The 2006 christmas holidays turned out to be the most enjoyable trip back to Scotland in years, for me. From the night we arrived at Claire and Campbell’s on the way up, to our brief stop off at their place on the way back down, and everything in between, it was a christmas I’ll remember fondly for years to come.
A lot of the success of the holiday was due to “house-sitting” for Claire’s dad. As good fortune had it, her father was off on a long holiday on the other side of the world. So, while he enjoyed the warm climes of Australia, we got to spend the week in a fabulous house. The sheer convenience of having somewhere to unwind and enjoy some breathing space made a huge difference to the holiday. That and the showers, the warmth, the comfy bed, and all the other benefits of staying in a plush house that’s ten times the size of your own. The only downside was having to leave it to go back to our shoebox at the end of the holiday.
Anyhow, christmas day was really cool. All of the family gathered at my mum’s place, where the tree looked magnificent, surrounded by the sea of presents that lay before it. That’s the cool thing about having an extended family – major present haul. I got used to that kind of scene when I was little, so it was great for Elisha to experience it for her first christmas, even if she didn’t really have a clue what was going on.
It was funny watching her tear open the presents as they were handed to her, and then play amongst the shreds of wrapping paper. Having no concept of ownership, she didn’t get too excited by any of the presents she was given, and at one point started putting a present back in the box as I was trying to take it out for her. I’m sure she’ll have the hang of it for next year.
Since her cousin Abigail was a little too small to be involved in unwrapping at only a month old, Elisha got the lions share of attention from the relatives. At one point I went to see where she’d wandered off to, and found her sitting by herself on the kitchen floor, just sighing to herself. I guess she needed a break from the noise and fuss, as she enjoys a relatively peaceful existence at home.
The next day we’d all get some peace and quiet, after making our way down to Millport to visit Fliss‘ dad for a couple of days. Somehow, although I cant quite fathom it being possible, there seemed to be even less to do at Ted’s place than usual. Possibly the time of year, I don’t know, but we were going stir crazy within 24 hours and it took a superhuman effort to endure the second day of tedium. Fortunately Fliss had brought the movie I bought her, and we watched one of Ted’s, too, to give us something to do.
The day after we got back to the temporary home in Helensburth, Cousin Iain and Nicola arrived at Glasgow airport, where I picked them up with brother Andrew after we’d been on a shopping trip to the Braehead centre. Just as they arrived in the airport lounge, Andrew and I completed co-op Killzone Liberation on the PSP – not bad going, since Andrew had only gotten his PSP for christmas. That’s teamwork, that is! ;o)
Later on that night, myself, Fliss, Iain, and Nicola went out to the Clyde Bar in Helensburgh and had a really good time, while Elisha spent the evening with her Grandma – the artist formerly known as “mum”. It was a quality night out, and we were joined by Crazy Uncle John for an hour or so, too.
The next day was spent just taking it easy and running errands to prepare for Elisha’s birthday and New Year’s Eve the next day. In the evening, Iain and Nicola, and Hazel, Ian and Abigail came round to the temporary house for drinks, and to play Trivial Pursuit, which Iain and Nicola won – almost by default, the game had gone on for so long.
New Year’s Eve began with taking Elisha to a kids soft-play place called Gogglebox that has sprung up in town, where she seemed to enjoy playing in the ball pool and with toys there. Afterwards we went back to my mum’s place, where we’d have Elisha’s birthday party and, later, bring in the bells.
Both events went very well indeed, with almost everyone who could make it turning up to wish Elisha a happy birthday, even if they were celebrating the new year elsewhere later on. It really made my day, knowing that I have such a fantastic family – each of whom have made a difference to my life in one way or another. So, to have everyone there for my daughter’s first birthday was really special. Biggest surprise had to be Cousin Jamie and his clan turning up – he’d come up a day early, and it was good to see him, Linda, and the kids again for the first time since their wedding a few months back.
Not everybody could make it, of course. Due to the bad weather, Emma-Jane and Derek couldn’t get by the flooding in their area, which was a shame. And, for whatever reason, Crazy Uncle John didn’t show up at all – nor did we see him before we travelled back down south. It was disappointing that he couldn’t pop in for five minutes to wish Elisha a happy birthday, especially as he was in the town to attend a Hogmanay function later that evening. I guess someone else needed him more than we did.
