So that was Christmas. The inedible Christmas cake that crumbled like an ancient monument. The family get-together marred, as always, by the flawed communication habits that we can never seem to change. We all know where the buttons are and how to push them. This year there was an uninvited guest, that bastard cancer, hanging around, affecting everything we did and said. Then there were the friends who visited, bringing with them cherries and welcome laughter and stories of Christmas in countries far away.

Literally every man and his dog came to visit. I confess I was so tired that I would rather have paid for the people to go to a hotel and just looked after the dogs instead. There was the retired greyhound who spent his racing life in the country and now lives at the coast, where he always seems lethargic. Turns out he missed the inland life. He was more animated here than I’ve ever seen him. He  suddenly loved going for walks. Then a husky arrived with his people. He patrolled every boundary and spent a lot of time going up and downstairs to check where everyone was. He was given a piece of toast one morning and thought it was so special that it had to be buried in the garden straight away. We watched him hide it, deftly covering it with earth then using his nose to shovel leaves on top of it. I was sure I’d be able to dig it up again, having watched where he put it, but he’d done such a good job that I couldn’t find it.

When did Christmas become a festival of food? There was so much preparation, so much clearing up. I felt like Cinderella stuck in the kitchen. More than once I considered becoming a vegetarian (no turkey to cook) Buddhist (no Christmas) and going on a retreat (no noise). I soon realised that the usual quiet at my house is not what people are used to. Some couldn’t bear it, and the blasted TV went on. As an introvert who needs periods of quiet and solitude to function, the hardest thing for me was the inability to leave my guests and disappear for half an hour or so, to go somewhere quiet and rest.

Rest is not much valued in our society. In a culture where busy is the norm, rest is seen as somehow lazy, indulgent, selfish. We have to allow ourselves to rest. The only time when we as a nation truly condone rest is now, in the small space of time from Christmas to the first week of January. This is the time to stop multitasking, time to drop the “should” from each day, time to do as we please. That’s exactly what I intend to do. I hope you can too. When I began to tidy up after the last guests had gone, I found that their daughter had left me a gift on the bookshelf: a butterfly’s wing, a small, quiet, pretty reminder of the importance of floating lightly through the next few days. I wish you a peaceful new year. Have a good rest, won’t you? I’m sure you’ve earned it.