I met Ma, Pa, Mark, Kate, Vanessa and Matt at the Dalyan bus station at 10.20am on Thursday 19th May and we were off on another adventure! I’d luckily managed to change my breakfast arrangement to Friday and therefore I had not eaten when we got on the bus to Ortaca. At Ortaca we changed to the bus to Fethiye, as there isn’t a direct bus to Çalış. Mark and Kate were going to Fethiye first and the rest of us were going straight to Çalış where we would meet Steve and Michelle for lunch. When we got off the bus at the Citroen garage, ready to walk a few kilometres in to Çalış, a bus arrived which we got on to. I don’t have a Kent card, which is used for transport, so the regular cost was 14 lira (72p) from Dalyan to Ortaca, 28 lira (£1.44) from Ortaca to near Çalış, then 10 lira (51p) in to Çalış itself. The total journey was just over an hour and a half and was quite pleasant. When we arrived at Summer Breeze, a lovely restaurant and bar on the sea front which Julio recommended, most of us had a soft drink and then decided to order a breakfast. The prices were very reasonable and much cheaper than most places in Dalyan so we were quite happy to stay there until Steve, Michelle, Julio, Serem, Mark and Kate were going to join us later. By that time we were well and truly on it with the drinks and were having a lovely time. A guy in white shorts, and no shirt had skated past us showing off his muscles so we, and another table of ‘Brits abroad’ couldn’t help but show their appreciation. He then came back, stopped his skate board in front of us and thanked us for making his day. I didn’t even get my camera out, I was so surprised – you can’t take us anywhere. The rest of the party arrived and we continued to have more drinks, Steve had received positive news from the hospital that his leg was doing well. He didn’t drink but they did have a breakfast and propped up his leg on a spare chair. About 3.30pm Can, the man who sells sunglasses, came round and we all proceeded to try several pairs on. I treated myself to some fake Ray-Ban’s for 250 lira (£12.82) and a couple of others bought a pair.
At 5.15pm we decided to move locations, Julio and Serem had their car so this was useful to get Steve to Charcoal Palace. The rest of us walked, this time I didn’t get lost, and I was able to enjoy the fish and chips I’d missed out on last time. Steve, Michelle and I even ordered an extra battered sausage and chips to share and I thought the food was amazing. I don’t eat peas, tartar sauce or curry sauce but my friends loved the accompaniments. I tried one of Kate’s onion rings and they were very good too but I was conscious of a batter overload. My Dad had said he had not liked the fish and chips last time so I was surprised to see him order them again. This time he said they were better, but still not as good as Tony’s chip shop, back in Mosborough, Sheffield. My Mom and Vanessa decided to order the chicken fajitas and they looked incredible, as did Julio’s chicken shish which he had eaten there before. I couldn’t finish my small portion of fish and chips so I asked to have a doggy bag, unfortunately they forgot and must have thrown it away. Steve and Michelle of course were sensible and went home at a reasonable hour. It had been so good to have a Deep Blue Leg-Ends reunion and of course there were plans for another one next month. Vanessa, Matt and my parents also decided that getting a taxi back from Çalış to Dalyan for 600 lira (£30.77) would be a good option and for the 4 of them it worked out £15 per couple – well worth it!
I could tell that Kate was on her way to getting merry as she had started to speak more Turkish to Serem, at first we were exchanging idioms but we were slowly getting off track and had to resort to speaking English. Mark had considered going home at a decent time too, but Kate was out out – we were also expecting another couple of their friends to arrive. I decided I would share the taxi back with Mark and Kate as even 200 lira each would be a reasonable amount. I joined Mark, Kate, Julio, Serem, Adam & Damla for a drink in Motto bar which turned in to a few more for some of the contingent. We eventually got a taxi after Kate negotiated the bar man down to an excellent price of 500 lira. The journey back started with Kate being chatty but then she fell asleep, Mark said almost nothing the whole way back and the Fethiye shopping made it back to Dalyan. I got dropped off at home and gave 200 lira to Kate regardless of the taxi price. It was midnight when we got in and it had been a long day with lots of laughter, great food and a fair bit to drink. It was worth it to see Steve and Michelle again but I was a bit sad when it suddenly dawned on me that I wouldn’t be in Turkey for the next Deep Blue Leg-Ends get-togethers!
I had a croissant for breakfast on Monday 25th April and was extra tired from not getting much sleep. I’d still got the winter quilt on so it was a tad warm and I’d slept in the spare room because of the handle coming off the ensuite bathroom in the main bedroom. I was meant to go over to collect my stuff from Mark and Kate’s house today but I couldn’t be bothered, instead I went to get some essentials from the supermarket. I had a simit and cheese spread for lunch and didn’t do much else really. I booked in for Pilates tomorrow and I got news that a friend was arriving in Dalyan on Thursday so I needed a couple of days off, in readiness for more shenanigans which I imagined could get messy. For dinner I had a cup of Yorkshire tea and some pasta with Turkish sausage and pesto sauce, then for afters a Bounty chocolate bar. It was nice to be home where I could relax completely for a couple of days.
It was another easy day on Tuesday 26th April, there was meant to be a power outage in the afternoon but it never happened. My parents were staying in with a slow cooker meal that night too and it was my first time at a new Pilates class. I had Christmas cake with cheese on for breakfast and loved it. In the afternoon I walked over to Mark and Kate’s to collect the rest of my stuff and Bluey2. When I arrived they were eating the leftover Chinese meal which was quite a few days old and asked if I wanted to share it. I declined as I could see it wouldn’t sit well with my stomach and I chatted with them while Kate instructed Mark on how to warm up food in an oven, the correct way! News came that masks for the under 65s in shops and public buildings were no longer compulsory in Turkey so I was slightly concerned that there could be an increased risk of catching the virus. Before I cycled Bluey2 back home, Mark and I arranged to meet at Okyanus for a beer in the sun before the pilates class at The Room Dalyan. Our friend met us at the class and it was definitely more difficult than I anticipated. My bad leg still wouldn’t allow for certain positions but the sciatic nerve pain I’d had seemed to benefit from the stretches. I was surprised to see how good at pilates Mark was, he was pretty flexible (for a Tuesday)! After the class, Mark went home with indigestion and I met up with Drew, Ann, Sarah, her friend and Katrina at Lukka bar to say bye to Drew. He was off back to the UK and so I had a glass of wine to see him and Sarah’s mate off. After hugging and kissing Drew goodbye I went home to have a mystery meal I’d got out of the freezer earlier, it turned out to be teryaki chicken so I was lucky to have cooked rice with it. Tomorrow’s plan was to attend a big celebration for Dutch King’s Day at Waterfall bar which I’d been invited to by a couple of Dutch friends.
