Friday was Christmas Eve, home to pack and then off to catch the train up north. Arrived and settled down with the family. Between the 8 of us (mum and dad, me and Richard, Steph and Dave, Emily and John) we got through 5 bottles of red wine, not to mention assorted bottles of lager and a small quantity of tia maria and tequila. Steph cooked us Cassoulet for dinner which was fabulous, and followed by jelly and icecream. And we spent the rest of the night sitting around in the living room with lots of good music. It was a lovely evening.
Christmas Day I woke a little before 9, and was just dressed and ready to head downstairs when I was greeted by a yell of "It's Snowing!" and dashed down to see that it was indeed, and to have Emily get a pic of three of us out in the front garden in the snow. It didn't carry on right then, but it did snow on and off all day, and settled a little in the shade. There was a veritable tide of presents across the floor, which was almost enough over the top to be a little uncomfortable, but we still had fun opening them, before poor Richard fell asleep again having not slept the previous night. Lots of lovely things were given and received anyway. I got earrings from Emily, candle holder, candles, posh hand care set and choc from Steph, CDs from Richard, perfume from Mike, and framed photos from the family shoot in the summer from mum and dad, plus probably assorted other bits and pieces. Most presents from friends had been left at home which was just as well! Everyone seemed pleased with what I'd got them. Best presents overall in terms of fun for all seemed to be a game called Chairs which Emily got and which was played lots, the Killers CD that John got my mum and dad. And best for face lighting up was Emily, when she saw that John had bought her tickets for the Chemical Brothers and for Lemon Jelly.
John left us after breakfast to head over to visit his immediate family over in Scunthorpe, and the remaining 7 of us had a traditional Christmas lunch of turkey stuffed with stuffing and sausage meat with parsnips, sprouts, roast spuds and gravy, with Christmas pud to follow and nice coffee to finish off. The crackers yielded hats and bad jokes and silly presents. A mix of almost practical (notepad, set of 4 coloured pencils) to the extremely daft (plastic monster with one eye, which was a tiny ping-pong ball which floated in the air when you blew hard down the pipe of the monster's body). It was a lovely meal, and nice having just "family" at it. What was strange was not having more of the extended family around in the afternoon, but it was still a really nice day. We played games in the afternoon including the Buffy the Vampire Slayer board game which seriously needs the rules clarifying properly before we try again, plus Escape From Atlantis and Chairs. Emily made a great start on a Where's Wally jigsaw, and Richard reappeared from a nap in time to watch the Harry Potter film on the telly before dinner. John also unexpectedly reappeared from parts East: he was supposed to be house-sitting for his eldest brother, but got bored on his own and figured it would be fine. It was nice to have him back though and Emily was thrilled to see him. Food was just sandwiches and cheese and things but still too much for Emily to eat! And after dinner we played Trivial Pursuit for a while before bed. A very traditional sort of day really.
On Boxing Day poor Richard was feeling even more tired and only really stirred out of the attic for lunch and for an hour or so before bed. Lunch was turkey curry, which is thoroughly pred but actually rather nice. And in the afternoon Grandma and Grandad came over, as did Uncle Jon and Caroline, and their kids Jacob and Anna who are 3.5 and around 20 months old respectively. Jacob was terribly polite and asked very nicely if he could play with the trainset from upstairs (which we did) and Anna was just delightful. She has the most incredible little giggle and a great big grin and just seemed thrilled to bits with everything from lots of people to run around, presents to open and play with, new books to look at, bits of pork pie, and incredibly an entire mince pie all on her own. You wouldn't think there was room! The main shadow on the day was the fact that John was terribly worried about his brother who was on holiday in Sri Lanka, and we were terribly glad to get the news he was safe and well, although they had returned from a day trip to discover their hotel completely gone, and all their things with it. They'll be cutting their holiday short of course but we're only thankful it wasn't worse. I was sad to have Richard feeling so fed up and poorly and unsociable too - left me feeling sorry for him for feeling so unhappy but also cross because well, it's only Christmas once a year and I guess our family always expects people to do their best to have a good time anyway and not just hide away, and well, it's a bit rude really when visiting. But never mind. Cold turkey, pie, quiche, and lots of salad as a buffet for tea, with trifle and cake and mince pies for afters. Same as every year. But lovely nonetheless, and at least partly because I'm just a sucker for little traditions.
Monday was a rather busy day really. Sent Richard home on the train on Monday and met JDC in the pub for a pint, before going back to his house to visit the cats and meet his Dad and Mum and Great Uncle Charlie. Was unexpectedly offered lunch and found myself eating a three course meal (soup, sausage and chips, lemon mousse) only 2 hours after a full cooked breakfast (toast, scrambled egg, bacon, beans and black pudding). I felt terribly rude dashing off as soon as we'd finished eating, but Turner was coming round to visit in the afternoon and I was late as it was! Was lovely to see them though, we had a nice relaxed afternoon drinking tea and wine, then Uncle David arrived to visit and Emily got home from work and we had a nice dinner of turkey soup (spot a theme yet?) and takeaway pizza (OK, bit of a break there). And then we watched About A Boy on DVD. That's another family tradition: santa always brings the Blairs something on DVD or video. I'd not seen it before, though I've read the book, and it's utterly utterly charming. I was all peopled out by the end of the film though so waved Turner off with a hug and a "thanks for dinner" to my mum which she said felt just like old times 10 years ago! And then went to bed tired, but accidentally stayed up late reading the 5th Harry Potter. Ooops.
And today it was time to head back down to Cambridge, after another nice lunch of turkey soup (a different batch, very different in character to the first) which Steph and Dave pottered across to join in and to wave me off. Train trip slightly marred by a rather longer than expected wait at Peterborough, but it's not the end of the world. Opened more presents this evening: books from Richard, lovely necklace from his parents, hilarious book from Jan, chocs from Paul and Turner and a funky candle and a cute spiky wristband from Mike. Plus Becky had given the pair of us a DVD of Kill Bill and we've got a lovely chinese dip set from Sion too. And while we've been apart Mike and I have been calling and texting lots which has been lovely. He tried to persuade me to come home via Sheffield today but it's not exactly on my route, more's the pity. He'll be back on Thursday though and I'm looking forward to seeing him. Tomorrow I think Richard and I plan to go out for lunch and do some shopping with our Christmas/Birthday vouchers from his brother Nigel, and maybe we'll catch a film too. And in the meantime I'm catching up on LJ and the like.