It's not exactly the traditional way to spend Christmas. I got up, went for a quick run, then got changed and headed off with mum and dad down to one of the resorts to get onto a boat for a spot of dolphin hunting. Not hunting in the sense of capturing and killing, of course, but hunting in the sense of getting a good view of them, and finding where they were playing. The main object of the trip was achieved, and we saw a group of striped dolphins, including some babies, but it was rather surreal.
Sitting on a boat under clear blue skies, looking out to sea, and then over at the island, while White Christmas played over the speakers. My christmas was anything but white. Not only in a literal sense, but it was also far from the "ones I used to know". I suppose it never will be again now, I'll never be 10 again, waiting anxiously for 5am, when we were allowed to start jumping on beds and dragging reluctant adults into the lounge for the great present opening, and grandma will never be there again. That's not to say that Christmas can't be good, and a bit more christmassy, in the future, it just won't be the same.
After the boat we had a light-ish picnic lunch by the port, then went to a bar that my dad does the website for, and had a bit of a chat with the owner, and a couple of drinks with him. Then back home, where we started preparing the meal. The advantage of both my parents being over in England for the funeral was that we had far better stocks of English christmas food than normal - parsnips, mince pies, cranberry sauce, cheese, christmas pudding and what sometimes seemed like half the stock of Marks and Spencers. At one point they were discussing the logistics of smuggling a turkey over in their case, but thankfully they decided they'd be able to find one over there - and luckily for them they were rights.
And then, only after all that, did we get round to opening presents. None of us had really had any time to shop this year, or even to think about what we wanted and drop suitably unsubtle hints, so it was a bit of a low key present opening. Not to say that I didn't appreciate what I was given, but for me, the most valuable thing I came back home with wasn't a christmas present at all. It was my share of grandma's jewellery box.
I've never been a jewellery person at all. Sometimes I just don't care that much about what I look like, and other times it's more of a practicality thing - if I can't run in it, wearing it at other times involves taking it on and off, and the times when I remember to put it on are few and far between. I also had a deeper seated dislike of rings. Rightly or wrongly I kind of saw them as a sign of ownership, that someone gives you a ring, and when you wear it it's a warning sign that you're taken by that someone. Or maybe it was just bitterness that no-one has ever bought me much that's worth wearing.
But she had worked out who she wanted to have her various bits of jewellery, and my name was on a diamond and sapphire eternity ring. I wore it to the funeral (the advantage of losing weight - it actually fit me without alteration!) and it started growing on me. I started to love how it looked on my finger, and I liked wearing it. The only problem was that I worried about how it would stand up to the rigours of sweat and, on holiday, sand. So I decided to take it off in Spain, at which point mum offered me an alternative.
She had been left two almost identical rings. One was grandma's wedding ring, the other was my grandad's mother's (grandma's mother in law - but having no daughters, the ring worked it s way down to her). Mum said that she couldn't wear three wedding rings at once, and offered me the older one. I was less worried about its fragility, as it didn't have the stones, and started wearing it, and falling in love again.
So now I have the two rings, and a renewed relationship with jewellery. I realise that it's not a sign of ownership, imposed on someone unwilling, but a sign that you want to remember or respect that other person the ring came from. And wearing those rings means more to me than any christmas present could.
Not least for an unintended effect. While I was in Spain I ran almost every morning, and by the end of the holiday I was quite a familiar sight to the early morning dog owners and power walkers. I'd get a nod, or a buenos dias. Because I spent quite a few days walking up and down the seafront in town anyway, I'd see some of them again later in the day when I was properly clothed.
The day before I came home, someone who would see me in the morning and then run himself later in the day came up behind me while I was walking along and unleashed a torrent of Spanish. As he ran past he realised I was wearing an ipod, and that I hadn't taken it in, but carried on running. A bit later he ran past again on a second lap, but this time he stopped and sat down on the bench I was sitting on.
Yup, full chat up situation. Sadly, I couldn't use my no habla espanol line, as he then switched into English that was undoubtedly better than my Spanish (although we ended up in a vague Spanglish mix after a while). Apparently my eyes are like lighthouses. That bit was in English, and to give him credit that's far better than I could have come up with in Spanish...
He was quite sweet, but he was rather older than me, and not exactly my cup of tea. I was trying to shake him off gently and politely, making the most of the fact that I was flying home the next day and therefore needed to pack instead of going out for a drink with him. And then he spotted it. A wedding ring on the ring finger of my right hand. Oh joy, the Spanish wear their rings on the opposite hand to the English, and there are certain situations where you don't want to correct the misunderstanding that may arise.
Thanks, grandma, and the great-grandmother I never knew...