Beyond Spamalot

Christmas 2010 & New Year 2011 has not been the most exciting holiday I have had. it did not help that I worked up to and including Christmas Eve and also between Christmas and New Year. Admittedly, this working was done remotely, but it was work nevertheless. I was supposed to be in Swansea the week leading up to Christmas but, to be honest, I chickened out because of the snow.

Birmingham

On the Monday leading up to Christmas, I had planned to work from home anyway, as we (me, the Mrs and younger-daughter) had tickets to see Spamalot at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham, and drive to Swansea early Tuesday morning. Rather than drive into Birmingham, our plan was to drive to Wolverhampton and get a train in. The drive was hell. Shortly after we left our home town, it started to snow heavily and by the time we reached Wolverhampton, traffic was slow and sliding all over the place. I was not convinced we would make it to the train station, but we did in the end. Trains were a little messed up, but we made it to Birmingham without too much difficulty. The bad weather conditions confirmed the decision I had made earlier in the day to not travel down to Swansea that week, as I felt the drive would be risky and there was a chance of being snowed into Swansea away from my family for the Christmas holiday period.

Getting back from Birmingham late Monday evening looked like a dubious proposition given the weather forecasts,  so I booked a couple of rooms on points at the Holiday Inn located behind the theatre. When we got to the hotel on our way to the theatre, I was somewhat disappointed to discover they had only one room booked for me (the customer services team decided I must have made an error and arbitrarily cancelled one of the bookings – they did not let me know they had done this of course). Fortunately, there were plenty of rooms available (I had feared a lot of people would stay over and they would be fully booked) so it took only a few minutes to sort out.

Spamalot was absolutely brilliant, really loved it. The hotel and theatre area have many Chinese restaurants, offering more typical Chinese dishes the typical town Chinese, so getting a great meal afterwards was no problem (well, it was at the first restaurant we walked into, they had problems in the kitchen and said they could not take us on – we assume frozen pipe related problems).

We breakfasted in the hotel early and headed back to the train station, on to Wolverhampton. The trains were running pretty smoothly, as were the roads considering the snow that had come down the night before. Getting out of the multi-storey car park was a bit tricky as snow and water that had fallen from cars in the car park had frozen over and made for a very slippery surface and especially tricky ramps. We experienced no traffic accidents on the drive back home, but thought we were about to witness at least half-a-dozen during the trip.

As it turns out, I could probably have made it to Swansea and back, but it would not have been fun. The client offices were open and they had no more heavy snow before Christmas. A colleague who lives only 30-mins north of me made the round –trip with no major problems. I am glad that I didn’t though, the 8-hours round trip in difficult driving conditions would have been a waste of time considering how few other people were on site.

5296865640_8ceedfa9fe_mChristmas

Christmas day was with the outlaws (i.e. my wife’s mom and dad) plus my wife’s sister, sister’s husband and two children. The outlaws live in Wales, nr Newtown. Another location we were keeping a weather-eye on. My eldest daughter offered to drive both ways. She is a very accomplished and careful driver with two years experience under her now and I was delighted to have a rare opportunity to have a drink at Christmas at the outlaws (I do not like to drink and drive at all – think we should have the Swedish, i.e. zero, option in the UK). It was a great day, thoroughly enjoyed it.

New Year

This year, we did not go anywhere for a party to see in the calendar change. We did not even bother with a drink. Our younger daughter, the most social of the family, had gone out with friends but my wife, eldest-daughter and me all stayed, watched some non-seasonal TV, and chatted. We talked about my daughter’s decision over the holiday to drop out of university. Argh!!! Actually, a good decision. She is not turning her back on education and is applying to other universities. She made a mistake in going to a local university that is, frankly, not challenging enough for her. Despite having excellent grades at GCSE and ‘A’ level, originally she did not want to travel far from home or be in a city-based university. Three months away has allowed her to learn more about herself and to change her views on some critical things. She is now interested in joining one of the more prestigious universities, including those located in London! I think her biggest mistake in her choice of university (where she smashed the entry requirements by a considerable margin) was not recognising how isolated she had been attending a state high-performing selective school for girls from age 11 through to 6th form. She is herself very intelligent and had become used to being with other intelligent girls (even if she did not think some of them especially brilliant a lot of the time), and suddenly finding herself in a mixed-sex environment full of students from a, er, much wider range of academic capabilities, was a shock. The irony is that my wife is continuing to study for a Physiotherapy degree a the same university and should now acquire a degree before either of her daughters.

My younger daughter is under the cosh to write a decent personal statement for her university application. My eldest daughter has had to do a new one for her new submission. I am playing the bad-cop at the moment and challenging the quality of the statements. Not fun.

Ready for work

Not really. I am heading back to Swansea today, yes, a bank-holiday. It will save me a long drive first thing in the morning. Also curious to see how well my work-flat has survived the cold weather (I left the heating on low, so I hope I have no burst pipe problems).

I do not feel particularly refreshed from the holiday though. The break was broken up by work anyway. The cold weather caused me some asthma problems, so I did not go out much. My wife had her head down studying ready for an exam looming early on her return to university (she did do her best to give me the attention I craved, but it was inevitable that she had to spend a lot of time on studying). There was not much on TV that appealed to me. Thank goodness for the present I received of an Amazon Kindle 3, which has given me a lot of reading pleasure. Brilliant. A special mention must go to the present the kids gave me which was a thermal mug in the guise (very convincing) of a Nikon lens. I did manage to commission a load of Ethernet sockets that I have left as bare wires for far too long. Maybe I should have carried out a few more projects inside the house – there are plenty of things that need doing.

Actually, I am looking forward to work. I enjoy what I do and gain a lot of satisfaction from it. I know this year will be especially challenging, frustrating and fun (I always look for the fun). Who needs new year resolutions!

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