So, December started well with a trip to the Paris Boat Show (and a little bit of sightseeing too!!) As it was my first time in Paris Steve insisted that I had to see La Tour Eiffel and take a romantic stroll along the Seine. The weather was exceptional, the Paris Boat Show puts the London Boat Show well and truly in the shade with at least 4 major halls. The last time we visited the London Boat Show in 2016, we had the show pretty much to ourselves and managed to look around it in two hours (admittedly it was a week day)! The Paris Boat Show in stark contrast was very busy and well worth the 5 o’clock alarm to catch the 0700 train from Caen. We were also pleasantly surprised to discover that there were no charges on the Metro due, we believe, to pollution control.
The following day I was struck down by ‘man flu’ (honorary, obviously!!) and spent the next two weeks writing shopping lists for Steve and generally feeling sorry for myself. I did share and allow him to have a whole afternoon of illness himself – maybe it’s all the fruit and veg he doesn’t eat – who needs that when you’ve got wine? This time did allow us to plan our Christmas foray across the channel (La Manche). Steve, being mindful of our financial position (bones of his arse), chose different crossings to those previously decided upon, which meant that our pick-up in England was in the evening and our departure for return was yet another 5 am alarm.
The Christmas plan was a dual-venue excursion. First to my mum and Mac’s with change-over day being Boxing Day. We were joined by our two young and impressionable sons (note this for later) on Christmas Eve. Mac had bought himself one of these new-fangled so-called ‘Smart TV’s (which apparently are only as smart as their owners! Sorry Mac!) As one member of the Monaghan clan does seem to understand this type of technology and being armed with his pass-codes for Netflix, Amazon etc, Alex took over and explained functionality to a bewildered audience.
Steve took over the kitchen with the mandatory fortified British wine in hand (a Christmas essential) and we created a Moroccan-inspired feast – chicken tagine with olives, preserved lemons, chick peas and green beans, cous cous, falafels (surprise, surprise!), hummus, carrot and numnee salad and flat breads. Much to everyone’s amazement Alex, the carnivore, Monaghan enjoyed the falafels and went back for seconds and thirds!!
Then it was time to gather as a family in front of the Smart TV. As the offerings were not that inspiring it was decided that we would take advantage of Alex’s Netflix and watch a film. The choice was left to the matriarch of the group who decided that a comedy would be a good choice for the demographic. Having made her choice, more by actor than film description, Dirty Grandpa was selected. The only person who appeared to have looked at the full description rather than just the headline was Steve – he must have decided to kept his mouth shut for once!! (IMDb parental guidance makes fun reading!! And if you are of a prudish disposition probably as close as you may wish to get!) So imagine the scene, two impressionable young boys, two senior citizens and the two of us spending more time watching each other’s reactions to the antics on screen than the actual screen! Grandson and grandma sharing a two-seater settee, both getting redder and redder the longer the film went on!!! Moment of truth – those two impressionable young boys are in fact 28 and 24 and could probably tell us a thing or two! This experience will never be forgotten and undoubtedly mentioned at every future family gathering. Christmas Day went as planned with the notable phrase of the day being “you snooze, you lose” when our oldest went for an afternoon nap and missed out on the Christmas pud! Sorry Sean, it was very tasty (and it was me that ate yours)!
Having spent the last 20+ years avoiding the “traditional” Christmas fayre, (it started with a Christmas day barbecue in Tunstall, Suffolk and us choosing a different country each year to experiment with – some successful, some not so!!), we made up for it this year with Roast Beef on Christmas Day (with my cousin providing a nut roast for me to try – thanks Jayne!) and Roast Chicken on Boxing Day. The local chippy was open on our last night so, of course, as it is almost tradition, we had to partake! I think we all ended up having a chip butty in the end! Alex had experienced strange noises coming from his car and took the opportunity to ask his dad – and was most surprised that his dad seemed to know what he was talking about! So on our last day in England Steve donned his father’s overalls and greased the cv joints, bearing in mind that Steve hadn’t touched a car (maintenance wise) in at least ten years and then it was generally old bangers and not these modern fancy cars – but funnily enough mechanical vehicle design hasn’t really changed in 30 years, especially on rear wheel drive floating axles. Outcome – one quieter cv, one child now with the knowledge to do it himself if he can be bothered and one chuffed daddy that he could teach his son something! Sean was invited to watch and learn too, but given that it is highly unlikely that he will ever own a car or drive he declined the offer most graciously.
We found we were well loaded with baggage for our return trip (including Stevie’s new bike trailer) so Alex drove us from Blackfield to the ferry then he returned to Blackfield for his brother to take him back to London and then carry on home to Hartlepool, as there wasn’t enough room in the car for us all!! The subsequent trip through security proved entertaining. The guy watching the luggage scanner stopped Steve and asked “Have you a knife in that bag?” to which Steve replied, “yes, a kitchen knife in a sheath” and Steve took it out of the bag and handed it over, Steve even had to show him how to extract it from its sheath!! That was fine, he measured it and handed it back and then said, “I can’t make out what’s in the bottom of that bag?” to which Steve replied, “A router” and I replied “for woodworking” (I wasn’t sure he would necessarily know what it was for!) Happy with our responses he let us on our way!
Yet another flat, calm crossing and a bright afternoon walk back to Shearmyste who greeted us with 6 degrees of warmth! But this jet-lag is really something, we ended up going to bed at 7.30pm in an extremely cold bedroom!!!