I‘m sitting on a Ryanair flight from Bristol back to Malaga. There are lots of spare seats and I have a row to myself and am looking out of the window onto beautiful fluffy white clouds below and a clear blue sky above. It is unusual for me to take a morning flight and a rare treat to have a daylight view from the window.
It has been a fabulous week which commenced last Saturday (23 November) when I was collected from Bristol airport by my daughter Rosie and grandson Mikey. This visit was to be an early Christmas celebration with my other daughter Ella joining us the next day for a ‘Christmas’ lunch and a ‘boxing day’ day out together on Monday.
We did our food shopping on the way home (always a shock how much you can spend on Christmas food) and then back to Rosie’s new house in Worle, near to Weston super Mare where she and her partner Mike moved a couple of months ago. We have brought a joint of rump steak and a leg of lamb for our celebratory meal and plan to try a new way of cooking the beef, whereby it is seasoned and seared and then placed on a rack in a roasting tin with water in the bottom and completely sealed with foil, and then cooked in an extremely low oven (60 degrees C) over night. We are doing this following Mike’s mum serving it to them recently, so we have no specific instructions, just ‘giving it a go’. I am a little sceptical when I check the oven before going to bed and it is barely warm – I can’t really believe that the meat will cook at all, so I turn it up to 80 degrees and go to bed.
When I check again in the morning, the oven is still only vaguely warm and I take the meat out to have a look. There is a good head of steam inside the foil and the water in the bottom looks like it will make good gravy. I wrap it back up tightly and pop it back in and can’t resist turning up the oven to 100 degrees.
Ella’s Dad collects her from the station in Bristol and they arrive in good time for lunch, Ella bringing a large box of delicious home made chocolates as her contribution to the festivities. When I finally cut into the beef it is absolutely perfect, melt-in-the-mouth tender, totally pink and moist inside but no blood. It is the best roast beef I have eaten and I shall certainly be repeating this method of cooking. Together with the roast lamb, sausage meat stuffing balls, crispy roast potatoes and parsnips, sprouts cooked with bacon and almonds, and baby carrots, all swimming in delicious gravy from the meat juices – I can honestly say this was the best Christmas meal I have ever sat down to eat. We followed it with Rosie’s wonderfully crispy cream-filled brandy snaps.
Present opening followed, and all gifts were very gratefully received. I had been instructed to bring swim wear with me so was expecting something indulgent the next day as a joint gift from my girls. It was revealed to be a spa day with two treatments and use of jacuzzi, followed by a shopping expedition to a nearby outlet mall in Swindon.
Unfortunately things didn’t go entirely according to plan. Poor Rosie spent the entire night violently throwing up (not due to my cooking I hasten to add, but something that was ‘doing the rounds’ – Mikey had a similar experience a couple of nights earlier, and Mike a few days before that). Rosie was wrecked in the morning and there was no way she could do anything other than try to recover in peace. But she had made all the arrangements and had planned the route to the spa. I didn’t want to disturb her to ask for directions, so we looked it up on the internet and Ella and I set off in good time to arrive for our appointment at 10 am.
It wasn’t easy to find and we eventually arrived a little late, only to find that the spa was no longer operating at this venue and we had to set off in search of its new location. Anyone who has driven around swindon will know that a vast ring road encircles the town with a maze of industrial estates at every exit. At the point of giving up and going home, we stumbled upon the correct business park and reported to reception one hour late and in desperate need of a de-stressing massage. I also had a manicure to try and repair the neglect and damage my nails have suffered due to some hard-core gardening and general wear and tear.
After my treatment, Ella went off for hers whilst I ventured into the jacuzzi, where I remained for quite some time, and was joined by a couple of very pleasant women who found the switch to turn on some extra jets that almost blew me out of the water. When I had had enough I thought I would sit on one of the sun beds and read until Ella was finished, but as I wrapped the complimentary gown around me I suddenly felt most peculiar and made a dash for the loo, luckily just across the corridor, and just made it in time to throw up the entire contents of my stomach, which fortunately only consisted of water because I hadn’t eaten since the previous evening. I was really worried about getting home, because Ella doesn’t drive and judging by Rosie’s night-long sickness I didn’t expect to be able to drive safely. However it seemed that my attack was very minor compared to Rosie’s and after emptying my stomach I didn’t feel too bad and drove home without incident. Needless to say, the shopping trip was cancelled!
Ella returned to Leeds on Tuesday, and the family Christmas was over for another year. Not quite as planned, but it was lovely to have the family together for a couple of days.