Backing into a corner. Chapter 5 book of the Lion.

Tour buses are always well equipped and super comfortable, air conditioning as standard with reclining seats and arm rests, the ultimate in luxury, In normal circumstances this would be fine, but actually with a sore back of this proportion nothing short of morphine will do. Instead he made do with a coffee and was tipped out onto the bus from the wheelchair. Our other travelling companions,as yet unknown had already boarded and so we four took our seats somewhere near the back. We were the youngest on the trip but not obviously, the fittest. The Lion wanted to sit in the aisle seat, I have learned during these testing times to forgo all territorial power grabs and points winning. I sat at the window and watched him wince in pain as he swung his behind in from the aisle onto the seat and gasped in pain as it seared across his lumber region.

Our travelling companions, once very good friends, had some sympathy but it was not sincere and I was only too conscious they had to have a holiday too. I was mostly focused on our situation to be honest, I could see the Lion grit his teeth and he was perspiring, a sure sign he was in considerable pain. The coach chugged into life, we made our way out of the hotel and toward the Peachtree Road, remember Elton… As we settled into the journey I noticed the Lion retained hold of the seat in front and had not really relaxed into the tourist role. I watched closely as he struggled to find a comfortable position, only slightly aware of the white noise of the tour guide retailing us of our wonderful trip ahead. I have very little recollection of that journey other than the drama I am about to describe as I was working our what possible options I might have to get us out of this tour. It was clear that continuing on the bus was absolutely the most unhelpful thing for the Lion. My mind went in to overdrive as every bump in the road resulted in a wince or gasp of intense pain.

The bus stopped near a shopping centre and under any other circumstances I would have been first off. It was clear we were going nowhere. So we let everyone off and remained on the bus. The driver eyed us suspiciously in his rear view mirror. The Lion used this time to try to rectify an un-rectifiable problem. He wanted to just lie on the floor for a minute and things would surely settle down. I knew he was not thinking at all straight, he would never have considered any small change in his posture as a potential remedy for this level of spasms. But nevertheless he wanted to try and so I did my best to help him out of the chair and onto the floor. In actual fact I took no part in this manoeuvre since every time I touched him he winced in pain. It was clear we were truly off this trip.

The driver. who watched closely from the comfort of his suspension floating driving seat, recognised trouble when he saw it. He lurched toward us, all 6 feet 7 of him his bulk only managing to transverse the coach side on. He asked if we needed help. The Lion stretched out on the floor was now writhing with pain, he almost lost consciousness. I said I think we might need a doctor and the driver agreed. With a single grip he lifted the Lion to his feet. This giant was gentle and caring waiting until the Lion could get his breath, while all the time I knew he was cringing with embarrassment, feeling that this level of attention was not what he planned. I was just grateful the driver could lift him up from the floor.

Balancing him on his feet the driver frogwalked the Lion slowly to the door. I exited ahead of them and noticed a taxi flying past, I waved my hands in desperation and although he failed to stop, he seemed to have noticed us and within a few minutes another taxi arrived. The Lion was dwarfed by the giant driver and dangled like a puppet under his massive biceps. The taxi drew up and the Lion was laid along the backseat, now with tears silently falling, he had finally accepted this was not going to be an easy fix.

We were transported to the Atlanta University Hospital where a team met us at the door. It felt like Grey’s Anatomy. Alone in a strange country with no idea what was ahead of us we were wheeled in to the emergency room. The Lion was prepared for a doctor and someone asked me for a credit card. Long before we had paid them a nurse practitioner entered the room, the Lion was still in some pain. I have become accustomed to medical practitioners not really believing people have such a thing as a bad back. I learned later that bad backs are the main source of people looking to source major drugs. So we have to jump through hoops to get help, thanks for that!

The nurse practitioner asked the Lion if she might check the extent of the problem, she took his foot, and I braced myself, as she thrust his leg in the air. It soon turned blue with expletives as the Lion tried to restrain the pain he was experiencing. The Nurse left the room rather hurriedly and soon we were alone, awaiting decisions that would inform our fate. Time passed and before long a Doctor, no more than a youngster, entered the room and the credit card pinged like a crescendo toward expensive.

