03.01.20 — Journal

Christmas in England

My last regular blog post was entitled “The Arrival of Autumn“, but that was a month ago, and now we are now definitely well into winter! Work was still as busy as ever as we moved into December, but we had the fun of the Christmas meal to look forward to. This was a riotous evening, with plenty of tacos and cocktails flowing, all culminating in a boogie in a club down in the center.

My bedroom lit by candles and fairy lights.
My yellow coat blends in with the yellow panels of the metro.

Outside of the office, I had a chance to catch up with Bogar over some lovely food, which was a welcome chat after a while not having seen each other nor visited our favourite local bar. One day, I also had the opportunity to visit the students at the IED (the European Design Institute), where I chatted to some master’s students about my history with Erretres and our working process.

A tote bag, book, and notebook gifted to me by the European Design Institute.

I was also gifted some lovely goodies by the tutors a the university.

The day after my visit, I arrived back home and had to get to packing: it was time to head back to England for Christmas! Much like a couple of years ago, I picked up my cellophane-bound backpack and made for the airport, boarding my suspiciously noisy plane to Manchester Airport.

Once I’d landed and picked up my bag, I headed out of the terminal and to my dad who was waiting in the car. There was no time for faffing, however, as we’d to head straight to the wedding party of one of my childhood friends! After having ripped him out of said party to pick me up, we made a stop in a service station so that I could change into an (admittedly rather creased after such a journey) shirt, and then headed straight to the event.

After an evening of jiving and sampling the local gin, I was in no rush to get up and ready, but I eventually had to shift myself to the train station in Todmorden in order to head over to Leeds. I was Yorkshire-bound as I’d arranged to spend the evening with Rhea, who was home alone as Luisa had headed back to Germany to spend Christmas with her family too.

Upon arrival, I headed straight to the Co-Op, a supermarket near the house where I used to live, and bought half a shop’s worth of snacks for our evening. I was soon joined by Rhea, who picked up some ingredients for a fancy breakfast the morning after, but we didn’t bother with anything for tea (dinner) – we’d already decided that we were going to grab some grub from our two favourite takeaways! With my visits to Leeds now increasingly fleeting, and Rhea moving to Birmingham at the end of this month, it was our last chance to chill out in her house and eat some of our favourite food.

The morning after an evening of kebabs and RuPaul, Rhea set to work cooking a slap-up breakfast consisting of chorizo, tomato, onions, garlic, eggs, and bread – all of my favourite ingredients rolled into one! With the delicious concoction devoured, we decided to open a pack of “unicorn ice creams” left over from the night before and have them as dessert…

Me and Rhea breakfast on ice cream.

Ice cream after breakfast because we are grown adults and we can do what we want.

Once I’d grabbed a train back to Burnley, that Sunday evening we’d planned a family tip to the Manchester Christmas Markets, which we make a habit of going to every year. Only five minutes down the motorway, however, we were shook by a loud bang, and within a flash we found ourself on the hard shoulder, one of our front wheels completely blown out.

Ellie was the first to think fast, and reminded us all that we’d to get away from the car and the motorway as quickly as possible, and so we all grabbed our umbrellas, turned on the hazard lights, and headed out into the drizzle. As we’d stopped under a bridge, we had to head around the side and climb up the embankment, looking back down the motorway from above whilst my mum rang our insurance company.

My mum, dad, and sister stand under their umbrellas and look down the motorway in the rain at night.

After we were told that a tow truck to rescue four people would take over an hour to arrive, we had a quick look to see if there was any way of reaching the top of the embankment and finding somewhere to warm up, but we were confronted with barbed wire and a dead end. Resigned to our fate on the roadside, we eventually turned to singing Christmas carols and games of I Spy to keep ourselves occupied and warm.

We were eventually rescued, but our wheel wouldn’t be replaced until the afternoon of the next day, which presented a problem to me and my sister Ellie: we’d booked a festive afternoon tea for my mum as an early Christmas present! We eventually had to get a taxi to the Nº 62, a lovely spot in Colne which I’d first visited just before leaving to Spain in January last year.

Ellie stands outside Nº 62 in Colne.

The food here is just as gorgeous as the presentation and the decoration of the place.

After a relaxing day at home, it was suddenly Christmas Eve, and my mum had a little surprise in store: a little bag of Christmas Eve presents! As she was working Christmas Eve night, she surprised us with some gifts to open the night before, which got us all in a festive spirit after the failed trip to Manchester just a couple of nights before.

My dad with a beard of shaving foam, an elf mug and t-shirt, and our Christmas tree in the background.

