After a generous helping of emotional blackmail, I decided to see if I could blag a few weeks off over Xmas and New Year to head back to blighty.
It was a bold step even asking to be honest, and I was quite surprised to get it approved. In fairness, my UAE-based speciality of dealing with group bookings (be they corporate / birthdays / tourists etc) do tend to go quiet over the festive period. So I figured it was at least – technically – a viable option.
It certainly helped that we had a few new faces in the team to pick up huge chunks of what would have been my workload only a month or so earlier.
What with my mother and father living at polar opposite sides of the country, heading home for Christmas hasn’t appealed so much since I’ve been an expat due to the obvious logistical challenge that provides.
This was about to be, perhaps my second or third Christmas in the UK since starting my expat lifestyle – back in 2007. And certainly – for reasons I won’t delve into here and now – was my first Xmas in the UK where I wasn’t in a horrifically dark place mentally in 15 years.
The first stage of the mission was to dodge the rising Covid cases and make it to the UK unscathed and, more importantly, not infecting / bumping off my father in the process. Landing on British soil, Papa collected me to head to H-town, and it was totally amazing to see him. A brief and delightful two-day quarantine was filled with quality catch-up time; our evenings were spent in front of the open fire, where I was spoilt with homecooked meals and an awesome array of IPAs (the majority of which are unavailable in the Sand Pit).
Day release came around coinciding perfectly with the legendary Paul Dixon’s Hastings visit to see his wonderful daughters. Lea, the eldest (whom I’ve known since birth) is now 18 – which is obviously just plain fucking ridiculous. Seeing them was lovely, but also quite scary, even Emily (his youngest daughter) isn’t far off adulthood (a concept I’m still adapting to in honesty). And having adult conversations with my best mate’s kids is just surreal.
I also managed to catch up with Ninja-man Nanji and his adorable parents, the Robo legend Simon One Stop (and Mrs One Stop) in Bar Moda, all before having a wee smokey with the one like Roland (aka Rolley) and Nikki – both fellow former teachers from our China heydays.
Xmas day, I woke up late – standard – and father was cooking an amazing roast with all the trimmings (but, sadly, nowhere near enough pigs in blankets)… before setting down for more bevvies and a debate over what shit we should watch on the box. The whole affair was incredibly tranquil stress-free, just what was needed after the monster month of November where I – naturally – smashed the granny out of it in Dubai.
As the year came to a close, pre my marathon journey north to mother’s for New Year’s Eve, I managed to catch up with Lou Lou and Tilly for dinner. And just like that, all too quickly, my eight days in my hometown were up.
The next step would be NYE at Mums, and to be fair – I was quite excited by the prospect of trying to keep her awake until midnight without a dancefloor insight.