It was clear the Lion needed treatment and was instantly sedated to alleviate the pain and for an instant I was relieved he had some respite from the pain. The tour guide joined me and took our insurance details to make the necessary arrangements since my credit card could not manage the incessant pinging we were facing, Then we were advised he had to stay. I knew that the tour guide needed to leave with his tourists. I just didn’t want to be left behind, I never felt so alone. The Lion was now in an induced coma unaware but no longer in pain. I went to the door desolate and saw our friends had thoughtfully brought out our cases to me as they waved goodbye and sailed on to Chattanooga. Me. I sat out at the back door to this hospital with two cases and no one and I cried……………….

Back to back disasters. Chapter 4 book of the Lion

Of course we know that British Airways provide excellent service but this was our first long haul, which was now very much in jeopardy, so we needed them to be on the ball. First, however, we needed to find out if the lion had had a stroke. It was certainly very frightening to observe but the whole episode had in fact lasted no more than a minute. When he finally rallied all he wanted to do was sleep and all I wanted were answers. As is normal in these situations we were made to stand out even more by waiting until everyone disembarked at Gatwick. Pitiful glances from our fellow passengers did little to advance our wait and, as you will hear as the story unravels a bit more, our travel companions waited with us… on this occasion. It was all so uncertain, we had no idea if we were on a flight to Atlanta or heading back to Edinburgh.

Once we were helped off the plane with a wheelchair for the lion, we were transferred to a buggy which rushed the patient to see a Doctor. The lion was still very much slurring his speech and perspiration was dripping from him. He just kept on about sleeping, but the doctor didn’t seem too concerned. He deemed him fit to fly and carry on our journey. It sounded like a fit he determined and I was mighty relieved at that. Although it was the first time, it would not be the last.

British Airways ground staff accompanied us throughout the process, remaining anonymous but coming to the fore if we had any questions or actions we needed taken care of. We didn’t have time for the luxury duty free shopping as this whole process had taken over a couple of hours and now it was time to get to the flight. Our driver careered the buggy through the droves of meandering public who seemed to have lost all awareness of safety on entering the airport. They were quite unaware why we were being chauffeured around and nothing but an inconvenience to their meaningless meanders. I wanted to shout out that we had every right to have this mode of transport MY HUSBAND NEEDED IT. There that felt better.

We were driven right to the gate where we handed over our boarding cards. There was an unwelcome pause as they were studied then ripped up. Oh no we were not being allowed to travel but then our BA companion advised we had all been upgraded to business. Well, not much takes me by surprise but this did, it was completely out of the blue. All 4 of us travelling together were upgraded, it was astonishing, but if I am honest rather welcome after the trauma we had suffered. And of course it would be much easier to deal with dead people in business, they’d just be left in their beds.

Champagne was such a welcome to receive, but all the lion wanted to do was get his head down and no sooner had the seatbelt sign flicked to off he got into the bed and fell instantly asleep awakening only some 2 hours before landing. I on the other hand indulged myself with the seared filet of beef, the smoked salmon and cream cheese washed down very smoothly with a perfect Rioja. Damn them it is so very hard to travel economy when you’ve sampled that experience. BA you won that round.

We landed safely in Atlanta and met our tour rep and bus driver for the next fourteen days. We were high on life, champagne and the tour that lay ahead. The lion seemed better, was rested and relaxed and up for a wee trip downtown before bed and the start of our fantastic trip. I didn’t bother ringing the kids to alert them to the disaster which had befallen us, it had after all turned out alright and their dad seemed fine now. We spent the first night in the Sheraton Suites in Atlanta, as the next day our trip would begin with a visit to Peachtree Road, where Elton John occasionally resides, although just our luck he wasn’t in. Followed by a brief reconnaaitre to ‘Tara’ the home that featured in the epic Gone with the Wind. before setting off for few days in Chattanooga.

