Going home for Christmas. That's what we generally do. There's songs written about it, movies dramatising the arduous journey. We expect traffic jams, violent weather, and delayed trains, as that's part of the tradition. I would always have way too many bags stuffed with elaborately wrapped presents for home and then a New Year in Cambridge. A massive M&S expedition would be on the horizon on arrival. I would be tasked with menu planning for the wider family party plus the more intimate festive fare, "never knowingly under-catered" was our motto!
My one regret is a lack of photos, from any of these lovely Christmases. But we always were a family of reluctant photographic subjects, so if I'd been attached to my camera as I am now, I'd probably have an artful, soft bokeh shot of the sprouts dusted with bacon slivers, and still not one of us!
A very early reoccurring memory is Christmas Day sat on the floor in front of the "visiting a children's hospital programme" in little Gran's front room (seemingly only used at Christmas), whilst I painstakingly ordered my new felt tip pen collection, yes there is a correct order! Even today I colour code my clients and arrange them in that very same order (my eight-year-old self would be very proud!)
Nowadays there's no home for Christmas for me, so I make other plans to celebrate the holiday. This isn't a cry for sympathy, just a fact. Of course I'm going to hark back to all those special times, the fabulously bedecked tables, the crazy obsession with canapés (that's you M!), the obligatory carols and festive films (D's domain), the first soft pfftt of a Champagne popping, the evocative aroma of M's Chanel No. 5, the patiently opening and admiring each present at midnight Christmas Eve before moving to the next, and the time we had a full Christmas lunch at 3am (and pretended it was normal!) A few ghosts of Christmas past, all treasured memories, surrounded by a train full of people going home for Christmas, I'm allowed a moment of wistfulness. And yes, secretly, I do wish that tomorrow morning I could set cross-legged in front of the TV, reordering my new felt pens!
But tomorrow there won't be any felt tips but I hope a delicious festive breakfast in my lovely hotel. I discovered Hotel Alexandra in Lyme Regis after a sadly slightly washed out photography workshop. Not that we hadn't had a great time and done fantastic photography but the weather really let us down. I stayed in the Alex, with the hatches firmly battened down but when the rain cleared I really enjoyed my time in Lyme. I figured it would make a great spot for one of my Christmas coast hotels but they haven't done a Christmas for thirty years. I checked them out again this year and fantastically they'd decided to lay on a Christmas package.
There's a fabulous warm welcome on arrival and I was delighted to hear of been upgraded to a larger room and more crucially, with a sea view. Immediately I set up my tripod and could try and capture the first seagull before a spot of afternoon tea. They've even provided a little robin ornament to decorate my room.
After a warm scone, the lure of the Jane Austen gardens and the distinctive lampposts had me wander out of the hotel grounds is search of my first sunset shot.
On returning, I added more sequins and headed down for a Christmas Eve dinner. I had remembered that the food is very good here and they don't disappoint. as usual there's the challenge of good photography on the ambient light in a dining room but I tried my best.
Feeling very pleasantly full, I retire to my elegant room and plan further photographic adventures tomorrow, no felt tips though!