The day after that last performance, I was hoping the weather would warm up a bit. During the day, wandering slowly and very carefully around town with my parents, it was bearable, although I was surprised the pavements were not properly gritted and salted, even in the town centre. (A surprising proportion of men were whizzing past with manic grins, having a whale of a time but unfortunately thereby creating ice slides...)
I wanted the parents to experience the Christmas market in darkness - the lights are absolutely beautiful then, it's very atmospheric. As soon as night fell, therefore, we headed over for a mug of glühwein and a wander round, only to find that we were absolutely freezing. The temperature was minus fifteen degrees Celsius, and falling. The wine was hastily chucked down our gullets, and we separated, me to take my bike home and the parents to take a taxi to their hotel, where I would later join them. Well, on the way home I have NEVER felt so cold. I lost all feeling in my left hand, despite good leather gloves, and had to awkwardly coax the blood back into it whilst pushing the bike with my right hand (it was too cold to stop) and trying not to slip on the treacherously icy pavements. The unstoppable tears of pain as circulation was restored actually froze on my cheeks as I walked... these were definitely not normal conditions!
The next day we were due to fly from Frankfurt airport to Manchester (northern England, sort of on the left, for anyone whose geography is as bad as mine). We had high hopes, having managed to get to the train station in one piece, catching a train on time, and arriving and checking in even before the appointed hour. Ha HA. As we watched, the departures board started being dotted with red, as flight after flight was delayed and then cancelled - those into France and northern Italy first, spreading out throughout Europe. Our flight stayed valiantly on the board, getting further and further delayed, but possessed, we fervently hoped, of stolid northern grit and determined to fly, however late. After several hours of queuing and lack of information, however, the beleaguered lady behind the desk eventually admitted that the flight was cancelled, and we were trundled off to a (rather decent, actually) business hotel in the centre of Frankfurt for what remained of the night. My father and I took the opportunity to have a wander along the river in the snow, and it has to be said that Frankfurt looks a lot better dark and snowbound than it does normally!
Next day's start was horribly early, and not helped by there being no breakfast available. At the airport we queued again, hoped again, were disappointed, boarded a plane, sat there for two hours on the runway, got chucked off again, queued, cursed Manchester airport for not getting their brooms out and sweeping (apparently the problem was now at their end) and eventually, late in the day and pretty exhausted, managed to get back to England all on the same flight (this took sharp elbows in the queue, and rather a lot of charm, as we'd booked separately). Our baggage, unfortunately, had other ideas, which we did not discover until we'd waited an hour and a half by the baggage carousel. By this point, however, we thought, oh sod it, less to unpack, and trundled off to my parents' car, which was in the airport car park.
The drive back to East Yorkshire (going right, straight across the country, basically) should have been pretty straightforward. Despite heavy snowfall, the motorways were clear and all I had to do was find the M62 and point the car's nose eastwards. Traffic reports on the radio, however, reported a spilled load of dogs* between junctions 29 and 30, closing this section, and therefore we had to find an alternative route. Between the parents squabbling like children over the navigation, fighting over maps, torches and GPS systems; finding my own way over the moors in the snowy dark; the windows repeatedly steaming up, and the windscreen washer jets packing up, it was an... interesting... drive, and my shoulders were up by my ears when we finally reached my parents' house.
The next couple of days were slightly marred, from a relaxation point of view, by firstly trying unsuccessfully to get someone to tell us when our luggage might appear (ended up with a massive amount of phone numbers, none of which were answered, and of course the annoying requirement that at least one person stay in the house at all times in case (ha ha) the couriers turned up) and secondly, by all my spare wool, intended for the finishing of Christmas presents (mainly rather mad hats), having gone AWOL with my case. Luckily we managed a couple of nice meals (if anyone is in Beverley, East Yorkshire, I recommend the Westwood's rib of beef!) and some good company.
Setting off on Christmas Eve was again complicated by being unable to reliably inform the courier company that we were no longer at that address. By this time we no longer cared; Christmas was spent most comfortably at my sister's lovely new house in Cheshire, Boxing Day saw an opulent feast at my cousin's place near Solihull (even the table water was designer - Paul Smith for Evian, apparently!), and a good time was had by all.
I was even fairly relaxed when travelling back. Naturally, despite having left extremely clear messages on Christmas Eve, when we'd detoured into the airport to pick up our bags, only to have our hopes dashed once more as apparently a consignment of two thousand cases had just arrived, and there was only the one man in charge of sorting the whole lot and answering the phone (separate company in charge; airport information unable to do a thing; had the airport manager called and was terribly, terribly polite in conveying our disappointment... grr!), when we arrived early to pick up cases, sort stuff and go our separate ways, we were rudely barred from the case pick-up room by a hard-faced blonde, and I had to check in for my flight back with my original luggage in limbo. Various friends have since suggested I should have bought sapient pearwood (a glorious Terry Pratchett reference); mine appears to be following me around but has as yet been unsuccessful! My flight back was also delayed - this time it was personal, obviously, as all the other flights were working just fine.
So last night, I unlocked the door of my small apartment here with much relief, relished the peace and quiet, and thought to myself, thank goodness I'm home.