Welcome back to a new year of blogs from Ireland and Europe.
Last year finished with a bit of a bang as we celebrated Christmas (twice!) and New Year in England. Kirsty and Richard and Sarah and Chris and their boys spent Christmas with their respective in-laws so we took up residence in Kirsty’s (and Richard’s) apartment in Newington Green in London on 23rd December. (Both lots had been in NZ for the 2013 Christmas so it was the in-laws’ turn to see them.) The weather was pretty reasonable – cold but not much rain and no snow, so we were able to explore London in relative comfort.
Through her job, Kirsty is able to get tickets for West End shows at very much discounted prices so we went to the St James theatre to see Eric and Little Ern, a play based on sketches from Morecambe and Wise. The two fellows playing the parts were very good (“couldn’t see the join”) but unfortunately the material was very average and didn’t get many laughs out of us. Never mind, we enjoyed the cocktails at the theatre bar…
On Christmas Day we hosted my nephew Dave and his wife Amy, together with Kim, another NZ friend of theirs, for a lunch of roast pork and roast vegetables but with a determinedly NZ flavour for dessert, being fresh fruit salad, cream and pavlova. And the occasional wine.
On Boxing Day we caught up with Sarah and Vee for coffee (us) and brunch (them) at a pub in Covent Garden after first having been serenaded by “Evolved” – a busking quartet of Royal School of Music students . And yes, we bought the CD… They dance around as they play, which is OK for the violinists but the cellist didn’t have an easy time of it.
The next day we walked up Oxford St and Regent St to see the Christmas lights. The Boxing Day sales were still in full swing and the pavements were more crowded than I have ever seen before, possibly excepting those in Shenzhen. You will see included in the photos the street outside Hamley’s Toy Shop and then inside that shop – five floors of heaving humanity of which the majority were children, it seemed. The stuff of nightmares but we had to persist as we had delayed buying Xmas presents for Angus and Dominic because of luggage constraints flying from Dublin. (It is cheaper and hugely more convenient to travel without checked in luggage on Ryan Air, so since they allow up to 10kg per carry-on bag for each passenger, that’s what we did.)
We took the time to celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary which had occurred a couple of weeks earlier by having lunch at Sushi Samba, a fusion of, yes, Japanese and Brazilian cuisine. And it worked. The food was superb, the service impeccable. And to top it off, the restaurant is located on the 38th floor of a building close to Liverpool St railway station. For a large city, London is relatively flat which means that a building with 38 floors gives an amazing 360 degree view of the city, so high we actually looked down on the Gherkin! We were able to see the way the Thames really does oxbow around – I had not realised just how twisty that river is. Getting to the restaurant was a bit of a mission as the only way up was in a glass lift on the outside of the building. I admit my toes were curling. But all in all, a fantastic two hours of lunch.
Then on the 29th we went down to Hove to stay with Chris and Sarah. Richard and Kirsty came too and we had a second “proper English” Christmas dinner (Yorkshire pudding and everything) cooked superbly by Chris on the 30th. This is becoming somewhat of a tradition as Chris also cooked Christmas dinner for us when they were in NZ in 2013. Late in the afternoon we rushed across to the beach as the sun was setting and got some good sunset pictures.
On New Year’s Eve they all went out dancing while Pip and I played at being Grandma and Granddad to Angus and Dominic. All great fun but I have to admit that when the fireworks went off at midnight, they woke us up.
We flew back to Dublin on 2 January as Pip was starting work again on the 5th. We were sad that we couldn’t stay for Angus’ birthday party on 3rd January but I’m sure he didn’t miss us. It is the tradition at his school for the whole class (about 30 kids!) to be invited to birthday parties. Can you imagine the mayhem?
While in London, we looked at the possibility of buying a replacement laptop computer. Our HP laptop is now 6 or 7 years old and it contains our whole life. It has lately been showing a few worrying signs of age and when I hesitatingly floated the idea of, not just a replacement but a replacement from the Apple world, Pip was very supportive. Technology is significantly cheaper in the UK than in Ireland but we were concerned about our luggage limits so didn’t purchase anything. I was planning to do what other Dubliners do and take the train to Newry in Northern Ireland to get the UK prices, it’s just over an hour on the train. However, waiting at Gatwick airport with time to kill, I came across some duty free specials at Dixon’s which were an even better price so I pounced. In the end, we were not queried by Ryan Air staff despite each taking extra bags through with the result that I am now deep into the Apple world, typing this blog on a 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina display, 8 Gb RAM and a 128 Gb SSD. There is a lot to learn, but I’m loving it!