Diary of an urban Grandad
HERE we are, one week down, hurtling towards the 25th of December at a rate of knots. It seems to me there are two main ways to approach this time of year.
Either you dive in and drink deep of the Christmas spirit, filling your soul, self and world around you with hearty “yo, ho, ho’s”. Or else you sit back, fold your arms and declare it open season on grumpiness. I would call that approach, “the bah humbug” strategy.
Left to my own devices, I’m more of a bah humbug man, myself. Whereas Mrs Cullimore is more upbeat about the upcoming festivities. Possibly because it gives her lots of opportunities to go out and spend pots of our hard earned cash. Sigh. Over-commercialisation is probably the most obvious problem with this time of year. But I digress.
Point is, one thing we can both agree on is how wrong it is to start the Christmas celebrations too soon. The adverts on telly in October, the shop windows full of Christmas gift ideas before bonfire night and the stack of sickly sweet Christmas films that start filling our screens in mid-November. It’s irksome. More than that. It’s just plain wrong. However, one of the joys of grandkids is that they pay no attention to petty rules and regulations. In fact, they positively encourage grandparents to rip them up and start again.
So when I heard that Santa was taking up residence in a yurt on Old Down Country Park in late November, I put aside all grumpiness and wondered if it might be rather fun to take some of the grandkids along to meet him. When I found out that they also have an ice rink out there, along with mulled wine and Yorkshire pudding wraps, I knew it was time to act. To get my skates on. Boom, boom.
All of which is just a long winded way of explaining why a whole bunch of the Cullimore clan set off north on the A38 towards Tockington last weekend. Truth be told, the early signs weren’t good. The weather was dull, dark and drizzly. About as Christmassy as Easter eggs. Made of mud. Not that the kids seemed to mind. They were quite content to jump in puddles and meet all the animals in pets’ corner.
I tried to keep up my grumpy grandad routine, really, I did. But just as I was getting ready to mutter something suitably downbeat about the folly of trying to jump into Christmas too soon, the kids noticed a big blue parrot called Freddie, who seems to live in the cafe. At which point their happiness became infectious.
Things got a bit surreal when they dragged me over to talk to the parrot and we passed a table full of young women dressed as elves. Turns out, they were there on official business. One of them even promised to take us to see Santa. Which was a relief. I did wonder if someone had slipped something unnecessary into my mulled wine.
We followed the elf as she led us through a sparkly, tree-lined walkway, turned left at the row of candy cane arches and finally knocked on a cutesy wooden door. Santa was, as you would expect, twinkly, lovely and very much the real deal. A five-star Santa, if ever there was one. A nice, if unexpected, touch was the rousing singsong before we left. Who knew that Santa had such a musical side? Either way, he got another big tick from the kids.
After that, we went over to the ice rink and discovered that, due to the inclement weather, we were the only customers there. Which was a bit of a bonus. Like having your very own personal ice chateau. The entire clan took to the ice and had what was, apparently, the best ice skating time ever. According to Molly, aged 8. Must confess, as we all skated lazily round, some of us more gracefully than others, listening to the gentle sounds of Christmas hits wafting over the ice, I found myself warming up. Wasn’t just the exercise, either. If anything, it was the happy glow of the seasonal spirit as it flowed into my soul and filled up my heart with happiness.
So there you have it. If you are looking to kickstart your Christmas, to get more “yo, ho, ho” in your life and less “bah humbug”, I can thoroughly recommend this place.
If you’re still not convinced, how about this for extra icing on the Xmas fruit cake? Turns out that Mike Oldfield, the man who gave us Tubular Bells, used to live in the manor house. Suddenly Santa’s musical side makes a lot more sense.
Yo, ho, ho.
The weather was dull, dark and drizzly. About as Christmassy as Easter eggs. Made of mud. Not that the kids seemed to mind.
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