I’m posting early because I have an exciting afternoon ahead – it’s our NW reader meet-up and I’m so glad it’s here to bring light into January. So how’s your month going? Chilly isn’t it? I think I’d rather have it this way than just damp and grey though. There’s something special about this time of year when the earth seems to be sleeping until you look more closely and see the shoots starting to come through, signs that soon everything will begin again and good times lie ahead. As promised, it’s Midlife lately – a catch up today. We haven’t had one for a while so it includes a throwback to Christmas (sorry) although I didn’t take a lot of photos so that shouldn’t take too long. Let me take you through a month when we plunged headlong back into family life and then just as abruptly out again – which left us with our usual mixed reactions of jubilation (Mal) and wistfulness (me).

Midlife lately – Christmas 2022 recap

Retrieving the youngest

I’m starting here in late December when I’d logged off for the year. The youngest was confident that despite the train strikes and bad weather, he’d ‘just be lucky’ (one of his favourite phrases) and make his way home without a problem.  We were out picking up a few bits when we had a plaintive phone call from the station in Leeds saying he’d been told there was no way home. So we set off to retrieve him and I can see from my face here that I was going down with the virus everyone had.

Midlife lately

Jaeger Original boyfriend coat (past season); Boden dress (past season); White Stuff boots (past season)

His student house was filled with an end of term ennui – they’d clearly all run out of steam and were ready to go home. As we walked in we were greeted with the remains of the Christmas dinner that they’d cooked together on the Monday. I should point out that it was now Friday and it was still there, in all of its appetising glory… (apologies to anyone who comes to this blog for style!)

Midlife lately

The boy was, as ever, appropriately dressed for a scenic journey through snowy Yorkshire. When we stopped off in Settle for a warming coffee and cake he opted for ice cream instead… as you do in December… wearing a t-shirt and Crocs without socks…

But how good it felt to have him back and know that nothing changes!

Midlife lately

Our choir finale

The other two made it home by the skin of their teeth a few days later, just in time for our village choir finale held in the church. Here they all are from my view in the choir stalls with our friends Nicky, Roy and their boys a few pews behind. Looking at this photo I can feel the euphoria of being back together after four months apart.

Garnett family

I didn’t know Mal had taken this photo until I was looking through his camera roll. You see I’d been chatting to the middle one on the phone after our first performance at the beginning of the month and I’d mentioned how it had tugged at my heart when my choir friend Jo’s little boys came running up to give her a hug at the end – just like mine used to. He’d obviously remembered and came to make up for it. You know you’ve loved them well when they love you back in return don’t you?

Midlifechic and son

Midlifechic and son

Dress (now in the sale); Duo boots (past season)

Ever since the boys were little, the carol service has been the spark that sets Christmas alight. We always go to the village pub with Nicky and Roy afterwards and Nicky and I always have a Whisky Mac – which I needed after hitting the descant with my sore throat!

The men were busy doing a ‘splitting the G’ Guinness challenge here…

Midlifechic village life

… Sugar, the village cat, popped in as she alway does on her nightly patrols…

Midlifechic village life

… and all felt well with the world.

Midlifechic family

The eldest’s birthday

This was a few days later and it was the eldest’s 26th birthday. The best way to treat a sneakerhead is to take him to a proper factory shop where there’s always a limited edition, ‘Made In England’ gem to be sniffed out. His girlfriend had come up to stay for a few days and I promised them all an early Christmas treat of a new pair of shoes… which I may have been slightly regretting here!

Midlifechic New Balance

We had lunch in Sedbergh and the eagle eyed will notice that the boy’s trainers have changed. The first were a very rare pair of New Balances – worn to remind the ladies in the shop that he’s a true collector (that way they bring out their best wares).

This pair on the other hand were Nike’s limited Winter Solstice tribute a few years ago – and for a boy born on 21st December they’re particularly special, worn only once a year.

Midlifechic and eldest son

Hush coat (past season); Whistles top (past season); Me+Em jeans (past season); Boden boots (past season)

In between times

I was carrying on as well as I could while feeling pretty grim… but this is how they found me in the intervals.

Midlifechic sick

Christmas Eve

In the blink of an eye it was Christmas Eve. Mal had driven over to Newcastle to collect mum-in-law the day before while I did all of the baking and cooking prep. She was on great form and we headed out to Blackpool for lunch followed by a proper, old fashioned panto.

Midlifechic family

Santé Baby sweatshirt (past season); Sequin skirt (now half price); Hush coat (past season); Hush metallic boots (past season)

The last few pantos we went to before lockdown had become very overcorrected when it came to humour. Not in Blackpool though where there are still layers of risqué jokes tailored to each sector of the audience. There were even some for Millennials and Gen Z which made the boys chuckle but went right over our heads.

Midlifechic panto

And when we left it was dark and the empty streets were glistening with expectation. Panto on Christmas Eve has been our tradition since the boys were tiny and it hit us all how much we’d missed it during lockdown. Only moments like this remind us how much was put on hold.

