I slept in until 10am on Monday 20th December and it felt good to have a lay in so late! After we put some washing in I walked with mom as far as the chemist, as she was picking up prescriptions, and I went to get the bus to town. I’d been in England for 9 days now and unfortunately I’d not been able to meet quite a few people who were still getting over the dreaded virus but today, after rescheduling, lots of lateral flow tests and concerns about logistics I would be meeting up with more friends. Poor Vanessa and Matt had been stuck at home longer than they wanted to be, due to a delay with their day 2 PCR test results but were finally free to be let out, Maddie was in Lincolnshire and was no longer coming to Sheffield due to other commitments, and of course my parents were trying to minimise risk by not going out, plus they had a food shop delivery due that afternoon.
I got off the bus and walked to the wrong venue because I’d mixed up where I was planning on going tomorrow night but luckily I was early and had enough time to walk down towards where Debenhams used to be. It was heartbreaking to see so many of the high street shops now closed and, to say it was almost Christmas, it wasn’t nearly as busy in town as usual. I walked past the Christmas markets where quite a few shoppers were and arrived at The Furnace, a new addition since I’d last been back. I was impressed with Becca’s choice of venue as, not only did it look fancy, it was spacious, airy and almost empty. Becca, Caz and Nel were already there but there were to be no hugs which was sad, of course, even the menus were already laid out on the table. All 3 of the girls had suffered with Corona this year and so it was good to see they looked fab, especially Caz’s hair after a trip to the hairdresser’s this morning.
We ordered drinks, and it was different to our past meet ups where we would have shared a bottle of wine. We all ordered food and drinks; I had a pint of lager, another pork belly dish and some poutine, Becca and Caz had fishcakes, while Nel had a Korean chicken burger and chips. All the food was fantastic, with the starters/sides being easily enough for a lunch and I’d definitely go there again – it was the cleanest place I’d been so far too (the toilets were immaculate)!
Our next stop was made in an attempt to be sensible by being outside as we headed to the Christmas bar in the peace gardens. Vanessa had already let me know that it was just her coming in to town but she also had a shopping delivery on it’s way so we said we would go to the Alpine bar and wait for her. Of course, I had no WiFi on my phone so once we had all drank a rather expensive (£4.50) mulled wine in a small polystyrene cup, Becca messaged to check where Vanessa was. There was also another pop up bar at the top of Fargate called the Sleigh bar and she was there so we set off to meet her and bumped in to her on the way. We all had one more drink (£2.50 for half of dark fruits cider) at the Sleigh bar then it was time to say bye. Again, it felt funny to not be hugging, or even touching, each other and also not really knowing when we could all ‘get back to normal’. Vanessa and I had a wander back down Fargate to Marks & Spencer’s and we bought a few treats and some Christmas presents before sacking it off to call for a quick half in the Brown Bear. As I walked in to the half empty pub I had a wave of nostalgia as it was one of those boozers I loved to visit in the winter, with its cosy interior and no nonsense bar staff – there’s not even any WiFi. Vanessa bought us half a cider each and we just had time before I had to tog back up in winter layers to go to the bus station to get the bus home. I only just made it on time and, as arranged, I was home by 6pm. Mom had been busy making another one of my favourite English meals, toad in the hole (sausages in Yorkshire pudding, for the unfamiliar) and Dad was supervising the process. It was bloody lovely but my dad had a face on when it wasn’t up to his expectations and he thought Ma should have left it in the oven longer as it got a bit stuck in the middle. Mom was more worried that the ends would burn and I wasn’t complaining because I think I got the most sausages – I thought it was spot on. Dad seemed happier once we got a red wine on the go and we started watching something a bit odd on BBC1 called The One Before.
After dinner I got a message from my friend I was meeting tomorrow night saying she had to cancel our plans which we had arranged some time ago as she had double booked herself. I had done similar in recent weeks so I was fine about it, I think once it gets in to December it is hard to keep track of everything that’s meant to be going on – I knew it was nothing personal and it was just one of those things. It was a shame I wouldn’t get to see Leanne this time but I hoped I would be able to see her in the summer instead and maybe even help her out with a new project she had taken on recently. I went to bed and, conscious I was falling behind on my Duolingo Turkish practice, tried to do some but ended up watching Lubricant (Russell Howard) in bed – it made me laugh!

