Today was the first day of my Christmas holiday. I had daydreamed about spending the day holed up in the warm, reading the book I bought last week, and doing as little as possible. Rather predictably, life had other plans.
I woke at 7am, because apparently my body clock doesn’t understand holidays. After falling asleep for a little while longer, and then staring at the ceiling for a while, I eventually got up, had a shower, got dressed, cleared the washing up, tidied up downstairs, swept the lounge, put some washing in the machine, folded dry washing, fed the cats, fed the fish (this list could go on for quite some time), and eventually made a cup of coffee – which seemed to coincide with my other half eventually getting up.
Minutes later I found myself accompanying her into town – a last minute mission to buy groceries to help us survive the next few days. By “groceries”, I actually mean a huge bag of vegetables, and a colossal quantity of drink – well, colossal in our house. A box of coca cola, and a box of cider.
After returning home and making soup for lunch, comment was made about leaving at 3pm for the “Christmas Surprise”.
She looked at me like I was some kind of brainless moron.
“You really never pay any attention to anything at all, do you – or look at Google Calendar, or email, or anything else.”
I said nothing, and waited for the rant to finish, and the explanation to begin.
Apparently we were leaving the house at 3pm. An hour and a half drive would be required to reach our destination. I smiled, and quietly thought “there goes my quiet day reading my book”.
We nearly didn’t leave. In a fit of guilt – looking out of the window at the driving rain, and wondering quite how cold it was outside, she fessed up to where we were going. Westonbirt Arboretum. A huge managed forest the other side of Swindow – half way across the country. Apparently they had constructed a winter wonderland among trees – a path to walk and discover untold wonders. In the cold and rain.
We also nearly didn’t leave because I emptied the clothes dryer, and folded up Miss 19’s clothes. This caused a nuclear eruption. Apparently her clothes should never be touched by any human hand except her own – which means the rest of the house can’t touch the washing machine or dryer until she has seen fit to (a) get out of bed, or (b) get on with any of her washing. Her damp clothes had been in the air dryer for an entire day already – she apparently thinks it switches itself on by magic.
We DID get to Westonbirt eventually – wrapped up like Inuit explorers, and still frozen to our core. We arrived an hour early, with promises of a Christmas market, a food hall, and all sorts of other things that sounded rather wonderful. The Christmas market turned out to be three stalls in a tent, and the food turned out to be a number of carnival style trailers selling massively overpriced burgers and hotdogs. In the rain. Don’t forget the rain.
We eventually made our way out to the woodland walk, and I think it’s fair to say the evening saved itself. If an enchanted forest could be made real, this was probably the closest you could probably get – with lasers, smoke machines, triggered animations beamed onto trees, and endless characters in costume along the way. Hundred of trees throughout the forest were floodlit from below, casting an eery light wherever you walked.
I think perhaps the most impressive part – for me – was the characters dressed as elves, faeries, and various woodland creatures along the way. The actors must have been frozen solid, but gamely kept up their pretence and wonder for the legions of children walking the various footpaths. Santa’s helpers were especially good.
The drive home was an altogether quieter affair – with the children fighting to stay awake, the rain continuing to thunder down, and the radio playing a succession of 1990s dance tracks. Every time we changed channel, another 90s dance hit burst out. We gave up in the end and listened to “You Sure Do” for the third time in the last hour.
I’m now holed up in the junk room, trying to regain feeling in my fingers and toes. There are photos on Instagram of the woods – a little grainy, because I only had my mobile phone with me.
We are off to the cinema in town tomorrow to watch a matinee showing of a ridiculous Christmas movie. I haven’t told the children yet. Then on Monday we are going to see Star Wars. I’m keeping most of the internet at the end of a very long stick until then.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sit in the lounge with a drink, and watch rubbish on the television for an hour.