Monday, 12 January 2015

December - heck of a month

What a whirlwind of a month December was:  two long-haul flights, change of time zones, change of climate, trip to Scotland, a hotel stay, a stay with family, my daughter's wedding and Christmas.  Not too shabby for twenty-eight days and this doesn't include a trip on a barge, several meals out and time spent with friends.

To begin at the very beginning ....

We flew out to Manchester December 3rd arriving in the early hours of the 4th.  My husband's concept of the flight is that it takes about nine hours - mine is that it takes about two whole days!  You may begin to detect the glass half full and the glass half empty division between us.  Actually  even that isn't accurate - Ken is no Pollyanna - he just accepts whatever is chucked at him without comment.  He blithely ignores the fact that we leave our Naples home in the morning (3 December) hang around an airport for hours, sit on a plane overnight, arrive (4 December) hang around an airport for hours, get home and go straight to bed for a couple of hours as I haven't slept a wink and am about to fall over.  Get up around lunchtime in time for grocery delivery, then spend the rest of the day unpacking two 50 lb suitcases full of 'stuff' (plus carry-ons etc) and 'settling' back in.  So, as far as I am concerned, I might leave one home on the 3rd but I am not back in the other home until (following a partial overnight sleep recovery) the 5th.

Frost and fog - I'm home!!!  Lovely!

My 'bestest' friend bobbed round to see me on the fifth which was great doing our usual catch-up.  For (sort of) old people we always seem to have a surprising lot of life to catch up on.

Friends visiting the next day and the next - so lovely!  Like buses - none for two months (trapped in Naples) then they all come at once!!  Add to this great English lunches out what more could you want.

During these first few days we were still doing bits of last minute Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, card writing and posting, sending out minis I had promised folk, catching up with doctor's appointments, cleaners, hairdressers, aged aunt....  busy, busy, busy.... and nice to be so.  Forgot to mention my last minute mother-of-the-bride outfit shopping.  I was astonished not to have found anything in Naples: although there is a cultural gap here too.  Weddings in the States tend to be very dressed up affairs - evening dress by our standards - often full length.  Clearly that wasn't what I was looking for.  Even short dressy dresses were too dressy - think party - and then it seems to switch to business mode.  I was looking for an outfit that didn't look as though I was at an IBM business lunch but, equally. not looking as if I was off to a party.  Good old traditional Jacques Vert came to the rescue.  Dress and jacket in  - so not me in colour (violet for the theme) and fussiness (lace sleeves) and will never be worn again but (I hope) appropriate to the occasion).  It is currently residing in a consignment shop in Naples with me hoping to recoup some of the cost.

On the 18th the Secret Seven met for their occasional lunch together.  It is not easy to get a date that all seven can do, so it is really nice when we can manage it.  Last time we had five booked for an archery lesson followed by lunch which, after several attempts, was finally aborted due to dreadful weather each time.  This time I booked us for a canal cruise with lunch included.  Even allowing for my natural paranoia I am beginning to think the gods are against me.  This time, following heavy rain, we couldn't do the proposed route which was through Pamona lock (twice!) and the Quays; so we ended up trailing forlornly past Manchester football ground and Kelloggs - not quite as imagined.  I don't suppose it ever matters as we eat and have a laugh which is the point of the meeting.

Emmeline did us proud.

Another couple of nice meals out elsewhere with chums and by the 22nd we were off up to Edinburgh and North Berwick.  Unfortunately there had been a fatal crash on the motorway and that delayed us by two and a half hours (we did three miles in that time).  There was much grumping from us that it seemed ridiculous - the crash was at 6 am, we got there around 1 pm and one junction of the motorway was still closed, causing this backlog.  Unheard of in Naples.  I know, I know, it is easier for them .....more room.

So, we arrived too late to help my daughter move stuff to the hotel which was our original plan.  I was sooooo happy we were going up a day before the wedding - had this been their wedding day we would literally have missed it!!!  Lesson learned and duly noted.

We therefore skipped Edinburgh and went straight to The Marine in North Berwick.  What a super hotel - Great choice S & S - we fully intend to go back there in the Summer and maybe do next Christmas there?  Nice building/accommodation, the best staff (no exceptions) I have ever encountered.

There was a bit of toing and froing for S and S, but Ken and I settled in for a lovely dinner, drinks in the bar and saying hello to husband one and his lady and spending time with my daughter's lifelong friend who I have known since she was three.  Perfect evening.

23rd and the BIG day.

Sally and I started the day with having our hair done in her lovely suite of rooms.  When your day begins like this you might think it can't get better, but it certainly did.  The wedding was beautiful.  Even the registrar was outstanding.  After the ceremony she gave them a copy of the service in a scroll tied up with a rose and red ribbon - what a lovely touch.

We retired to the drawing room for fabulous canapes and champagne.  This was followed by a gorgeous lunch in a lovely room.  We had two really lovely rooms for the event - the Library and the Drawing Room so we could be as private as we wanted to be.  Both had log fires and were filled with fresh flowers as well as the wedding flowers.  Surrounded by a Christmas feel of log fires and a decorated tree it couldn't have been better.

The next day we left the newlyweds to have a relaxing day and Ken and I scuttled off to collect the Christmas order from Marks and Spencers followed by a mad rush to get some helium balloons for outside the house.  We had come equipped with a banner and flower petal confetti so were armed and ready for their return.  Our Christmas Eve Chinese take-away dinner was the perfect end to a couple of really lovely days.

Christmas Day had a lot to compete with to be able to stand-out but our hosts had bought out every grocery shop within a fifty mile radius and we had every wonderful thing you could possibly wish for along with gifts and good company and an opportunity to relax after the wedding.  Family, food, rubbish TV and gifts - could there be anything better.

We stayed through Boxing day too as this would be our one real day to kick back and not have to do anything we didn't want to do.  We did the obligatory walk on Blackford Hill, which was stunning, and back to a lovely buffet lunch. We seemed to eat non-stop from getting up to going to bed.  It was going to be hard getting back to normal life.
Misty, but some of the best views of Edinburgh

All good things must come to an end and the 27th saw us heading home.  Just a thirty minute delay this way, so not too bad.

Start as you mean to go on meant lunch out the next day at one of our favourite eateries (Stones) ... such nice people and for me that makes a difference.  Lunch this time was with Ken's two children who stopped by for a visit.

With friends the next day and, the following day, lunch with my bestest friend again to say cheerio and we were all ready to leave on the first of January.  

That, as they say, is another story......

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