Originally published at Now Is A Long Time Too. You can comment here or there.
I’ve not been online much over the holidays, and when I have been on, I’ve mostly been engaging in PvP on World of Warcraft - there’s a post coming up on The Wizard of Duke Street about that soon.
The holidays started this year on the evening of the 21st, when Nina and I had our solstice dinner, a platter of smoked fish, artichoke hearts, and other goods, and exchanged presents. I got her some Waterford crystal, wine glasses and champage flutes, and a hamper of various good things. The guys in the place where I got the hamper gave me some funny looks when I wanted to add some WoW:TCG boosters to it, but I’ve never minded that. She got me the incredibly awesome Prince August 54mm Richard the Lionheart vs. Saladin cast-your-own chess set, and news of a booking for afternoon tea in the Ritz in London in February. The chess set is going to have to wait until we finish moving, but I keep taking the bits out and looking at them anyway.
The 22nd was the last day in work, and we finished up early to start drinking in advance of the company Christmas party, a dinner in One Pico, with entrance to the Sugar Club afterward. I bowed out of the clubbing, since we were flying at oh-dark-hundred the following morning. The meal was pretty good, and the boss made us all drink shots of tequila in salute to the Chicago Marketeer, who’s leaving us after four years to go back to the States and get married.
We got up early to head for the airport, and made it in good time - which was very necessary, as the queues were insane. We finally got to an Aer Lingus checkin desk, and while the luggage could be checked in all the way, we apparently couldn’t. We were told this was because the second flight in Hamburg wasn’t open yet. We shrugged slightly and went to find some breakfast, before boarding the plane, which took off about 20 minutes late. Twenty minutes at the other end, coupled with trying to find the transfer desk meant we arrived at the Finnair gate just after the plane had left. We went through the various bits of rigmarole necessary to figure out what to do next, and then settled down to wait through the nine hours until the next flight to Helsinki.
We dozed, and read, and had coffee, and bought papers, and ate (Bratwurst! Schnitzel!), and had coffee, and read some more, and eventually got on the plane, and arrived into Helsinki a bit before eleven at night local time. A bus ride to Lahti, and then we got a lift to Nina’s grandmother’s house from her mother. We collapsed, and slept the sleep of the very tired. I don’t recall whether the cats came to investigate us at all at that point; I’m not sure I would have noticed.
The next day was Christmas Eve, which is the day of the actual celebrations in Finland. There’s a well-established ritual to the day, and we went through each part of it in turn, between seeing visiting relatives, putting up and decorating the tree, going to the graveyards to place candles, saunaing, dinner and the opening of the presents from under the tree. I always find the Eve in Finland to be immensely pleasing - there’s a definite feeling of tradition about it, and traditions are one of the things I like most about the winter festivities. There’s also a definite feeling that it’s more a pagan tradition there than a Christian one.
I got some excellent presents, a very fine scarf, a meat hammer with an axe-head on the back, and a very very fine cast-iron frying pan. Having tried it since, I’m able to say it’s the best one I’ve ever used.
We had a couple more days in Finland, at Nina’s grandmother’s and mother’s houses, not doing very much at all, which was absolutely necessary, and then back to the airport at an even earlier hour for the return trip. We found out from the Finnair agent at the checkin desk in Helsinki that the problems on the way over were due to Aer Lingus cutting costs, and removing themselves from several of the cooperative arrangements between airlines - which essentially means that if Aer Lingus are any part of your journey, you can’t check all the way through, and there’s no information available to the other airlines about the Aer Lingus flights. Which meant, of course, that the reason the Finnair flight left without us is that they didn’t know we were on an incoming flight. We’ve one trip booked with Aer Lingus for February, but after that, we’re not going to be flying with them. If we want a budget airline, there’s Ryanair - the national carrier should be something more reliable.
There wasn’t any trouble on the way back, though, since we knew the layout of the airport this time and knew that there is no transfer desk; you go to the next gate and check in there. And we had some more time to work with on the schedule, and then the Finnair flight got in early.
That was the 27th, and after we got home, we spent the day relaxing and having visitors. The 28th was more of the same, with a great deal of World of Warcraft being played. Pauline arrived on the 29th, and since then, we’ve been doing more of the relaxing and eating out.
Last night was the Beaver Row household’s annual New Year’s barbecue, this year in black tie. And indeed, nearly everyone turned up in full black tie, which was very nice indeed. One gentleman even had a proper bow tie requiring tying. I’m always amused by the number of my tshirt-and-jeans-wearing geek friends who own formal wear as well. I must look into acquiring a cravat as well as learning the bow tie thing. And possibly a top hat.
This morning was an excellent start to the New Year, with a large breakfast in Hobart’s café with about eight or ten friends. We occupied a set of tables pulled together in the middle of the café, and I suspect the eventual bill was a wonder to behold. One kind person (not sure I’m allowed name names on that) had an expenses tab for the day for being on call, and put breakfast on it for all of us, which made it an even better start.
Now we’re taking care of various bits of mundane necessity before reconvening in Beaver Row to help dispose of the remaindered goods from last night, and generally relax. Back to work tomorrow, and I think I can deal with that.