Friday 22nd April was one of those days that we will probably remember for a very long time! A few of us were off on a trip to Fethiye and we were all excited, having booked rooms at the Infinity hotel. I’d already agreed to go ten pin bowling, even though I’m not really a fan, and I was also hoping there may be an opportunity for a Kentucky Fried Chicken, which is one of the few fast food eateries I really enjoy. Mark, Kate and I got a taxi from their’s in to town and went to the tea gardens for a quick beverage before meeting the others at the bus stop at 10.20am. We got the 10.30am bus to Ortaca and then changed at the bus station to the bus to Fethiye. The entire journey took about 1.5 hours and cost less than 50 lira (£2.67) each. We got off the bus at the Erasta shopping centre and headed straight for the food hall section upstairs. The gang went for several different options; İskender kebap at the traditional Turkish food restaurant, a burger stall and pides. Vanessa and I plumped for a 2 piece KFC meal with gravy. I’d last eaten a KFC 5 days before Christmas in 2020 in this exact same location and I was so looking forward to it. I loved it and it was quite a bargain too compared to a UK one and wasn’t as greasy. At the bowling alley Vanessa took charge of our booking while Mark had a go on a boxing game. It cost less than £5 each for a couple of bowling games and we split the teams in to two. I was the only one to start with a strike but then it went downhill from there. We were all in good spirits, some of us more competitive than others. In our team Matt won and Mark won in the other team. It was a great afternoon and despite me not liking bowling that much I really enjoyed myself. We decided to walk to the hotel which was situated in the centre of Fethiye and would take about 20 minutes. There were road works, we all had bags and after a few minutes we flagged down a taxi. The intention was for some of us to get in while Mark, Kate and Matt walked. The taxi driver was having none of that idea and proceeded to pile all 7 of us, and the bags, in to his taxi. He even pulled alongside a fellow cab driver and joked he could fit 3 more people in as we weaved through the busy streets of Fethiye, some of the passengers on their knees/going backwards/clinging on for their life.
We got out of the taxi a short walk from the Infinity Hotel, feeling lucky to have survived. The taxi driver told me it was 70 lira so I paid it but Kate, who must have been the most relieved to be in one piece, took my 70 and gave him a 100 note! We gave ourselves half an hour to get ready at the hotel then the plan was to go for a cheeky pint. I heard the instructions to meet in reception at 4pm so we could then have a stroll to the nearby Deep Blue Bar. The room was lovely with a nice (but small) bathroom where I jumped in the shower then put on my frock – I suspected we might end up out out! Three of us sat in reception waiting for the rest of the gang for a few minutes before realising they had all been chomping at the bit and had already gone to the pub. Luckily, I remembered the way (kind of) and we were there in no time. Mark, Kate and Matt had beer already and Vanessa was having white wine and soda. We got a drinks menu but then I saw a sign which advertised draft Guinness for 50 lira (£2.65) a pint until 9pm so all 3 of us were up for that. The last time the 3 of us had enjoyed a pint of cold Guinness together was 4 years ago in Singapore at a bar called Muddy Murphy’s. Everything was great, we’d had a lovely day and now we were relaxed with our drinks, enjoying each other’s company away from Dalyan, feeling like we were on holiday. A young couple were sat on the next table and obviously we got chatting; they were on holiday from Rhodes but originally from the Midlands and London. Before long we had become a group of 9 and had managed to cheese off the only other customer in Deep Blue bar with our loudness and laughter. Our Guinness went down extremely well and I’d had 3 pints of it before I thought it wise to switch to beer. Luckily someone had the sensible idea that we should probably eat food so we all went to the nearby Duck Pond for dinner and we invited our new friends, Steve & Michelle. We also decided to reserve our table back at Deep Blue bar for 8pm for after our meal. Looking back, most of the Dalyan gang were already on our merry way by the time we ordered food – in less than 4 hours things were about to take a turn for the worst.
The meal at the Duck Pond was pretty good from what I remember, despite the fountain wetting a couple of people who were sat the nearest to it. Some people had starters, others just mains and even an octopus salad was eaten. The service was good and the prices weren’t bad. Having shared a bottle of red wine with Mark during the meal at Duck Pond, on top of the 3 pints of Guiness and 2 pints of Carlsberg, I was probably drunk. However, that didn’t stop us all going back to Deep Blue bar for more drinks. I decided that sticking to red wine now would be the best bet, our table was reserved and more people joined us, including Mark and Kate’s friends from Fethiye.
Matt was the first to take himself off to bed as he’s not one for drinking too much. Kate was the next one to want to retire for the evening and she told Mark she wanted to go to bed. He was not having any of that suggestion and had now gone on to drinking Guinness. The live band were very good and we all got up to dance, the ladies were treated to a spot of gyrating and twirling from our new mate, Steve, as we twisted and jived about the dancefloor. I had just come back to our table for a drink, leaving Mom, Vanessa and Fethiye’s answer to Ricky Martin, giving it their moves on the dancefloor, when it happened. Our new friend, Steve, and Vanessa were on the floor! It all happened so fast but Steve was in pain and he said to Vanessa that he thought he had broken something. He was instructed to not move, the ambulance was called and we were all in shock. It felt like ages for the emergency services to get there but it wasn’t really and Fethiye has a good hospital quite near to the bar so he was going to be looked after. They stretchered him out to a standing ovation and his wife went with him to the ambulance.
The rest of us seemed to have sobered up somewhat so we did the only sensible thing and drank some more. Kate took herself back to the hotel and there was talk of the rest of us leaving at some point. Vanessa had said she didn’t think anyone would be allowed in the hospital due to Corona restrictions and she was correct. Michelle was back, with her husband’s shoe in her hand and upset that they wouldn’t even let her in to the ambulance. I did the only thing I could think of that might help; I ordered the tequila shots! She and I had a couple of Tequila shots and, as Vanessa, Ma & Pa went back to the hotel we thought it was a good idea to have more drinks. The night finished with Mark, Michelle and I ordering a bottle of red wine which they uncorked for us, and took it back to the hotel to drink – it never occurred to any of us that this might be a bad idea.
