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I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas day – unless you’re one of the 1000s of Network Rail engineers or contractors working over the holiday – in which case I hope you stayed safe had an easy shift! The weather here was remarkably mild for the time of the year, but then the valley was cocooned in cloud all day which kept the heat in.

We had a quiet day at home apart from a short stint at our local pub (the Big 6) at lunchtime.

Christmas Day lunchtime in the Big 6, when it’s all hands to the (beer)pumps…

It was a mix of regulars and unknown faces as people escape (or are told to bugger off out of the way) from family gatherings for a couple of hours before the real indulgences start around the dinner tables.

The rest of the afternoon and evening there was just the two of us enjoying some quality time together. Our Christmas dinner was anything but traditional. We’d bought some lamb shanks from a local farm shop which Dawn used for a 1st Class mutton (lamb) railway curry using a recipe from Rick Stein. It was divine! The mixture of spices (including cinnamon) really complements the lamb. Dawn served it with a home cooked Sambar (Indian veg curry) and red rice.

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing on the sofa and watching films whilst the cat curled up in front of the fire. Today the pace picks up considerably as we’re packing for New Zealand. Tomorrow we head down to Tilford(Surrey) to catch up with the rest of Dawn’s family for an afternoon, then head for Heathrow on Friday morning for the start of our delayed honeymoon! heading to New Zealand’s going to be a welcome break for a number of reasons. It’s an escape from the UK’s current political madness and shambles over Brexit for a start. There’s also the fact that January’s a drab month in the UK as many people are miserable because of a combination of factors, like the weather and because all the Christmas and New Year bills have come in. It also seems like a long haul to Easter and the next bank holiday!

Unlike our usual January escapes this one’s presenting an interesting logistical challenge on the packing front. Normally, we’d be going to somewhere Equatorial where the weather’s constant and we’d just need clothing for warm weather. Not so in New Zealand, where we’ll be doing a lot more walking and hiking in conditions that can mirror a UK summer. There’s quite a temperature variation too, so there’s a lot more to pack. Normally we’d only take one large suitcase between us. This time we’ve had to borrow a second one. I only hope we remember that when we’re travelling!

Jet (our cat) is most disgruntled as he’s been chucked off the bed to make way for the suitcases which currently look like they’ve been ransacked by overzealous customs Officers. The old boy (he’s 17) has been allowed on the bed recently as he’s been ill. We had to take him to the vets to get some infected teeth removed so he’s been given a lot of leeway and TLC. The problem is, he senses we’re going away, but at least he gets on well with the house-sitters who’ll be looking after him and keeping him company whilst we’re away.

23:13

Phew! Packing done, paperwork printed, instructions left. Now it’s time for a glass of wine and bed. Tomorrow’s going to be the start of a looonnng few days…

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