Christmas Day was very long. Having had a few hours sleep, I woke to the familiar noise of 'preparation'. Richard arrived early with Ollie, Samantha and Edward, and it was not long before the rest of the family walked through the front door. Despite having laid the table for the correct amount of people, I had not calculated the two youngest grandchildren not taking a nap whilst the adults ate dinner. Suffice it to say, there really was 'no room at the inn' for me, and after making sure everyone had a full plate, I took my own plate, and sat at the small trolley that we had used to bring in the food from the kitchen to the dining room. Although everyone tried to move around to allow enough room for me to join the main party, my table was so spacious, in comparison, I refused.
The repeat performance on Sunday, when there were fifteen people to seat around the table, was a similar scenario. Elise and I decided to let everyone enjoy their lunch, and we hid in the kitchen where it was considerably quieter, and the washing up became a pleasurable past time.
Wondering if I would have to find a pumpkin, two mice and be home before midnight on New Year's Eve, I spent a lot of time with a duster and vacuum in my hands, and by Sunday night, I had 'deep cleaned' the dining room twice since my arrival, and taken care of the Monday morning routine housework, so that my Monday morning could be free! I could have fallen asleep in a manger, whether or not there was any room for a bed!
It was a bright day on Monday, for which I was grateful, as we had planned to go to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. My kids' father had offered to drive them to town in his taxi, and this time there was room at the inn for a little one, namely me! The drive in, despite the traffic, was a delight, as I reminisced about all the times my father used to drive us in his cab into London, and we could see the sights, and marvel at the splendour! Winter Wonderland, itself, was also delightful, with a German market, lots of rides (on which I did not!) lots of food stands (of which I did not partake) and a lot of atmosphere. Our ride home was on the London underground, and we walked from the station back to Richard's house, where my car was awaiting me.
Tuesday was also a full day! My mother had an appointment at the hospital, and we had been informed that it could take between three and six hours. Although the wait was going to be long, the concept was terrific. After 'check in', the first stop is the consultant, who then decides if a scan is needed, and from there, if necessary a biopsy and finally, back to the consultant for results. Everything in one place. My sister is not especially fond of hospitals, and was rather negative from the moment we arrived. She parked her car in the disabled bay, (as my mother has a 'badge',) and we found our way to the reception desk. We waited for almost an hour before the nurse finally came out to call us in to the consultant's room. However, we were not the only ones to have waited a long time, and we chatted to the couple who were sitting opposite us, discussing the pro's and con's of the system. "Is there a problem here", asked the senior volunteer girl Friday, with a slight edge of an old fashioned headmistress! "No, no, no", we said in unison, and sat up straight, as she stared at us with somewhat beady eyes. "Are you sure?", she said as if testing, but did not get a negative response.
The consultant was a middle aged man, with an ill fitting toupee. I say it was ill fitting because he insisted on tugging it down to cover the back of his neck, and then forward to cover his forehead. My mother was explaining why she thought her doctor had made the referral, and he then stood up, abruptly, sat down again on his wheeled stool, and asked her to step behind the curtains. My sister and I looked at each other and each could see the other was attempting not to giggle. When my mother was heard to say, from behind the screen, "Why are you drawing on me", I could hold it back no longer and made gulping sounds, as my eyes filled with tears! I felt like I was in a comedy sketch! Eventually, the consultant wheeled his way from behind the curtain, on his stool, and my mother appeared in a hospital gown. We were told to go to the next corridor, where the scanning could take place. Once again, my sister was not particularly fond of our new surroundings, and she paced the corridor, refusing to sit. "Do you have a date of birth?", asked the receptionist. I resisted the sarcastic reply, and sat silently, watching as patients entered and exited the various rooms.
The lady whom performed the scan insisted that my mother did not need to have a biopsy, and we went back to the consultant, who appeared to have forgotten my mother. Our confidence level dropped as he looked at the results, and then asked, "Did you have a scan?" After a brief discussion, once he had pieced together the information with the patient, we left the building and returned home. It had been a long day!
Wednesday was spent down at the farm. Samantha, Richard, Ollie and I braved the cold temperatures, and headed out to the local village, and fed the animals. Actually, I left the feeding of the farmyard to my son and grandson, and refused to remove my gloves. However, I did enjoy the tractor ride, and then we walked back to the cafeteria for lunch. Before we ate, I was selected to join Ollie on the (small) fairground rides. I sat on the fire engine, and watched as Ollie hooted the horn, and waved to his dad as he circled around. The teacups were a little more challenging, as they turned in the opposite direction to the way the main carousel was turning. Coming off the ride, I had to stand for a couple of minutes to stop from falling over, being pushed out of the way by many ankle biters, and was laughed at by not only my (non sympathetic) family, but also the operators of the rides!
