Sunday, 29 December 2013

Christmas Visit...

Loaded down with gifts and enough clothes for ten days or so away we headed down the icy paths to New Street station. The evening before we had prepared the boat, semi drained down, pumps off, just the power to isolate first thing in the morning. 

We had had a disturbed night on Cambrian Wharf. At 3am I heard a very noisy generator fire up. I suspected that it was a boater but before too long it had died out. A few minutes later it started up again. I leaned out the side hatch into the frosty night to try and see who it was before I launched my assault plan. I went back to bed thinking it wouldn't last much longer, it did. Boots on, jogging bottoms over pyjamas, coat and hat, I left the boat ready for action. It was none of the boats in the wharf but there were a couple more to check just outside. Rounding the last of the live aboard boats I finally found the culprits. It was the fire brigade pumping out a sinking little push tug (I think it was the one pushing that stupid bloody bucket of trees around the canal last year - I will have to investigate). 

At was about 4.15am and I lay back in bed trying to doze. What seemed like a very short while later (actually about 5.30) there was an almighty crash right outside the bedroom window. It was obvious a cyclist had fallen off their bike and hit the deck with some force. I thought 'please be OK' I didn't mind going out with the first aid kit but we had to leave for the train in about an hour and a half. I was very pleased when I looked out through the lounge window and she was picking herself and her slightly bent bike up off the brick path, she waved that she was fine and limped off. Oh well I was firmly up now so finished getting ready for our journey.

I tried to sleep on the way, completely neglecting my duties as a carer  until we arrived at Aberystwyth where dad was waiting. It was great to be chauffeured all the way, in what was to be the first of many 'taxi' runs over the week. We arrived at their place to find it full of festive cheer, Christmas tunes playing in every room, each surface had its bowls of nibbles, trees decorated and fridges straining with festive fayre. Christmas had arrived, all we needed was for Jess to arrive from the other side of the country, but we would have to wait for Christmas Eve before Dad would have to make another journey to pick up Jess from Carmarthen. All told dad covered 140 miles of driving just to get us all there - they live a long way from train stations.

Mum is a great cook and had prepared big pot of beef bourguignon for our first night. With Debs help and the odd drink or three, mum had made a massive pan of meatballs and tagliatelle another night and we were well and truly treated to dad's paella one evening too, one of his best. The plan of action for Christmas Eve was to eat out at Abdul's curry house. It very nearly didn't happen.

Yes that pan of pasta and meatballs really is for four
Jess was probably covering about 300 miles by train on one of the busiest days of the year, and one with severe storms. Trains were delayed, some cancelled and some routes changed. Deb kept online and updated everyone with the progress of not only Jess's train but also her connecting ones. It was touch and go at Reading as the due-in times varied between 6 minutes for Jess to get to the connecting train and -7 minutes. Jess made it to the restaurant in time to join us.

Great company, fantastic food and unlicensed so cheap bar
Abdul's could probably get away with being merely average as they are one of the only restaurants in a decent sized town but the meal and service was in fact very good indeed and would put many of Birmingham's curry houses to shame.

Although it looks that way, we didn't spend the whole week eating. We had a couple of very nice trips out, one to the lovely small town of Narbeth with an excellent craft fair with some fantastic original local items. We also joined mum and dad at the boating club the other side of the estuary for a pre-Christmas  catch up with some of their friends.

The steward even came came around with free cupcakes and chocolate truffles

Prior to the main event we had all mucked in preparing for Christmas day. Mum was very organised, Deb and I were on veg duty and dad was following closely behind putting rubbish in the various recycling bins. What a team. It was looking like Christmas lunch was going to be quite a feast, we were up to nine veg and three types of stuffing already! 

We had a nice slow start to Christmas day with smoked salmon, boiled hams toasted French bread and kir royale cocktails. After opening a couple of presents we made out for the pub for a pre Christmas lunch drink. I wrote a bit about the village in a previous blog here so I'll not be too repetitive. The closest pub was closed for Christmas day and boxing day, bit of a shock really, it would never have happened in Allan's day. Next pub was not due to open for fifteen minutes so we walked to the last one, the White Hart where I really enjoyed my pint of 'Butty Bach' and even managed to catch up with an old school friend.

