05.01.21 — Journal

A Covid-Proof Christmas

In my last blog post before setting off for my Christmas holidays in England, I said that I’d be headed off to a Tier 3 lockdown back in my hometown. Well, how wrong was I!

As I prepared to leave for my Christmas holidays, I could never have imagined the chaos that was about to kick off, with the grim news of the new strain of the virus being discovered in London and the subsequent introduction of a stricter new Tier 4. The day I flew, I tried to read as little of the news as possible, as the list of countries who were banning travel from the UK seemed to be growing by the minute as I approached the airport. I knew I’d get over to England, but the question was whether I was going to be able to return to Spain…

I must leave you all with that little cliffhanger for now, for I’ve gotten ahead of myself: we must first talk about the last-minute festivities which I enjoyed in Madrid just before I left!

My final week at work rolled around, and with it a surprise Christmas hamper full of delicious treats which Erretres gifted us all. This happy little surprise kicked off a few days spent dining and drinking with friends, starting with some beers with Bogar and Hugo at a little local spot in Malasaña.

The evening continued with a pizza reunion with ex-colleague Helena, which suffered a last-minute change when the pizzeria we’d selected was at its coronavirus capacity. This took us for some beers at an old bar, where a crazy stroke of luck meant I bumped into Sofía, another ex-colleague who was visiting from the north of Spain for just a few days!

Nothing like a good beer after my last day of work.

The next day rolled around and there was no letting up, as I’d planned to have a buffet-style evening meal with Sara and Jhosef. I threw together a classic British-party-style platter of different sandwiches as well as some crisps, sweets, and balls of chocolate turrón. With a couple of vermouths in hand, the three of us then chatted the evening away, stopping later on for a bite of roscón (a traditional yuletide food in Spain) and some hot chocolate.

A rather early alarm jolted me from my slumber on the Sunday after, as I’d to be ready to receive a FaceTime call from my sister in order to virtually attend my mum’s retirement surprise! Once I’d finished watching her come out to discover an array of balloons and gifts, I had to shift myself from my bed stat, for I’d a lot to squeeze in to that so-called day of rest…

After a morning spent washing clothes, drying sheets, packing my bags, and cleaning my entire flat from top to bottom, I’d certainly deserved a nice lunch out. That’s just what I then proceeded to do, meeting Napo at NAP Pizza in Lavapiés, where a wait to be seated turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Once seated, the two of us tucked into some of Madrid’s best and most authentic Italian pizza, catching up on the past few weeks of each other’s dramas a mere few hours before I was due to fly. I had my favorite white pizza (a pizza with no tomato base), the house special, and then headed out nervously back home to finish the last bits of packing and leave for the airport.

A pizza with Napo was a great way to end the last weekend of 2020.

As I mentioned earlier, there was never going to be any issue in getting to England, it was the trip back that I was concerned about. This meant that the flight home was as normal as it could be given the current state of affairs, and after taking some flights this summer, I was pretty unfazed by the new normality in the airport and on the plane.

I landed back in the UK just after midnight, where I was met by the entire Briggs household: my mum, dad, and sister. Needless to say we didn’t stay up long, heading off to bed for a decent night’s kip before the festive preparations began!

My first bit of Christmas cheer came in the form of a very socially-distanced gift swap with Abi and Danni, which took place in the windy heights of Hurstwood. This marked the first of a series of walks that took me “over the tops” as we say, and I took an interesting photo of one of the reservoirs on that cloudy afternoon…

Our next family outing took place on Christmas Eve, where we once again stomped our way up a tiny dirt-track road over the moors. Although I moaned a lot about not being accustomed to so much walking, my little village and the sweeping expanses of fields through which we passed did look quite resplendent in the low winter sun.

Worsthorne Church is always a friendly sight when I arrive home.

We were ready for a big mug of tea and some cake after our walk, and thankfully we were able to indulge in just that, as my mum had ordered a set of festive cupcakes from the wonderful Bella’s Bakes. The sweet treats were absolutely delicious, and we certainly needed the energy, for next up in our Christmas plans we had a socially-distanced carol concert to attend in the village square!

Naturally we arrived late to said carol concert, so by the time we got there it was time for Saint Nick to pass through on his sleigh (which looked suspiciously like a trailer, but he does work in mysterious ways!). We managed to sing along to one of the last little songs, but the main joy of the evening was just being able to see people coming together – albeit maintaining social distancing – to celebrate Christmas.

Upon arriving home we were then in for yet another Christmas Eve treat, in the form of my mum’s new Briggs family tradition of opening a few small presents on Christmas Eve. This year she’d outdone herself, with lovely paper bags full of all sorts of goodies set atop the red paper tabletop – a necessity when taking into account the other Briggs family tradition on Christmas Eve: a curry for tea!

My table decorations and mum’s bags made for a very festive scene.

After opening our gifts and wolfing down a delicious curry, it was time to head off to bed and hope that Santa would bring us some goodies the day after! This he did indeed, and we spent a good hour or so unwrapping and consuming some of the edible presents that we’d all received for our traditional breakfast of selection box chocolates on Christmas Day.

For lunch there was another staple of a Briggs Christmas: a delicious cream of cauliflower soup. This staple of our festive menu is usually prepared by a friend of the family, but this year she was under the weather, and so my mum had to step in and whip up the recipe herself. It was a great success, but left us all rather bloated, and so we headed off for something which I’d have previously objected to most strongly: a Christmas Day walk.

This turned out to be not so much a walk as a photo shoot, as the sunset that evening over the reservoir turned out to be a corker. I spent a good thirty minutes at the water’s edge taking photos of the colours that formed in the afternoon sky, which was enough time for my mum and sister to walk the entire perimeter of the reservoir.

I’m used to beautiful colours in the sky, but never in such an open and photogenic spot.

Once back indoors, it was time for our delicious Christmas Dinner in the evening, consisting of turkey and all the trimmings. This was all topped off with one of the best looking (and tasting) trifles that my mum’s ever put together: we even managed to throw enough sherry in it such that it could actually be tasted!

All of this brings us to the end of Christmas Day and the end of part one of my reporting from my two weeks in the UK. There’s plenty more photos to share from the snowy scenes which came after the 25th, but those will have to wait for next time…