After Elisha’s birthday party, it was mad to think that we still had New Year to celebrate later on that evening. I’d ran out of stamina on the beer front, and didn’t touch a drop from about half eight until coming on for midnight. Mind you, since Andrew and I were playing GTA Vice City Stories against each other I hardly noticed the time go by. The weather outside continued to lash the area with wind and rain, with Andrew and I heading outside at around ten o’clock to see if we could stop his trampoline from blowing away. We couldn’t, but the wind was dying down by that point anyway.
As the bells closed in, big Ian pointed out that he’d seen a nice steak pie in my mum’s fridge (greedy bugger!), which spawned the idea of having a “traditional” family dinner after bringing in the New Year. I’d never heard of this particular tradition before, but, eager to please, my mum went to work (again) in the kitchen to prepare the feast all the same.
When Big Ben rang out on TV to mark the arrival of 2007, we celebrated with each other before clearing the lounge to put out the dining table for the meal. It felt a little bit surreal sitting down to steak pie and all the trimmings at half past midnight, but looking round the table I was exactly where I wanted to be. Fliss, Steven, and big Ian said a few words to mark the occasion before we ate. I had thoughts of my own, but thought I’d save them for a later date;
I certainly didn’t expect everything that came our way that day, and I felt truly humbled to be there with such a great family at the close of the year and the dawn of a new one. Big Ian and Marjorie; Sister Hazel, Ian and Abigail; my dad, Andrew, and my mum; with my wee Elisha and my wonderful girlfriend Fliss alongside me. Thank you all for making it the most memorable and enjoyable New Year I’ve spent in a long time. The effort that my mum put in to making it all happen I could never thank her enough for, and the love and goodwill created by the family all being there was simply the best christmas gift I could ever have hoped to receive. Thankyou all.
It ended up being a very late night, with Fliss and I getting back to the temporary house at coming on for three AM, and it being almost half past three before we got Elisha down and into bed ourselves. A long day, but a great day all the same.
On New Year’s Day we headed up to Xscape at Braehead for a tobogganing session that Aunty Mary had booked. I was a little apprehensive about the tobogganing – mainly because I didn’t have the appropriate clothes for it, and I knew that jeans were the wrong tool for the job. I did wear plenty of layers up top, though, and I had decent gloves and boots on.
When we arrived I was the last down the stairs to deposit valuables in the lockers before our session started. At the head of the queue for the service desk were members of my family, followed by a collection of little people (is that the politically correct term? I have no idea – midgets, for want of a better word), with a handful of muslim ladies and children bringing up the rear.
Well. There you go, I thought. As unusual an activity as tobogganing is, it does appear to be for everyone. Which is pretty cool.
I couldn’t get over the fact the muslim women were struggling up and down the slopes with burqua’s on. I mean, fair play to them – it’s their culture and if they want to celebrate it then good on them (myself, I had my Chargers jacket and jersey with me), but, when the impracticalities of it were causing them to fall all over the place and walk in the path of folk speeding down the slopes on their toboggans, it just seemed a little bit daft. Having the good sense to want to avoid causing the kind of stir that Jack Straw managed, I suppose I shouldn’t say too much. But really; does strong religious belief demand the complete removal of common sense, or what?
Anyhow, the tobogganing was great fun – there were a few spills, with Big Ian coming off worst in one of the pile-up’s, but managing to walk it off, and most of us who didn’t have the appropriate clothing got soaked to the skin. The toboggans were a little bit small – the little people were having a ball, but my feet kept catching the ground, and I got snow everywhere as a result. Cant deny that it was a most excellent way to mark the start of 2007, though – top marks to Aunty Mary for the idea.
After the tobogganing we all went to TGI Friday’s for the final slap-up meal of the holiday, where I both ordered and ate too much for my own good, but enjoyed it all the same. After, we headed back to the temporary home, dropping Iain and Nicola off on the way, before spending a quiet night taking it easy and then getting to bed early-ish.
The next day, we assembled one last time at my mum’s place to say goodbye to everyone, then set off on the return trip, stopping off briefly at Claire and Campbell’s to collect Elisha’s birthday present. We were late getting there due to it taking us ages for us to leave Helensburgh. I think we’ve been late every time we’ve gone to their place, so I apologise for that – we’ll try harder in future. ;o)
The roads were clear and the weather was dry for the rest of our journey south to Liverpool, and with just one stop on the motorway we reached journey’s end by eleven o’clock. It was good to get home to familiar surroundings, although Xmas 2006 has confirmed why I always say “I’m going home” when I talk about going back to Scotland; it’s that home is where your family is.