Unfortunately Louisa, Linda and Alex were going home on the evening of Wednesday 13th April. We’d made a plan that we would meet for lunch after my Turkish class and then eat again before they got picked up for the airport at 7.15pm. While they spent the morning doing their packing, or trying to finish the last chapters of their books, I was also packing. We had a friend staying so I was packing my stuff up too, ready to move out for a week. Mark had kindly offered to change a light bulb at Sarah’s which she hadn’t been able to reach. He couldn’t remember where she lived so he called for me and we went over to her house. She was on a work conference call so we went straight to the bathroom where the bulb needed changing. When Mark got up the stepladder and started to take the bulb out from the second step, the light came on. I was washing the light fitting and drying it on kitchen roll laughing to myself. Mark changed the working bulb anyway, using a new one from a cupboard full of boxes of lightbulbs and we left. Neither of us could believe Sarah had been without a bathroom light for such a long time when it was so easily sorted! I went to Turkish class which went well as we were practicing conversation. When we finished at 1.30pm, the plans to meet for lunch had changed as my friends had already had lahmacun from Kebapçı Yusuf for lunch. I was really hungry and had not had any breakfast so I took up Vanessa’s offer of lunch at Jiks. I had a chicken pizza and it was really nice but rather filling. After, I met Louisa, Linda and Alex who wanted to go to Lukka bar so that Alex could play pool. I played pool first while the ladies read their books then Linda had a game while I drank cherry juice. At 4.30pm my friends were hungry and fancied getting an early dinner. We opted for a last Turkish meal at Çağrı where I was too full for anything other than chicken soup. Louisa had a lamb wrap, Alex a chicken shish and Linda a tuna salad. The food was nice and I really enjoyed my soup. The car to the airport came at 7.15pm and we all said our goodbyes, hoping they would be able to come visit again. That night, I went over to Mark and Kate’s and I had a relatively early night. JC, the cat, was pleased to see me and was the only cat in when I went to bed.
I decided I needed to redeem myself somewhat with Linda and Alex on Sunday 10th April. Having ruined yesterday’s plans to enjoy a bit of history, by being hungover, I was on the case today. I’d already found a book to swap with Linda and I took that down to her. She’d already kept herself busy by doing a bit of tidying of the garden borders which were full of weeds and rubbish. We had decided that the 4 of us would get the little rowing boat to the other side of the river and take a walk to Kaunos. Linda had heard a little already about Kaunos so was keen to visit, I have been several times over the years but this would be my first time in over 2 years. It would also be the furthest I had walked since my leg injury which was 4 days less than 2 years ago. The rowing boat was 15 lira for a return trip and we were helped in to the boat. We walked along the path and called in to the cemetery where a family of donkeys were saying hello to the residents. We walked up the hill to Kaunos, by which time it was getting hot and I was glad to have my factor 50 suncream on. It cost 17.50 lira (less than £1) each to go in to the site, which is a bargain. Linda and Alex were very enthusiastic and went off to check out the ruins while Louisa and I took it a bit more steadily. I noticed there were more fences across parts of the ruins which had been accessible before. We bumped in to Maria and Co and I had a nice chat with them before going to the amphitheatre. More info about Kaunos is on this link: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaunos I sometimes forget that Dalyan is a small town so I was surprised when we got a hello and a comment from other sightseers who had seen us in Lukka on Friday night. After a couple of hours we were ready to go back and grab a bite to eat at one of the pancake cafes. We didn’t bother walking to the tombs on account of the terrain being too rough for my leg and it now being extremely hot. At the cafe it was cooler in the shade, I had a tea and chips but the others had pancakes with sugar. We took the rowing boat back and I went to collect my parents’ keys from Lukka bar. Appo was there to tell me that we hadn’t paid our bill on Friday night and produced a receipt with Mark, Kate and Jo written on it. I was in a rush as the blind man had turned up a day early at my parents’ place and I needed to let him in.
I did my best to explain, without any WiFi access, that they weren’t straight but he was having none of it and they didn’t get put up correctly. He said it was because the windows themselves were wonky, which they were. After the blind man had left I went to join Louisa, Linda and Alex who had found themselves a table outside 2 Charlie’s bar and were having a shandy. I had just poured mine when I got a call from Mehmet to ask me for the keys back because the painter was coming. I left my shandy and went back to my parents’ as Danny had come to let me know some info about the bathroom ceiling. He spoke good English and was explaining about the leak and why the ceiling still looked patchy. It was very hot and I was persuaded to have a lift back to the bar on the back of Danny’s motorbike. Obviously I happened to see lots of people and when asked who the young man who had dropped me off was I replied that I didn’t know his name – I was old enough to be his mom so that would give people something to gossip about! After a couple of shandies we decided to head back home and we would go out for dinner later. Linda had suggested we go somewhere for fish and went back with Alex to get ready while Louisa and I joined some of the gang at Sofra bar for a drink.
Kate and Mark both recommended Balıkcim, also a favourite of my mom’s, so when Linda returned she was without Alex as he was worn out and resting. The 3 of us left everyone and went to Balıkcim where the food was so good that I forgot to take any decent photos. I had şakşuka and beetroot as my meze starters, we got bread and both Louisa and I ordered the prawns in garlic butter. Linda ordered a fish and the food was very good, washed down with a glass of wine for Linda and I. Louisa had a rather strong vodka and coke which lead us two to stay out out after the meal. Linda went back to the apartment to keep an eye on Alex while Louisa and I joined Mark back at Sofra.
I could easily have stayed in bed all day on Saturday 9th April. I had overdone things yesterday and was begging for mercy but I had arranged to take my visiting friends to the market. I couldn’t stomach any breakfast and Kate had already fed the cats before I got out of bed. What I didn’t realise is that Casha had not been home yet. After helping put the bike together in the kitchen and 2 cups of Yorkshire tea, I got a lift from Mark. He dropped me at Jiks where Louisa and family were waiting in the sunny garden at the back. Jiks is always busy on a Saturday so they had to wait for drinks then we finally set off to the market. On the way there, Louisa filled me in on any gaps in my memory from last night’s shenanigans. It was going to be a long day and my hangover wasn’t helping. At the market I bought some strawberries which had gone down to 35 lira (£1.82) then we had a bit of a wander around the other stalls. My friends tried, and bought, a few sweet treats and had a browse for a sun hat. This was the first week I’d seen the market back to it’s full compliment of stalls, including Musti, one of my favourites. We both bought a purse as I’ve been after one for ages, mine was a Hermes and Louisa wasn’t sure at first. She went back to get the one she liked after we all had a pancake. The purses were great value for around £20 each and my old purse needed replacing. I knew the pancake would give me a dodgy stomach so I only ate a bit then took the rest as a takeaway. After the market we all walked through town and to Rehab bar where the pool gang were playing. Linda and Louisa were still in pursuit of a lamb shish for dinner so I messaged Donny at Heybe’s to check if they had some available that night. When I arrived everyone was already seated with a drink and I apologised for both my hungover state today and our drunkenness last night. I ordered İskender kebab, Alex chose a pizza, Louisa had the lamb shish but Linda decided to go with a lamb tandır. Before the food came I got a message from Kate to say that her favourite cat, Casha, still hadn’t come home and she was very worried. She’d looked everywhere, had called her but there was no sign. I enjoyed my food but had to take half home and Alex loved his pizza. Linda said her’s was nice too but had expected it might come on skewers, like the lamb shish did. While we were at Heybe’s there was a power cut so our Algerian waitress told us a ghost story of the mountain with no name. It had been a long day and I vowed not to drink that much again! I was so happy to be back home and in my own bed tonight, for a change!
