Christmas Day began, not with snow, but with a very heavy frost, that glistened beautifully, and added the magical sparkle that made the day look like the cards that send Yuletide felicitations. The frost, to me, was neither here nor there. I didn't have time for frost! Preparations were made for the feast, without fuss, and when everything was almost cooked, but not quite, I did what every good Englishman, (or woman,) should do, when at home. I walked down to the pub! I was not alone. Kids and grandchild came too, or more to the point, I went with them! My sister had arrived at my mum's and she took over the washing up, before taking up residence in the lounge, and doing the 'other' Christmas thing of watching the midday movie! I came home before the rest of the gang, and helped mum remove the monster bird from the oven. We ate, swapped our presents, ate some more, went for a walk, ate some more and eventually, after waving cheerio, two by two, the family left. By ten thirty, mum and I sat down to watch some television, and retired to our respective rooms soon after.
Sleep was not on my body's agenda Christmas night, and I lay awake until 2:30am. I share the bedroom with a freezer. Although my mother has a larger appliance in the garage, she decided that it would be more convenient to keep items in the house, and 'restock' the smaller from the larger. I was curious as to the contents of the one which shared my bedroom, as it sounded as if there was a heard of cows living in one of the drawers. Every time it would 'recharge', or do whatever it is that coolers do, it would make a 'mooing' sound. Cattle were not part of the contents, apparently, and I can only assume that it was because it was filled to beyond 'the brim', that the strain was causing it to 'groan'. My mother likes to keep both freezers 'well stocked', in case she should receive a visit from the entire neighbouring town, and their relatives! After all, you never really know when a couple of hundred people may descend on you, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and they may bring friends, and want to stay a week! No one wants to be caught out without the 'wherewithall' to feed them!
However, I digress. I had a busy day on Friday, and decided that a brisk walk to the village, before Richard came to collect me, would be a good idea. It was quite cold, but I walked quickly and soon became rather warm. Having been invited to two 'events', I bought several bunches of flowers, (I knew Samantha would not be in a position to make a purchase,) and came back to the bungalow with a little time to spare, to make myself look a little more presentable. Our first port of call was to my daughter-in-law's, brother's in-laws. (Try saying that with a freezer full of food!) It was Steph's nephew's first birthday, and the party was in full swing by the time we arrived. Being natives from the Persian peninsular, the food was Mediterranean, delicious and plentiful. The company was lively, and I was introduced to an old friend of Richard's who is due to marry into the family, and with whom Richard used to go to school! He was impressed that I remembered him, and I promised to email his fiance all that I could remember about him when he was young and 'reckless'. He looked terrified, and I did not tell him that I was, of course, joking. His fiancee also thought I was being serious and was looking forward to the 'spilling of beans'. Steph's mum then took me to 'round two', which was tea at Grandma Barbara. Richard and crew followed on later. I was greeted warmly by Steph's aunt and cousins, as well as by a couple of neighbours whom I see once a year! I arrived home on Friday evening, just in time to say cheerio to my nephew and his wife, and my great niece Isabella. They had come down from 'up north' for a few days, and I knew that I was going to see them again on Sunday, for lunch. However, the best laid plans, etc, etc.
Saturday was rather a busy day. I had planned a quietish day, to recoup after my journey and the Yuletide gatherings, but Samantha was going to see her friend (and bridesmaid) Jodi, and asked if her mum, Bev, and I would like to join them. As the end of year visit is usually very short, and there is less time to socialise, I thought it would be a good opportunity to 'catch up'. It was a fun afternoon. We did 'catch up', and watched as our 'married' daughters as they chatted like they used to when they were teenagers. As Bev had to visit her mum, I suggested that she take us back to the bungalow, collect my overnight case (as I was babysitting Oliver, and staying 'over',) and then we could all go and visit her mother, who now lives in the road running parallel with that where Richard lives. After we completed all tasks, Beverly drove us to Richard's house, and we set about getting the baby bathed, and fed, while Richard and Steph got ready for their evening out. Having had such a large lunch, I was not really very hungry when it came to dinner time. However, Samantha's craving for an Indian meal had to be relieved, and I called and ordered for a 'home delivery', after we had put Ollie to bed. All was quiet. The baby was sleeping, I was Skyping with Dana, and Samantha was watching television. As if on queue, Ollie started to cry, just as the doorbell rang and the courier delivered our food. The courier left, and the cry turned into a scream. Twenty nine years ago, I would have left his father to 'cry it out', but as I was not completely sleep deprived, nor a 'new mum', I decided not to leave Oliver. Dinner got cold, Dana said goodbye, and Ollie finally whimpered himself off to sleep. Richard and Steph arrived home, and we said goodnight and all went to our respective rooms.
