Christmas, this year, was spent with Barry’s parents, up in North Wales. I was working up until the Friday and we drove up there on the Saturday. Driving a couple of hundred miles through pre-Christmas traffic with a toddler somehow never quite made it onto my list of Things I Have Been Eagerly Looking Forward To All Year, and the fog-induced travel nightmares of preceeding days didn’t make me any more enamoured of the prospect. But, in fact, it went better than I’d dared to hope. The fog had lifted, everybody appeared to have either done their travelling already or decided to stay home (at any rate, the traffic was minimal), and Jamie put up with the whole thing wonderfully, aided somewhat by the episodes of Teletubbies downloaded to my laptop. We stopped for lunch after a couple of hours and then Jamie (and I) napped the rest of the way until we got there.
Since Jamie’s long since outgrown his travel cot, my mother-in-law has been making up little beds for him on the floor as best she can when we stay, but this time she’d found something better – an inflatable mini-bed shaped like a car, complete with steering wheel. It was actually a ball pool, but she spotted that it would do just fine to put a little mattress in and make into a bed. While it unfortunately didn’t make Jamie any more inclined to leave the day’s enjoyments and settle down to sleep at bedtime, it did mean that at least he could be more comfortable at night. And he did like the steering wheel.
We had a wonderful time. We relaxed and enjoyed the presents, and the delicious meals (including goose for Christmas Day), and the recording of Hogfather that they’d saved for us (they get Sky and we don’t). Which, although it’s something of a tangent, would be a handy point to mention that we also went to the Hogswatch meet in Wincanton earlier this year, which I meant to tell about in my post about December stuff but completely forgot about. Not that there’s a huge amount to tell – the bit we could get to was mainly just market stalls selling stuff, which is the kind of thing that’s interesting for about half an hour. Emms came down to stay with us for the weekend, which was great fun, and Elaine Stibbons and Melusine were at the meet as well, but there wasn’t anyone else there that I knew. We couldn’t stay for the sausage supper and showing of ‘Hogfather’ extracts in the evening because of having to get Jamie home to bed (not to mention me – these days, by that point in the week, I’m ready to keel over with exhaustion) although fortunately Emms managed to find someone to give her a lift back, so at least she was able to stay for the evening’s events. Most of the meet, for me, just consisted of stopping Jamie from running amok in an area fairly full of stalls, drinks and half-played games of Thud.
But the meet did give us a chance to see Hex from the film (which was brought in for the auction) – I’ve got a photo of myself standing next to the keyboard. And Emms managed to get us a few of the teeth from the Tooth Fairy’s palace, which were being given away. So it was well worth going for that alone. And Emms got Jamie a little ball with flashing lights and a Mr Potato Head, both of which he has found endlessly fascinating, so I think he found it worthwhile as well.
Getting back to Christmas, Jamie’s presents were as follows:
From my grandmother, one of those educational thingummies with letters and numbers that you can press to hear an electronic voice speaking the letter or number in question aloud. While this is normally the kind of present designed for parents rather than children, for Jamie it was the perfect present. He’s been fascinated with numbers for a while now, and, more recently, this particular interest has expanded to include letters – and, of course, buttons have long since been high on the list of his absolute favourite things. A toy which has buttons shaped like letters and numbers and, just to round it off, flashing lights as well, might have been designed for him. He played happily with it for hours.
From Barry’s parents, a magnetic easel/mini-blackboard for his letters and numbers – also a big favourite with him. Also a doll designed for practicing buttons, zips, laces and the like, which rather mystified him – he pulled the clothes part way off, discovered he couldn’t get them off completely, and abandoned it as a bad job. I have a feeling there was something else, but, if so, it’s escaping me.
From Barry’s brother, a little wooden fire engine, as well as a cheque for his savings account,
From Barry, a Tinky Winky that waves its legs in the air (looking worryingly like a stranded beetle) and laughs when you press its hand. Well, it’s theoretically laughing. In actual practice, it sounds more as though it’s uttering strangled choking sobs. It’s among the more disturbing toys I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure whether or not to be worried about the fact that Jamie loves it.
I got him bits and bobs – a book with pictures of farm animals, a packet of magnetic numbers (which turned out to be a bit of a waste, as there were plenty with the easel), a box of picture dominoes, and an inflatable globe. I chose the last because he’s fascinated by both maps and balls, so combining the two seemed like a good bet to me, and it certainly was – he was absolutely intrigued, especially when he saw Barry blowing it up. He kept pointing excitedly and signing "Ball!" The main fun he’s had from the dominoes is from tipping them out over the floor, but he does like the book, which I’m relieved by because after buying it I realised that it was actually below the level he’s at now – he’s moved on from the sorts of books that just have labelled pictures, and these days he ‘reads’ the sort that actually have some kind of simple storyline to them, even if it is just finding things behind lift-up flaps. But he didn’t seem to mind – he’s insisted on reading the book with me over and over since he got it. He picked it out as his bedtime book tonight.
I got lots of books – the Octavia Butler and Diana Wynne Jones books I wanted, and also, in a lovely burst of childhood nostalgia, the ‘Nurse Matilda’ books, reissued as a single volume under the title of ‘Nanny McPhee’ in honour of the film. (Does anyone know why the name was changed, by the way?) And a new pair of slippers (big fluffy ones shaped like teddy bears – or maybe small dogs, it’s not quite clear which) from my brother-in-law, which I was very pleased with, as my old ones were practically falling to bits and I hadn’t relished the thought of a shopping trip to try to find another pair I liked. So I’ve done very well, as well.
The trip back on Tuesday afternoon didn’t go quite as easily as the trip up – Jamie was fine for most of it, but he did get pretty whingey before we stopped for lunch – and when I restarted work on Wednesday, the combination of the backlog of patients that had built up over the four-day weekend and the fact that I was on call meant that it was one of the busiest days I’d ever had in general practice (how in holy hell did Dr Crippen manage to have a ‘reasonably quiet’ day? How??) and I eventually managed to leave shortly after eight o’clock in the evening after my final visit. But I was so relaxed after that lovely break that I didn’t even care. Well, not too much, anyway.