Before I get onto the Christmas stuff, Eve. I finally got hold of a copy at Manchester Airport this morning (I saw it once in Spain, but only last months, not the new one), and it wasn't as bad as I was fearing in my more panicy moments. There are a couple of things I'd have changed (like printing that before pic - when she asked for one I specifically asked whether it was one for publication, or one to just give her an idea of the change, she said it wouldn't be published so I just sent her the one on the top of here rather than looking for anything slightly less hideous). Gah. Anyway, it's not too bad. I'm not going to post it on here at this stage, as while it's still on sale (even if not abroad) the IP lawyer in me says that breaching their copyright isn't a great idea. However, (whispers) I have it scanned into my computer and it is emailable (looks around hoping they weren't listening).
Anyway, Spain. It was fantastic, the first time I've had a two week holiday for over four years. Or an intentional two week holiday anyway, there was the time I had to stay on long because I broke my leg of course - and I "celebrated" the fourth anniversary
of breaking it while I was over there. Anyway, the two weeks seemed to go on and on, in a good way, and it wasn't as much of a rush to do everything I wanted to do before heading home as it usually is.
Also different this year was that I was there for the full "12 days of Christmas", including "Reyes" (12th night) for the first time, and new year for the first time in three years. It was nice to see a couple of extra celebrations, especially the Spanish celebrations on Friday night for the eve of 12th night. There was a big procession round one of the local towns. It started off with just the three kings on (real) camels and the children carrying their gifts, then as they went round town they stopped in a couple of places for a bit of a play, and to pick more people up, "locals" (as in people from a village near bethlehem) including the best behaved goats I've ever seen and people from a "roman fort" on horseback. Then they get a blessing from an angel and head to the manger outside the church for another bit of dialogue. We left at this stage because the dialogue was quite hard to follow in Spanish, in a noisy crowd, and sometimes without microphones, but we saw the procession, and it was a good night out.
Eating wise, it was patchy. There were some days, mainly the days when I ate in where my eating was virtuous. Salads, and fresh local tropical fruit (canarian pomegranates in particular are fantastic and so cheap compared to here, I also got into the habit of having fresh papaya, orange and strawberry juice mid morning). The ingredients are there, if you go out and find them. Where I still struggle is eating out. The idea of vegetarian food seems to be a little alien (and I suspect that if I looked too closely into some of the vegetable soups available I'd find meat stock in there somewhere, so I chose to turn a blind eye). The best example was one day where I saw "revueltos riojanos" on a menu, where they were described as scrambled eggs with garlic, pepper and red wine. It forgot to mention that behind eggs the main ingredient was ham, which I then had to laboriously pick out. Tortilla espanola is always an option, together with pizza and pasta, but I do wish they could bring themselves to make a salad without tuna! Or at least a more interesting salad than slices of tomato with onions or cheese. That said, I ate a lot better than I have been known to there, and I have discovered a fab place in Las Palmas that does a three course vegetarian lunch special overlooking one of my favourite beaches in the world, so that will probably become a regular stop.
There was the christmas food, of course, although this year mum made far more of an effort not to buy me too much sweet stuff
to bring home. Some dates stuffed with marzipan, a pot of chocolate covered pistachios and one solitary turron. In terms of the other stuff (christmas cake, christmas pudding, mince pies, reyes cake, alcohol, more alcohol) yes, I overindulged a little, but it was all worth it, honest, and I'm not daunted by working it all off again. In fact, I'm re-energised for the challenge. I realised that the days I felt best were the days when I ate well, not the days I gorged on chocolate, and it made me determined to eat the stuff that makes me feel like my body is working properly rather than the stuff that I used to see as a treat. So I went to buy lots of fresh fruit to juice, and lots of veg to turn into soups and salads almost as soon as I got home.
Exercise was pretty good. When I went to Spain in November I managed a grand total of 3 miles of running. This time I managed 9 miles (3 x 3) in the first week, and 15 (2 x 6 and 1 x 3) in the second. That's not too bad, and I'm particularly happy with those 6 mile runs. Because my 3 mile route is essentially out and back, it's quite hard to motivate yourself to go round again after 3 miles, and run the same stretch of seafront another two times when you've already done it twice. Particularly if you do it when the day is heating up (or indeed cooling down too quickly). I need to start building up my mileage (I've got my Edinburgh "in training" t-shirt through so I had better start doing some!), but for a holiday that's not bad. Particularly on Friday when I did one of the 6 mile runs and then followed it up with 28,000 steps over the rest of the day.
The nicest thing though was seeing family. It really struck home that what's important isn't where you spend christmas, or what you eat (it was my first veggie christmas, and I wasn't sure whether I'd crave turkey - I didn't), but who you spend it with. We might not be the most talkative or demonstrative of families, but they're still mine, and I wouldn't spend christmas anywhere else if I had the choice.
And now I'm back home. Mum and dad are coming over here on their way to Egypt in a fortnight so I'll see them pretty soon, but I'm not sure when I'll next make it over there. Hopefully it won't be too long before I can get another visit sorted out.
I do have some vague plans for this year to share, but they can wait for another post.