The joy of waking up and feeding my grandson, letting my son and daughter-in-law have a nice easy morning, was not to be. Without going into detail, which would not be pleasant, I was rather unwell. I made my way downstairs to the bathroom, and was trapped. I do not think it was something I ate, I think it was everything, I ate! The plan was, originally, to pick up my hire car at 11am on Sunday, but Richard called to say that I would not be able to make the journey, let alone drive one of their prestigious vehicles! We rescheduled for Monday, in the hope that I did not have a 'bug', and this was purely a case of indulgence to excess! Eventually, I felt well enough to take the short car journey from Richard's home to mum's house, and I was helped into my clothes by my daughter, who had been an excellent nurse, and then into the car by my son. After what seemed like an eternity, we got 'home', and I put myself to bed. My nephew arrived with his family, ate with his family, and left with his family. I slept. My sister was concerned that they may 'catch' my condition, but I was not sure that 'over eating' was particularly contagious.
Monday morning was like a breath of fresh air. I could not believe the difference in the way I felt compared to the previous day, and was raring to go. However, despite feeling wonderful, I had awoken with quite a start, as I had dreamt that I was left stranded, in the middle of nowhere, with no money and no phone. There were no public phones, and I was quite agitated. I was relieved when I did wake. Mum suggested that I did not over exert myself and perhaps I should spend the day doing very little. However, it was Monday morning and that is 'lounge' day. The dining room, although cleared, was in need of a vacuum after the soiree the previous day (which I was too unwell to attend) and I 'set to' with a vengeance. When the chairs had been swept, the cushions turned, the furniture brushed, and the carpet 'hoovered', I was able to relax. I completed my morning ablutions and then telephoned the local licensed taxi firm to arrange for a driver to take me to Richard's house, so that we could spend the day together. I assured my mother that I was feeling more than one hundred percent well, and a day out with my son, and his son, would be the tonic I needed to reboot, should it be necessary.
The trip to the mall was short. However, I had forgotten the inconvenience of a baby buggy. Parking the car was simple, and Ollie was quite happy to be put into his chair and be wheeled to the main building. The elevators were full, and the choice was either to wait for what could be a considerable time, or carry the pushchair down the stairs. The latter seemed to be more appropriate. We walked around for a while, and finally decided to stop for lunch. Janice had arranged to meet us, and while Richard and Steph went one way, Samantha and I made our way upstairs. Needing to use the facilities, Samantha took my coat, gloves and bag, and said she would meet me in the restaurant. I do not understand why, when my dreams come true, they are not of the Disney or magical variety. I exited the 'ladies' and was stranded without cash, a phone, or the ability to make a 'collect' call. I walked around the restaurant, twice, could not see anyone I knew, and wondered if I was actually still asleep. Just as the panic started to set in, I espied Janice, who was talking on her phone. I was saved! The kids had gone to the 'baby changing station', and had apparently assumed I was still in the powder room, repeating the performance of the previous day. With the relief of finding someone being somewhat over-whelming, I found it rather hard not to get too emotional, but managed to control myself. During all the proceedings, Richard had managed to get me insured on his vehicle, and I was going to be mobile for a week. We had cancelled the original hire car booking, which fortunately did not come with penalties. I was rather relieved that I would be able to leave the house earlier than my mother, should the need occur, and also stay out without having to worry anyone about taking me home. I smiled again. We returned back to Richards, and while Steph and Samantha persuaded mum to come over for dinner, I started to mentally pack my suit case. The plan (oh how I love those plans) was to take back lighter cases, but the reality was setting in, and I had not started to shop for myself! I continued to stress and in order to eliminate the tension, walked around to the 'chippy' with Richard and we returned with fish and chips for all.
Having a car on Tuesday was a blessing. I had driven mum home on Monday night, and returned to Richard's home as Matnee (old habits die hard, and my daugher's nick name will stick forever) was leaving for Austin later that day. My cousin had an appointment with Steph, for a nail makeover and after taking my younger offspirng to her Father's home, as he was taking her to the airport, I meandered around to the supermarket, and secured a table in the rather busy cafe. Attempting to gain Internet access on my i-phone, was not an easy task. Sending a text on my old mobile phone is adequate, but with three letters to each button, it takes a considerable time. A very pleasant waitress came over and asked if I was ready to order, but I explained I was waiting for 'a friend'. After a few minutes, the waitress returned and asked if I wanted to order a beverage. I declined. A waiter sauntered by and smiled, before asking if I was okay, and if I wanted to order something while I waited. I said that my 'friend' would not be long, and the waiter looked at me with a very sympathetic stare, and almost suggested that I had been 'stood up'. My laughter was rather laboured, but I kept my composure. I tapped a few times on the screen of my unresponsive smart phone, (smart was not the word that I would have chosen for the device that particular morning,) and then checked the older phone to see exactly what time I had received the 'wont be long' message. Eventually, my cousin arrived and I waved, rather more boisterously than was necessary, to show my position along the side wall. The menu was not really what we were expecting, and we explained to the waitress that we really were looking for a cup of coffee, and maybe a piece of cake. Thinking that she would finally have a customer to serve, she returned very quickly with the dessert menu, but unfortunately, there was nothing that caught our eye, nor indeed tempted our palate. The waiter, who had convinced himself I would stay alone all afternoon, returned to see if he could persuade us to stay, after all I had been there so long, he was ready to start charging me rent, but we apologised for the inconvenience, walked away, and made our way to the more appropriate cafe in the middle of the store, and enjoyed some meaningful chatter, together with a cup of coffee, and a giant scone, each! Lesley left and I wandered around the store.
