A Christmas Carol

We had a brilliant Christmas in the Howlett house. As usual, I didn't work between 24/12 and the new year. Instead I spent some quality time with my family. I'm a very lucky man to be able to do so.

To remind me just how lucky I am, this Christmas, a series of unfortunate events left me with the sense I was being sent a message from above.

23rd December: I attended Karen's step dad's funeral. He was 62. A timely example of what alcohol and tobacco abuse can reduce the human body to. The funeral wasn't very well attended at all.

Christmas Eve: we woke to find our boiler had stopped working. I've known for months we needed a part replacing but didn't realise it would suddenly break or that it might happen on Christmas Eve in the middle of a unseasonably-cold spell. Despite Karen declaring "Christmas is ruined!!" we managed to get hot water and heating back just after lunchtime. It only cost forty pounds (including part) thanks to a plumber with a conscience.

Christmas Day: I pulled a muscle in my lower back while putting my pants on. You may well laugh but I was in agony for about 6 days after and was unable to dress myself or do much by way of helping Karen with the kids. Simple things like getting out of a chair took forever and bending over was impossible. You don't realise how much you use your back until you damage it. Especially when you've got 3 little ones.

What did I learn? Not to take for granted the fact I am alive, surrounded by friends and family, healthy, able-bodied and have a warm house to live in.

A few days after Christmas I was at the local park pushing the kids (as far as my back would allow) on the swings when an elderly gentleman (with a white beard IIRC) walked past and said "You're a very lucky man!". It was like something out of a cheesy Hollywood moment. You couldn't have made it up.

Saying you'll appreciate how lucky you are is easily said. Actually being appreciative and not taking things for granted is much harder. I'm going to try though.

Here's to 2011.


    • avatar
    • Caroline
    • Tue 4 Jan 2011 05:28 AM

    Oh dear I'm not laughing about your back - I did the same with an over-zealous arm-stretching yawn (of all things!) last Wednesday. That was a 5 day recovery as well...

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 4 Jan 2011 05:43 AM

      Not funny is it!

      With my 36th birthday less than a week away it's a good reminder that I'm definitely not getting any younger.

    • avatar
    • Paul
    • Tue 4 Jan 2011 05:34 AM

    £40 for a boiler repair on Christmas Eve ! You are indeed very lucky!

    Hope your back is better now.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 4 Jan 2011 05:41 AM

      Don't I know it! At first I thought "This is going to be very expensive!"

      The boiler was fitted about 5 years ago by a friend of a friend of a friend. He works for a large "heating engineers" company but does household jobs for holiday money. Luckily he wrote his name/number on the wall next to boiler. Even luckier his number hadn't changed and he answered at 8:30 am on Xmas eve!

      Apparently he squeezed us in between calling at about 10 other houses to make sure people had heating for Christmas. In his words he "felt sorry" for people and almost felt ashamed to ask us for £40. We gave him a nice bottle of wine too. Kind of restores your faith in humanity when people are like that and when you can't help but feel (especially at this time of year) that every bastard in the world is after for you money!

      If we'd cold-called a plumber from the Yellow Pages it could have cost hundreds and hundreds of pounds.

    • avatar
    • Darren
    • Tue 4 Jan 2011 05:46 AM

    Christmas and New Year coincides with IBM's Q4, so if you're in the sales organisation time off is a no-no. One could consider that a bit of a bummer.

    But I look at it this way... a couple of years ago, just before Christmas, a colleague's daughter died of a brain tumour. Anything else pales into insignificance. The weather, traffic, having to work right up to close of play on Christmas Eve, all that stuff... if you have your health (and can ignore non-fatal stuff) and your family, and all is well with them, we are indeed lucky.

    By the way, that plumber must have been blessed with some season-of-goodwill feelings. Either that or he has some dementia problem making him believe 1960s plumbing prices are still in force.

    • avatar
    • Palmi
    • Tue 4 Jan 2011 06:55 AM

    am sorry to hear about you trouble over xmas , i KNOW what is like to pull a muscle . its Not good at all and it REALLY is a wakeuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup call on " we are not getting any younger" On the heating issue we are so spoild over there as we have Geothermal heating - From my time growing up in Ohio freasing my ass off i know that feeling.

    more on Geothermal heating


    take care Jake

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 4 Jan 2011 07:11 AM

      I often wonder what it will be like here in the UK in 10 or 20 years. Houses like ours (Victorian era and +100 years old) are ridiculously under-insulated and with the increasing price of natural gas, on which our heating relies, I dread to think what the bills will get like. Makes me think about selling, buying a plot of land and building a flat-pack house from the continent with minimal heating needs.

      Show the rest of this thread

  1. Good going on the plumber, whats his number lol? I will pay for a taxi for him and it will still be cheaper than most! I left my boiler knowing it had "an issue", and when it finally gave up it was over a grand and cold visitors that weekend.

    Did the back thing myself last year. Being the first time "that" had ever happened to me, you do worry about age catching up etc

    Glad you had a great Christmas anyway.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 4 Jan 2011 08:12 AM

      I'll see him again soon as he said he ought to service the boiler. At the time he installed it he told me not to bother insuring/servicing it as he's always there on-call (for free, in effect). Now, 5 years on, he says I ought to let him give it the once-over.

      If you like I can ask if he'd come that far out?

    • avatar
    • Janez Štupar
    • Wed 5 Jan 2011 01:59 PM

    Regarding your back...

    You might want to exercise a bit. That is sort of insurance against all kinds of maladies.

    Just a little bit core exercising (back and stomach) will get you out of many troubles - you just need to do 20-30 reps per front and back.

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