It’s the very early hours of Christmas Eve and I am propped up in bed with my trusty netbook. I’ve been reading a Margaret Atwood novel – Alias Grace – waiting for heavy eye syndrome to kick in, which it hasn’t yet.
We’ve had a hectic few days just past, a noisy, jolly weekend with two generations of offspring, culminating in a ‘Christmas’ lunch along our conjoined kitchen and dining tables. I do like sitting down at one big table for meals with family and friends. The afternoon was spent opening presents, then the 7 smalls had a ‘roaring around the house’ session to which we simply turned deaf ears. By mid-evening our little three families had melted away, but not the very icy conditions which necessitated the careful turning of cars in our road on a virtual ice-rink.
They all got safely home, as did my mother, eventually, the following day. Nick set off at 2.30 p.m. for the 2.5 hour drive to Weymouth. Opting for the A31 instead of the M3 was mistake no. 1. Barely an hour into the journey and the snow started to make driving conditions tricky. They got to the bottom of the hill at Four Marks and found traffic stuck on the hill. Nick cut away from the A31 to reach the M3 via Basingstoke. Big mistake no. 2, as anyone who was in that vicinity could attest, it was probably the one place in southeast England you least wanted to be that afternoon.
Sitting in a tailback Nick had no idea how long this would take to shift. Fortunately he met a Good Samaritan who took him and my mother in for tea and mince pies whilst the nose to tail trail of vehicles remained stationary. Big thanks, then, to Tony who lives on the outskirts of Basingstoke.
Hours passed and once things started to move Nick rejoined the queue. But it was still nightmarishly slow going to gain the M3 – a distance of less than 3 miles. Mum and Nick eventually joined the motorway at 11.30p.m. and she was back at Chestnuts by 1.15. Throughout the 11-hour journey home she was, apparently, never less than cheerful and gung ho!
He ate a sandwich and downed a coffee then drove straight back to Surrey falling into bed at 3.15 for a 6.00 am departure for France that morning. Meanwhile I had worried my way through the afternoon and evening and trailed up and down the front steps, stolidly stowing the car with bags of clothes, boxes of food, the Christmas tree and leaving space for Rooney’s wicker igloo. To this we added a trio of yellow orchids and Rooney the cat in the morning before we left.
Luckily, as members of Brittany Ferries’ club, we were able to book a cabin on the ferry at a reduced rate. After an excellent breakfast Nick spent the rest of the 5-hour crossing in his bunk, I slept a short while then sat in the restaurant drinking tea, writing postcards and thank you letters to post on board, working my way through my magazine mountain.
Rejoining our car we were very amused to see a large spotty dog sitting in the driver’s seat of a white van, anxiously looking to left and right whilst he waited for his passengers to rejoin their vehicle.
Our house was warm, thanks to Daniel, and we quickly unpacked the car and settled in. The next two days were spent preparing for the arrival of the Sunburys. Decorations to go up, provisions to buy to add to our English supplies (including a veg box which was delivered to our garage about 2a.m. on the morning of our departure), the large duck ordered from M. Lemonnier to be collected.
At 6 o’clock on Christmas Eve Ted and his entourage arrived to a candlelit reception. The stage was set for Christmas Mk II.