The month in which …
… we took cuttings from the garden since we wouldn’t be around from mid December to save the geraniums if temperatures dropped too far. I just hack a load of stems off the mature plants, trim them a bit & shove them in plastic water bottles with the tops cut off & a bit of water:
… we had an impromptu Indian feast just the 2 of us, just because we could!
… we were still picking salad in mid December:
… I read another Ian McEwan book and my admiration for the man continues.
… I got busy with paid work & facilitated 3 important workshops with middle managers back to back which went down a storm & after which I was more than ready for…
Christmas – The Prequel: Midwinter Madness
Our last chance to get into the festive spirit with local friends whom we’d be abandoning for Christmas for the first time in our 8 years in Monte. It turned out to be our BEST party ever with piles of home cooked food (see below for my gluten-free onion bahjis & dips, hummus & crudites and Thai prawns):
We festooned the house with solar fairy lights, hung tinsel & streamers and moved furniture to make a decent dance floor. The theme was Midwinter Madness and though it wasn’t quite Midwinter, the costumes were very Mad:
We danced & drank & ate into the small hours and a few of us hardcore folk stayed up to watch the sun rise at 7.00. A few hours later we gave up trying to sleep as the builders constructing a road opposite us were pile driving through rock, on a Sunday!!! We did a number on the house which was totally wrecked (yeah! we’re still young enough to get messy) and collapsed in a heap of leftover chocolate cake & cups of tea. Thankfully we had Monday to recover before dropping Daisy off with Jen & Nathan and travelling to Virpazar to stay with friends near the airport ahead of our journey to the UK the following day. But neither of us was quite prepared for this:
A Very British Christmas – 1,700 miles, 70 different people & 20 locations in 18 days
My sister Chris & hubby Dave so kindly made life easy for us by picking us up from Stansted and driving us to our parents in Essex. Here’s one of the main reasons we came ‘home’ this Christmas:
And here’s the other one…
First night in the UK was with old schoolfriend Becky and her family. Here she is making us a yummy veggie curry:
The next day we returned to my parents to get the Micra MOT’d in readiness for the rest of of trip. It failed. Miserably. Had to be scrapped. Much time spent organising & collecting a hire car & cancelling the insurance for my now ex-car. Mum & I let the boys sort it out whilst we enjoyed the delights of Syd Little & a variety of entertainers at the Westcliff Theatre. Equipped with new car, we found we couldn’t get all our cases in it, it was so small! Much rearranging of stuff & we finally set off for Brightlingsea for a reunion with John, a friend from 25 years ago.
We visited a fab little pub called the Railway Tavern where Steve got hammered on proper British ale and me on cider & locals played their old vinyl on a very dated stacka system with turntable. It was unbelievably surreal sitting there listening to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (with scratches), supping on rare nectar, with someone who looks much the same as he did a quarter of a decade ago – it was like being in a Time Warp. The Chinese takeaway purchased on the way home completed the experience.
Next we journeyed to Eastcote for lunch with old work colleague, Fran where we had a glass of bubbly and homemade fish pie before heading onto Guildford for an evening with my bro & his family. A delicious curry cooked by my sister-in-law and lots of catching up & coo-ing over their fab new home. We ended the evening in Walthamstow. Saturday was ‘play day’ with Ditsch & Vince. Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery, coffee & cake, a stroll over to the Southbank for mulled wine & chocolate at the Christmas market, a walk back over the bridge as the sun was setting:
a pint in a pub en route to Covent Garden:
Window shopping & people watching in the Market, another pub, more beer and mulled cider (YUM!) and finally a Greek meal. We can recommend this restaurant.
At Sunday was Rugby, appropriately enough. Kate & Rol’s we really got into the Christmas spirit as Steve strung the tree with lights and us girls decorated it:
Kate’s fabulous cooked ham feast was enjoyed by us and 8 friends:
The next day we travelled to the pretty English village of Lavenham to be with old friends I’d made at Uni who’d really been through a lot since we last saw them & needed to off-load & then enjoy a good giggle. Fortuitously, all 3 kids were there too – much transformed, but all still uniquely fabulous.
On Christmas Eve eve we had a big family reunion at my eldest sister’s place with all 3 nephews and their respective kids/ partner and ended up at my old school friend Nik’s home for the evening. Her eldest daughter Alice, once a flower girl at our wedding 15 years ago, joined us in drinking wine & making up clues for the traditional Christmas Eve Treasure Hunt and Hugo & Lil woke us up bright & early the next morning in their excitement to complete it.
Next stop, the Essex coast to the special place where we were married:
My brother-in-law is now running the community there so it was a warm reunion with the Foxes, especially Jess & Aaron, my niece & nephew. It was wonderful to be in nature and walk off the already-piling-on-kilos and we saw a seal, a badger and a robin eating out of Tim’s hand. I went to Midnight Mass & sang my heart out.
We made it to my parents house just in time for the traditional 11.00 toast on Christmas Day and then drove them to the restaurant for our first non-home cooked Christmas dinner ever. It didn’t disappoint & neither did the company. It’s not where you are but who you’re with…
The afternoon was spent opening pressies, laughing & eating. Drinking had to wait until we’d driven back to my sister’s place where we piled into the Port (& cheese).
Boxing Day we braved the bad weather & the traffic to drive the 6 hours to Wales where we had a wonderful, decadent evening with Steve’s sister & nephew:
The following day, Pam & Gerry joined us for a day of feasting & merriment.
Then back to Steve’s parents home for G&T’s & an early night. Bird watching the next morning:
Then off to Wildernest (via the drama of Dawn & the lost car keys) to meet up with Jess & Dunc & family and see what wonders Hugh & Jude had woven with their careful, crafty renovations & development of their inspirational eco cottages.
A final night with the in-laws and then off to Bristol to see the house my Uni friend Leigh and her partner Simon were lovingly restoring into a beautiful home. We ended up in Bucks that evening where John made homemade pasta with roasted tomato sauce which we washed down with red wine. New Year’s Eve eve we visited the Darleys and admired their huge tree!
Then back to John’s for our first ‘proper’ roast turkey dinner. Not that the Christmas Day carvery wasn’t good but it’s not quite the same as taking a free range one fresh from the oven, carving it yourself & serving with homemade cranberry sauce and a rich side dish of diced black pudding, lardons & chestnuts!
As if we hadn’t pigged out enough already, we totally gorged ourselves that night as cheese and John’s Mum’s Christmas cake followed the meaty feast. We played Scrabble, then worked up a sweat with Shove Ha’pennies which John turned into “Shove Coin Bowls” and afforded us much entertainment until it was definitely long past our bedtime. The following day looked like this:
A brisk walk with John & Mutley helped to waken the body & sharpen my mind. Now we were ready for…
A very Spanish New Year’s Eve
… which old friends of Steve’s, Mick & Jan, hosted delicious Spanish home-cooked dishes around their table decorated like a Spanish flag:
There was much boozing & dancing. Unsurprisingly!
It certainly was a Happy start to the New Year!