“And so it came to pass that George led his wife Mary out of the strange town and back to the place from whence they sprang. They were led there by a bright light in the sky with “Easyjet” written on it which took them to a place called Newcastle where they boarded a huge iron donkey. When they arrived at the town of their birth, all the inns were full and they could not even lay their heads down at their old dwelling-place, but they found a stable spot next door thanks to a generous uncle and there they remained.

And it was there, with the whole throng of jigsaws looking on, that Mary’s time came and she brought forth a Xmas present which she wrapped in glittery paper and laid under the coffee table. Outside, the news spread rapidly of their arrival and two wise queens (Mum and Alison) hurried to meet them, bringing gifts of milk and bread on which they feasted along with a fish supper! And a heavenly choir of Christmas Number ones rang out through the BBC singing “Last Xmas I got really drunk, but the very next day I fell in the Tay, this year I stuck to the beer, I only drank Carlsberg Special!”

Right, here’s the modern version. The Saturday before we returned to Scotland, all the pals had a pre-Xmas dinner under Fred’s awning. It was a rowdy affair with buckets of food and drink, a Danish Secret Santa and a viciously competitive game of Settlers, won by my partner Het whom I abandoned halfway through due to Spanish tummy.

A smug Het with Boab and Kev keeping the evening sombre!

A smug Het with Boab and Kev keeping the evening sombre!

Now, how I got involved I’ll never quite know but there I was on the Wednesday and Thursday before we left, sitting in Mary’s classroom dressed as Santa Claus giving out presents and certificates to the pupils! Great moment when they crowded around me for the big photo and one wee boy whispered to his pal “Mira, su barba es falsa!” No need for a translation there I think. On the second night I even stayed behind to talk to the parents….. and what did I get for my efforts above and beyond? A parking ticket! Yes, I was nicked for overstaying my welcome. And it wasn’t even a sleigh!

On the first night we missed the usual weekly meal up in the restaurant as we were down at the school, but I kept the suit on to drive back up to the campsite where we surprised the diners with a visit from Santa. Much fun was had by all and even the staff joined in!

Santa al bar!

Santa al bar!

Eventually we flew back on 20th December to be at the christening of our granddaughter Artemis that Sunday. The day went very well up in Arbroath and Eve’s parents did us proud with a wonderful spread. The whole family was there including the boys’ mum Isobel and her sister Dorothy so all sides were fully represented. Young George was the godfather and Nellie’s wife Lyndsey the godmother. The star of the day was passed around a million times but took it all in her stride, crying only when I personally tried to hold her. What? I hope you’re not laughing!

Oh, this is interesting, Mum and Dad!

Oh, this is interesting, Mum and Dad!

The next couple of days in the run-up to Xmas were ridiculously busy as you might well expect but I was concentrating by then on getting my book some publicity locally. It was truly a wonderful moment to have in my hands a physical copy of the book with my name on it and I was very proud of it. Eventually, a week later, there was an article about me in the Dundee Courier coinciding with me doing a book signing at the Nisa supermarket just down the hill from the flat. The day went very well, I met several old friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and I sold 25 copies of “Socrates”. By the end of the holidays that figure would be 33, an unanticipated bonus.

My 5 minutes of fame

My 5 minutes of fame

Christmas Day was mass in the morning, followed by a short visit to Mum and to Alison, then back up to Eve’s parents for a buffet. By then, Scott’s Canadian friend Simon was with us, having come north from Cambridge where he is studying. A couple of days later we took Simon to St. Andrews and showed him around the beautiful University town and of course its golfing icons.

We continued to visit as many folk as we could, squeezing in some priority time with our grandson Ben (boy, has he made progress over the last few months!). On the Saturday between the 2 festivals we had the traditional Kelso AFC smoker night out, this time with everyone in Blues Brothers garb. Naturally yours truly walked off with the prize for “Best Dressed” although some suggested it was “Best in Show!” Anno Domini is inevitable however and by half past nine I was safely curled up on the settee snoring my head off. I even missed MOTD!

Best Dressed, sunshine!

Best Dressed, sunshine!

One day George and I took Ben to the soft-play centre “Pirate Island” which is always a bit of a laugh as we adults scamper around trying to keep up with Ben who runs around in perpetual motion mode. I still managed to meet other friends and ex-colleagues there so had a busy few hours. However I found time to properly catch up with my first-born and find out where his life is and where he wants it to go next. He seems focused but like so many parents is suffering from so many sleepless nights over the past 2 years. I’m sure we all recognise his situation, or at least thank God we were spared it. I wasn’t!

The best moment was at the very start of our visit, just after we had stepped off the plane in Newcastle. Greg called to tell me he had just been informed he was to be taken on full-time permanent at the packaging factory in Montrose where he had been working for the previous 3 months. After news like that I needed no further Christmas presents. Well done my boy. I am hugely proud of you and your perseverance.

The last few days were a bit frenetic and before we knew it was time to pack up and come back to Vilanova. Not before I took Ben to Toys ‘R Us and bought him some Thomas the Tank Engine stuff. Nice that was! (Am I sounding a bit like Yoda?) We saw everyone one last time, hugged, kissed, made promises we can’t keep, hopped on the train and went back down to Newcastle for tea and a bed at Dorothy’s. The next morning we took an early taxi to the airport and had a trouble-free flight back to Barcelona. Mary found it especially exciting…….

I'm Mary, fly me!

I’m Mary, fly me!

Het and Mike picked us up at El Prat, delivered us safely back to the campsite then gave us dinner as all the shops were closed for the feast of the Epiphany which is Spain’s real celebration of Christmas.  These two have become close friends over the year just finished and we’re sure that that will continue to be the case for many years to come (unless I never get the Vilanova Cup back from Mike!) This morning I had breakfast outside the awning as you can see and it felt really surprisingly good to be back.

Nothing like a nice cuppa!

Nothing like a nice cuppa!

So that’s it, we’re back and Mary was at work tonight as usual. Thanks everyone for a great Xmas break. We had a ball. Pity it didn’t snow though!

I leave you with a cracking  photo of my grandchildren and some supposed adults!

 

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Ben’s Mum Fiona, Artemis, Scott, Ben, Artemis’ Dad Gavin

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