We had another lovely day planned on Friday 8th April. Vanessa and Matt had arranged a boat trip with their family and asked if I would like to join them. Because my friends were visiting I had added all 4 of us on and it would be a Sheffield boat trip with Turgay. I didn’t bother with breakfast but the cats had all been fed and Casha was having morning snuggles by 8am. Vanessa and family had arranged to pick up Louisa and family on the way, but I would get picked up from Mark and Kate’s jetty. I couldn’t find my sunglasses so I borrowed a pair of Kate’s (after checking it was ok to do so). All the cats were out for the day for the last time as Mark and Kate would be returning later, and I went to wait for Turgay’s boat. I managed to get some video and photos of the boat arriving before I got on board to greet everyone. It was a sunny day and I hoped the sea would be warm enough for a swim. Not only did we go to Ekincik Bay and the beach but, later in the afternoon, we went to the mud baths where we all got in the thermal swimming pool. Jason let me have a go at twirling his stick which he can do all sorts of tricks with and it took me back to my youth, when I was in the majorettes. The boat trip was a great success, the food was lovely and everyone enjoyed themselves. There’s always someone who has to overdo things and, of course, that would be me.
When we got back I fed the cats but Casha didn’t come to eat her food. I popped the dish in the microwave so that the others didn’t eat it. I waited for Mark and Kate to arrive, they had landed but were not home by the time Louisa, Linda and Alex were in Lukka, ready for the music bingo night. When they got home I was already quite sloshed, Mark had been drinking on the plane but Kate categorically stated that she did not want to go out. With their massive amount of luggage strewn all over the house, we got a taxi and went to Lukka bar. I completely forgot to eat, Louisa and her family had already had their meals, Turgay was there and the bingo had started. The music bingo was a good laugh and Linda even won a prize from Maizie Moo. We preceded to drink too much and, instead of me going home, Kate insisted I go back to their’s for more drinking. She did try to invite Louisa too but she was having none of it.
There was no madness on Monday 14th March, which made a nice change. I got a message from Captain Caveman and some photos as he, and his colleague, had been on a bike ride in Phong Nha. They were both keen to find out what would happen tomorrow, the official day that Vietnam would open to international tourism. I was still sceptical that it would happen but they were more optimistic. I read an interesting article from Vietnam, just as I was missing pork: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20220311/ho-chi-minh-city-police-seize-nearly-16-tonnes-of-rotten-pigs/66118.html I decided to make a teriyaki chicken in the slow cooker, didn’t eat breakfast but made wedges with cheese for lunch. It hurt when I ate or spoke still but my chin was scabbing over now. The bruises on my legs were coming on nicely too. In the afternoon I firmed up a couple of plans for tomorrow; Mark and Kate invited me to their’s and I was going on a bicycle ride with Vanessa and Matt in the morning. We had also been invited to Andy and Julie’s for a get together. Both of these invitations clashed with the singing group but I intended to go to all of them. For dinner that night I had some of the teriyaki chicken with steamed rice and a chilled glass of rosé wine. It tasted great and I was glad I had made enough to save some for the rest of the week.
Tuesday 15th March was meant to be the day that Vietnam reopened the country to international tourists after 2 years of the pandemic. As can be the case, these things don’t always go exactly as one would expect and I was glad I hadn’t booked on one of the first flights. Despite the country being open, the visa process was still not ideal, with many nationalities still not able to get a visa, and most people struggling to get more than the 2 week exemption for certain nationalities. There was still no official announcement made as to if a 30 day visa on arrival could be obtained and various sources seemed to think we needed to wait a few more days for further updates. There was concern that tourists to Vietnam would book elsewhere and I read this news article: https://vietnaminsider.vn/complicated-visa-requirements-may-discourage-foreign-tourists-to-vietnam-heres-why/ It was hot in Phong Nha today and Dalyan also had some sunny weather as I got ready for my day out with Vanessa, Matt and Bluey2. I was about to cycle the furthest I’d been, so far in Dalyan, as we set off to Andy and Julie’s house. I met Vanessa at Migros and we stocked up on goodies and wine to take with us, then we went to pick up Matt. At first I had my coat on but it soon got warm and I had to stop along the way to take it off. The route was easy and flat so we got there in about 20 minutes, greeted by Andy, Julie and the 2 cute dogs. We had a cup of tea and an array of pastries, biscuits and cakes which I indulged in. I was meant to be leaving in time for the singing group gathering at 2pm but after mention of a potential positive case and the mention of wine I decided not to go. Instead we proceeded to sit in the sun, by the pool chatting, drinking and generally having a good old laugh with fellow northerners! We cycled home rather merry that afternoon and I was meant to be at Mark and Kate’s already. I grabbed a few things, including potatoes and wine then got a taxi from mine to their’s. I met the cats; Casha, Kylie, JC, Bubble & Squeak and was pleasantly surprised at how well behaved they were. Especially as I had agreed to house and cat sit Mark and Kate next go back to England. While Mark made sure I had red wine, Kate was keen to feed me a baked potato with various homemade toppings. I’d also taken over some popcorn and we had a great, but drunken night. As it was so late I stayed over, the temperature had really dropped and Mark had to put hot water bottles in the beds. Once in bed, I stayed awake a while, checking for updates on the Vietnam visa situation and hoping for good news.