New Year's Eve started quietly. I had planned to go into Watford, but by the time we had finished the mornings agenda, and had done some shopping, (because the 'Yes' campaigners from the Scottish highlands may descend on us for a few days, and there would only be enough food for half a dozen meals each,) and returned home for lunch, the afternoon was nearly gone. Richard and Steph were lunching in Radlett, and were going to visit us. In case they should be two hours early, (a phenomenon that is almost as outrageous as mum running out of food,) we needed to be at home. The visit by the kids was good, and little Ollie smiled, and chatted quite freely. They did not stay too long, as they were all going to a party. It was a little odd to think that my four month old grandson was going to celebrate while I was staying in!
Days finish very early in the vicinity of my mother's house. Once the sun has set, the day is over. Although we do not have 'lights out' at a specific time, like the Tower of London we do have the 'Ceremony of the Keys', which is normally a little after sunset. The evening was drawing in, and I was still itching to go and see if I could buy this year's Christmas present, from my mum to Dana and me. Last year she had bought us a pair of boots, which although do not fit us both, are very much enjoyed by me, and Dana is happy that we get so much joy from them! I was hoping to get another pair, this year, but to date, had not had the opportunity to look. Once the kids had left, I announced that I was going to the 'savacentre', (the name originally given to two very large stores that were built next to each other, about ten minutes away from mum,) and to my surprise, my mother said she would come with me. We left the house at 4:45pm, about half an hour after curfew, and drove to the store. It was quite empty. I found our present, and was quite delighted. Mum bought a 'couple of bits' that she needed to replace the items that may be eaten over the next weekend, and we ventured into the supermarket, just in case we should find a jar, or bottle of sometime that has not been on the shelves recently. Amazingly enough, we left empty handed.
Arriving home at 6:15pm, with dinner yet to be prepared, I could sense the feeling of rebellion having to be quashed and much as I could almost hear her shout, 'again, again', the mature, sensible, mother that brought me up reappeared and I was set before the counter to peel potatoes. Richard called a little later to see if we were okay and to enquire what we had planned for the evening. I told him that we were waiting for the guests to arrive for the 'all night' rave, but we had the feeling that they had either mislaid their invitations, got lost, or more likely, had a better offer! We ate dinner, and for the first time this week, I was asleep before two a.m; in fact, I did not even make it to midnight!
New Year's Day was very quiet. I finally got to go to the mall, to have a quick look around, but very few stores were open. Richard had requested that I go into a particular store to get him some shirts, but I was unsure as to where the store was located. I looked for a 'store guide' and found an electronic board. Being familiar with this type of modern convenience, I started to punch in the name of the shop. Suddenly, a security guard appeared and told us that very few shops were open (in case we had not noticed the shutters had not been raised on most of the units). Assuming that I did not know how to use such an up to date machine, he almost pushed me out of the way and placing his hands where mine had been, he asked which store I wanted to visit. I was ready to walk away, but mum told him our requirements. The store was closed. I thanked him, and was gracious, as he obviously had the need to be 'in charge'! We decided to have a cup of coffee, (my mother and I, we did not invite the security guard) and went to one of the larger department stores for a browse, before leaving. Fortunately, the security guard was not at the pay station when we left, otherwise his original assumption that I was not quite on the ball, would have been confirmed. I put my ticket into the slot, and was rather perturbed that I could not see how much to pay, as there was a large piece of paper covering the display. It took me sometime to work out that the notice was actually confirming that payment was not necessary. Ho hum!
Continuing in our rebellious state, we went to another supermarket, instead of going straight home for lunch, as I needed to buy my emergency supplies for the next few months. Mum bought a couple of things that she doesn't normally see at her usual shop, just in case the New Zealand Rugby team and their fans should happen to pop in unannounced, and she would not have enough cakes for tea!
Time marched on and my room started to look like a supermarket. Although not quite enough to feed the army that never materialises, there was a lot of sweets chocolates and other yummy things that I am unable to purchase in Austin. I spent the afternoon catching up with emails and other social media.
As I am just about to board my flight to Austin, now would be an appropriate time to pack away the computer. The rest of my day, and weekend, together with the trip home, will have to be read in .......... another story