We had two rather large suitcases that were doubling as wardrobes for the fortnight as we had rather a lot of stopovers. I flung the discarded socks and pants into a bag for laundry and closed the case. The lion spotted a scrap of paper no bigger than a fly on the floor, clearly it had annoyed him, at least it had caught his eye. He bent over and picked it up, then in a squeal of pain crumpled in a heap on the floor. He was struggling to move, I knew immediately it was his back. He could not get to his feet so lay on the floor and his muscles went into spasmodic overdrive. I watched in horror and could do little to alleviate his pain. It was incredible that within 24 hours my poor lion had gone to the dogs.

I managed to help him to the bed but what were we going to do about this trip now, was the primary thought I had in my mind. ‘I’m fine’ he kept saying and I kept hoping he was, but i knew this was bad. With much effort and pausing with every spasm we managed to get to the lobby. I found a Starbucks and ordered him a coffee but every movement, even holding the cup sent splinters of pain up and down his spine. His face was contorted in pain, it was clear he was in trouble.

There is something in the makeup of tour reps; they are eternally optimistic, ours was no different. He didn’t feel too phased by my pain beleaguered Lion and quickly produced a wheelchair to transport him to the bus, as if that was all that was required. I suppose getting him on the bus was his priority, he had 40 other passengers desperate to set off. Our friends joined us on the bus but in all honestly no one had a clue about the trouble he was in, except me and I just had a feeling it wasn’t going to end well. Even the lion thought if he got on the bus everything would be fine………………………………..

Markets are calling me away. Chapter 5 Holidays

January always leads you into thinking about holidays but it’s the advertising that calls me to action and is the real deal breaker for me. Adverts on TV, FB or email seem to flood you with ideas and tempt you to book a wee break. I don’t need much encouragement to be fair. January is a time when I would start to look at booking something. But we are still meeting family needs at the moment so immediate holidays are not on the cards, for obvious reasons.

When British Airways sent me an email about their January sale ( it’s still on btw) I always want to browse the delights on there as soon as possible. So I did, and within a reasonable amount of time I have identified a holiday to Mexico. We have already been to Mexico, it was one of the few places that we did not have any dramas, so you will appreciate the appeal of it. We looked at various options, but by far the best resort was Moon Palace. We enjoyed our visit there previously because there were about 20 restaurants to chose from and you can golf. The lion was sorted then! We organised the flights, our travel arrangements and our hotel, all inclusive for 6k. I have paid more for a holiday there with Thomas Cook so if you think BA are expensive, think again. That price included business class flights.

A dialogue with my lion throughout this dithering decision, meant I hovered over the ‘continue to payment’ button for about half an hour. We debated back and forth about this holiday, but in the end a quick shift onto the Jet 2 site revealed a two week stint, albeit with only bed and breakfast included, to Spain was £1200. Now when you are retired on limited income, and with a big holiday to Australia already planned, my sensible head did come into action. We had been to Spain last year but it has everything we need; heat, food, wine. What was not to like with that deal? So there I was , flicking between the two pages before making the big but sensible decision to take the Jet 2 trip, and that is it booked, decision made.

I flicked onto the BA site again still tempted by their wares, wishing we could go stateside or take the trip to Mexico but remembering there is plenty time. We can always go another time, maybe next year. That is the problem with this kind of marketing, good customer service and enticing you in with a range of deliverable delights. You get seduced into random action. I know I like my brands, but we have had tip top service from BA so my loyalty is guaranteed to an extent, because I know if things go wrong they fix it.

And another reminder of just how powerful these marketing strategies are. The next morning, because it was clear big brother was watching me, I received a letter from BA. It was notification that we had not maintained our tier points (we should have booked Mexico) and were being down graded from silver to bronze status. Shock and horror.

Now it is the maintenance of this silver status that takes me right to the BA site to buy my holiday, so this subtle marketing strategy works for them, on me anyway. I don’t want to lose it, but in all honestly all it does is give you permission to choose your seat ahead of everyone else. Not that much when it comes down to it. When you are that loyal and there are incentives like tier points, it doesn’t take much to tempt you back, or hook you into other purchases. But you never forget you have a choice, so on this occasion BA lost out, mainly because we had already booked a big holiday for next year and finances are not limitless.