On the morning of Wednesday 9th March, after a turkey ham sandwich for breakfast, I went round to my parents’ place to check on it. There was a leak above the neighbour’s fuse box which needed looking at and one in the upstairs bedroom. It was difficult to see why, without climbing out of the window and on to the roof, so I asked Mark if he would help me. He said I shouldn’t get on the roof as it wasn’t really safe but he managed to hang out of the window and get a zoomed in photo of the chimney stack wall which looked to be the issue. The photos and leak information collected, we decided to call to see Debbie (Darling) next door. The door was open so we sat on the couch and waited for her to come downstairs to surprise her. She had some workmen round so, while they sorted out a door, we had a beverage and chatted. Mark left to go to Rehab bar, as Wednesdays is pool afternoon, but I stayed with Deb and had a beer. After a while, we decided to go meet Vanessa and Kate at Rehab bar and I experienced another first in Dalyan. I had a ride on the back of Debbie (Darling)’s quad bike and I was a little bit apprehensive. It was pretty whizzy and she likes to go fast so we were at the bar in no time. Tayfur, the owner, poured us all white wines and some of us had soda with it. I only had a couple and then walked home with Vanessa and Matt. Bar street was still a mess as the road works progressed and we had to watch our step as we navigated our way. Back home, I made veggie egg fried rice for my dinner, ate strawberries for dessert and then watched something on Netflix. I had a video call with my parents to discuss their apartment and the leak, which didn’t look as bad as I thought it would.
I woke up on Thursday 10th March to a message from Leanne, at King Emlak, to say that the workmen were on their way to our place. They were coming to plaster and paint the cracks in the ceilings from when I had leaks during the heavy storms some weeks ago. I quickly showered and tidied up a little, trying to move things before the men started plastering. I had buttered toast for breakfast while noticing on Facebook that Dong Hoi, in Vietnam, had an increase in positive cases and they had started to shut down lots of establishments. At lunchtime I went to Zumba with Vanessa and really enjoyed it, afterwards we went to Jiks and had a bite to eat. I chose the white pizza and she had a tuna sandwich, I couldn’t manage all of my pizza so I took some away. In the afternoon I went to the bank, the stationers and the chemist. I noticed the exchange rate had now gone up to 19.5 lira to the pound. Back home the workmen were still there, the place was a mess and I couldn’t take a post-zumba shower until pretty late in the day. That night I arranged to join Vanessa at Rehab bar, as Matt was joining the darts night. It was also Matt’s birthday and Vanessa and I inadvertently got put down to play darts. There were just a few others taking their chances on the dartboard; Alison, Paul, Terry, Ausaf and Mark. I was next to useless for the first half of mine and Vanessa’s game, even the cat was worried about getting hit by a stray dart. By some fluke I won our game, then partnered up with Paul for the doubles game, which we won. As it was Matt’s birthday we had the obligatory tequila shots then we played pool. It was a good night and I was pleased to see friends we hadn’t seen in a while. The night ended with me snaffling the remaining pizza when I got home and I hoped for a lazy morning tomorrow.
Having not gone to bed until 2am on Tuesday 8th March, I was tired when I woke up at 8am. Strangely, I also found myself fully clothed, including 2 scarves, in the spare room. It had been so cold out last night that my reasoning for being in the spare room was because it’s warmer. Today was international Women’s Day, I was looking forward to attending the Zumba Gold class at midday and was pleased to manage a sandwich beforehand. Captain Caveman was already on his way to The Villas in Phong Nha to meet our friend, Valerie, before heading to his briefing. He would be back in the cave tomorrow for another 4 days. Zumba was full of energy and I really enjoyed it but I was then in a bit of a rush to have a shower and get changed before cycling to my next appointment. The singing group is held at the Merhaba cafe, by the Mijo hotel, and this was my first cycle in Dalyan traffic. I manoeuvred chasing stray dogs, overtook a tractor and a mobility cart as well as avoiding 2 lorries, all on the short route. At singing, Sheila was on accordian and Richard on guitar, both were excellent musicians too. I sat between Peter and Nanny Kay and shared Nanny Kay’s book of over 200 songs. Kate was sat on the other end as we were both initiated in to the group. For the first half of the session I knew very few songs and, as no sheet music is used, I wasn’t able to sight read as I’d expected. A book was passed around to write song choices in but I didn’t choose any this time round, I preferred to go with the flow for my first time. Kate chose a couple of songs including ‘Top of the World’ which was a good one to join in on. Regardless of the song choices, I really enjoyed the experience, it was friendly and easy going so I was definitely up for going again. We said our goodbyes and Kate and I set off back towards town on our bicycles. The sun had gone in and it was pretty chilly so, as we got near to mine, she asked me to pick her up a jumper and meet her at Okyanus. I took a back road detour and when I got in to mine I had a message from Mark asking if I had his phone because he had lost it last night at the Wonky’s quiz. I grabbed my Christmas jumper and a Vietnamese scarf for Kate, popped my coat on and walked over to Okyanus. When I joined Mark, Andy, Kaye and another lady, called Jo, things got a bit confusing. Kate wasn’t with the others at Okyanus, as I’d expected. She had decided that a jumper wouldn’t be warm enough and had cycled home to get her big coat. I also found that I had Mark’s phone in my bag which I must have picked up when he left it in the bar last night. I forced a beer down but didn’t drink all of it, I shared some with Kate when she arrived. It was getting chilly and looked like it might rain so we drank up then went to nearby Lukka bar. While we were there, the rain came down heavily and a sodden Debbie (Darling) had a bit of a to-do when Socks chased a neighbour’s chicken and killed it. She now had to pay the owner for the dead chicken and was at her wits end with her street dogs. I had planned on going to get changed for tonight’s event at Dalyance but I no longer had time and it was raining heavily again, anyway. I chatted to Jo, who was really lovely with a cute dog called Charlie. I even invited her to join us on a boat trip which Vanessa was organising for when our friends and family arrived. The new menus at Lukka bar were out and the prices had gone up again, Mehmet was telling us to stock up on meat as the prices in the supermarket and butchers were set to rise further this week. I took a photo of the menu as the Sunday dinner had gone up by 50 lira to 210 lira. At the exchange rate today this was only around £11 however, for people who are living here and using Turkish money they deposited at 7 lira to the pound, it felt more like £30! Kate and I left the rest of the gang in Lukka and headed up to Dalyance in the rain. When I arrived almost everyone was already there as I picked up my vodka based complimentary welcome cocktail. Sonuç had set us up a table for 20 ladies and the place looked lovely. I managed to say hello to most people before I sat down on the end next to Ann and Nanny Kay. I’d assumed that Debbie (Darling) wouldn’t make it but she surprised us all by turning up with a bag of chocolate, one for everyone. We all ordered food and a few of the remaining ladies joined us about 8pm. The Pad Thai was a popular meal choice, I had the steak fajitas and they were delicious. The chicken quesadillas which Nanny Kay ordered looked great too and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal and chat. I met new ladies in Dalyan which was lovely, especially another couple of fellow Sheffielders, as well as getting to chat with some of the oldies. After the meal, some of us left to go to Lukka for a nightcap. Kate and I got chatting to Richard from the singing group about song favourites but we just had the one drink before calling it a night. It had been a long day, so by 11pm I was on my way home. Rach was so surprised that I wasn’t the last to leave that she took a photo for proof!
