"What I Did On My Holidays."

Tallulah Bankhead once said that “it’s the good girls that keep the diaries; bad girls never have the time.” Now, I would never classify myself as a *bad girl*. Mildly naughty? perhaps. Occasionally intoxicated? most definitely. But *bad*? Not so much. Nevertheless, like these bad girls Tallulah speaks of, I just haven’t had the time in the last few weeks to sit down and write about what’s been going on. Still, if there’s one advantage of jetlag, it’s that it gives you all these extra hours to fill (in exchange for the ability to sleep at a reasonable time). So, here then, I can start my blog, under that classic title from primary school essays: “What I did On My Holidays.”

One of the best things about working in a public school in South Korea is that, aside from a couple of weeks teaching at English camps, you get enough vacation time to take substantial holidays. So this year, my boyfriend Rhys and I decided to take advantage of the fact by going home. We were leaving the Land of the Morning Calm for two weeks in the Land of Roast Dinners, Pasties, Cheese, Chippies, Top Gear (and the list goes on…)

Home in England is just outside of a tiny town called Shrewsbury, in an even tinier village called Pontesbury. Incidentally, if anyone ever finds themselves disenchanted by the experience of living in a sleepy, boring little village like mine, I recommend a year away in South Korea. Never before have I appreciated that tiny little corner of Shropshire quite so much, or been quite so happy to see it.

We arrived on the 19th December, after a 14 hour flight and 22 hours without sleep. The jetlag seemed particularly severe this time round – I’m pretty sure that I passed out on the living room sofa, slack-jawed and snoring, nearly every time I sat down on it. In fact, I’m 100% sure based on photographic evidence: my mom has this unfortunate habit of taking photographs of anyone in the family who falls asleep in an amusing time or place. It’s the sober equivalent of drawing on unconscious drunk people, and it’s mean.

Nevertheless, it was SO NICE to be home. My room had been jazzed up since my grandmother’s visit from South Africa earlier that year (it no longer resembled Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs) and all my old books, and diaries were right there waiting for me. Most importantly though, the best part was being able to hang out with my parents, and especially with my brother. Here is possibly my favourite picture taken that holiday – it’s my attempt to document watching Twilight together, for all of the 5 minutes that he could stand it.

Christmas shopping was surprisingly painless – the only time it felt at all frenzied was during an ill-advised jaunt into Marks and Spencers in search of Stollen for my dad. (Apparently, Stollen is some kind of fruity, marzipanny, liqeury cake. I had no idea. I thought I was looking for vodka). M&S during Christmas week is TERRIFYING. The queues are longer, the little old ladies are feistier, and everyone wears this blank-yet-feverish facial expression, like they’re buying in canned goods for the Apocalype. Not a Merry Christmas time.

However, undoubtedly one of my favourite Christmas time rituals is this: Walking In The Snow To Meet Your Mates Down The Pub. Christmas time drinking just wasn’t a thing for me most of my life, since the festive season was usually spent visiting my relatives back in South Africa, so that’s my excuse for enjoying it now as much as I do. It was great to see all my old friends again. Plus, the joy of cider after so many months drinking Cass (Ass) and Hite (Shite) ? It’s like Ray Mears finding a natural fresh water source in a dire survival situation. (Apologies. I’ve been watching his dvd a lot lately).

The only thing more pleasurable than all the drinking over Christmas was all the eating. Christmas dinner was LEGENDARY. My dad cooked leg of lamb, roast chicken, curry, roasties, parsnips, carrots. I did the green beans: difficult to screw up, not a great loss if I did. (I didn’t. They taste good slightly burnt). It was ah-maz-ing. I remember quite vividly one morning, unable to sleep at 6.a.m, finding myself standing barefoot in the kitchen, nibbling on the leftover leg of lamb in the eerie half-darkness. I have never been happier, or more concerned about the direction my life was going in. I just can’t help myself when I’m in England. It’s the months and months of kimchi – 2 weeks in the Western world and I’m binging on various meats and cheeses and baked goods like there’s no tomorrow. And also, you know that song “Who ate all the pies? Who ate all the pies?!” Well, it was me. I ate all the pies. One a day for nearly a whole week. That’s not blood in my veins, its gravy. My brother says that walking in on me raiding the fridge is like startling a raccoon while it’s eating out of a trash can. A cruel but accurate analogy.

