The font is about the size of the Serpentine, and with an army of vicars from Temp-Team you could baptise hundreds of babies at the same time. Or hold boat races.
There are gigantic paper angels ready for Christmas. Truly awe-inspiring. Talking of angels, Auntie Ann says that the Christmas play was cancelled in the Cathedral because of the words "Why are you reading the Times? Are you not a Guardian Angel.
A comfortable night in Anne's massive bed with electric blanket, and off to Young Stef's. First call to Emmah, there to admire developments in the belly department and the forthcoming great granchild. And of course the adorable Aiden.
A night at Stef's with reasonable ammounts of bevvy, and then off to Cris and Cheryl to be confronted with the miracle of Talullah Pixie. Following Cris's instructions to make my way down the M4 (which he later admitted should have been the M3) and look for a turnoff to Aldershot. Driving can be monotonous, and the time and miles simply roll away with a good CD and a clear road. After a very long time, I noticed that a lot of fuel had gone into the ozone layer, and that it all looked familiar round these parts. A sign said Swindon, Bristol and South Wales and Deja Vu. Eventually arrived at Cris and Cheryl, there to worship at the crib.
Tallulah Pixie already has a social life. Study of the photographic evidence leads us to the conclusion that half of them originate in licenced premises. At one of these I consumed this giant yorkshire pudding trough filled with liver and bacon. Wonderful.
The pub also contained this 'no-excuse' prophylactic vending machine. Five kinds of condoms. AND headache tablets. I would be staying in Scarletts's room. It was very cold and the blanket was made of gossamer. Each time I farted, it inflated, rose about six inches and landed futher down the bed and more to the left. Lots of fun getting a Christmas tree and generally shopping. And becoming a fan of the amazing Tom Stade. The baby is, of course, angelic. Half a Ricketts load of genes ensures perfection.
Bye-Bye Tallulah Pixie et al, and back to Stef's. With the precious CD of Tom Stade in my pocket. Many thanks Cris for this gem.
With Jasmine to the bowling with her school friends. All bright, top of the class maths types. Make-up? Boys, Fashion? Rather work out a few theorems and what was that hilarious joke about the quadratic variable and the cosign of zero? All chose to use the guiding barriers. I did not, and was soundly beaten, getting only half the score of the next worse player, a nerdy indian girl of nine (the one wearing the pink bubble-gum). 'He's right pants at bolin, innit. Betcheezeevin werzat diffrenshul Kalkerlus, innit'. I even resorted to using this natty bombsight, but to no avail.
My last day, and one of the high spots of this trip. I called at the high court to see Young Stef at work. There she was, one bench down from the Judge, with rows of computers and telephones and bundles of briefs, advising His Honour, calling witnesses, reading charges, and looking so beautiful in her gown and ribbons and putting it to people that on the night of the third, it being a Tuesday, they did wilfully and with malice aforethought commit grievous offences to one Mabel Grommit at or near her premises...... It was like an episode from Judge John Deed. I felt very proud. I wanted to nudge learned friends and point out 'that's my girl, that is'. One case had nine bewigged barristers nodding and bobbing, your Honour this and my learned friend that. They each represented one of nine defendents in the same case and one by one they explained thier client was not in court: fled, arrested, already in prison, in another court facing more serious charges, helping the constabulary with their inquiries or failed to return from Serbia where his mother was not feeling well. One horrifying case involved a little boy (12) who had raped another little boy (9). The charges hade been reduced from rape to attempted rape because the victim was 'too small' and thus could not have been raped. The accused, a viscious little chap with a face like Chucky, sent shivers down my spine when he stared at me. His council asked if it were possible for this poor lost soul to be able to spend Christmas with his mother, instead of a juvenile remand centre. His mother said she would love to have him for the festivities, provided he was constantly in the presence of a remand centre thug handler with a face like Vinny Jones and a zero tolerance level. And only if he would be frog-marched away again on boxing day, at sunrise. In a magnificent gesture of motherly love, she also said she was dropping all charges against him and forgave him for breaking her arm in that other little 'misunderstanding'. I felt proud that Stef was part of this gentle court that helps bring families back together, healing the wounds.
And so off home. The boat would be leaving Harwich at 10 pm, so get there about 9. It being 3 pm when I left Stef putting it to people and blizzards threatening, it would seem wise to get off towards said boat. There would be chaos and carnage round the M25, blue flashing lights and reflecting triangles, barriers, cones, breakdown vehicles and ambulances. The radio told of arctic conditions approaching from all directions. Penguins seen huddling together for warmth at Hemel-Hempstead, an Albatross in Cheapside. Because of the fear of an impending ice-age, everyone stayed at home apart from myself and a Morris Minor. The weather was all around us, but not upon us. Consequently I arrived at the ferry at 6 pm, 4 hours early. Until I looked at my ticket. The boat would be leaving at 12 and not 10. Six hours early. The 24 hour Tescos, offered little entertainement, although the purchase of 10 king-size boxes of Shredded Wheat relieved some distress. The rest of the evening mooning about Tesco's until I spotted a restaurant. Having no English money (it having been exchanged for Shredded Wheat) I showed my Platinum Credit Card. No problem Sir with sycophantic scraping and beaming. The entrecote with trimmings arrived and was consumed. My credit card was produced and fed into a machine. Would Sir enter his pin-code? Pin-code? I don't know the pin-code. Sir has forgotten his pin-code? Restaurant staff take up strategic positions at exits. It would seem that I have been getting a new credit card every year, but have only used it once, many years ago. I have failed to notice that progress has added stripes and chips and who reads all that stuff from the bank anyway? 'So, sir has no money and does not know his pin-code. Sir is in a quandry, is Sir not'. The staff are looking less friendly and more menacing. 'Wait, I have this' and produce my Dutch post-office card in triumph. 'Sir has found another card?' 'Well yes, but it probably only works in Holland.' 'We, Sir, being in England, may therefore, geographically so to speak, have reduced the positive impact that your, er, post-office card may have upon our unfinished business, but as it would appear to be Sir's last haven of hope, let us proceed. It is to be hoped that Sir is familiar with the pin-code of this, er, post-office card?'. Nerves and tensions. A message. 'It says incorrect pin-code'. The bar is silent. Knives and forks hover between plate and mouth. I plead for one more chance. One number at a time, wiping palms between each. All is quiet apart from the cracking of knuckles of the waiters and the swish of sleeves being pushed up tattoed arms. We wait. Payment accepted. I cheer. The knives and forks and plates resume thier clatter and tinkle, the bar stirs back to life. If I had expected a clap on the back and a free drink from the waiters, I was mistaken. They glared. I had robbed them of a good thumping. Or was it that having only my life-saving Dutch Post Office Card my tip would be limited to verbal advice. I removed myself.
Another uneventful night, declining each of the Mama-Mias but early to bed nourished by a pint of Heineken. And to the other bosom of my family in Cold Holland.
Many thanks to Stef, Cass, Jazz, Emmah, Aiden, Cris, Cheryl, Scarlett.
And the most beautiful Tallulah Pixie.