Tuesday 28th December didn’t quite go according to plan; Mom was still waiting on her results from yesterday’s PCR test but Dad and I decided to do a lateral flow test. As we waited Ma started cooking us all a breakfast and I started to worry if I was positive I wouldn’t be able to go back to Turkey. I was meant to be leaving in a few hours and, although Turkey had no requirement for me to have a PCR test to enter the country, I couldn’t really risk being put in quarantine on arrival if I still went. To pass some time I scrolled through Facebook and saw that in Vietnam now the authorities were carrying out door to door checks to find people who had yet to be vaccinated and giving out jabs – imagine that in the western world with anti-vaxers! The 15 minute timers went off; Dad and I were both negative and we were so pleased. I decided to leave in the next hour, I checked the bus, tram and train times and found that, due to Corona, there were some train cancellations and Dad was insistent I needed to leave ASAP. At the time Mom and I thought he was being a bit pushy at me going but it would turn out that Dad was absolutely right, if I’d not left when I did I wouldn’t have got there! I said my goodbyes to Dad and Mom drove me to the tram stop with a big, heavy case and a smaller hand luggage case. I almost went back home as I started to have a bit of a dodgy tum coming on, but I took an imodium, said goodbye and got on the tram to the train station. As I paid the unmasked conductor who was wearing a lanyard with sunflowers on (which means she has a hidden disability) I wondered if I was doing the right thing by leaving and I had tears in my eyes that rolled down my cheeks as we left Halfway. When I got off the tram at Sheffield train station I was desperate for the toilet, couldn’t carry both cases at once and the lift to go to the platform level was on a go slow. After a cumbersome pulling and pushing of luggage in a public toilet I had to retrace my steps to go back to the footbridge level and over to the ticket office. A number of trains were delayed or cancelled, the station was busy with post Christmas travellers but about 60% had masks on now – a massive change since my experience 17 days ago. I was reluctant to use the machines in case I booked a train which wasn’t going and when I spoke to the very helpful woman at the ticket desk it was a good job I chose that. I had 10 minutes to get the ticket and get to the platform as the train for Manchester Piccadilly was on it’s way, she mentioned to check when I arrived but the trains from Manchester to the airport were getting cancelled. It cost me just under £30 because I’d not been able to book in advance and off I went. The train (delayed by a welcome 5 minutes) was busy but not packed and, as I got on I heard that the Sheffield to London train which had a lot of people waiting for it, was cancelled – I was lucky I wasn’t going back to Heathrow! On the train there was free WiFi so I checked the connecting airport train times and found that I had 3 minutes to change trains if this one got in on time. As everyone got off the train on the furthest platform from where I needed to be, I had to push my way in the opposite direction against all the other passengers in search of the lift. I got up to the footbridge and hurried along to the lift to take me down to Platform 13 where the train was already in and about to go. The lift was out of order and I was going to have to carry both cases down the stairs if I was to be able to get a train in the next 2 hours! I grabbed the handles of one case as a young man came running to get the same train and it all happened rather quickly; he picked up my big suitcase with me and we ran down the stairs together, shouting to the guard to hold the train doors! We made it and I was so thankful as the train was empty, it was the last one to the airport for a while and I would probably have missed it, or hurt myself! I was so grateful that the guy was helpful and could see I was struggling and I almost cried! I logged on to the free internet and let my Mom know I had made it, unfortunately during my journey Mom’s confirmation that she had tested positive for Corona and that her operation was cancelled had come through, she had completed the track and trace details for the family and let them know. We were all so disappointed for her but I just hoped she wouldn’t be ill with it, Gayle and the family were all fine! I was about to get off the train so I quickly responded to the friend I would be meeting when I arrived at Manchester airport to let him know that I would be at the Radisson Blu hotel soon and would come straight to his room. I’d arrived at Manchester airport train station at just after 3.30pm and there were very few people on the train or in the area. I seemed to be more proficient with the luggage as I walked towards Terminal 2 and to the hotel. My friend, Jamie, had booked us in to the Radisson Blu hotel for a night and he was waiting in room 922 so I went straight up, still in my mask and winter coat. We had a lovely room with a king size bed and already he had his trolley with 3 suitcases on, plus hand luggage – his story was that he was not giving up his trolley which he had put a pound in as he would need it tomorrow and he had a Christmas tree and half his husband’s ashes in the luggage so it had to stay in the room! I was about to get my 2 remaining cherry bakewells out when Jamie said to get ready as we were off to the club lounge. For an extra £18 we were able to book in until 9pm for free drinks and nibbles and I didn’t need telling twice! We went masked up but there were no staff, just help yourself so I had a beer, Jamie had a white wine and soda and we sat in a quiet corner. I told him about the family’s Corona situation and that I’d tested negative. He had been vaccinated and had already had the virus in November so he wasn’t unduly worried but I decided I would tell the other 2 friends we were travelling with in case they were worried. The nibbles were not too plentiful and so at 6.30pm we gave up our free bar, which we had easily got our money’s worth from, to go to meet Nanny Kay for dinner. On the way to meet her in the reception of the Clayton hotel Jamie managed to get us lost and we had to do an assault course style journey to get there, he also managed to drop 3 bank cards in the wet mud on the way but we luckily noticed! The restaurant was empty but they wouldn’t let us go in because we hadn’t booked so we booked for in 15 minutes time and found a quiet corner in the bar to sit at. While Jamie went to get a bottle of wine for us to share I was about to let Nanny Kay know I was worried I may be carrying Corona and that my Mom was positive when she started to tell me how she had been ill recently with a virus. So that was a bonus and we went in to dinner with our wine and had some lovely food. I had the soup and a beef dish which was massive and very tasty but I had to take half back to the room. We left at a reasonable time and arranged to meet at the terminal at 6am tomorrow so we could check in, another friend and her 2 kids would also be joining us. When we got back to our hotel Jamie and I had another drink in the hotel bar and then I realised I still needed to complete the Turkish PLF and check-in online so we decided we had better go back to the room to do that. Jamie had more wine and I had trouble with the checking-in online so went to go to reception for them to print it for me. On the way I got an error message and sat down on a chair to resubmit my passport details before continuing to get my print out. Back in the room I put my printouts on top of my hand luggage and we both set alarms as well as having a wake up call as we didn’t want to overlay or for anything to go wrong!
