When I was a small boy, my parents used to take us all to see Auntie Stella who was one of the Daughters of Jesus. Their Convent in Abbey Wood is not far from where I now live but alas, some time ago it was closed and taken over by the local authority. Our visits included a quite formal lunch after which my parents would talk serious stuff with my Great Aunt while we children used to go to the gym and play football, climb on the equipment and generally mess around.
I am delighted to be able to offer something a little like this for the families of my sisters. Next to my presbytery (through a connecting door) is a small hall where the children can run around. Each year, between Christmas and New Year, they come over to Blackfen for a party. This year was particularly hectic for me since I have only just got back from the Faith conference. This morning, after having stayed up rather late doing the newsletter and entering the Mass intentions, I went shopping for various comestibles for adults and children (I had the foresight to buy the drinks last week.)
Praise the Lord, there was enough food - I also managed also to get people to help me out with some of the chocolates, biscuits and wine that I have been given over the past few days.
We had a great time with little Lucy (my sister's grand-daughter) stealing the show in her Snow White costume. There was a chance to catch up with Mary and Bobby whom I married in France earlier this year, to talk to Chris about various matters philosophical and technical, to hear about Waggy's European stage tour, to meet David's new friend Debbie, to learn about Declan's latest philosophical interests and generally to share news and crack jokes with my amazing extended family.
A perk of being a celibate host is that I get to give out the presents. This is fun on a level that never changes. I make jokes that Uncle Tom made at my expense many decades ago, feigning not to be able to read the labels on the presents for the younger ones, and then helping them to rip the wrapping paper off with frantic anticipation. I love these gatherings with the opportunity to keep up with my family. I think they also help to keep my priestly feet firmly on the ground.