If you are thinking of booking a holiday try BA or Jet2 both very good quality for the prices they set. Jet 2 have not yet been tested with any of our dramas yet, but I’m sure there’s time…………………

Getting away from it all. Chapter 4 book of the family

It’s been a while, and I am making a poor excuse, but Christmas is always so busy. Haven’t you been busy?? And now here we are mid January and not a jot has been written, it’s frankly a disgrace! Just when I might have reached the dizzy heights of 3k views I go and get lost in a virtual outer space, flitting between family dramas and falling out of favour with my followers for failing to report on them. I have committed the most incredible sin; I have omitted to provide insight, social commentary and details of the ongoing, albeit somewhat dreary, dramas that drift in and out of my life.

January is always such an awful month; moneyless, dark, wintery, dark, everyone on a diet and off the drink, oh and dark. Of course we are now 26 weeks into my injury and I am making considerable progress so I suddenly want to do things, be places, see people, have fun and party. Problem is no-one else does. A bargain weekend was available and no-one wanted to go. I was cheesed off. I was hoping that would help ease my humongous gas bill, since it’s been on full blast all the while I have been house bound, but nope no-one wanted to go out or away. So there was only one thing for it, let’s go away ourselves for the weekend to………………our own house!

Turns out this was actually a fab idea and I seriously urge you to try it. We do have a lovely home, it is our pride and joy. It was built in 1750 and was previously 5 farm cottages knocked into one. We have put our heart and soul into this house, on every level we have invested love, care and attention to very corner, every room. So often when we go away I will catch myself remarking that we have just as good at home. Hence the mad idea of spicing up our January by pretending we were visitors in our own home.

Off I went on the Friday morning for a meeting with the feeling that today was going to be different. It was the excitement and anticipation combined that you get when you have a planned weekend away, albeit this was not away, but it was creating the feeling of being away, if you follow my drift. The lion was tasked with changing the bed and cleaning the house ready for the arrival of the guests, us. He even mentioned later he tipped them for a job well done. We laughed at that.

We were not allowed access until three so when I returned from work at 1pm, we went off shopping to buy what we needed for the weekend and of course that included shopping at a different supermarket and trying different brands. Then, as it was still a tad early to get the keys, we went to the cinema to watch Stan and Ollie. It was now nearly four so we made our way to our home for the weekend, pretending we had never been there, making hilarious comments like ” wonder what it is like inside” the pretence just added reality to the event.

When we opened the door, although it was with a sense of deja vu, we nevertheless continued with the drama, gasping at the size of the kitchen and delighted there was a wood burning stove, cleaned and set ready for ignition. We couldn’t wait to check out our bedroom for the weekend and later, after our first night we were so happy the bed was just as comfy as our own. Every action was designed to value what we had here, to look at it through a different lens. We took it all in, surveying what had become routine and making it mean so much more. I even posted pictures on FB # weekend away LOL.

On Saturday morning I set the table for breakfast using every piece of Denby I owned, including the toast holder that I bought three years ago but had never used. It gave me a simple but satisfying pleasure, I cannot explain, but the thrill of feeling that it was all new. I was making the most of what we had been taking so much for granted. The lion went off to play golf ( he had been taxiing me about all week to hospital appointments) while I stayed in our “holiday home” and made a goulash with yoghurt dumplings and even baked bread. I felt so invigorated.

We went to church to try out the local religious arrangements, then came back, lit the fire had a glass of wine before we enjoyed a romantic winter supper surrounded by candles and music. I cannot tell you how satisfying this weekend away in our own abode was. We made the most of what we had, and I’ve rarely been more satisfied.

Over the past 26 weeks I’ve come to realise how precious my health is. It made me want to live my life again as soon as I could. A simple slip took so much away from me, standing up, walking, dancing, cycling, catching up with friends, shopping, eating, visiting family, it had all been affected by my inability to move.

