Tuesday, 12 March 2013

A UK Xmas - part II

So, I’d finally made it up to Macc where my friend Sue was eagerly awaiting my arrival for some fun and frolics, helped along by the odd cocktail, pint or glass of wine, or two. And I must say, the programme she’d come up with for my entertainment passed with flying colours.

Given my late arrival, we only managed the one glass of the old vino before bedtime, but were up and ready to go by a decent hour the following day, which held a trip to Manchester in store. Now, I know that Macclesfield is none too far away from the home of Corrie, Oasis, Aflecks Palace and the Madchester music scene, but, apart from a fleeting visit last year, I hadn’t been there in years. Literally. And yes, it had changed, though the slightly scruffy-with-a-whiff-of-cool Manchester I remembered from my teenage years of Saturday shopping trips was still there too.

Where are George and Bungle?

Anyway, it being the 21st December, we had a wander round the Xmas markets, comsuming some Amaretto-imbued mulled wine, purely to keep the chill out you understand, and then I went to good old M&S to do a bit of knicker shopping – I tell you, you cannot beat the price-quality ratio anywhere in Spain, and I always look forward to a trip to Marks to keep the old underwear draw in good nick whenever I’m back. So, I ran around the lingerie section, eagerly holding up pairs of smalls to ask for Sue’s opinion, oblivious to the funny looks we were getting from some customers. After that, it was time for a drink, so off we headed in search of something tasty, which indeed we found, in the form of a Cliff Richard.

Winter warmer - mulled wine with added Amaretto, hence the grin

How could I not opt for a Cliff Richard when choosing a Christmas cocktail?!

I could’ve happily downed several, but having promised to meet up with some old friends back in Macc for a night out, we caught the train back and continued the drinking there, not before I’d freshened up my journey-weary hair with some spray-in, dry shampoo, which, as far as I know, has yet to make it to Spain, though I hope it does soon - brilliant stuff! After Cliff, anything was going to be a bit of a let down, though I solved the dilemma by opting for a Crabbie's (alcoholic) ginger beer which came with added lime and Tabasco (and I'd thought it couldn't get any tastier!).

The old faithful, with a twist

We were joined in the pub – one of the very few “traditional” ones left, though I'm not sure if a stuffed Crocodile stuck upside down on the ceiling counts as traditional (shucks, why did I not think to take a photo?!)  - by Dee Dee the Jack Russell, making it seem even more typically British and therefore exciting my, now Spanish, cultural tastebuds. Yes, I was in my hometown, but also feeling a little like a tourist.

Traditional pub deco

The next day involved some last-minute Xmas shopping – there’s only a certain amount of presents you can fit into a suitcase – and so it was back to M&S for more knickers (this time for my Mum – hmm, could this be genetic?) and other bits and pieces. After the previous night – I was proud to have managed to stay out until 1 am after an afternoon’s boozing in Manchester and the long journey the previous day, though by Spanish standards it was a pretty poor showing – it was time for a quieter night. We headed to the old Heritage Centre, which I was pleased to see now has a cinema on the top floor, to see The Hobbit. We went for a quiet drink (or two) after and then felt the need to go home (again, not so good by Spanish standards, but I enjoyed myself anyway).

Wanting my last day to live up to the rest of the visit, Sue had organised a plethora of events for the following day, including a walk around Macc Forest. It was windy, cold and even started to rain while we were up there, but I didn't care -  I had forgotten how serene and beautiful it was and was busy taking it all in, as if for the first time. 

Actually, I’m not sure I had forgotten. It dawned on me, while squelching around in the mud, hood up to shelter from the rain, that I’d previously taken the area where I lived somewhat for granted. Being away from it for 8 years and seeing it again was somewhat of an eyeopener. It seems familiarity does indeed breed, if not contempt, then at least a certain lack of appreciation. Anyway, such was the shock, that we had to end the walk with a trip to the pub – this time I decided to try some of the cider on offer – it was certainly different from the stuff you get here in Asturias and tasty too, though it still didn't knock Crabbie's off the top of my Best UK Bevvies list.

Not Crabbies, but not bad at all

Given my lifelong proclamation of never wanting to have children, I seem to have picked up a knack of getting along with them quite well. After the walk it was time to play Santa Claus so we wove our way back down to Macc (getting a fantastic view of the Cheshire Plain – my, I’d never thought that before either!) and went to see some old school friends and their offspring, and drop off presents from “Auntie Rachel”. This was followed by an Indian (also a must on my UK to-do list: #1 knickers, #2 curry) and then the evening’s entertainment consisted of, and wait for this and can I have a drum roll please... a pub quiz! Sue knows me very well indeed – and so she should, we've been friends for about thirty years – and had planned the perfect final evening of my stay in Macc. Even better, it was in a new (for me), low-key bar in the town that I discovered served not only gluten-free lager (gasp!) but also the most delicious cider I had ever tried (sorry Asturias).

Really rather tasty - and much to my delight, available in supermarkets too!

Add this to the pub quiz and I had a spectacular time – if you’re interested, we came third (though the teams coming first and second had five and four members respectively) and would’ve racked up extra points if I only could’ve remembered the name of Santa’s ninth reindeer  - Vixen (I got the other 8) – and the name of the third wise man – Caspar (Melchior and Balthasar are the two others if you’re wondering). I spent the whole of the pub quiz scratching my head on that one and at one point declared that if I’d still been at the academia, I would’ve remembered it, it being the Three Wise Men who traditionally bring presents in Spain and so was a widely talked about subject by my pupils. Sue sagely pointed out that had I still been at the academia, I wouldn’t have been in Macc enjoying myself (and the cider), so that made me feel much better.

The next day I made my way up to Yorkshire, happily recalling events from the previous few days, keeping an eagle-eye on my garish, new suitcase and in slight shock that all of the trains (three in total) had been on time. Now the only challenge I had to face was Xmas with the family.

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