The trip to the park in the afternoon was meant to tire out my grandson, in the hope that he would sleep well, having been a little bit out of routine because of the holidays. I am not sure how well Ollie slept, but I was thoroughly exhausted, and would have gone to bed upon my return to mum at 6:30pm. However, it was 'girl's night out', and three of us, Lesley, Michele, and myself, who started school together rising five, had a wonderful time, as usual, reminiscing and feeling blessed that we still enjoy a 'night out', after all these years!
New Year's Eve, was the usual non-event. Dinner was at 6:30, and Elise and David, joined mum and myself, and we ate and watched some television. With only four of us, there was plenty of room at the Inn and I felt quite empowered by the elbow room. By 10:30pm, the events of the past week took their toll and I was fast asleep. I awoke briefly at midnight, as the fireworks popped, whizzed and banged, but I soon got used to the noise and dropped back off. Happy new snooze!
As a mission of mercy, Samantha and I met at Richard's house, and gave him and Steph a morning off. We took Ollie to the garden centre, where we learned how fish flirt, and how easy it is for a toddler to bang his head on the tank as he tries to get in! Fortunately, the bump was not severe, and the fish did not have to make room for a human, albeit a small one! In order to keep him occupied while his fish fingers, chips and beans were being prepared by the cafe chef, I made some paper boats out of the receipt. Amazingly enough, this worked! After lunch, we said cheerio to all the animals, and fish, (who were still attempting to start a new generation!) and took Ollie back to his mum and dad. Later in the day, I was treated to a taxi ride to Selfridges, to buy a personalised jar of chocolate spread. Samantha did not insist I come to town, but seemed to be a little disappointed when I said I really did not feel like making the trip. After wandering around the confectionery department, and walking in circles, I stood at a stand, whilst on the phone to Dana, and refused to move, until one of them asked someone where to go to retrieve their required item! Eventually, they inquired as to the whereabouts of the item, and it was when we reached the 'Food Hall', that I spotted a large arrow on the floor, 'Personalised Nutella, this way!' We headed back to the confectionery area, and browsed. It was not as busy as expected, and Samantha's father, who was intending to work that evening, called to say that all the roads were still closed from the New Year's Day parade, and a lot of places were closed due to their staff having worked all through the Yuletide period. I was surprised that no one considered the question, "Would you like a ride hone?", rhetorical! I would have left Samantha and Edward in Oxford Street, and accepted the offer alone, should they wish to stay. They did not! I was rather proud of myself, as Garry had told Samantha, "Tell mum that I am on the north side of Portman Square", and I knew exactly where he meant! Once a Londoner, always a Londoner!
Fortunately, an early night on Thursday, and another one on Friday set me up for the mammoth day on Saturday. I have never been to 'soft play', and was not surprised when my 16 month old grandson refused to go into the 'toddler' area, but pulled his father, and aunt into the 'Over 5 area. Anyone under five must be accompanied'. Once around was not enough, and Samantha and I took the toddler around again! Climbing on cargo nets, going through tunnels and sliding down bumpy slides was quite the workout! By the time we had been in the area for ten minutes, I was exhausted! Lunch was ordered and eaten, and Richard and I made the rounds once again. I do not think I screamed the loudest when I slid down from the top, but I certainly received some very curious looks from those that were legitimately allowed to enter the maze, unaccompanied. Despite the fact that I had been around twice, I had not reached the apex, where stood the entrance to the longest slide; the large twisted tube that wound around several floors of soft mats. I obviously did not protest enough that I did not need to make the journey to the top most point, and slide down the tube, as Samantha pulled me off my chair and pushed me through the hanging pillows, where I led the party to the pinnacle. Screaming does echo when in a plastic tube, and apparently, those who are over ten years of age, cause the contraption to shake vigourously. However, if there was time, and if I was not being stared at by many small beings, their mums, their dads, and grandparents, I would have gone again! I will add that I was NOT the only adult to partake, as many appeared to enjoy the experience, albeit with a child in tow!
I met my friend Sheri for lunch after my experience, and we had a lovely couple of hours, catching up. She had to leave to go and babysit her grandchildren, and as I was leaving her flat, Samantha called to let me know that I was 'late', picking her and Edward up, so that they could go shopping! I reminded her that I was actually on holiday! However, duty bound, I did as I was told, and we walked around Marks and Spencer for quite some time. I returned home to my mother around 8pm, and we ate cold chicken and chips! Another long day saw me in bed after midnight, with another 'Sunday lunch' to prepare.
With only a few days left on my visit, I have to cram as much family time in as possible. A day out with Ollie, catch up with some family members, dinner with Richard and Steph, and perhaps a little bit of Tracie time, although the latter does not seem to be on the agenda! Mum told me that she and my dad never understood the concept of self-catering holidays, as they never really thought they were holidays. I told her that I rather enjoy them, after all, I take two every year!
I shall keep the rest of the weekends events and my trip home for my next post, as the former is quite detailed, and the latter has not yet occurred! Samantha and Edward left for home this morning (Monday) and I was left with a few things to transport for them. I can only hope that there will be room at the inn, when I get on the plane on Thursday, otherwise, can you even begin to imagine what will be in ............ another story!