We had a nice homely day on Tuesday 14th December and it was clear that, due to the pandemic, there was going to be a likelihood of me not getting to see some people who I had hoped to, particularly those who had messaged to say they, or people they lived with, had tested positive for Corona this week. This was the first time since the height of the pandemic that I knew several people who currently had the virus and it did worry me. My parents had some workmen pop in to service the boiler and a friend/work colleague called in to chat to my Dad. He was still there over lunchtime meaning we were delayed in getting to Tony’s chip shop for our lunch. I had been looking forward to English fish and chips after not having them for years but we only managed to just get there before they closed and had a chip butty each, as there was no fish left. They were lovely but a fish and chips meal was still on the list for another day and Dad made us all a cup of tea as he was the first to finish his lunch. I had a root around in the box of belongings I still had at my parents house and I was happy to see my popcorn maker, an ice bucket and some bits and bobs I had almost forgotten about, including my childhood bear, Patsy Panda. I decided I couldn’t be bothered to go through all the pensions paperwork today and would leave it for another day, before I left.
Mom prepared another delicious dinner, one of our favourites, spaghetti bolognese, and the portion was huge so I saved some leftovers for tomorrow.

On Wednesday 15th December I felt like I was so lucky, I’d slept well, I had a nice cup of tea and toast for breakfast and I had come to the conclusion that England definitely has the best toast – the bread is just so good and it was not making me poorly! I was so pleased to not have a dodgy stomach that I had the leftover spag bol with a slice of cheesy garlic bread for lunch. That evening I was invited to a small soirée at Clare’s house with Sue, over the past 3 years these ladies have been amazing online friends who were supportive during my lockdowns, had some of the best bits of advice and have a similar sense of humour to me, I also know them from working at Aviva. Clare picked me up from Mosborough, as she doesn’t live far away and we drove to her house. We chatted on over a glass of Prosecco with Chambord  (because we were being fancy) while Clare prepped what she called scraps. The idea was for us to have leftovers (scraps) as part of our buffet and Clare also got the crisps out while she topped up my Prosecco. Sue arrived after her hair appointment and it had been so long since I’d seen her in person that I hardly recognised her as she had lost a lot of weight and gone short with her hair. Within a few minutes we were talking about random subjects, laughing away and I was impressed by mini cheddars being available in stick form. Clare was absolutely the hostess with the mostest as we troughed through her amazing spread; including chicken tikka bellinis, sausage rolls, cocktail sausages, a full cheeseboard, delicious roast potatoes. The time just went too quickly for a school night and I’m sure we didn’t get through all of the stripper stories!
Sue, was driving, and so had not been able to drink, unlike me – I was a little tipsy and had a lift home with Sue after a wonderful evening where Clare’s scraps were anything but and I even had some blue cheese to take away!

On Thursday 16th December I started the day by checking how much extra it would cost me to add luggage on to my return flight. I’d already bought new boots, bras, knickers and socks that needed to be added to the popcorn maker and ice bucket in my hand luggage and I thought that was a little optimistic. The good news was that it only costs £34 for 22kg and there was an option to add on an annual insurance policy which included Covid for £35 so I did that. I used my card and it worked fine so it was good that my Turkish bank card worked here.
My next job was to do a lateral flow test to check if I had caught Corona because later I was going to a friend’s house and didn’t want to put her at risk, she’d also been doing tests and working from home. I was surprised at the amount of plastic packaging in the 7 day kits but the instructions were pretty simple and I did it then set the 15 minute timer. I didn’t feel unwell but it was a strange feeling, waiting for the result to show up on the plastic cartridge. It was negative, I registered it with the NHS but I don’t have a UK phone so I gave my mom’s and she got a text to confirm the negative test.
I then decided I could pop to town to get a few more bits and would also have a look for a few Christmas presents for the family. Money was tight this year so I couldn’t afford to splash out but I wanted to at least get something small for everyone I would be spending Christmas day with.
After I’d ended up in a rather warm Primark buying myself more knickers (a specific kind that I had before and wanted some more) and some lounge wear/pyjamas I found myself a bit peckish. I was worried about eating somewhere busy (like Greg’s) or going in to a shop due to the Corona risk but I found a very empty precinct on the Moor which had a Nando’s in so I went in there. I was missing having the East Hill chicken in Phong Nha so the next best thing was ordered; a quarter chicken with corn on the cob and chips plus a bottomless coke. The place was quiet, customers spaced out, the staff were really good and they even took cash so I felt a bit more at ease. When I ordered, from behind a plastic counter, the guy serving had a bit of chitchat and I mentioned I’d been out of the UK for a while which was why I was asking if I could pay cash and didn’t have a Nando’s app. He was such a nice guy that he gave me a free drink and seemed genuinely surprised that I was there. The food tasted good, obviously not as good as an East Hill BBQ chicken but it was tasty and filled me up – I didn’t take the piss with the free drink by filling it up with a free refill.
My bus back out of town was busy but everyone wore masks and tried to sit on alternate seating, the only person who I saw not wearing a mask was the old dear at the front who had pulled it down under her chin and was coughing quite a bit in to the air without putting a hand over her mouth – she wasn’t on the bus for longer than 5 stops and all the windows were open.
I arrived at Becca’s at 5pm, when she finished work and was greeted by Max, the dog, but I could hardly see him as I was steamed up and dressed very warmly.
It was great to see Becca again after all this time and was sad that neither of us had made it to Cheese Night this year, a tradition which started 10 years ago and was the night I met Captain Caveman. We laughed until my face hurt, while we had a small tribute to a cheese and wine night instead. When Steve got home we had started a nice bottle of red wine and so we all sat chatting and laughing while playing with Max, who showed off with 5 toys in his mouth at once – surely that must be a record. It was a lovely night and I felt lucky because she was meant to have been wearing her sparkly outfit to her Christmas party. Becca had really been looking forward to going out to celebrate the festivities with her work friends but it had been cancelled. I was quite the night out in Redditch but I was definitely grateful to have been able to take advantage of her availability instead. That night I stayed over in the very comfy spare room, we didn’t drink as much as we would have done in previous years when we both had the next day off because I needed to be up quite early!

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