Anyways, since all my favorite parts of the holiday revolved around family and food, I have to mention one of the highlights – my dad’s fiftieth birthday. Really, this was one of the main reasons I really wanted to be home for Christmas, and it was wonderful. The whole family got all dressed up and headed for the Mytton and Mermaid, a hotel with an awesome restaurant where I once waited on tables. My dad was super-happy with his iPod, iPod case and speakers, gadget fiend that is. Although I can’t help but wonder if he wasn’t equally delighted by the toy train we bought from the $1 shop which ATTACHES TO THE CHRISTMAS TREE AND THEN RIDES AROUND IT. And also MAKES TRAIN NOISES. And even HAS A WORKING LIGHT. Anyways – the iPod is cool, too.

After Christmas and my dad’s birthday had been and gone, it was time to pack up and would head on up to Preston for a lovely reunion with Rhys and an evening of Medieval tomfoolery with his parents and their friends. See, every New Year’s eve, Rhys’s parents and their friends organise a big themed party, which includes a sit down SEVEN COURSE MEAL, and this year’s theme was medieval times. It…was…awesome. I dressed up as a medieval wench (somewhat tellingly, I already had most of the costume) and Rhys was a very fine Robin Hood. The 7 courses included game pie (again, me with the pies), wine-poached pears, those sausage-bacon thingies, and wild boar ribs.  After toasting the new year and kissing at midnight (has to be done :)) Rhys and I set off a paper lantern in the garden. It was so beautiful, a rare perfect moment – and much more smoothly done than the lantern we set off in Thailand which very nearly set fire to the hotel.

The next day, my family picked me up in Preston and after lots of chats and teas, we set off to a hotel close to the airport where we would stay before my flight the next day. It wasn’t bad as far as hotels go – we didn’t have time to try out the swimming pool or the jacuzzi, or the sauna, but there was time to repack my suitcase and eat a cumberland sausage butty, so that’s cool.

When we woke up, there was an unexpected obstacle – insanely heavy snowfall. We’d banked on being about half an hour away from the airport, but you know that in England, heavy snowfall can add two to three years to your journey time. Needless to say, I was panicking a little – but not panicking quite enough to turn down a complimentary breakfast buffet. That’s not how I roll.

Breakfast was fine at first, if a little emotional. I felt sad to be leaving my family; excited about seeing Rhys; worried about the snow; joyous about the unlimited offerings of sausage and eggs. But then…I tried to be cool, and all continental. I decided that the fry up wasn’t enough, that I needed a flaky pastry treat. I wanted a croissant, and I wanted it warm, damnit. So I pocketed some free jam, put a croissant in the bread toaster (one of those conveyor belt-type ones) and THAT’S when things started to go wrong.

In my defence, certain conveyor belt-type bread toasters can easily accommodate an average sized croissant. This was not one of them. The croissant went in … it moved … it slowed down … it ground to a halt. And then it burst into flames, with a very distinctive WHOOM! noise. I’ll never forget it. My brother Nathan said afterwards that watching the scene unfold was one of the funniest things he’d ever seen. My dad ran onto the scene when he thought I was about to poke a set of metal tongs in there to rescue the flaming pastry. (Metal tongs? they were plastic tongs! I’m not an idiot. Clearly). Fortunately, the hotel staff were really cool about it, and apparently this is something that’s happened before. Hence the manager’s very casual cry of “Darren, could you help, there’s a croissant on fire again…”

So that was the last significant act of my holiday. Arson.

And that was that. I won’t write about the time before the flight, suffice to say that I hate airport goodbyes. The only thing that makes up for them are airport hellos. I can’t wait for some more of those again.

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