I was excited on Tuesday 21st December to be seeing my aunties, Jill & Rita. They were going to be at my sister’s house around lunch time so, as I got up late, I had an M&S sausage roll for breakfast and read the Vietnamese news. In Vietnam cases were higher again (just over 16,000 in a day), and more deaths (250) in a day than in the UK, more info here:
My parents and I walked up the hill in Mosborough to my sister’s house where Jill and Rita had already arrived and the dog, Sumo, was going crackers over Rita while she tried to get her shoes off. There was an offer of a hot beverage or a glass of fizz and it was easy to see how the family split went; Jill was driving and so plumped for a cup of tea with ma & pa while Rita and I decided prosecco was on the cards – we aren’t one to turn down alcohol often.
Gayle doesn’t have a normal kettle, more like a fancy teasmade-come-coffee machine type of appliance and so, while she fannied about with that, I poured the prosecco, not realising the champagne flutes were far bigger than usual. Rita and I had almost a half bottle of prosecco in each glass and it was rather moreish. I had planned on getting a photo of us all but between stories of excrement and Harold Shipman plus a quick quiz on what that name of the doctor my nannan hated was, I got distracted. I genuinely feel that the TV show Gogglebox has nothing on my family and I think cameras in my sister’s house would make for entertainment gold! There were chocolate cupcakes and luxury biscuits to eat and poor old Sumo wanted them all, he picked his moment to wolf down an unattended cupcake wrapper and wouldn’t let me or Gayle get it out of his mouth. When Neil and my nieces returned I found out something that all my English friends had been keeping a secret from me, something that I had said would be a great idea about 20 years ago and is now a thing – you can order a Macdonald’s! April, my youngest niece, wanted to order one and I was amazed that this now existed, even though she was told ‘no’! Neil got some white wine out and we carried on drinking, ma & pa had one and Rita had a whisky. It was good to have everyone together when we finally remembered Dr Paget’s name (crikey, we wouldn’t have slept tonight)!
The walk back home was down hill and easier because I was merry and Dad zoomed ahead so he could put the fire and heating on for us as it was getting dark. My Mom really was pulling out all the aces as she had a beef stew in the slow cooker which was for dinner tonight and she only made her best Yorkshire puddings yet – Dad was happy! I had some stew left over for tomorrow and, instead of a night out in Sheffield as planned, I got to watch the 2nd episode of The One Before in the living room with Ma & Pa – I was a bit late to realise that there were 2 female characters, Emma and Jane, who I thought were the same actress (they weren’t) and wondered why it now was starting to make more sense. I didn’t have any wine with Dad tonight but I did finish off Clare’s blue cheese with Red Leicester mini cheddars for supper and really enjoyed them. We had some more family plans for tomorrow so I was in bed before midnight.

It had been arranged before I left Turkey that my parents and I would go to uncle Gary & aunty Jo’s for lunch on Wednesday 22nd December. They had moved house since I last visited but didn’t live too far from my friend, Sheree. I’d therefore also organised for a sleep over at Sheree’s after visiting my relatives. Unfortunately, due to the Corona virus those plans had to change, my cousin, Liz and her family, were coming back from Scotland and we needed to make sure Gary & Jo didn’t have to cancel due to catching Corona. In an effort for us all to still be able to see each other my Mom and Jo arranged that we would instead go for a walk around the lake(s) at Rother Valley at 11am. I explained this to Sheree and we decided we would come up with a Plan B once I got back from our country walk. To be quite honest I wasn’t looking forward to the cold or the walk, given that my ankle still hurts, my mom has a bad leg, my Dad has bad knees and my uncle Gary had not long since had knee surgery, and it didn’t involve a homemade lasagne or an alcoholic drink – we were more likely to be out of action from exisitng injuries than Corona! On my bottom half I put on my thermal tights underneath my Christmas leggings but only one pair of socks and my new boots, my top half consisted of a t-shirt, a hoody, a scarf, my big coat, a hat, gloves and a face mask – I forgot to put my ankle support bandage on but couldn’t be bothered to address that issue. It was great to see Gary and Jo and instead of cooking me a lovely lunch they had brought me a bottle of red wine, and from one of my favourite regions in Italy – I love a Primitivo from Puglia so I was very happy! We had a good walk around and didn’t go too fast, first I was chatting with Gary and Dad and we were having trouble keeping up with Jo and Mom who were speeding ahead with Henry, the dog. Once we had walked around one of the lakes I thought we might be cutting through but there was no chance of that, it was a 5km total loop around the main and northern lakes so not too far for able-legged people. By this time I was warm and had taken off my mask as there was only me who had kept it on, even though the UK rules don’t say you have to wear one if you’re outdoors.  My feet were the only part of me that were cold but they soon warmed up when we swapped walking formations and I went to the front with Jo and Henry. It was great to see Gary & Jo while I was back and such a shame that we couldn’t go to the pub with them but the walk and chat was rather nice. This was the first time since tearing my ankle and knee ligaments that I have managed to walk 5km without limping or a sit down and I think having a slight heel on my new boots helped.
When we got back home I made new plans with Sheree for tomorrow lunch and cancelled the plans I had for tomorrow daytime with my sister and my parents. This gave us a free evening at my parents tonight and of course we made the most of it. We only had fish and chips again and it was sad knowing this would be the last time until July next year! This time the chippy tea was even better than before as the owner had just cooked fresh fish and we had plenty of chips. Dad put the kettle on and we all had a cup of tea while we watched the last episode of The One Before – which was all a bit confusing. While we watched Live at the Apollo with Jason Manford, Dad fixed us all an alcoholic beverage, mom and I managed 2 sherries, each with 3 cherries, and thoroughly enjoyed our Harvey’s Bristol cream, seeing as it was almost Christmas. There were a couple of disappointments before bed though; today was the 10th anniversary of me meeting Captain Caveman but, because of the 7 hour time difference, I didn’t even get a chance to speak to him. My friend, Louisa, who I was looking forward to seeing tomorrow night, had sent a message to say that she had been in contact with a relative who had tested positive for Corona yesterday, she herself was negative on 3 lateral flow tests, and had already had Corona a while ago, so it was up to me if I still wanted to meet up. It was awful news, as we all knew we could catch the virus anywhere and at any time, but no one wanted to catch it for Christmas or jeopardise my mom’s operation.

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