Christmas with the family – Sue Griffiths

Everyone wants to be with family and friends at Christmas. Or at least, as a young adult, you feel moderately obliged to join the family. And that was the situation I was in, my first year of full time work in Wellington, New Zealand. My family lived about 200 km away and I could have easily driven this, however, my mother mentioned the family would be down at my sister Margaret’s for Christmas. “Fine” I thought. “It’s right down the bottom of the other island, but I daresay I can fly standby”. So, after finishing work at midday Christmas Eve, I took a bus to the airport and waited in the queues for a standby ticket. As luck would have it, the first ticket to come up went to Christchurch. Now Christchurch is in the middle of the South Island and Dunedin is close to the bottom, so a good 6 hours drive. “But”, I thought “I’ll be on the same island, and I can get another flight from Christchurch.”

By the time I got to Christchurch it must have been late afternoon. I checked the flights to Dunedin and for some reason I don’t recall (flights cancelled due to weather, I really don’t know), I decided that a bus was the best option. Now in New Zealand there are coachlines and their poor cousins, the railways buses….. but the only bus I could get was a railways bus. It left at 6 and was going to get into Dunedin around midnight. I thought this was a plan, everyone would be at midnight mass and I was sure I’d be able to find my sister on her way out.

Well, what can I say. The bus broke down. We waited half an hour for another (slightly more decrepit bus and were on our way again.

Then the bus broke down. Again. Same deal. We sat on the broken down bus and waited and eventually, another bus arrived (slightly older and somewhat more ‘used’. We were definitely on the way down).

Well, I am sure you can see where my story is going. The bus broke down. It was midnight. Christmas day was brand new and shiny. We were stuck on a bridge. In the rain. Going nowhere.

Eventually, another bus arrived. By this time we were down to ripped seats and metal rails to hold onto. A coach it was not. In fact I think they might have rescued it from the local wreckers. However, we climbed aboard.

At 3.30 am in the morning we arrived in Dunedin. (Yes, absolutely, we arrived.) I threw my student economy to the wind and got a taxi. These were the days when people didn’t lock their doors, so instead of rousing the household, I sneaked in, found an empty bed and went to sleep.

Next morning, I met my sister’s flatmates (strangers to me) who may or may not have known I was coming. They took my presence in their stride. My sister arose. It was all very Christmassy. “When are mum and dad coming?” I asked. …..

“They are down in Southland … somewhere.”

“What?????” They were at least another 6 – 8 hours away. My brother and father had wanted to go hunting. So technically, I was in the right place, they weren’t. But actually I still feel my mother’s information was a little too sparse.

Thanks Mum – Sharon Reid

This Xmas is our first without mum but last year me, hubby, daughter and son in law and 2 grandchildren all went to mum’s for lunch. Following her stroke 3 years prior she slowly went downhill and couldn’t do anything much for herself. The carer went in first thing and then I took over. Cooking for 7 in a strange kitchen and not having gas at home I was fast trying to grasp how it all worked and get everything to cooked. I bought tinfoil dishes, which I found didn’t fit the oven which, at the same time collapsed and sent oil all over the floor, not once but twice! Two floor cleans later and whilst cooking I thought I’d do up a few extra meals to freeze down for her.  Besides extra Xmas dinners I cooked up pies, fish, roast, boiled and mashed spuds. Therefore extra to the actual xmas dinner I made 28 dinners to freeze.

Finally, all were called to the table and dinner was served, 8 eventually sat down to a lukewarm lunch with all tucking into theirs. A few minutes into the meal I look over to mum and ask “everything all right mum” to which she replied “it would be better with sprouts” ! Yes 35 meals cooked and I had forgotten to cook the brussels and it was noticed and voiced. Bless her.

Christmas Spirit and the kindness of strangers – Maggie Lloyd-Jones

Over 20 years ago we used to travel down to Bournemouth most Christmas Eves, to visit my mum and brother. I’ll tell you a particular story….

We live in Hull, my mum moved to live nearer my brother in Bournemouth after my dad died. We would go with 2 children most Christmases to visit them.

This one year, rushed at work as usual and having to work on Christmas Eve morning, I dashed back the 40 odd miles from work to home, picked the children up from their Holiday Nain, and packed the car with the hubby. One Volvo estate crammed full later, no room for the turkey except on my knee in the passenger seat, in its tin. It didn’t stay frozen for long….

Our usual habit was to drive as far as the Little Chef on the A34 just after the M40, before we had a break. Children hungry, here comes the end of M40. Not too much traffic around. Even less i the car park of the Little Chef……hungry children and a comfort stop need for all, 3 hours into our journey….

In fact, we were the only car in the car park.

And the only people sitting in the restaurant. But at least the place was open…..or was it ???

No music, few lights. Just a waitress doing a bit of cleaning and the manager waiting to lock up

But yes !! Christmas spirit lives !! ……..they were as apologetic as we were !! Oh, the music was turned on again

We ate what they had (can’t remember what, but it wasn’t what we had drooled over in the car). But we ate pancakes… a family tradition. It was gone 8pm. Silly me hadn’t thought about closing times, had I ??