Christmas in the United Kingdom this year was unlike any I had ever experienced. The lead up alone was so different and had its own unique feel to it that it will truly make it a holiday season to remember for a long time.
The build up to Christmas in a world class city such as London is truly something special. The hustle and bustle at that time of year is just a little more bearable as one hears the sound of a busker playing Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree on the way to boarding the tube. Everyone in the rat race that is London seems to have just a little extra bounce in their step and maybe even a little smile on their face as they endure the morning commute.
Throughout the holiday season I had the opportunity to experience many of the Christmas festivities taking place throughout the city. Whether I was seeing the beautiful lights on Oxford Street or listening to carollers in Piccadilly Circus there was always something taking place as I wandered around the city. Near the end of December I had an unscheduled day off (no supply work) and took the opportunity to visit a few of the London markets. While these markets operate year round, the chance to purchase a mulled wine and browse the Christmas sales was something very special.
The true highlight of the Christmas season in London was ice skating at Somerset House. Located just North of the River Thames, the ice rink is just a picturesque outdoor setting to spend a cold winter’s night. What truly made this night special however, was that I was accompanied by Ben (my cousin), his wife Louise and their two kids. Back in Vancouver I had a long tradition of going ice skating with the Hermansen family on Grouse Mountain and, while I was not home to keep that tradition alive this year, it was nice to be able to go for an outdoor skate during the Christmas season and seeing both Nathan and Hollie improve dramatically as our hour long session progressed.
While the build up to Christmas in London was a fantastic experience, the holidays got even better as I made my second trip out of London since arriving in September. The journey began somewhat slowly, as I missed my coach from London to Manchester, but eventually I endured the five hour journey up north and was met by another cousin, Ed. Catching up with Ed, his wife Elaine, and their two girls, Megan and Nyah was very special as I had met both girls in 2006 and it was amazing to see how much they had grown, and how the family had settled in to their new home in Wooldale, a small town not far from Wakefield.
Christmas with the Wooldale Wynn’s was one I will remember for a very long time. Being the youngest in my immediate family, seeing kids around Christmas is something I have very little experience with, and seeing the excitement build around the house in the two or three days prior to Father Christmas coming was enough to make me very excited for the big day myself.
The day lived up to expectations and more as the girls did extremely well on the day and Christmas dinner was very delicious. A side theme to Christmas this year in Wooldale became teaching the Canadian cousin a bit about England, so many of the presents I received and the games we played as a family centered around educating me on the UK and in particular the North. This became particularly useful the next day as I got set to see the rest of my family.
About 2pm on Boxing day we left for my Uncle Ian’s house in the small town of Wentbridge (population of 100 people) where he was hosting his annual Boxing Day family gathering. This was the first chance I had to see all of my Uncle’s side of the family together and what a great day it was! With my upgraded knowledge of the north and my brand new Yorkshire to English translator by my side I spent the afternoon getting to know my family and playing with all my little cousins.
Following my time up north I headed back down to London where I was quickly snapped back into the reality of the big city by arriving at the very busy Victoria coach station and making my way through the masses of people back to Islington. It was during this frantic journey that I concluded that there is London and the UK. They are two very different places and London is a city like no other. While I do love living in London, it is very nice to have the opportunity to leave the big city once in a while and to experience what I like to call “true England”. I hope to do this a few more times in the coming months and to finally get over to Europe.