It’s two weeks before Christmas and we are off to Edinburgh.
Actually, let me pause for a moment and reassure you dear reader that this will not be a day by day, blow by blow account of our time back in the UK. You don’t want to read it, I can’t be bothered writing it. No this post is a snap shot to fill in the time gap between then and now – with a light winter dusting of humorous anecdote along the way… ‘I’ll be the judge of that Fraser!’.
We’ll be back in the warm embrace of Sweden before you know it.
Now where was I, ah yes, Edinburgh. Love Edinburgh. Fantastic city. But why, I hear you cry, drive up there from Manchester with a small baby? Well one of Alex’s best friends Emma, recently had a little baby called George and we thought it would be nice if they meet.
Now on the drive we decided to drop in on my boss Adrian and his lovely wife Emma who live in the Scottish Boarders. I suspect like myself, most people who go up to Scotland tend to just drive through the Boarders on the motorway. Well next time you should pull off and have a look round. I was shocked. It’s like something out of a Gothic novel – Mysterious. Beautiful but in a very brittle way… at least it was the way the Tom Tom took us. One right turn off the main road and we found ourselves on a dirt track, empty crop fields to our right, mist rolling in to consume rotten brambles to our left… I spent the whole time waiting for some strange demonic beastie to came striding into view… And on the dirt track went, leading us to who knew where…
If the tone of the previous sentence hasn’t given it away yet, I am not what you might call ‘country folk’ – Adrian and Emma have stables. The closest I’ve come to stables was in my Primary School nativity play … side note, I played The Sultan of Morocco, you know that REALLY famous character from the nativity story?… Anyway, I appreciate my view of the countryside is someone what skewed, but even I must admit there was something special about where they live. Now their ‘village’ consists of a church, clutch of houses and a Post Box. That’s it. But in exchange for that, it was very still, calm, unblemished … well to visit, I’m sure it’s not like that living there especially with Adrian as part of the equation.
But it did get me thinking about what we might want for Rosalyn when we come back to the UK. Admittedly the way house prices in and around London are going, we’d be lucky to get a room in one of those stables I talked about earlier… actually isn’t there a story about that? Famously featuring THE SULTAN OF MORROCCO!??!… but I do wonder if in three years when we head back if we might be done with this whole city living malarkey.
Now Edinburgh. Ah yes, Edinburgh. Unfortunately I was still working at this point so didn’t get the opportunity to spend the days out and about with everyone. Thus I missed them fitting the kids for a pair of concrete boots – man they are tough up Scotland! Rosalyn and George REALLY enjoying spending time with Father Christmas – Just look at their faces!
And best of all, baby yoga. Yes, baby yoga. What will they come up with next? Now my soon to be cousin-in-law Laura, who is a fully qualified yoga instructor, assures me that done properly it’s actually an extremely rewarding experience for all concerned. And I do believe her. However from what I’ve heard, the one Alex and Emma went to in Edinburgh, basically involved them sticking the baby on the top of their matt and essentially, doing a yoga class. Which for me would be the same as ‘lazy cat yoga’, or ‘docile penguin yoga’, or ‘recently stuffed pheasant yoga’, or ‘bring something that doesn’t move around too much yoga’, but what do I know.
As my days were tied up working out of the newly open Scottish Office of F B Hynes Ltd, which looked suspiciously like Emma and her husband Per’s new house – incidentally it has an outdoor swimming pool, absolutely crucial in Sunny Scotland I’m sure you’d agree. My movements were limited to trips in the evening, at which point I got to do some exciting baby firsts of my own. Like her first ride on a bus. Her first Christmas lights. Her first time in a pub. Her first time almost being set on fire by torches outside a castle*
*Hopefully also her last
All in all it was a fantastic trip North of the boarder, but it wasn’t long before we were back on the motorway again, down to Manchester for the Christmas festivities.
It was at this point that the reality of having a baby at Christmas for the first time really hit home. One of the best things about Christmas is, let’s be honest, getting drunk in the pub on Christmas Eve.
Up until this year I believed there were only three ‘life phases’ in relation to Christmas Eve,
Phase 1. Uncontrollable Childhood Christmas Excitement – “Santa’s coming! Santa’s coming! I can’t sleep! I CANT SLEEP!!”
Phase 2. I know Santa’s Not Real, but who cares It’s CHRISTMAS EVE! – “I can’t sleep! I CANT SLEEP!!”
Phase 3. I’m going to the pub – “I’m going to the pub!”
Now I’d assumed Phase 3, depending on your height, fake ID, leniency of local bar staff, relationship with acne… basically ran from mid/late teens until, well until you couldn’t hold a pint glass. Also known as death.
Alas dear reader, I hadn’t counted on Phase 4. Baby.
Babies, babies, babies. Given it is very much frowned upon to take babies into the pub on Christmas Eve (who knew?) in stark contrast to previous Christmas Eve’s we did something else this year. Something which up until a very short time ago would have been unthinkable. That’s right, we went to the local National Trust, Tatton Park and fed some ducks.
