We've been up here in the Highlands of Scotland for the past week and are finally packing up to come home. It's been a lovely week - all the family here at the start: nephews, my brother and sister and my mum, and then people gradually drifting home until all that's left is our immediate family and my mum. The weather has been truly Scottish - rainy and windy, so much so that today I haven't really fancied putting my nose out of the door.
We all try to get together around this time each year. Twelve years ago my dad died at the age of 54 after a protracted struggle with HIV - contracted after he was given infected blood products with which to treat his haemophilia. I was 28, my siblings younger and my mum was 50. He didn't get to meet our partners or any of his 8 grandchildren. His death tore our family apart - we all adored him and nothing has seemed the same for our family since.
A year after he died we scattered his ashes up here in the Summer Isles at a place he'd always loved and now we gather each October just to be together.
I truly miss my Dad. I got on with him so well. He was a deeply humorous, very intelligent man - and we would sometimes talk late into the night about anything and everything if the opportunity presented itself. He would have been a tremendous support for me in the past couple of awful years. But so much more than that, he would have been so happy to see my beautiful family, and such a lovely grandfather to the kids. We've all missed out. But him more than anyone of course.
So, dad - I want to say that I miss you. But you know that - or maybe you do if you're somewhere around. Now though I have to go and get your youngest granddaughter from her afternoon sleep. Cross Hattie and you get a cross Hattie is all I'll say.
Advent, day eleven...
17 hours ago