UK vs. Spain at Christmas

31st January 2011

During the Christmas holidays, I visited the UK for the first time in a very long time! I will confess that I wasn’t looking forward to the trip beforehand. Of course, I was keen to see my beloved’s family but the whole UK thing wasn’t doing it for me at all.

But lo and behold, I had a great time and I didn’t want to come home! Well, I was only there for three and half days and most of that was taken up with Christmas, but still. Admittedly, a lot of my new found glee in the homeland was due to the festive spirit instilled in everyone. Last minute shopping on Christmas Eve was great fun and fellow bargain hunters seemed happy and good natured, shattering my memories of the miserable folk back home. That was until one woman had a complete hissy fit at a poor young boy behind a bookshop counter because the automatic doors were out of use and so she had to push them instead. Diddums.

The cold weather meant that we had to wrap up warm in thick coats, scarves and gloves but although it was bitingly cold, it didn’t feel quite so uncomfortably damp as it can do here. When we disembarked the plane in London during the early hours of Christmas Eve, a blast of arctic wind nearly blew us off the steps – and I revelled in it!

Many of the houses were covered in decorations, inside and out, and that certainly added to the brightness of the atmosphere and cheeriness of folk. By now they’ll be at each other’s throats trying to scoop up the best bargain from the January sales. My mother-in-law tells me that it can get quite rough.

Talking shops, Tescos was a revelation. I ran around like a hedgehog on speed gathering this and that into my shopping basket. When I saw the pricetags, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Compare them to the inflated prices we pay here for exactly the same products – it’s daylight robbery. And oh the choice! The clothes, the baking accessories, the low fat ready meals, the killer calorie desserts, the books and the CDs. I could live in Tescos.

But then the afternoons disappeared and the skies darkened at around 4pm and the gloom set in. It was already dark there by the time I’d be returning to the office for the afternoon session back in Spain. It makes for very long evenings and night times and I’m not sure I could handle it on a long term basis. We take our bright sunshine and longer days here for granted, grumbling when we have a day or two of rain. I will endeavour to appreciate them more this year and make the most of them by being outside and enjoying our lifestyle more!

Oh, and according to the British press, they’ve got a mini ice age to look forward to. I definitely think I’m better off here!

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12 Lessons of Christmas

9th January 2011

After two and a half weeks of festivities, culminating in Reyes last Thursday, I thought I would reflect on the lessons learnt by a wannabe goddess during a fantastic holiday season.

On the first day of Christmas my headache said to me, “mulled wine is not a good idea before breakfast!”

We’re not big drinkers but that mulled wine just slips down the throat far too easily. After a couple of glasses on Christmas Eve, and more on Christmas morning, I was ready to snooze through the Queen’s Speech and Christmas Day soaps. Not a good look when you’re staying at your in-laws!

On the second day of Christmas, my true love said to me, “why on earth did you buy me a magic wand?”

I love sourcing new and interesting presents but this time I may have fallen into the trap of buying something that I wanted rather than thinking it through! He is so difficult to buy for as his birthday is right by Christmas so I have to come up with two sets of presents. He also has an annoying habit of buying himself whatever he wants so I have to think outside of the box. Well, I’ve got over the humiliation of him laughing at my present in front of his parents but I notice the magic wand is still in its box. Oh well, I’ll sneak it out when he’s not looking and cast a wicked spell on him.

On the third day of Christmas, the high street said to me, “let the sales begin!”

I was thrilled to be in the UK for the start of the sales even if time constraints meant that I only had time to visit one store. Still, M&S was a great choice and I pepped up my wardrobe with a few bargains and, since I didn’t have hours to hunt around the shops, for once I didn’t come home with a load of turkeys that I’ll never use or wear.

On the fourth day of Christmas, the boss, she said to me, “right, let’s get back to work!”

It was back to Spain and back to work with a bump. I was disappointed to have rushed back from all the fun in the UK. Although the office has been quiet, it’s been a great time to reflect on 2010 and make preparations for the year to come. Next time, we’ll stay a few extra days in the UK as a long weekend with family just isn’t enough – especially over the festive period.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my dogs they said to me, “all change!”

It was time to move into our temporary accommodation where we regularly dog and house sit. In pouring rain and thunderstorms I drove all my kit and caboodle, and my dog up to their mansion only to find that I’d been told the wrong day. In future, I think we’ll double check dates told to us at Christmas parties!

On the sixth day of Christmas, my truelove said to me, “don’t forget to pick me up from the airport!” 

Finally he was coming home and it was his birthday! I made a cake, wrapped his presents and battled through yet more rain and thunderstorms to rescue him from Malaga. On reflection, I always book his flight for 30th and perhaps it’s not very goddess like to expect him to leave his family and fly back on his birthday. We’ll have to work around that.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my friends did say to me, “come to ours for New Year’s!”

We had nothing planned for New Year’s Eve and I was looking forward to a night in with our dogs and a bottle of champagne. But a last minute invitation to a friend’s penthouse turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. Standing on a roof terrace, oohing and aahing at the fireworks from all around in great company. You don’t need to spend a fortune at a restaurant or bar to enjoy New Year’s Eve – sometimes the most entertaining evenings are those that are not planned at all!

On the eighth day of Christmas, my stomach said to me, “no more food!”

Right, that’s it. Next year I will not bake myself into a flabby stupor. It’s all good and well saving money baking Christmas presents left, right and centre but not only did I fly to the UK dreading customs asking me exactly how much brandy I had poured into the Christmas cake, but I also appear to have piled on the pounds, obviously by tasting everything I created. Sorry everyone but next year you’re getting home baked healthy treats.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my dogs did say to me, “let’s go out and have some fun!”

After a week of rain, we were all glad of some sunshine so that we could take the dogs out for a proper walk, as oppose to a miserable, tail down, “I don’t like the rain” walk. We had a fantastic day walking along the beach, hanging around our borrowed mansion, playing in the garden and catching up on some Christmas telly in the evening. A superb day’s entertainment and not a penny spent. The best!

On the tenth day of Christmas, my wallet said to me, “don’t spend so much money!”

The first working day of the New Year here in Spain and the bills they all did come a tumbling in. I have to confess that none of them were unexpected although, as per usual, I seemed to have blanked their existence from my mind while I was preparing for the holidays last month. It’s not a disaster and we’ll be fine but I still need to spend less at Christmas.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my truelove said to me, “what did I get you for Christmas?”

The best thing I did for Christmas was buy my own presents. There was none of the fake grimaces while I thanked relatives for yet more talcum powder. My in-laws may have been a bit surprised when they received a list of suggestions at the beginning of December but my parents weren’t at all surprised when I showed them how to order my kindle from Amazon and even typed in the credit card details and delivery address!

My truelove was perhaps the most surprised (and not terribly amused) when I told him that I’d bought us tickets to see Take That in Milan as my Christmas present. Still, it got him out of a shopping hole!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my family said to me, “let’s do it all again, the Spanish way!”

And so, I bought a Roscon de Reyes cake, cooked a roast meal for four humans and four dogs, and chilled the champagne. Well, it’s the last Christmas we’ll see before December!

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