It always rains in the south of France and Saturday was no exception. Torrential rain poured down, we huddled under umbrellas, we jumped over puddles and waded through lakes in order to exchange a Christmas present and, having used our Nespresso machine in London every day, buy a Nespresso for France. Hooray for Christmas sales!
With a little more home improvement underway (we bought some curtains for the living room) it was time to return to the Little House Above the Boulangerie and wait in hope for the storm to pass.
As I have been busy scoffing mince pies for the past couple of weeks, it seemed like a good idea to establish a rating system.
As a lover of all things pastry (a true northerner), the mince pie criteria is very important. Is the pastry sweet or slightly savoury? How deep is the mincemeat? What is the alcohol ratio? All important factors.
Coming in as the worst mince pie ever, the Pret a Manger mince pie. Dry and cakey. Vile.
Second to last: Morrisons All Butter mince pies. Whatever they used it certainly wasn’t butter.
Middle of the range: Sainburys All Butter mince pies. Perhaps they really did use butter.
Second to top: Margaret from Croydon, truly homemade mince pies. A nice rustic mince pie, just like being at home.
The best of the best: Thomas the Bakers Yorkshire mince pies from the parental hamper. Seriously epic mince pies which must be ordered immediately for next year.
And the honourary mention: The mother of my sister in law, Jennifer who came armed with a syringe to inject mince pies with brandy. Now that’s taking it seriously!
And so heading to France for a week of rest and recuperation, I think that’s it for the mince pies for another year.
I do like a nice bit of pastry!
After a fun day at the brother in law’s house, we set off back to London. We’d spent the day in Farnham, a couple of hours drive from Chalk Farm and we were driving the car of the father of Letad. Best driving required.
All was going well despite rain and challenging driving conditions until we suddenly reached flashing lights and a police road block. Luckily the iPhone map found us a new route and off we went.
All was good until another road block appeared and we were redirected again. And despite finding a new route to take us through Wimbledon, the timing couldn’t have been worse as the battery ran out and the trusty iPhone span its little wheel and went to sleep. How I wished I could do the same!
The darkness closed in and we drove without a clue where we were. Trying to remember the route and trying to visualize the suburbs of London. We drove around in a large circle before thankfully stumbling across a sign to Wandsworth.
By the stage, we were tired and moods were slightly less than buoyant. The rain continued to pour and we gradually wound our way though the dark suburbs until we reached the Thames.
Oh the relief as we crossed the river and were back on the north side. Those of us who live north rarely venture south and have an understandable fear of crossing water.
We were back on familiar ground as we drove through Chelsea to Hyde Park Corner, Park Lane to Marble Arch and down a wet Oxford Street.
It was after 10pm and yet the McDonalds was full and people walked past the array of closed shop fronts in preparation for the Boxing Day sales.
The Christmas lights of Selfridges glistened and glimmered in the rain and made the late drive worthwhile although not necessarily a choice.
By the time we reached Chalk Farm, the mood had deteriorated and the only thing to do was go to bed. Not the best ending to Christmas Day but we were home and warm and dry.
Last Christmas Letad and I went to lunch with my family in Croydon. We had such a good time we invited ourselves back and so begins a new tradition (we hope!)
A delicious lunch of roast salmon and a selection of three decadent desserts meant we were off to a good start for festive eating.
Arriving back in Chalk Farm we decided to attend the midnight service in Primrose Hill which we’d attended last year. It had been an incredibly moving sermon last year and couldn’t be matched but we belted out a few good carols, said a prayer for the speedy recovery of Hannah and felt that we’d got Christmas off to a good start.
It was 1am. We walked back through the darkened streets listening for sleigh bells.
Having lugged it up six flights of stairs over my shoulder, Letad’s Christmas present stood by the window hiding under a blanket. You’d never know what it was except for the wheels and handles bars poking out from underneath.
There was a tragic story attached. While sitting on the bike in the shop (it was never going to be a surprise) Letad looked over at the salesman and said, with a quiver in his voice, “I’ve never had a new bike before.” A tear came to the eye of even the hardest man, and the deal was done.
The bike was carried down six flights of stairs and ridden with abandon on Christmas morning as after decades, the wish had finally been granted. Flying down the hill with legs outstretched, an eight year old boy materialized.
Six flights back up and it was time to go out for Christmas lunch…where the sad story about the new bike was hotly disputed.
Apparently Letad had been the owner of chopper complete with hooter, only the creme de la creme of kids bikes in the 70s. The story was poo-pooed by the family of Letad and much debate ensued.
Chopper or not, the Christmas bike was a big success.
A year ago I started work at a large US corporation. I was quite overwhelmed with the number of meetings, people and the task I had ahead of me.
One year on and I’m pleased to say I’ve survived. I delivered what I promised I would, I made significant changes to the way things were being done, I went to the US five times and I built a team of designers. I was the first global position sitting in London and reporting to New York which brought its own set of challenges, and diplomacy has been a large part of my role, who would have thought?!
As the year has now ended and I’m on holiday for two weeks, I’m resting and recharging my batteries as it was a tough end to the year.
Despite that I’m proud of what I’ve done and am looking forward to what 2014 will bring…
And so there’s a trip to Arkansas and New York at the end of January as it would seem things went so well without me, I now get to go back.
Happy New Year!
I bought Letad a rather inspired Christmas present and I have to say, I was very pleased with myself.
It’s something he’s never had before (he does actually know what it is) and so today I went to collect it.
I carefully brought it home, pressed the button for the extremely small lift, and as the doors opened, realized there was absolutely no way I could get it inside…
It must be love as I put a large, unwieldy object which is bigger than I am, over my shoulder and carried it up six flights of stairs.
It wasn’t easy and I was puffing a lot when I got to the top but I’m sure it will be worth it on Christmas morning when I open my stocking!!
Four weeks ago the daughter of my dear friends had an appendectomy which turned into something much more serious.
Her recovery has been long and complicated and she is still in intensive care in London. My friends are here from LA and have had an immense amount of worry and concern since this started.
As Christmas approaches, a time when people come together to exchange gifts, share love and argue over charades, my heart goes out to Caroline and Andrew as they face a Christmas with their daughter in a London hospital.
I’m not a religious person but I do believe in the power of positive thought and so a prayer is in my thoughts and I’m sending lots of love.
Get well Hannah!
It’s worth overdoing!
Despite spending the weekend without a voice and with reduced hearing (yes, ensue hilarious jokes) by Sunday I started Christmas preparations.
My motto when it comes to these things is “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing” and so, true to form, I whipped up four bespoke felt Christmas stockings complete with names.
|All ready for filling
I’ve started buying the fillers (just helping out Father Christmas) but I’m left with a quandary. Do I buy my own stocking fillers or run the risk of an empty stocking on Christmas morning?
The Christmas dilemma!
A year ago I had the extreme cold of death. It was extremely unpleasant but I survived.
This week I succumbed to part two.
Four long haul flights in two weeks may have had something to do with it and sheer exhaustion meant that I took my first sick day off work in a year.
Hopefully better tomorrow…