Di­ary of an ur­ban Grandad

Bristol Post - - NEWS - With Stan Cul­limore

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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