It’s Christmas day, and as I’m writing this blog, I thought I’d share one of my memorable Christmas holidays which involved some travelling. I had the pleasure of spending Xmas in the Cotswolds in England with my big sister and brother-in-law in 2005. Though it wasn’t my first time in England, and it wasn’t my first Xmas in England (I spent 1 other Christmas there while I was briefly living in Milton Keynes), it was my first time to see the Cotswolds and that part of the English countryside.
At that time, I was living in New Zealand, and I had to fly for 36 hours to get to England, which is practically on the other side of the world. I actually didn’t let my sister Cherie know that I was arriving in England for Xmas. It was a surprise trip for her, as my brother-in-law Gerry told me that she was feeling home sick that year, and that it would be great if I could fly over and spend Xmas with them (she got very surprised when I turned up at Harrods later that day, where Gerry organised for us to meet up in the iconic London department store). Gerry picked me up at the train station in Kingham, and drove 15minutes to the town of Stow-on-the-Wold. It’s a tiny old market town, which dated back to 1100s, with buildings as old as Shakespeare. Gerry and Cherie lived right in the middle of Stow-on-the-Wold, in an old workingmen’s cottage. The house dated back to the 1700s. It had the original fireplace made of costwolds stone, with a wooden floor and a shed that looked like a small outhouse that was built in the same era.
On Xmas eve, we had dinner at one of my brother-in-law’s favourite pub, the Chequers pub on Church Road in Churchill, Oxfordshire. It’s a 15-minute drive from Stow-on-the-Wold. Gerry has surveyed the pubs in the Cotswolds area, and even wrote a book on the “40 Classics Cotswolds Pubs”. He highly recommended this pub amongst all the 40 pubs he mentioned in the book. And it really showed! The hosts/owners of the pub were really great with their service, and the food was fantastic! The hosts were very accommodating to my niece Georgia, who was 9 years old back then. I would recommend this place if you’re ever in the area in the Cotswolds
After dinner, my sister Cherie and I hanged around the house, chatting and catching up on lost time after having been apart for 2 years. Being raised a catholic, it was our family tradition to go to church together on Xmas eve and attend a midnight mass. I don’t normally go to church these days, but I thought it would be good to go for once and reflect on the spirit of Xmas. However, we could not find any Catholic churches in Stow. We instead decided to try and see if they would let us into the Anglican church which was on the next block from the cottage. The people in the church were very welcoming, and even ushered us to our seat! Though we couldn’t recognise any of the hymns or songs that they sing, it was an interesting experience for us to hear an Anglican mass. It had a number of similarities to the Catholic mass which we were used to. At the end of the day, it was good to just be able to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
My niece Georgia woke up early and excited to unwrap her presents. She was eagerly sitting by the tree and waiting for all of us to wake up and sit by the tree. She has been waiting for it since the previous night, and she has prepared Santa a brandy and a biscuit so that Santa will give her the best Xmas gift ever! When we finished exchanging presents, we then sat on the breakfast table and had a quick breakfast before starting to prepare for the big Xmas lunch.
Christmas lunch was at my sister’s place, and all my brother-in-law’s parents and auntie came from Andover and Reading. Gerry made the roast turkey and baked ham, and my sister made some Christmas fruit cake. We had a feast! I caught up with Gerry’s family, who I’ve met a number of times when I was living in the UK a few years back, and I continued to keep in touch. We popped some Xmas crackers, shared some stories and enjoyed a typical English Xmas lunch. We then opened more Xmas presents from Gerry’s folks. At the end of it all, I got heaps of presents that I was getting worried on how I was going to carry them all the way back to New Zealand! It was just great to be showered with presents for a change and I really was humbled by how much I got that year!
After lunch, we played a few games and kept the party going. Gerry’s family left sometime mid-afternoon, an we decided to take a stroll along the countryside near my sister’s place. It’s quite relaxing to walk along the quaint English countryside. Then, the snow started to fall. A white christmas, as I imagined Christmas to be normally! It was a fitting finale to a wonderful Xmas day!