Monday, December 24, 2007

Let the Feasting Commence

That poor Vixen is well and truly in the wars! We came out yesterday morning to find that her number plate was all covered over with mud and gunge and could hardly be read. And – her right hand wing mirror was hanging off, all limp and broken :-( Oh, and her brand new windscreen has a tiny, tiny chip in it!!

We went round to consult Nick who says he can fix it after Christmas and did we want to replace it with the heated one now broken or would an ordinary one do. Did you know that wing mirrors came heated? No, neither did I! While The Builder was talking to him, I cleaned off the number plates.

Then we went into Sheffield to Waitrose and I finished the food shopping.

We called at Penny’s to drop of a present for the children. Steve was wrestling with the tree lights. Penny was looking very well and quite chirpy. The children showed us their advent calendars and “helped” Steve with the lights. He eventually managed to convince them mostly to work, but I think a replacement set is in the offing for next year. We didn’t stay long; it was almost lunch time and I think they also wanted to dress the tree.

Instead we came home and started getting ready for the Five Day Feast, which commenced at around 8:30 last night when Gareth, Julia, Freyja and Mark rocked in for Julia’s beef and Yorkshire pudding party. We festived it up with twiglets, crackers and candles. We had roast beef and roast pork with potatoes roasted in pan fat and goose fat (the veggies had quorn kievs and potatoes roasted in olive oil and butter). We had mashed potatoes with butter and Jersey milk. And peas, sprouts and carrots with gravy. And Yorkshire pudding! Mercifully it rose, though it was a little singed around the edges. We had steamed cinnamon pudding with thick Devon cream and then chocolates. And we had wine. Or coke. Or fruit juice depending on how the mood took us. I got the birthday giraffe out in case anyone felt like starting to inflate it, but no one did. The telly was playing festive programs in the corner (I had put it on earlier to listen to “Britain sings” and wondered why the selections were all supermarket Christmas songs – until I realised that this was an ITV program and the majority of the people who would have voted would be supermarket people, if you see what I mean). It was a good evening. Julia seemed to enjoy it.

Then Gaz and Mark went back to Sheffield and I went to bed. The Builder stayed up for a bit then joined me. Freyja and Julia stayed up late trying to sort out her luggage. Julia’s that is. Freyja didn’t have any luggage. Unfortunately for Julia, the Americans demand a massive luggage allowance for flights in and out of their place. The rest of us have much more modest allowances. They rang the airline – excess baggage from Manchester to Singapore is £35 (yes, that’s THIRTY FIVE pounds) a kilo!!!!!!! They re-adjusted Julia’s luggage plans.

The alarm rang at 5:30 this morning :-( :-( :-( Snot fair, having to get up at that time in the morning when (i) it is Sunday and (ii) in any case you are on holiday :-(

Just before 6:30, The Builder went to bring the car round. I was just beginning to wonder where he was when he reappeared. The car, he reported, was all over icy. Yes? Well, it’s December and it is very cold. No, said he. REALLY icy to the point he couldn’t open the doors. Went out to investigate. I have NEVER seen the car looking like that. You had to wrest the doors open with force. The ice scraper was making no impression at all on the windows. The kettle was called for. The application of boiling water helped. Eventually, the car was rendered driveable and we headed off to the airport. Very slowly. Very, very slowly. Partly because the country roads were icy and ungritted. Partly because there was rather more traffic about than we had expected at that time on Sunday morning, including a crane being taken somewhere very cautiously. But mostly because of the thick, thick, thick fog. Occasionally we would come up out of it and there would be a full, shining, icy moon. And it must be said that all of the houses with external Christmas lights looked beautiful in the fog and mist and ice.

Anyway. We got to the airport in good time and got Julia checked in. We pondered briefly the idea of breakfast but it was quarter past eight and boarding started at nine – and you can’t tell from outside how long the security queue is. We also discovered that the one hand luggage rule includes laptops and plastic bags of shopping. Julia had to stop and try and pack everything into her smaller case. In the end she more or less succeeded, though Freyja inherited some of the chocolate. We last saw her, having readjusted her case again On The Other Side, trundling towards security. We didn’t wait long, given that the pre-security security people had finally agreed she could go in, so I hope she got all her stuff through OK. She’s on her way to Singapore now. And we have some of her stuff here ready to take when we go in April – we have two lots of 20kg available to us and in any case tend to travel (out, at least!) fairly lightly.

Back home, via Freyja’s place. As we came up to the Snake Pass Freyja looked back towards Manchester. We were in bright, bright sunshine. Manchester was gone. Completely gone. There was a Nothing where once Manchester had been. I assume it will reappear eventually. And at least Julia wasn’t trying to fly from Heathrow or Gatwick, both of which were closed for quite a bit of the day due to fog.

Today the feast continued. Gareth came for lunch. I put in smoked haddock and fresh salmon and prawns and added a tomato and cheese milk sauce and topped it with mashed potato and baked the whole lot in the oven. We had it with sprouts and carrots. It was lovely, if I do say so myself. Gareth and The Builder seemed to enjoy it. They had something along the lines of three servings each!! The Builder has been asleep for most of the afternoon, probably a combination of being sat next to a toastie warm radiator with a cat on his lap, a large, comfort food lunch and about 4.5 hours sleep last night!

The Builder has blown up my birthday giraffe. It’s stood now, watching out the window wearing a Santa hat (being festive, you see). Marlo was absolutely appalled when he first realised what The Builder was doing – when the giraffe was about half blown up!

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