Saturday, 2 February 2013

A UK Xmas - part I

This last 20th December I rose at the abnormal (for me) and therefore rather painful hour of 6.30am in order to begin my journey back to the UK for my first Xmas festivities there in 9 years. No longer being at the academia, I was free for the first time in almost a decade to join the family for their seasonal celebrations. As you may have read/know, I myself am not a great believer in this particular celebration. However, I thought it was high time I took part for once; to see my niece, and everyone else for that matter, enjoy it. Besided, I'm not that adverse to all aspects of the celebration, and having been promised two-for-one cocktails back in Macclesfield, plus my first proper UK pub quiz in more than 10 years (more on all that in the next post) I was rather looking forward to it all.

So, I took the car down to El Entrego, caught the train from there to Oviedo, hopped on the bus from there to the airport and was kindly flown to Stansted. I was rather impressed actually: it being only a few days before the 25th, the time of year when pretty much everyone and their granny is travelling, I was out of the plane, though passport control, rejoined with my snazzy new suitcase (actually, it's a pretty gaudy affair with a turquoise snake-print pattern, but having suffered previously from stolen Xmas luggage - bye bye pressies and favourite clothes - I decided that this would be the best way to deter would-be thieves this time round: no robber in their right mind is going to grab luggage that screams "look at me, over here!" And happily I was right, no-one did) and down to the airport train station all within an astounding 40 minutes. I had an afternoon stopover in the capital to catch up with an old school friend, who treated me to lunch and some mulled wine (thank you Fleur!) and then headed to Euston to await my train up north. That was when the culture shock kicked in. Sleepy Asturian hamlet to Euston train station one evening five days before Xmas is one huge change, let me tell you. The crowds were massed in front of the information boards and every so often, hardly had the announcement been made, parts of the crown would stir and make a mad dash for the mentioned platform. Controlled chaos. And of course, this being England, there was an announcement every 15 minutes or so advising people to take care in the station due to the "inclement weather". Now, this may sound perfectly normal to British readers, but after living for so long in Spain it rather tickled my fancy, and kept me vaguely entertained for the 30 minutes that my train was delayed. By then, I was rather sleepy, so when the announcement was finally made for boarding at 8pm (9pm to my Spanish body clock), I had a bit of trouble keeping up with the sprinting commuters determined to have first choice of seating. Fortunately the train was more than half empty (I'm not surprised at those prices!) and I collapsed into a double seat and awaited for the final leg of the journey to start.

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