Blackpool Tower was resplendent. The eldest quickly added it to his Instagram Stories and then chuckled all the way home as his London workmates gushed over what they assumed was a spontaneous Christmas Eve in Paris…

Christmas Blackpool Tower

Back at home and the pyjama fairy had popped in once again – she originally used to come so that I could get a Christmas Eve photo of clean little boys so now they just have to keep on indulging me.

Midlifechic sons Christmas Eve

Christmas Day

I hardly took any photos on Christmas Day, it’s always too busy. What I can say is that the presents that provoked the most joy were the tiny Lego sets…

Midlifechic sons Christmas Day

… and the vintage shirts (see below for an example). I bought a different one for each of them as a joke really but they were a bargain and they loved them so if you’re looking to delight a 16 – 26 year old, try here (obviously as they’re all preloved no two are the same but they come freshly laundered and wrapped).

By the time he’d opened presents from the rest of the family and his girlfriend, the youngest resembled an exotic bird. And you’ll notice that there’s no end to the Greggs X Primark collaboration…

Midlifechic Christmas Day

Anyway back to the day… my sister and her family popped in early for a glass of fizz. We managed our annual family photo…

Midlifechic family Christmas 2022

…Mum-in-law had bought a lovely new outfit but didn’t feel up to getting dressed because she’d taken a bit of a tumble in the bedroom and hurt her arm and fingers. She absolutely refused to let us take her to A&E so you can just see that I’d strapped her poor fingers and the youngest downloaded some crosswords which they did while I cooked.

Midlife lately

It was a lovely day, just how Christmas should be and even Ted had a bow tie to show for it.

Midlife lately

Midlife lately – Twixmas

The days between Christmas and New Year disappeared in a mist of friends and family. We were so busy catching up with everyone that we only managed one games night together on our own which went on until 3.30am as we tried to play at least one round of each favourite.

Midlife lately

We had a particularly lovely time with my siblings and their offspring when we managed to rally 20 of us together at our house. Just two of my nephews were missing here, they were away for Christmas. And we never forget my two nieces Kay and Jessica who we lost to leukaemia.

Midlifechic sons and nephews

I didn’t get a photo with all of my siblings but I caught my brother with the wild beard just as he was leaving.

Midlife lately

And this is the following night when we had another big games night with Nicky and her boys, including the newlyweds Toby and Liv.

Midlifechic friends

Midlife lately – early 2023

Mal will remind me that the younger two were home for a month but it felt like moments. This was one last mum and son cake date before the youngest went back to Leeds. I may be holding him close on home shores but his mind is now full of thoughts of abroad as he prepares to head away for four terms after Easter

Midlifechic and youngest son

And then we had to head off for an unexpectedly early trip to Newcastle for a family funeral which was a goodbye but also a celebration of life. Mal’s Uncle Billy died very peacefully just before Christmas after 87 long, happy years. We spent time with family the day before and an incredible storm was brewing here, hence me holding onto my hair. It was quite dramatic spending the night high up in our Baltic Nest while the wind howled down the Tyne.

Midlife lately

We had to wait to collect mum-in-law from her usual Friday lunch in the church hall – she doesn’t like it if we’re early and interrupt her chat! We’ve been to a few funerals for older people recently and I’ve felt a bit uncomfortable in my usual navy so I bought a black jumpsuit that I’ll be able to wear for work too. The coat is one that Mal bought me for Christmas in 2002 so it’s doing well.

Midlifechic funeral outfits for midlife women

Tailored jumpsuit; Jigsaw coat (2002)

Now that I’m spending more time in offices again I’m having to rebuild my smart wardrobe. The jumpsuit is made from stretchy ‘comfort tailoring crepe’ so it’s easy to travel in and yet it still hold its shape. It’s machine washable too.

Midlifechic funeral outfits for midlife women

Comfort tailoring jumpsuit; Hush boots (past season)

It was a quick trip so this is on the way home the following day, stopping off for a coffee in the town where my parents met and married.

Midlifechic casual outfits for women over 50

Boden cashmere jumper and cardigan (past season); Jeans; Boden boots (past season)

Now we’re trying to find a rhythm that will suit our new work routine and the need to look after mum-in-law this year, spending time at home…

Midlife lately

Uniqlo down jackets (past season); Baukjen jumper (past season); Jeans; Wellies; Boden scarf (past season)

… and over in Newcastle.

Midlife lately Newcastle

Boden parka (past season); Boden cashmere jumper (past season), Jeans, Boots

We definitely don’t know how we’re going to make it all work yet. I just waved to Nicky’s mum as I was racing down the canal with Ted as usual and she stopped me to say, “Nikki when will you just slow down and enjoy the walk?” Sometimes you need a mum to tell you don’t you? Even if you have to borrow your friend’s.

The thing is that at the moment I’m speeding up in order to be able to slow down because something exciting is coming…

… but I’ll tell you more about that next week.

Disclosure: ‘Midlife lately – a catch up’ is not a sponsored post

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