It was no surprise that I felt rough when I woke up on Sunday 26th December, Boxing Day. I’d had wine, gin and Tia Maria last night and had also eaten so much stuff that might make me have a bad reaction. It was after midnight when we all went to bed but Morgan had to sleep on the sofa as April was already in bed and was feeling unwell, saying she was hot but to touch she was cold. Neil had not yet hung up his pinny and was back in the kitchen making us all a full English breakfast. I felt like I had a bit of a cold now so I was grateful for a cooked breakfast, plenty of orange juice and a paracetamol. The food was fantastic; bacon, 2 different types of sausages, hash brown, beans, mushrooms, toast (and for the others there were tomatoes and fried eggs! I’d barely had time to clean my teeth, get dressed and finish my cup of tea before my Dad was ready to get off home, he and Mom had already packed up the car and had their coats on. I had a bit of a dodgy tum (hardly surprising) as I tend to do after eating sausages and I also felt like I needed some fresh air as I’d not been outside since the 23rd. I decided I would walk home and, after saying goodbyes and thank yous, I set off down the hill. It was a nice walk as I strolled past where we used to live and along the very quiet streets, past the church and home. I needed a lemsip and I was worried I might have Corona because of the sore throat and having a bunged up nose but I didn’t take a lateral flow test as I’d eaten and drank so decided to wait – none of us were going anywhere or seeing anyone today. We still had some gifts to unwrap under the tree at my parents so we did those and I had got mom some big warm socks for after her operation, thinking she might not be able to get her slippers on, I got Dad some chocolates and between them some more Turkish delight and some nice chocolate biscuits to have with their cups of tea. Ma & Pa had given me some money, undies and another 2 chocolate oranges – I was very grateful and happy. I had a hot bath, using some of my new products and then went to bed with a hot lemsip to sweat it out and by 6pm I felt a lot better. My parents had already eaten their tea but had saved me some beans as we were all so over-indulged that we just fancied beans on toast! I still wasn’t sure if I had Corona so tomorrow I would do a lateral flow test, my Mom also was booked in to have her pre-op PCR test and would need to isolate. After a couple of whiskey and green gingers with hot water I went to bed early, I also Googled where the nearest place was if I wanted to book in for a PCR test, unfortunately the nearest one was booked up and had no walk-ins so it would be 7.5 miles away by car.
When I woke up on Christmas Day (Saturday 25th December) I could hear my sister talking to the dog, Sumo, who was opening one of his presents from underneath the tree. I also felt a little bit out of sorts and my voice had gone. Neil made me some buttered cranberry toast for breakfast as the others were having scrambled eggs and salmon, which I don’t like. There was also lots of bucks fizz which seemed to sort me out a bit and my voice came back! We opened presents and I was gobsmacked at how much everyone had, especially the kids. When I’d been asked what I wanted for Christmas this year I’d said a Terry’s chocolate orange because I love them and had not had one for years. I was not expecting to get any presents, Captain Caveman and I don’t bother with them any more so it was a bit of a shock to be given a gift bag with gifts inside. The Leesing family had surpassed themselves and I was so surprised to get all sorts of lovely items; a bracelet, toiletries, chocolates and a voucher for Marks & Spencer’s. I’d not really known what to buy for them and, of course, I was on a much tighter budget. For Neil I picked Merino wool socks as Captain Caveman swears by these and I thought they would be good for work or fishing, I decided on an underwear set for Gayle hoping I had picked the right size and colour, for Morgan and April I picked Lush bath bombs thinking they would be able to have a nice relaxing soak in the bath with those and they always smell nice, for the whole family I took a bit of a risk and decided to buy them my favourite game, not knowing if they already had it or if it was a bit inappropriate. Cards Against Humanity is just hilarious and reminds me of playing it at Momma D’s house with Des, D-Dub and Hanh so I knew it was funny. Everyone got so many lovely gifts and I found out what a boo pillow is when Gayle got a massive one given as a gift. Sumo got lots of presents too including a camera which he hadn’t realised squeaked. There was even a tiny bit of snow falling but it didn’t settle at all so there was no outside snow activities. Our Christmas dinner would be served around 5pm so I was given the job of peeling and crossing the sprouts while Neil and Gayle were busy in the kitchen, preparing the Christmas Day feast. I sat at the dining room table to do them and got a call from Captain Caveman who had already had his quiet Christmas Day and was over at Stu’s house, slightly inebriated after they had sent Multi out to get more beers. I was very pleased to join the kids with a melon and berry starter, while the adults had a choice between pâté or seafood, it meant I had more room for the main turkey dinner. Neil made sure we all had our wine glasses full and then he and Gayle, helped by Morgan and April, brought out the main course in a selection of bowls for us to help ourselves. It was outstanding; on my plate I had turkey, stuffing, pig in blanket, roast potatoes, carrots, sprouts with bacon, chestnuts, and cauliflower cheese – I swerved the broccoli, parsnips and roasted fennel. Gayle had a mountain of a plateful and we all laughed as there was no way we would eat it all, even though it was delicious. We had to have quite an intermission before the Christmas pudding and proper custard. We played more games in the evening and my Dad did not like Cards Against Humanity one bit and said it was stupid, my youngest niece seemed to be the best player and I thought it was a great laugh. When the Trivial Pursuits game came out Dad was more settled and we managed to consume yet more alcohol, all of us managing thus far to enjoy a truly remarkable day, with no falling out (well, apart from Gayle putting in a complaint to Neil about the quality of the cream content in his liqueur coffees). For supper I had more booze and a good sized portion of the ‘smash’ cake which was probably the best sponge cake I’d ever had!
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: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society/20211221/vietnam-records-16325-coronavirus-infections-50191-recoveries-250-fatalities/64844.html 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.
