs and the smell of toast would drift up the stairs.
There are so many other happy memories – seeing my first car on the drive, watching hedgehogs amble across the back lawn, sitting in the back room with the telly on and chatting, a million birthday teas, roast dinners and bacon sandwiches in the kitchen, meeting my nephew for the first time.
And of course, some sad ones too – losing dad to cancer nine years ago was something I never thought could happen until it did.
I cleared out my room last year which was sad and funny. I found letters and photos passed between school friends and lots of dubious ‘fashion’ like faux fur jackets, skirts so short they made me blush and snakeskin stilletoe boots – eek!
What was loveliest was finding notes from friends who are still in my life now.
There were stacks of letters from London Lucie when she went off to Brazil for a year, notes from my uni friend who would get me home safe after I’d drank the bar dry. My favourite one said: “Hey! You were pretty far gone last night. I put you to bed (nothing happened) Don’t call work – I rang your boss and told him you had food poisoning!!!” and many horsey birthday cards from my friend Emma, who I met at the stables when we were 13.
I am 29 now, and well aware that all good things must come to an end, so this Christmas I’ll be savouring every second before I hand over my keys.