We also look after our parents and over the same period a lot was happening for them both and we lost some of our closest family members. All of that provided us with a mirror on our own mortality. I don’t know when I might get any clearer an insight to my future than I have these last few months, but I do know that what I have decided to do is make the most of it, however big or small that most is.

Marvel in the minutest things, love, laugh, dance, smile and be thankful for everything you have because you have no idea how long it will last or how important it has become.

Looking for Christmas (part 2) Chapter 4 Christmas

My mother was clearly distraught, at 7 I wasn’t all that adept at knowing how to respond it these situations but her distress seemed to search inside me for the best response I could find. I gave her a hug, tapping her shoulder repeatedly and slowly to affirm my concern and telling her it would be ok. I had no idea if it would be ok, but it appeared to be the right thing to say. She released me from my hug, indicating for me to sit before her and drew in a deep breath.

“I’ve lost some money,” she said, and continued, “this money was for Santa to pay for the presents he was bringing”. There was a lot of information in this statement, I took time to digest it. I wasn’t aware you had to pay Santa for presents, I was trying to work out how payments might be made or where the conversation took place to barter between humans and Santa? I knew we had sent letters, perhaps Santa sent a receipt in the post, and you arranged to leave the money beside the mince pies and carrots for collection on Christmas Eve?

Usually there was a limit on spending, we knew about it, not always sure what it was but knew it existed because if we asked for too much the retort would let us know it was too expensive. ” That’s just not possible, move on” my mother would say and we knew we had to forget about it. There didn’t seem to be the same regulation with things we asked for in our letters to Santa.

Then the realisation began to dawn that if she couldn’t pay what would Santa do? Did he take tick? Tick was the colloquial term for Credit in Shotts, I had no idea what credit was either but I knew, or rather had pieced together meaning from adult conversations, that sometimes things could be bought now and paid for later. A man in a smart suit and hat would come to the house weekly and write things in a book and mum would give him money. I understood him to be the ‘tick-man’. Did he know Santa? I was perplexed by these revelations and worried about the consequences.

My mother wept into her handkerchief and I asked how much she had lost. She looked straight at me for some level of insight or understanding about how much a 7 year old could appreciate the loss of £300. In today’s terms that is about the equivalent of a purchasing power of £6, 700. I recall thinking we must have been getting a lot of presents! Dad was due home on Christmas Eve so we had to bear this knowledge alone. Mum had done what she had to do and finally called the police. It was unthinkable for her that someone had stolen it, but as it had been lost for so long and every corner searched, every piece of furniture overturned, every nook and cranny examined and still no trace, it was all we had left.

Two days til Christmas and there was a gloom around the house; the sparkle of the Christmas lights had dimmed and, as a 7 year old facing her first major crisis, I experienced a deep sadness and insecurity. The order of my world had been turned upside down by this loss; it had affected my mother so much there was an incredible change in her personality, she seemed to switch between hopelessness and anger. We kept out of her way. And we kids started to accept that Santa might not come and there would be no presents, or at least not what we had asked for.

On Christmas Eve, eve we went to bed and mum was settling all three of us down for the night. The wardrobe door was lying open and as she chatted to us she walked over to close it. In mid sentence, she stopped in her tracks. My bed was at right angles to the wardrobe, I could see her face, it contorted from realisation to horror, a memory flashed before her eyes, which diverted to look at me. And suddenly she was in the wardrobe pulling out a fur hat. This was my grandmother’s hat, it was real fur (a thing back in the day) with satin brown lining. Part of the stitching holding this lining in place had parted the satin from the fur and offered you a fabulous hiding place. She put her hand into the lining and pulled out the missing cash.

I leapt out of my bed, jumping up and down on the mattress nearly banging my head on the ceiling. My sisters knew something amazing had just happened but not what. My mother threw the cash in the air and it fell like feathers floating to the floor, just missing the roaring fire in our bedroom. Santa would be coming after all………………..

Looking for Christmas. Chapter 3 Christmas

There is one Christmas that always stands out, it is quite a memory, but it’s not because of the joy and laughter I remember it, no it was because there was almost no Christmas that year.

