I spent my first night in the UK at my dear friends’ Gill and Rick’s home in Bramhall. Gill picked me up from the airport at around 6pm and Rick cooked up a wonderful steak dinner. They spoilt me rotten as they always do, and it was the best and only time I had to catch up properly with them during this year’s Christmas in the UK. We literally talked for hours…. Great food, great wine and great company.. so what more could I ask for to kick off my 2022 Christmas stay in the UK?
In the morning it was all white and snowing! I left Crete the day before in 21 degrees and arrived to -2 degrees in Manchester! Mike came at lunchtime to pick me up and we chilled at home, watched the England v France match in the evening and went shopping on the Sunday. Karen was judging all weekend so I didn’t see her until the Sunday evening. It was so lovely to finally spend some quality time with Karen and Mike. This doesn’t happen very often these days as all my spare time in the UK is spent in Yorkshire at one or the other of my daughters’ homes. I do miss their company and I love staying with them. So I had a few things to get and Karen and I went out shopping pretty much all day Monday and Tuesday, enjoying lunch out on both days. As close sisters, this has become such a rare and treasured treat and I loved every minute of it!
On the Tuesday evening Karen and Mike dropped me off at Zoe’s workplace in Manchester and we drove back to Golcar in Huddersfield. It was still freezing weather but we kept warmly wrapped up when we were out and about, shopping and enjoying lunch whilst Arthur was at nursery. And then I looked after Arthur on the Friday when Zoe was back at work. Early evening, Rich drove me to meet Emma after she finished work, so that I could return to her home in Thirsk for a few days and spend time with Ralph and Neve. With both my girls working full time, there was a fair amount of juggling between homes so that I wasn’t left on my own at any one time. I appreciate all Zoe and Emma’s efforts to organize the time we had so well, in the run up to Christmas week in Wales.
After a few lovely days with Emma and the kids, it was time for the switchover back to Golcar, as I would be travelling with Rich, Zoe and Arthur to Swansea in South Wales. Both cars would be packed to bursting point for the long journey there. We had saved for two years to book this luxury barn conversion for all of us to stay in for a week and we were really excited!
When we finally arrived there in the evening of the 21st it was everything we’d hoped it would be and so much more! What a beautiful homely place, with everything we could possibly need or want, including lots of games and toys to keep the kids amused until they opened their Xmas pressies. Between them, Zoe and Emma had everything pre-organized including the enormous food and booze shop, the butcher’s order and the logs for the large log burner. The Barn was already dressed for Christmas with a beautiful large and real Christmas tree and wreathes spread along the large fireplace. It was all just picture perfect.
The next day it was Ash’s birthday and I babysat so that Emma, Ash, Zoe and Rich could all go into Swansea town for a meal and night out. This is so rare for them.. the opportunity to go out together as a foursome. They all had a great time and were out until the wee hours of the morning. Ralph, Neve and Arthur were as good as gold for their Yiayia and went to bed without too much persuasion, bless them!
The area of South Wales we were staying is called Gower, is surrounded by beautiful countryside and was much more rural than I was expecting. Although the weather turned a lot milder for the week we were there, which meant more rain, it stayed dry and bright for the beach walks we went on. Most notably, the walk we all took on Christmas Eve was fabulous.. as the photos show.. The kids loved it and I even found a few shells I could use in my art.
Afterwards, Emma, Ash and I, along with all three kids decided to enjoy a spell in the large hot tub at the Barn. This was soo lovely after our long walk on the beach and was great fun for Ralph, Neve and Arthur. We were all able to enjoy the hot tub several times during our stay at the Barn.
Rich had brought along a huge cinema-style screen and after the kids were all tucked up in bed we watched some great movies in style, in front of the enormous fireplace with a burning log fire… so cosy! The kids were quite a handful at times, over-excited and boisterous, but we had enough room and space to sleep them all separately and this meant we all got a good night’s sleep each night. Rich also brought along some Xbox stuff and games where the kids were suddenly inside the TV and jumping all over the place! It was hilarious to watch and so so funny when we adults had a go as well!
We excelled on the food… it was simply amazing! Leading up to Christmas Day, Emma and Rich cooked sumptuous meals and Christmas dinner itself was nothing short of 5-star delicious. Rich and Ash cooked Eggs Benedict for a late breakfast after the kids had opened all their presents. We adults did not bother buying presents for each other this year as enough money had already been spent on hiring this luxury Barn for the Christmas week. We worked brilliantly together as a team, with Zoe and I doing most of the washing up.
It was truly a family Christmas to remember, the likes of which will probably not be repeated for many years. We waved Emma, Ash, Ralph and Neve off as they all left the Barn on Boxing Day to visit Ash’s parents in Shrewsbury. Rich, Zoe, Arthur and I stayed on a further 2 days, hoping to get out on the last day and visit another nearby beach. We even made up a picnic but the rain and wind proved relentless and we stood on this beach for all of 5 minutes before realizing we should give up and go home!
On the morning of the 28th we were all packed up and on the long drive back to Golcar in Huddersfield. Back at Zoe and Rich’s I realized how poorly I felt. Some of us had colds over Christmas but we all dosed up and did not let it spoil our fun. However I started to take a turn for the worst with the head cold moving to my chest and preventing me from getting any real sleep the last few nights. This did not bode well for my journey home to Crete. I was up at 3-30am on the morning of the 30th, for the taxi to take me to Manchester airport for a 7.20am flight to Athens, followed by a 4 hour wait at Athens before my flight back to Chania. It was a nightmare journey and I have no idea what miracle brought me home that day. I was like the walking dead!
Lisa picked me up from Chania and I was home and straight to bed by 7pm. I tried to sleep and stayed in bed all night and most of the next day. It was New Year’s Eve and I was desperate to go to the big party being held at Vangeli’s. I got up at 4pm, had a long hot bath and thought I felt well enough to go out and at least see the New Year in. I knew I’d feel worse the next day if I didn’t make the effort to go. I went at 8pm, did not drink or eat and just about made it to midnight and the fireworks.
But I have been paying for it ever since! I have never had a cold like this before and have been really poorly for days, not able to get out of bed until recently. I took a covid test and it was negative so obviously it was just a very bad cold which is still in my sinuses even now. It seems so much worse because I’ve come back to such amazing weather! Every day it’s been gorgeously warm and sunny and I have been stuck in! Thankfully, writing up this post about our wonderful family Christmas in that gorgeous Barn in Wales, has kept things in perspective… otherwise this deadly cold was in danger of overshadowing all those wonderful new memories….