When the alarm went off on Friday 17th December it was still dark and cold – I didn’t want to leave the comfy bed! I read in the Vietnamese news that a shopping centre had been closed due to Corona, in Ho Chi Minh city, more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/business/20211217/retailers-withdraw-from-shopping-malls-over-coronavirus-flare-up-in-ho-chi-minh-city/64763.html Becca, Steve and I got an early bus in to town so that I could pick up a few things on my way back to Mosborough as we were off for a family meal. None of us could be bothered to shop really so when we got to Marks & Spencer’s (the shop I have missed the most) we just mooched around and I (who had a bad stomach from cheese and wine last night) used the facilities and the free WiFi. When I got home I waited for Dad to finish in the shower so that I could get ready, then we all walked to The Mosbrook. I wore my new boots and my feet stayed warm and dry, the walk was mostly downhill but I found I was still rather slow at walking. When we arrived the staff were busy so we had to wait a bit to be seated, Gayle & Neil arrived shortly afterwards and seemed a bit flustered on account of Neil being late and on the cross-trainer, instead of getting ready. We waited a while to order drinks and I’d already decided I would be having pork for my dinner so I ordered a cider. The festive menu was available as well as the regular one so we each did whatever we fancied. Dad and Neil had pâté, Mom chose squid, Gayle had prawns and I went for butternut squash soup for our starters. For the mains we had the following; ma – Asian duck salad, Gayle – sea bass, Dad – Turkey dinner, Neil – steak, me – belly pork. It was bloody lovely and mine was so big a portion that it took me ages to eat it. In fact I ended up leaving some because everyone was fed up of waiting for me to finish my dauphinoise potatoes and wanted a dessert. There was no way I could manage a pud so my mom had my Christmas pudding, Dad had the same, Gayle had a lemon cake and Neil just a coffee because he had to go and pick up one or both of the kids and transport them about. After a lovely family lunch we decided to go back to my parents’ where Neil would join us later at the micropub if we could get a table. I tried to book in but it was full so I rang them and a walk-in table was still available. Mom was a bit embarrassed about going again, after Mad Monday, and she only drank coke, the bar man checked how long we planned on staying and we only managed 2 drinks before going back to my parents for another impromptu party/nightcap with Neil on taxi duty once again. It was a lovely family day and we had a really good laugh and catch up, it was nice to be able to be with my family when I know so many people who can’t be with their’s this year – I felt extremely lucky indeed.
What was tipped to be the biggest reunion booze up in Sheffield ever on Saturday 18th December had begun to reduce as fast as the Corona cases were increasing. So much so that what had been a possible wild night out turned in to a very tame, but wonderful, day. The virus was definitely having a massive impact on plans with friends and family being either cancelled all together or moved to something more sensible, in efforts to avoid Corona for Christmas. After my buttered toast and English tea I got ready to meet at a nearby spacious, airy and empty venue. Paz was unable to meet tonight but came to meet me for a hot beverage in the bar area of Mosborough Hall hotel, a short walk from my parents’ house. When I got there, a bloke from the previous night’s party tried to talk to me and mentioned he had been up drinking until 5am, had meant to have gone back to Wales but had booked another night as he was too drunk to drive home. I kept my mask on and my distance then went to order a pot of tea while Paz arrived. When she got there it was brilliant to see her, she looked so well and fresh and I noticed her hair was lighter – we couldn’t stop smiling and it felt good after all this time. Time went too fast but we decided the venue was a good place for us to perhaps organise an afternoon tea when I’m next back in Sheffield, so I popped that on the potential plan list for summer 2022. When I got home my parents had their hairdresser over and mom was still getting her hair dyed so I had to wait a little for her to finish so that I could cadge a lift to the tram stop. I was off to Kelham Island to meet Luan & Paul for a couple of drinks in the afternoon. They’d also invited me to the cinema but I wasn’t bothered about that and thought it would be nice to watch the Strictly Come Dancing final with mom, I don’t usually watch it but when there’s an English ballroom dancing competition between a deaf soap actress and a gay male TV presenter it’s worth watching just to see my Dad’s confused face! On the tram I bumped in to Luan and Paul who were just getting back from Wolverhampton and were pretty done in, this meant we could all call to Luan’s for a nice cup of tea and a natter. I’d prearranged to get the 6pm tram back so we changed our venue to go for a nice ale at Salt (used to be the Stew and Oyster) and was just round the corner. It was a nice pub and I really enjoyed the real ale without any side effects and we were non-stop chatting in the short time we had together. It was lovely to see them both looking healthy and happy together, they were so pleased to be able to be going to gigs again too and they told me of a great one next year that I’d love to go on too, as I have missed proper gigs! We all got the tram from Kelham Island, they went to town and I continued to White Lane where mom came to pick me back up, as she was also giving my sister a lift later too. That night we had fish and chips from Tony’s chip shop and watched the Strictly programme. The fish was great and the portion of chips was enough with 2 portions between the 3 of us because I had to put my lounge wear on soon after snaffling it all. Next, Mom let me add some essentials on to her shopping order which was being delivered on Monday and I went a bit mad ordering slow cooker sachets, Henderson’s relish, sweets and some gluten free cherry bakewells. Dad and I shared a bottle of red wine and I was quite glad the day had been a lot quieter than the first plans as I was pretty tired and wouldn’t have wanted to be too worn out for the Sunday plans, either.
I was excited to have my mom cook me a bacon sandwich for breakfast on Sunday 19th December. I can get bacon in Turkey but it’s not as good and it’s expensive with it being a Muslim population so I don’t have it often. While it was cooking I did a lateral flow test which was negative so we were all relieved about that and my nose was getting used to doing them. I got told in Vietnam that if you breathe out through your mouth (or even say ah) as the stick goes up to the end of your nose it is more bearable. In the news, Vietnam had reports of the spread of the omicron variant, more here: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20211219/omicron-cases-doubling-in-15-to-3-days-in-areas-with-local-spread-who/64793.html After my delicious bacon sandwich I spoke to Captain Caveman who was doing well, keeping busy, but was missing me now and I was him. My mom needed some bananas so she gave me a lift to my lunch appointment, Ma & Pa had been invited but they were trying to limit going out a bit more because of the operation and not wanting to be ill for Christmas either. Kerrie, Paul, Thomas and Jack were already at the British Oak having been to Disney on Ice earlier and it felt weird not hugging each other. I’d missed her hen do and wedding so it felt amazing to finally get to see her and the family. They were all so happy and it was fantastic to have a shared love for good food (pie for the girls, lamb for Paul and a massive Sunday dinner for the kids) as we chatted on about all sorts of things, including how much I love Henderson’s relish. I was so full that I didn’t order the sticky toffee pudding that I fancied but I did try a bit of Kerrie’s and it was gorgeous. The pub was quiet for a Sunday but customers were spaced out and the staff were really good so I felt it was one of the nicer meals I’d had in there. I got a lift back home with my mask on and I was sad that they couldn’t come in to see the finished house my parents were renovating when they last met but we hoped for a BBQ in the summer instead. I was so stuffed and just sat and watched a bit of TV, my Mom made a curry for dinner just for the 2 of them as I wasn’t hungry. Later though, I had some really nice treats; fruit cake, cheese, chocolates, crisps, dates and some wine with my parents. It felt like I’d never been away as we tried to keep up with Ronnie O’Sullivan on the snooker and watch the Sports Personality of the Year – I took my eye off what channel we were on and thought Ronnie had won the latter! Before bed there was more news that plans for tomorrow were going to be changed again and some friends who might have been coming to Sheffield could no longer make it, there was definitely a sense of people being concerned they might get stuck if a lockdown got announced and of course no one wanted Corona for Christmas.