We were living in Shotts with my Grandad at the time, both parents were working. Dad was driving long distance and often away for long periods and Mum part-time, as most of the time she was looking after us and my Grandad too. We three girls shared a room, so I must have been about 7 or 8 at the time. It was a big room for the 3 of us, there was a single bed, a double bed, a wardrobe, dressing table and fireplace. The wardrobe was about 5 feet tall, walnut with a pewter handle. It had a single door, with clothes hung to the left and right and shelving at the top on either side. It wasn’t for our clothes, they were stored in drawers, but my mother stored all of her glamorous gear in this wardrobe so we often sneaked in here to look at her clothes and dress up in her shoes.

The three windows in the bedroom overlooked the front of the street and our garden. The hall, accessed by the front door in the middle of the front elevation, gave access to this bedroom on the left and the living room on the right. I don’t recall if the front door was ever locked, when Grandad lived in the house he was never really out and we had a dog, which was the fashionable and affordable security back in the day. Anyone could have come in, I guess, but everyone had an open door back then and if we heard the door we would rush to see who had come to visit and what delights they had with them.

At the rear of our house we had about 6 steps leading to the back door, into what we called the back kitchen and a door out into the T-shaped hall. Within the T part were the other 2 bedrooms and bang in the middle was our bathroom. It would have been easy to access our bedroom but hardly unnoticed.

As Christmas approached we had already put up our tree, but something was not quite right. By the age of 7 I could tell when things were far from harmonious in the house, call it intuition or just being alert to the dynamics but I could tell my mother appeared distracted. We girls were all at school by now, apart from the youngest sister who was only just 4. Being out of the house at school meant we missed a large part of family life and by the time we returned home the usual rush to have dinner before brownies or the salvation army meetings meant you were pretty much oblivious to what everyone else was doing.

There was a sense of panic one night just two weeks before Christmas. Dad was off ‘down the road’ as we used to say, and mum had been searching for something for days. While this began with periodic glances behind cushions, or digging out old handbags, it built slowly toward a crescendo becoming more frantic as days went on. Grandad, who never did anything around the house, had even joined in taking to turning cushions over and even tipping the sofa upside down.

Looking on I was trying to make sense of the emerging chaos, but in all honesty had no idea what was happening. I knew however what ever it was it was bad; the adults were distraught. Our dog just looked on bemused while this tornado of torment continued. She was trained to recover things, but I’m guessing they thought her skills were just for the dog shows as no-one thought for a moment she could assist. I pushed this childish idea out of my head. While I guessed they were looking for something I was clever enough to know I was not able to help because my requests fell on deaf ears. What ever had been lost was significant. At one point my mother was in tears.

These were the days long before telephones and with dad away she had to bear it herself. She was 25 years old when I was 7 so her youth combined with her isolation seemed to add considerable weight to what ever it was she was seeking. Finally three days before Christmas she clearly had no options left but to take me into her confidence.

By 7 I guess you are mature enough to hear bad news, I mean, I might not have been prepared for it, but she must have had no choice but to tell me as my father was still not back from his travels. I sat down, and looked at her, my steady little childlike world about to be rocked by the news she had to share. I was a little nervous and could feel my heart start to pick up the pace as she looked me in the eye and began to tell me her story. It must have been a dilemma for her, knowing what I would make of this loss, knowing too it meant the end of my childhood. She clearly had no other option but divulge what was ailing her and end my fantasy right there and then………

Lapland. Chapter 4 Book of holidays

So while we were completely overjoyed at the early and safe arrival of our new grandson we were about to top this with the trip of a lifetime (for me at least) and taking the mermaid with us. I’m not sure whether this one was more for me than her but it was an incredible deal so I booked a trip to Lapland. I do love Christmas and have never lost the magic of the season, even into adulthood Christmas remains such a special time, evoking memories of long ago. I don’t often broadcast it but I am still a believer, ignoring the inevitability of reality, and clinging onto my desire for magic for as long as possible.

