Livee heard us come through the big metal gates and ran to greet us. I offered him a big Christmas hug which he took full advantage of, hanging on to me for quite a while. He was dressed in the Manchester United football shirt one of you had donated as James had told him that tonight we would all eat together, something that doesn’t happen usually as traditionally the men eat first then the children and ladies. As a special guest I have the honour of eating with the men!

I bathed in the dim light of my head torch hanging from a tree branch overhead. The water was rather chilly to say the least as there had been little sun during the day to warm it in the jerry-can. I wasn’t visited by any chickens or the goat that had a habit of coming to join me when I am sitting on the loo or taking my ‘shower’. They were all settled for the night.

Before I went to bathe I gave Livee some tinsel and a few other decorations to put up in James’ office where we were to have our little Christmas party. His broad smile showed the excitement he was feeling! Fatuma had prepared our meal a few hours earlier but had gone to visit her mother.

The meal was exactly the same food as we have every day with the added ingredient of the chicken I said goodbye to earlier in the day! I was a little worried that the chicken was warm and asked James if he had warmed it up, knowing the perils of partially warmed poultry! He said he hadn’t warmed it, it was still warm because it had been wrapped in banana leaves since being cooked and would be very fine, and it was. It was very tender and delicious!

My lovely daughter Sara had given me a Christmas box to be opened with my friends so Livee and I together did the honour with minutes of excitement and anticipation! In the box was a selection of lovely gifts for me and others to share like the home made gingerbread men and Christmas tree biscuits she had made and had travelled reasonable well considering what they had been through!

Livee was fascinated by the bracelets that light up when you snap them and when he was asked to go outside to do some chore for James we heard a whoop of joy at the brightness of the bangles! When James opened one of the gifts his face showed an astonished look as he took out a £50 note. I too was rather taken aback that Sara should send him such a Christmas present but when he pulled it right out of the envelope we both burst into laughter. It was a napkin of £50 notes! Sara’s husband Owen had tricked many of his friends with this and it had worked with us too!

I also had a few simple gifts for Livee that I had put together from donations from the children in Poynton, a pencil case with crayons and notepad; a ball; a yoyo and some toys from last year’s crackers. I also gave him a card with 10,000 shillings inside it and when he opened it he threw himself on me. I was close to tears with the emotion I felt for this young boy.

When Fatuma returned Livee couldn’t wait to show her his gifts, she laughed at his extreme excitement! When Fatuma had finished her meal I also gave her a card with a little money gift, and a scarf which she really appreciated. Though we cannot communicate in words we have become friends and enjoy some funny misunderstandings!

The four of us sat together laughing and joking and even singing until quite late. I didn’t want the day to end! What a wonderful Christmas Day it had been and as I fell into my bed exhausted I knew I would never forget it! To put the ‘icing on the Christmas cake’ my family called me as I lay under my mosquito net. Though I am not with them they are always in my heart and never far away from my thoughts. I love you Norman, Nicola and Sara!

I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas too, a time to share with your family and loved ones and have enjoyed reading about my ‘alternative’ Christmas with many friends in Uganda and I still have a few celebrations to come!

Love from Gerry

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