The gifts included matching elf pyjamas and mugs for everyone!

After we’d opened these, we headed to drop my mum off at work, and then headed off to bed ready to head back on Christmas day morning to pick her back up. Once home, we opened our presents, but then my mum had to head back to bed, and so the rest of our 25th is always somewhat unconventional: we all go away and do our own thing, and then reconvene when my mum’s awake and order a curry in!

Whilst we waited for my mum to wake up, me, my dad, and sister headed out for a walk in order to get out of the house for a while and take in the lovely landscapes surrounding my childhood home. I think it was on this walk when I realised that one of my New Year’s resolutions should really be to get more in shape – after half an hour of walking I was knackered!

A small lake in a forest.
A "Danger: Falling Rock" sign which has bleached and cracked in the sun.
A reservoir building is reflected in the water.
A cloudy sky and forest are reflected in the water of a reservoir.

After our curry tea and an evening watching Élite (a fab Spanish series) as a family, we began the celebrations usually saved for the 25th on the 26th. In the morning, Abi and Danni swung by so that we could do our belated gift exchange, and then preparations began on our family’s tradition of a delicious cream of cauliflower soup which we devour for lunch.

The only way to properly recover from a huge bowl of creamy soup and fresh warm bread rolls is to head to bed for a good ol’ nap, which I thought would be a half-hour affair. Three hours later I woke up in a panic, with the smell of turkey and gravy making me worried that I had missed the Christmas dinner entirely! Thankfully I hadn’t, and I arrived in the kitchen in time to help out with some of the final prep and serving.

Our Christmas dinner on our decorated table.

Mum’s Christmas dinner was as delicious as it always is, and ended our main two days of Christmas celebrations. The day after was mainly a day for rest and digestion, but in the afternoon we headed back over to Yorkshire in order to pick up some fish and chips in Hebden Bridge and visit my grandparents in Bradford. We had a lovely catch up, and then in a blink it was already the 28th of December, and I was headed back to Madrid on the 30th!

I started the day heading up to a local pub with Danni and Abi for lunch, which was delicious and accompanied with plenty of gin and many laughs. The two of them concocted some plans for a night out on the spot, but I’d to pass on them as I’d plans to be up early the next day to get the bus to Manchester – I feel like I managed to use every method of transport possible during my trip!

An old street sign against the backdrop of Burnley.

This trip to Manchester had a dual purpose. Firstly, I’d arranged to meet Luisa (who was now back from Germany) and Declan for a catch up, and secondly I was to then head to the Royal Exchange Theatre with my dad, as I’d bought him theatre tickets as a Christmas present (a bit like a couple of years ago!)

I managed to be late for my breakfast appointment with Declan and Luisa (shocker), but once I’d made it there we had a lovely breakfast and a catch up for a good couple of hours. It was lovely to hear about Luisa’s new career as a teacher, and how Declan has now moved to Brighton in order to work for a company which sounds right up his street.

Luisa and Declan sit in the window of a café in Manchester.

After another coffee elsewhere and a quick visit to a design bookshop (naturally), I had to dash off and find my dad in order to head to the matinee performance at 2:30pm. The piece that we were going to see was called “Gypsy“, but I had done zero research before we went, so the whole thing was to be an exciting surprise. Heck, I didn’t even know that it was a musical!

The main stage at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Me and my dad had a wonderful time, enjoying every moment of the show, which was full of energy from start to finish. Once the bows were over, we headed to a bar, where we found my mum and Ellie already cradling a cocktail. I didn’t need much convincing to grab myself one, and we were all soon merrily away with our anecdotes.

Me, Ellie, my dad, and mum in a bar in Manchester.

The four of us soon grew hungry, and so it fell on me to decide where we should go for tea, as somehow it was my last evening in the UK. For some unknown reason I really fancied visiting the Trafford Centre, even though the shops had closed by that point, and decided that I thus wanted to relive happy childhood memories and have a cheesy bites pizza at Pizza Hut.

Pizza Hut consumed, my last night in my very springy childhood bed spent, and my bags half packed, the morning of my last day was spent with Amber and Jess. We met up at another local pub, where I treated myself to a proper full English breakfast, and told them all about Gypsy and various other drama from Madrid. All too soon, though, I had to be dropped back off at home, where I finished packing, cellophane-binding, and weighing my bag ready to head back off to the airport.

My dad managed to manage his shift in such a way that he could come along with us to the airport, where I said my goodbyes until March, when my parents will be visiting me here in Madrid once again. I’m already thinking of what we could get up to! Until then, I’ll have to see what I get up to here in Spain. I’ll keep you all updated, of course!