It was only a day trip so we had an early start, therefore the mermaid spent the night with us. This was not the best idea as I tend not to sleep when she’s here just because of the overwhelming responsibility that comes with keeping someone else’s child overnight. We had read that we needed to have plenty lairs on so we had prepared double of everything to pull on once we were up. I was wide awake with excitement at 4 am, then woke up the mermaid at 5, who was distinctly unfazed, to get dressed then head to the airport.

There was a jingling, jangling atmosphere in the airport where several day trips to Lapland were scheduled and little children, dragging their reluctant parents behind them, amassed in unprecedented numbers in the departure lounge. Gabbling with excitement, gleeful in anticipation their cheer was infectious. They raised the roof in the security hall with their chatter and staff had to work hard to focus on the more important task of making them all safe. Staff too had joined in the festive frolics, adorned in festive garb, tinsel tied in their hair and baubles replacing their earrings.

Before long we were all aboard and ready for take off. Flight attendants wearing elfin chic served mulled wine and mince pies, but the mermaid was busy colouring in, now feeling the early rise, she was looking for a more substantial breakfast. Santa (posing as the captain) was flying the plane, without Rudolph! But fear not for he was still there, colourfully shining brightly on the overhead lockers with each of his fellow reindeers painted along side him. Bells jingled, children were laughing, adults were singing and suddenly (but really after about 3 hours) we landed in Lapland.

It was 1pm and we had only 1 hour of daylight left. There was a lot of snow at the airport and it was hard to distinguish the roads from the pavements, shiny, slidey snow that was hard to walk on or find well trodden pathways. Once we had disembarked we had to locate our bus to transport us to be fitted for the required Lapland attire. It was -28 degrees and even double lairs weren’t enough to cope with this cold. After a few seconds outside, taking in the wonderful sights, it was onto the bus desperate for the heating. But you could not fail to feel Christmas had arrived.

At the changing station we were provided with onesies, in navy or red, hats, snow boots and gloves, especially essential as fingers and toes felt the bitter cold first. Once suitably kitted out the mermaid wanted to make snow angels so we ventured outside hoping our new winter attire would keep us cosy. She had the gloves off instantly making snowballs, falling down and loving it all laughing. At one point papa fell into the snow completely disappearing engulfed by a 10 foot drift. We pulled him to safety, covered in snow just in time to get back on the bus to head to Santa’s pad.

It was now about 3 pm and pitch black, our little village lay in a valley and was flickering with fairy lights welcoming our coach, it was so magical just as you would imagine. A white reindeer with bells along the red straps that attached him to a sleigh where animal furs were piled on for warmth, pulled us around the village, the wind factor reducing the cold to -36 below. After this we found the kitchen and had a warm meal served by elves; traditional in its offering, just what the people of Lapland would live on, chips with meatballs and spaghetti. Back outside, once we had managed to climb back into the onesies we took a husky ride. Our snot forming frozen laces stretched across our cheeks. The mermaid stood watching the dogs and was mesmerised, worrying where they might be sleeping tonight and how they were going to get warm.

Finally after several sleigh rides, snowman building, tobogganing and sleds we joined the queue to be transported to see Santa. In no time our sled loaded with blankets and fur skins arrived. Jingling with excitement as we climbed in and our safety helmets suitably secured against the elements. The snow was thick, laden on the fir trees feathery branches and frozen solid, the additional weight pulling them to the ground. The full moon shone creating an eerie runway amid the trees and as the huskies dragged us closer to Santa’s house there was an ethereal glow and calmness provided by nature in all its glory in this winter wonderland.

The sled flew along the hard packed snow and we could see smoke, still and steady, in the distance. An elf, scantly clad for this weather, waited excitedly while we climbed out, our faces red raw, our fingers and toes toastie from the extra clothing and the blankets. The gingerbread house door opened into a sea of warm, red felt and velvet curtains, a little log burner glowing in the corner gave warmth to the room and illuminated a massive gold throne. As we ventured inside following the scantly clad elf, the mermaid hesitated a little; fear rather than fascination the feelings at that time. Then I caught my breath, my stomach flipped and there was Santa, he emerged cloaked in glorious deep red velvet, lined with ermine and the white flowing, curly beard. Be still my beating heart….