This might seem an odd title for the Advent countdown but it is a very special day on my list of Christmas activities and has become a bit of a tradition.
On 8th December 2015 my dearest friend and colleague Helen passed away after her brave fight with cancer. She was only 51 and we had worked together for 13 years side by side, no matter which office we worked in, and we were moved about many times, she sat on the left and me the right. We were affectionately known as ‘Hinge and Bracket’ and between us we administered the Legal Aid contract for the solicitor’s firm we worked for checking client’s eligibility for Legal Aid, compiling the claims and keeping the Solicitors in mind of the strict rules and compliance.
We both had a love of the job and although we were like chalk and cheese in every way possible we soon became firm friends, supporting each other through our many ups and downs. Although we worked hard there was always time for lots of fun and we could often be found with tears of laughter rolling down our cheeks and if anyone in the office needed cheering up or had a problem they found their way to us, we always made time to listen.
Christmas was a very jovial time at work with Helen and when the firm moved to larger premises with more individual offices we each decorated our own room, some better than others. We had a large and spacious office and together we hung a selection of shiny gold and silver snowflakes and stars from the ceiling. The effect was much admired by our colleagues and so the idea came to us to award ourselves First Prize and make a certificate which, to everyone’s amusement, we blatantly displayed on our door! Some of our other colleagues thought there was actually a competition going on that they had not heard about.
Our good friends Miss T and J were situated a little way down the corridor from us and shared a very compact room no bigger than a shoe box and in comparison their meagre effort was a very sad looking lopsided Christmas tree, sparsley decorated with a few trimmings and it had obviously seen better days, so we sneakily taped a ‘Could do better’ certificate to their door – of course they knew it was us but thought it very funny.
Feeling that their room needed jollying up a bit more Helen and I went to the Pound shop at lunchtime and spent a fiver on the most tasteless décor we could find (not difficult in the Pound shop), which included an oversized tacky banner, a battery operated door plaque with Merry Christmas that flashed on and off and a full length door curtain made of shimmering multi-coloured strips of Lametta.
We sneaked in early the next morning and proceeded to glam up their office, streaming the oversized banner in zig zag fashion across their very low ceiling and completing the look with large dangly baubles. When we had finished it looked like a bad version of Santa’s Grotto complete with a singing Santa, positioned just outside the glittery door curtain, so he would be triggered into song as soon as anyone passed through.
We then went back to our own office and waited. It wasn’t long before everyone started arriving and we kept hearing the shrieks of laughter down the corridor. Of course they all knew instantly who would be the culprits but we kept a straight face and denied all knowledge – it was the best £5 we had ever spent and somehow Miss T and J managed to work the rest of the week in their ‘grotto’ and even the Management saw the funny side, though Singing Santa did have restricted hours after the first day for all our sanity.
After Helen died, Christmas at work was never the same for me; the laughter and spirit in the office seemed to die with her.
As many long term readers of my blog may know, in remembrance on this day each year I take some flowers round to her mum, nothing elaborate just a small posy of flowers that I make up myself to say she is not forgotten.
We have a little chat and a catch up and remember Helen together. Whilst I am carefully assembling and wrapping the flowers I am often deep in thought remembering all the people in my life that are no longer with us this Christmas.
I might shed a tear or two but it is not a sad day – I am remembering all those happy memories.