In the dark at Christmas

Christmas decorations


It’s been less than a week, but it feels like an age since Before Christmas. Probably much more so if you have been struggling with the floods.

The end of the year is traditionally a time for reflection, usually accompanied by fever, sore throat and coughing, but this year only daughter three seems to have been affected so far, although the cat has gone and got fleas and the house looks like it has undergone a severe bout of flu. Too much reflection is never a good thing, though, so in the spirit of trying to avoid reflection, I have been taking the kids on a series of walks. The only problem is that, being that one of them is a teenager recovering from GCSE mocks, we are never ready to go out till around 3.30pm.

So far we have been on three torchlight walks through the mud. The first one was on Christmas Day. Daughter one refused to come, saying she had done enough exercise already just by getting up. She has been staying up late watching films like Dial M for Murder. All the good films seem to be on at around midnight. This has made life fairly difficult for Santa because daughter one’s average going to sleep time has been around 2am while only son’s wake-up time on Christmas morning was 5am. This meant Santa was ready to crash out of Christmas at around 11am.

Anyway, in a bid to wake myself up, I decided to take daughters two and three and the torch from the car for a walk in the dark at around 4pm. Daughters two and three are very much up for this kind of “adventure”. Daughter three was feeling a bit better plus she wanted to record some footage with her new video camera. We were okay in the bits with houses and flashing lights, but a fairly large section of the walk was in pitch blackness through mud. Birds fluttered from trees, dogs barked, someone thought they spotted a fox. It felt a bit like the Hunger Games, but with tinsel.

The next day we decided to go for a walk with the whole family, minus daughter one who was focusing on how to make giant baked beans out of the middle of Kinder eggs and daughter three’s old orange shorts. The mocks may be over, but GCSE art hangs over us like a glowering cloud. We were better prepared for this second outing since Santa had given my partner a rather fetching head lamp thing from Poundland so he can see where he is going when he goes out jogging. We felt confident enough to attempt a longer route through the mud. We returned totally caked in mud.

Day three dawned and my partner was off to Spain to see his family. Daughter three had, by this point, decided she was going to be the next Spielberg, although her video camera currently only records two minutes worth of film at a time. She had plotted an entire thriller and called auditions for the various parts. I was up against daughter two for the part of Poppy, the “girlie girl” who inevitably meets an untimely end. Auditions took place in the local family pub after a round of free refills. Interestingly, daughter two played Poppy as a character from TOWIE while I went for what I will call a more Shakespearean style. Charitably, daughter three said I’d got the part and daughter two could be Meg, Poppy’s friend, instead. Only son was detective and daughter one was the murderer who wears a Spiderman mask and is called Pete.

Only son had been keen to go for a run through Epping Forest since before Christmas and the previous night’s walk had only whetted his appetite. Helpfully, he had packed his Iron Man backpack with a notebook and pencil in case he wanted to write his thoughts down during the run. Daughter three suggested we could do some filming in Epping Forest. It was 4.30pm. To the strains of only son’s new One Direction CD, we headed into the darkness of Epping Forest, scene of every Eastenders murder.

We had the car torch and the Iron Man backpack so felt totally prepared. Daughter three let the camera roll as daughter one loomed up behind me. She made us do the scene about 20 times. My line was “Before you kill me can you just tell me who you are? [Gasps and screams] Pete….” I was a bit worried that people from the nearby pub might come to my rescue if I screamed too loudly. Only son had taken out his notebook to write his thoughts, though he couldn’t see anything. After about 10 minutes the car torch began to fade. “That won’t be much good in an emergency,” I muttered. Daughter one got out her phone which has a torch app for just this sort of occasion. We headed back home. Daughter three checked the footage. She’d forgotten to put on the sound. I fear we could be re-recording at new year.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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