Testing the panorama mode on my new phone - The girls prepping lunch

Christmas lunch was a beautiful feast and we had hardly made a dent in the pots of veg lining the centre of the table. I was really glad that my 96 year old grandad was able to join us and that he was still in good working order, he even made quick work of his three quarters of a pint of martini and lemonade in the morning. By the time my sister had arrived late evening we had only just finished our Christmas pud and all its necessary trimmings (including the very popular homemade lemon and coriander icecream). As mum said, and her mum used to, 'that's your lot, more tomorrow'.

Starters ready - pear and blue cheese salad with mums homemade fresh pear chutney

All ready to start
Grandad psyching him self up for the feast with a pint of martini and lemonade
Time to digest, it will be a while before pudding time
The weather was beautiful boxing day, clear sunny and wind free. I needed a walk, Deb had had a cold for a few days and I had a touch of man flu. Poppit sands is just over a mile away so that's where mum, Jess, Deb and I headed off to. I was asked to take my sisters dog along but sadly he is not used to being walked on a lead which made it quite difficult for both of us, he is very clever though and with a bag of chopped ham as reward he was starting to learn after only twenty minutes. A couple of weeks and maybe a head collar and he could be fine, luckily he cadged a lift home. Dad also joined us down the beach having cycled on his new Christmas bike, very proud of it he is too, and for mid seventies he really is making light work of the Pembrokeshire hills. 

Here comes dad on his new bike

Another panorama test

More dogs than people on the beach - what happened to the old boxing day rugby tradition, so much has changed over the last few decades

The estuary is taking back the marshes

Deb and I went into town to meet up with an old school friend of mine and his fiancee later in the afternoon on boxing day and the couple of hours we spent together were just not enough. Sadly I wasn't able to make the mini school reunion that was organised for Friday evening as we had to cut our trip short for reasons that are too personal to go into on an open blog, but if I am reading this blog back to myself in my dotage I'll know what I mean. I will not let it taint my memories of the wonderful Christmas that we had looked forward to all year.

On the morning of the 27th Deb, Jess and I got the local bus to visit my grandad. We stopped at the Priory cafe for tea and a slice of toast before making our way over to his flat, Deb commented that we must have looked like the losing contestants from the Apprentice - you're fired! Nuff said. Grandad had been a bit overwhelmed on Christmas day and it was lovely to have a bit of one on one time together. We all watched a commemorative DVD of a memorial service held where he was stationed in Carew during WW2, we would have loved to have been part of it but we didn't know about all the festivities until a day or so before they were due to happen. We had quite a chat about his old days and he still has fond memories of my old nan even though they had separated by the time I was about three years old. There had been a few fellow vets at the memorial day but only grandad had been there the day the hospital was bombed. Not wanting to suffer the inevitable concussion in the relative safety of the bomb shelter he thought the strongest and safest place was the gun tower where he let rip with the twin Lewis guns into the night sky. Can't say that I can totally follow his reasoning regarding the safest place in a bombing raid but he's here to tell the tales seventy years later.

Looking very dapper on film - not looking 96 either

Grandad and the girls - they are very proud of him

An hour or so later dad made one last 'taxi' trip for us taking all three of us to the closest train station, he must have driven close to three hundred miles over the week. The journey wasn't an easy one and we kept in touch with Jess for over eight hours as each of us had trains delayed or cancelled due to the return of the storms. We got back to LJ by about 10.20 dumped our bags and headed into town. The boat was 4°C inside and I desperately needed beer. No doubt Jess's reunion with her partner was an emotional one after the stresses of the day and journey.

A much needed XL beer after the stresses of the day

We're safely back aboard LJ now with the fire roaring and the fridge and cupboards full, chilling out, looking forward to tomorrow.

Thanks again to Deb, Jess, Mum, Dad and of course Grandand for a great Christmas. And I hope all of our blog readers, where ever you are around the world had a very..........

Have a great New Year everyone

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