Oh how life has changed Dear Reader. How life has changed. Though it did make a nice change not to feel like I’d been hit in the head with a car and had a washing machine in my stomach during Christmas dinner for a change. So there’s always that I suppose.
Not to dwell on such matters, but of course Rosalyn got spoilt rotten – first grandchild syndrome and all that. Actually we all did, it’s only as you get older that you realise how much there is to do around Christmas and how little you have contribute in the past to make that happen. So here’s to parents everywhere (in particular mums) for giving their lazy children great Christmases and expecting nothing in return!
The other great thing about Christmas Day is tradition. I’m sure you all have your own. Ours consists of the family getting together for a good old fashioned party and culminates in Boys v Girls Trivial Pursuit. Because of course, how could that end any other way than in complete harmony? Ah, the true spirit of Christmas. Of course you all know the routine, the closer one team gets to winning the more competitive it gets,
“I’m sorry, I’m going to need their middle name as well… that’s what it says on card!”
“I going to have to rush you”… “You’ve only just finished reading the question!”… “Well you either know the answer or you don’t, more time isn’t going to make a difference!”
“Can you spell that? I can’t tell if it’s right or not from the way you are saying it.”
And so on and so forth. Of course, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
From Manchester we hotfooted it over to Nottingham for more of the same with Alex’s family. A fun-filled festive time was had by all. Alex’s sister Sara has two young girls and the three of them make quite the adorable little team – whether we’ll still be saying this when they hit their teens is yet to be seen.
New Year’s Eve was on us before we knew it. Same ‘phasing’ rules apply here of course – let’s just say clubbing wasn’t really on the cards (though I’d argue that Christmas Eve is an infinitely better night than NYE anyway, but you get the idea). Rosalyn was ‘sort of in bed’, Jools Holland was on the TV, and we were chiming in the New Year. I say sort of in bed, she clearly didn’t stay there for long once the full throated Auld Lang Syne chorus started up. Which was actually quite nice in the end as she got to see in her first ever New Year.
A further special moment came shortly afterwards as we were able to get a photograph of four generations of Alex’s family in the same room at the same time.
And so we found ourselves in the final week before returning to Sweden. But not before one last transport disaster worthy of special mention.
During our time back in the UK, my parents very kindly gave us use of their 2nd car, a Suzuki Jimny (which is the 127th best car ever made… according to Brendadio). How would one describe a Suzuki Jimny. Well, imagine if the Barbie Mobile was a real car, only smaller, and you’ve got a fairly good idea. Now I won’t hear a bad word about that car. Yes, you might on occasion worry about how much plastic there is I the body work. And yes, it has some ‘unique’ approaches to electronics, and ‘interesting’ handling relationship with high winds, but it did us proud whilst we were back in the UK.
The night before we were due to drive back to Manchester from Nottingham, Alex came to pick me up from the local train station as I’d been in London for the day. Whilst sat in the station car park about to leave, we noticed some strange ‘whistling’ sounds coming from the engine. Thinking nothing more off it, off we went. About a mile down the road, the whistling was joined by the smell of burning, which was shortly joined with the vision of smoke.
Now when your engine starts smoking like a chimney and you are two miles from home, what do you think is the best plan? That’s right, speed up to get home quicker! Only problem is the stretch of road we were on recently reduced it speed limit, and has a camera. Thus, somewhere in the Nottingham Police Transport Surveillance System is a picture of a car, on fire (!), speeding down a main road.
Oh yes, but it gets better. The reason for speed restriction is the fact that at the end of the road is the biggest roundabout in Nottingham and by now, the smoke is no so much drifting slowly out of the engine as practically lifting the bonnet off! Only we can’t pull over because we are boxed in by traffic. So what to do?
Well as luck would have it, on the other side of the roundabout is a small run of shops with, wait for it, a car shop. Somehow, and I can only put it down to pure luck alone because by this stage we are billowing enough smoke to do a decent impression of the Red Arrows, we get the car over the roundabout where it judders to a stop with a cacophony of grinding directly outside the car shop.
And before we knew it, that was that. Seven weeks back in the UK gone in the blink of an eye. It was time to board the plane and fly back to Stockholm. As I sat in the departure lounge in Manchester Airport, idly fiddling about on my phone, a picture caught my eye on Facebook from a friend of mine in Stockholm.
‘Oh that looks a bit miserable,’ I thought, ‘I wonder where he is?’,
As I slowly read the words above the picture, a cold chill ran down my spine. They simply said, #snowstorm#stockholm now
To be continued…
Getting into the Christmas Spirit
Picture of week
This is my cousin James. James is a big fan of the blog. Big fan. He currently lives in Canada and on the odd occasions I see him the first thing he asks is if I’ve been in Muggen recently. He’s even asked about fishing outside the Kings Palace – and nobody read that particular blog! His fiancé Laura has told me that he has been desperate to get a mention, so James here it is, Happy Christmas!
Track of the week
THE Best Christmas Song…
Fraser ‘Sultan’ Hynes