I was still feeling quite ill when I headed into London on the train with my 1 year-old daughter, her pushchair and a rucksack after work on the Friday before Christmas. I arrived at London Bridge in the midst of Friday rush hour, struggled down one escalator, carrying baby, buggy and bag…then stood on the platform and watched commuters surge in front of me as I tried to fold the buggy again while holding the heavy, wriggling sprog under my arm. I was dreading transporting the whole ensemble through the tube to Euston and then up to North Wales when a Good Samaritan approached me and offered to carry the buggy for me. I gratefully accepted her help and thanked her (quite a few times)…she even stayed on the tube for a stop longer than she intended to and carried the buggy up the escalators at Euston for me. Cheered by her good will, I boarded the train to The North feeling festive.
Several hours later (most of which were spent in wonderment at the woman in the seat across the aisle who started replenishing her makeup as we passed through Milton Keynes and finally finished it at Crewe…her face was about 1 inch deep in layers of foundation, powder, blusher, bronzer and suchlike by the time the cosmetics toolbox was packed away), we joined my husband and my eldest daughter at my parents’ house.
We spent the next few days hunting for Gruffalo in Delamere Forest, meeting up with family at a soft play centre in Cheshire Ice Cream Farm and basking in the glow of my Dad’s extensive collection of fairy lights while opening some presents early. I don’t get to see my parents and sister very often as we live so far away, so it was great to see them at Christmas.
For the next leg of our Christmas tour we took a late evening road trip up to the Lake District to visit my husband’s family. The sound of the snoring from the back seats merged with the howling gale and torrential rain as the traffic thinned out and the landscape in the headlights became more wild and remote. We arrived to a warm welcome and a Christmas tree dwarfed by the mountain range of presents surrounding it on all sides. In the run up to the Big Day we took Catrin to watch ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘A Present For Santa’ at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick…she loved both (despite launching herself inadvertently onto another audience member on the row below our seats in the studio). Inspired by the Santa show, she drew a picture of her smiley face for him to take away with him when he delivered her gifts that night. She also demanded that we leave him a mince pie and carrot juice (good to see Santa no longer advocates drinking and flying).
Christmas is for children really and my heart melted when Catrin realised it was Christmas Day at last…I could hear her shouting excitedly from her bedroom and then the thump thump giggle thump of her running down the stairs to start work on the wrapping paper which needed removing.
It took all day to open all the presents and, by the end of it, I was completely full of dinner, trifle, pudding, chocolates, Buck’s Fizz and Baileys; my face hurt from smiling so much…and I felt particularly lucky. Both of my daughters (the one dressed as Rapunzel, clutching a random selection of lego pieces and a chef’s hat and the one wearing half a bowl of trifle and eating a cracker) seemed to enjoy themselves immensely…their grins and giggles were infectious.
Sadly, the snow which had been forecast to fall across the north weeks in advance (prompting us to pack the sledge in the hope of some holiday tobogganing) fell further south. The only snow we could find was at Walby Farm Park…the foamy flakes fell thick and fast to the ground from two snow machines positioned either side of a huge snowman made out of two hay bales. It reminded me of a dress rehearsal of a production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ which I worked on many years ago…we used a snow machine above the stage to create a light flurry for the scene where Dorothy nods off in the poppy field…but someone had accidentally set the snow machine too high and the Emerald City ended up resembling a wild munchkin foam party.
I ate Christmas cake for breakfast for the next few days (along with some posh-smelling cheeses) and attempted to walk off a fraction of the mince pies and suchlike by hunting yet another Gruffalo (Whinlatter Forest this time) and walking on a beautiful frosty, calm morning at Buttermere. We lived and worked in Keswick for a few years over a decade ago and, I have to a admit, I do really miss the countryside around there…it is beautiful even in the famous Cumbrian horizontal rain and bitter winds combo. I also miss the rarity of a traffic jam (apart from the occasional sheep jam on roads through farmland) and the way people say hello to strangers as they walk past and no-one thinks that is weird or threatens to stab them because they ‘looked at me’.
As we left for the long drive back to the far corner of England I felt a bit tearful because we had spent such a great 10 days with family in beautiful places having lots of fun that I didn’t want to go back to our little house so far from our families and continue the struggle to juggle work, childcare, my voluntary job and other commitments, while never having enough hours in the day to complete my ‘to do’ list. But holidays can’t last forever and maybe 2015 will turn out to be a great year.