‘Let’s do something different for Christmas this year,’ I shouted through the wind as we sat on a balcony in Tenby last summer sipping G & Ts in our raincoats. ‘Snow! I want to see snow!’
We all agreed that a White Christmas would be perfect, and after deciding that we would have too much luggage to fly anywhere (who wants to travel with a turkey in a rucksack?), we hit on the idea of the Scottish Highlands. After all, they seem to get the white stuff from the August Bank Holiday until, well, Midsummer, don’t they?
It took lots of planning. As self-appointed Chief Elf, I had found the perfect getaway – a log cabin nestled in the forest, just south of the Cairngorms.
‘You won’t get snow below the treeline,’ a friend helpfully informed me.
‘Lalalalalala,’ I sang in my head, as I imagined chopping down a towering pine and dragging it back to the cabin on a toboggan (a very big one).
What had seemed like a simple idea became a military operation. I delegated shopping lists, which included seasoned logs, greaseproof paper and enough alcohol to souse the Scots in their entirety. I sent missives about gifts – just one small thing per stocking. I made meal plans and game plans and plans of plans…
Finally, we were off, and most importantly, all availed of the most essential of information: WE ARE GOING TO GET SNOWBOUND. BRING THERMALS. BRING HATS, GLOVES, SCARVES, LAYERS. BRING YAKS… No. Forget the yaks.
Travelling in two cars, the first meeting point was to be Yorkshire – at my mother-in -law’s where we would stay overnight ready for the second leg of the journey. What had not been on my plan was that my elder daughter, a medical student, just a few days before leaving, announced that she’d have to pop back to a Birmingham hospital where she had a piece of work to complete. She had left her ‘Scotland’ luggage at home so all we had to do was pack it, swoop by when we got to The Midlands, and pick her up. It was touch and go as to whether we would fit her in; Hubby had spent a long time early that morning packing every inch of the car – and the roof box – with Stuff.
We arrived at her student house, and as I was stuck in my seat with a huge, heavy hamper on my lap (one of three in the car to be relinquished in Yorkshire), Hubby got out to knock on the door. He walked around to my side of the car – I could only see his upper half. He stopped next to my window and looked down… for a long, long time. When he looked up at me again, it was with horror.
‘I’m wearing my crocs,’ he mouthed through the window.
‘Your crocs?’ I mouthed back. ‘Crocs?’
He loved those crocs and, as much as we’d always told him they were gardenwear only, he’d put them on at any opportunity; he’d slipped them on that morning for comfort while packing up the car.
I opened the door and looked at his feet.
‘You have packed other shoes, though? Boots for trudging through the snow?’
‘Did you pack any for me?’ he asked.
At that moment, my daughter scuffed her way to the car, wearing a pair of highly unsuitable fancy shoes which she had left undone to emphasise the temporary nature of their use.
She was followed by her sock-footed, pyjama-clad best friend.
More shoe shenanigans. I was all shoe-ed out.
‘Where are your shoes, Eve?’ I asked.
‘Packed. You’ve got them in the car somewhere. Have you seen the carrier bag I left for you to bring?’
We located it and she extracted another pair of (unfamiliar) shoes which she handed to her friend. ‘These are Anna’s.’
Anna scuttled off in her socks. Eve got into the car in her dolly shoes and Hubby pulled away wearing his crocs.
We had almost left the city when I heard a little voice from the back.
‘Uh oh. I’ve forgotten my coat.’
It was back at the student house. I sighed. We continued on our journey. We left the coat.
When we arrived in Yorkshire, we asked my mother-in-law if there was a charity shop in the village. There was! Eve and I hurried to get to it before it closed and, like a mirage, there appeared before us two coats, both of which fitted her. We bought the pair for about £10. Sadly, the only shoes for Hubby were a pair of football boots. We didn’t buy those. Plan B was to ask his dad who seemed to have a secret shoe shop in the back room. He brought in pair after pair of new shoes, various colours and sizes. The only pair which were a good fit was a brown suede pair.
‘Suede’s no good in the snow,’ I said.
Out came a couple of cans of waterproof spray.
The log cabin was wonderful.
Two-coat Eve was warm and dry, and Mr Tumnus (our new name for Hubby with his new brown suede hooves) was able to walk without getting frostbite or trenchfoot. It was very (very) cold, but, sadly, there was no snow until the day after we left. On the eleven-hour journey home, however, I got a message from my friend at home:
‘We’ve got snow!’