"Throw the snowballs through the snowman's holes" - one of the many activities on offer at our school this weekend (and yes, he is full-size, despite looking like he's been photo-shopped into this picture!).
Christmas will be a normal working day for me here. The school has organised a Christmas concert in the evening, which I'll need to attend, but before that will be the normal 6 hours of lessons. A few shops around the city have put up decorations, often with Chinglish [see above]. I was annoyed not to have my camera with me when saw a "Marry Christmas" sign! But otherwise you'd be hard pressed to know it was Christmas at all. I made a bit of an effort in the house [see below], but overall I'm not too sad to miss the festival. It's often just a lot of stress, expense and unfulfilled expectations. Bah humbug!!
I spent a fun afternoon today at a Christmas/New Year festival laid on by an "experimental" school in Kunming's suburbs. I was invited by an ex-teacher of Robert's School who I've kept in touch with over the years. Her school needed a "foreign face" amongst the guests of honour, especially as the school prides itself on having bilingual lessons. The students' English was extremely good and all of the performances, from the younger ones dancing, to the older ones acting, were produced in both Chinese and English. The photo above shows the Big Bad Wolf (left), a Chinese Romeo (right) and Aladdin, the Rabbit Dance and Sleeping Beauty (top to bottom). The 90 minute variety show ended with me and the other special guests being dragged into a High School Musical dance routine!
When we got engaged earlier this year, Jiajia's best friend said she would like to buy us a little oven (something we had been thinking of buying for a while). However, as the months rolled by with nothing received, it became increasingly embarrassing to ask about it, and yet too risky to buy one for ourselves, just in case! Finally, Jiajia dropped a heavy hint last week and our oven finally appeared! We tested it yesterday by making some little pizzas. They were tasty, I thought, but Jiajia's Mum had one bite and pottered off to make herself some noodles! Oh well...
When I finished work late yesterday and got a call from Jiajia asking me to come to her flat for a surprise involving "the birds and the bees", I wasn't quite sure what to expect! But it turned out she had no idea of the usual English usage of that term and was referring to the afternoon she had spent setting up and decorating a Christmas tree with large flapping-winged model birds and bees [see photo]! With my own flat something of a decoration-free zone, it was really sweet of her to get some Christmas spirit going! We exchanged presents too - she bought me a cute soft-toy hippo, while I bought her a large plastic superhero figure... aren't male/female presents usually the other way round?
Then came the bad news. Ava had also pre-ordered a large cake, with ice-piped wording wishing me a Merry Christmas. Unfortunately in trying to juggle the tree and the cake up the hill to her flat, the cake took a tumble and all that was left by the time I arrived were the splattered remains on the pavement [see photo]! She was a bit upset, but I thought it was quite amusing. It looks a lot like abstract art!
Happy Christmas readers! I'm spending Christmas at a large holiday home in Walmer, near Dover, with all my family plus other close relatives. Delicious food, fun games, ages ranging from 2 to 72, heaps of presents and plenty of space to enjoy ourselves. The kids built a snowman in the garden on arrival, we had a little rain when were happily tucked up inside and then warm, bright sunshine when we went for walks (or runs for some!). Some pictures to give a flavour...
The HIDER Family
Back (L to R): Dave, Sarah, Ali
Middle (L to R): Me, Dad, Mum holding Daisy, Andy holding Louie
Front (L to R): Esme holding Briany, Harry, Josh
[See "Family Tab" at the top of this page to see who is related to who!]
Sarah [left] and Stuart [right] are two of the handful of friends I'd hoped to meet during my time in the UK but hadn't... until today, that is. Krista [centre], invited me over for a yummy pub lunch and a coffee and chat at her flat. It was good to finally meet Stuart, Krista's boyfriend, after hearing so much about him over the years. And Sarah is an old friend who I always enjoy winding up. As we sipped our coffee we noticed some snow starting to fall - little did I know this was going to ruin my evening.
The two buses to get to Beckenham had only taken 45 minutes in total. But after Krista drove me to the bus stop (with cars sliding around all over the place) I soon realised the buses were no longer running. I got chatting with a girl who had already been waiting for an hour and together we decided to
try and walk to Bromley, about 2-3 miles, in the snow. She knew the way, which helped. We had a good chat as we slipped and slushed our way past the grid-locked traffic. After 1½ hours we finally arrived (coincidentally seeing the Orient Express steam train puffing through Bromley South station - very Christmassy!). We picked up her 5-year old son and husband from her mother's and walked gingerly to their house (after a few minutes' I walk found her son holding MY hand, having abandoned his Dad behind - a bit embarrassing!). At their house they offered me dry socks (declined!) and pointed me in the direction of Sidcup (a further 5-6 miles away!). Thankfully, I soon spotted the bus I needed, although it was full and not moving (the driver told me it would be quicker to walk, but I was already exhausted). 3½ hours later it finally got me home. I felt like Ernest Shackleton stomping through the final snow drifts to make it to the South Pole ... err I mean Foots Cray Lane!
I managed to negotiate a six train return journey today to get to Worthing for a lovely Christmas Party. Vix [in black/red] had organised it for family and friends and about 25 folk turned up through the evening. Some were mutual friends I hadn't seen for 4 years (one couple remembered me from a visit some 20 years ago!). It was particularly nice to meet Julian [left in photo] once again. I last saw him in China 2 years ago. He's the boyfriend of Emily [next left], who I have known for 3 years from China, now both living in the UK. Good food, good conversation and mind-thwarting quizzes - what more could you ask?
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