Christmas in Devon

Two Thousand and Sixteen will probably be most remembered for the surprising BREXIT vote, TRUMP’s stunning victory over Hilary Clinton in the US Presidential Election,  WALES’ magnificent performance in reaching the semi-finals of the European Championships, and Britain’s  best ever haul of medals at the RIO OLYMPICS.

But for me, 2016, has a unique significance. I was able to spend Christmas Day with my son and daughter for the first time in 30 years. I also  had the valuable bonus of four grandchildren contributing to the celebration and entertainment. The reasons for the protracted absence are no longer important. Suffice to say that Christmas 2016 was that much sweeter being surrounded by nearest and dearest.

Before driving to Devon, my wife and I made a detour to Wales to visit old friends in my home town of Swansea, which sadly has taken a decidedly turn for the worse since I left over 20 years ago. Fortunately, the jewel in the crown, the Gower Peninsula has survived relatively unscathed, and Mumbles has an exciting new development on its seafront. We stopped for lunch at the Blue Anchor, a 14th Century  public house in the Vale of Glamorgan. The food, beer and atmosphere are second to none, and we were forced to drag ourselves away.

The following day,we made a nostalgic trip to the Joiner’s Arms in Bishopston on our way back from Gower. I didn’t realize it enjoyed its own brewery situated to the rear of the building, and the local brew is highly recommended. You won’t find the Joiner’s listed on any good pub guide, but it’s nostalgic because I escorted my wife there on her first visit to Wales over 26 years ago. They say nothing  changes, and that can be attributed to the landlord who remains a miserable old sod!!

Anyway I digress once again writing these posts. Leaving “Jacks” country we proceeded east towards the Principality’s capital, Cardiff which has evolved into a glamorous Cinderella at the expense of its nearest rival, Swansea relegated to the role of the ugly sisters. We stayed the night at my brother’s abode, and he made us a fabulous Welsh breakfast of lava bread,cockles, smoky bacon, and fried egg.

We were finally on the road to Devon, and a few hours later were the recipients of a wonderful welcome from two of my grandchildren. The next day we went to see the Christmas Pantomime in Paignton, featuring Cinderella and starring Aiden J. Harvey, Anita Harris (I thought she was dead) and Tom Owen, son of the late Bill Owen who was one of the original actors in “Last of the Summer Wine.”  You can keep your Aladdins, Jacks in the Beanstalk, Robinson Crusoes, Pusses in Boots (?) whatever; Cinderella is my favorite pantomime. “Oh no it isn’t, oh yes it is!”

Christmas Eve arrived, and so did my son with two more grandchildren. The day proved to be the calm before the storm in a delightful way. My wife prepared a delectable lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner and my daughter laid the foundations for Father Christmas’s arrival with four children hanging onto her every word. Surprisingly they went to bed without much fuss, but maybe they were gearing up for the arrival of Santa.

Christmas morning duly arrived, but an early stampede by the children didn’t materialize. In fact, they were very civilized as they calmly made their way down the stairs at 7.00am to be met by a cacophony of gifts that almost smothered the Christmas tree. They soon got to work on tearing the wrapping paper from the multitude of gifts that Father Christmas had delivered. One of the grandchildren exclaimed: “I saw a couple of Santa’s reindeers on the roof last night!”

It was not long before the kids were immersed in reams of wrapping paper; their eyes looked like saucers, wide open with anticipation,delight and amazement, moving swiftly from one gift to another like a plague of locusts devouring a crop. The two younger grandchildren were finally overwhelmed by the occasion and  sought refuge on the couches while the adults surveyed the carnage, but content with a job well done. My younger grandson quickly recovered, however, and ran around in an incredible hulk costume bashing anything and everything in his path.

The adults gratefully accepted bacon butties for breakfast as their reward for endeavors, and happy to take a time out before preparing Christmas lunch. My daughter took charge of the food prep and I was more or less banished from the kitchen. I did earn a recall later in the afternoon to make the turkey gravy, but was quickly asked to leave the dining area for the ladies to set the table. The turkey dinner proved to be a master piece although we could done with a gallon more gravy. I forgot the Brits love gravy much more than their Transatlantic cousins.

On a personal note, I really enjoyed the home made Christmas pudding and Christmas cake with marzipan and icing just the way my late mum used to make. Christmas lunch is not complete without crackers and we weren’t disappointed. I also managed to cram a couple of mince pies in there somewhere, and a  gorgeous pate  served for supper completed an excellent culinary day.

I don’t know about my fellow adults, but I do know  my grandchildren had a whale of a time, and I had an unforgettable and fabulous Christmas experience. Same again next year folks?




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