Expanding on the previous post...
My trip north went largely as intended, though I got the distinct impression I wasn't on the booked assistance list at Kings Cross. They still got me on the train, though not without a frown or two. The train itself was surprisingingly empty for a week before Christmas, but the rest of the trip was trouble free I was picked up from the station at Bishop Auckland by my sister, who immediately spotted my new Kunzli boots and remarked "They look a bit, um, specialist". I had to admire her word choice. I'd actually considered leaving them at home to avoid family reaction to the orthopaedic look, but in the end they're just so damned supportive I decided to go with them. And the family can always be talked around by a good bargain, such as getting them at 75% off ;)
Visiting the family has become quite strange, because of the situation with my dad I'm left alone in the house from 2PM until somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30PM, while my mother spends the afternoon and evening with him at the care home. I went along once and walked home (I can't manage much more than about 45 minutes with him because of seating issues), but after that it was decided* I was better off going along in the evenings with my sister as I can get a lift both ways.
* Apparently I don't get a vote in the matter. The family is still a bit inconsistent in handling my walking limitations. At times they'll be overprotective, and at others they're pushy.
Dad is very variable. Some days he's very much with it, and capable of making jokes about the immediate context, other times he sleeps all day, or is awake, but pretty out of it. It's clear that not having the aggressive physio he was getting in rehab has caused him to regress physically, but scheduling it for his good days was and is impossible. His speech is still very much affected, and not helped by him mumbling or whispering, or his insistence on using a sentence where a word might do. OTOH it's a lot clearer when he's annoyed! Apparently I'm now referred to as 'Goldenboy' by my sister, because he can always remember my name even if he hasn't seen me in months, whereas he can't always remember my sister's, even though he sees her daily. Whoops! Fortunately my sister takes it in relatively good heart, and her devotion to him, and, especially, my mother's, puts my efforts to shame.
We had our Christmas Day lunch at the care home as the only way of managing to get the whole family together. I thought it was a little sad that out of their 60-odd residents, only one other relative did that (though a few residents were visiting families for the day). I think my mother was a little stressed over how it would turn out, though given she'd normally be stressing over the cooking that wasn't too much of a change from normal, but in the end it was fine. The food was good, better than any works Christmas Meal I've ever had, and if the portion wasn't huge, it was more than adequate. And Dad was on fine form, so that was a result.
New Year's Eve was less of a success. I went along to the local club (as in working men's, not night-) with my sister and her husband, which we've done in previous years, and we even got my mother to pop in briefly when she came home from the party at the home, and while the beer was fine and there was a ridiculously large buffet laid on, there weren't the people who've laid on entertainment in the past, or even my brother-in-law's drinking cohorts, so it just died away, and when someone decided to stick MTV on for music, rather than say Jule's Hootenanny or one of the other New Years programmes, it just killed it (I didn't object to the music myself, but it was completely wrong for the evening and most of the audience and no one had the sense to claim the remote back and change it). So we left before midnight and I was actually in bed by the time the New Year rolled in - sad!
And the next day I came down with a savage cold, which managed at various stages to cover all the traditional woes: streaming nose, hacking cough, up to and including feverish chills. The most annoying part of it was the randomly varying pressure in my inner ear, with associated randomly varying hearing loss, which was just plain irritating. Every time I tried to watch something it was alternating can hear him-can't hear him-can hear him-can't hear him. I think that was actually more irritating than just not being able to hear at all! And it's still doing it ten days later, even though I'm over the worst of it; there'll be a sudden pop and I'll suddenly be able to hear much more clearly. Unfortunately I gave it to my mother and possibly my sister, though neither got it quite as badly as me. And of course it meant I had to stay away from Dad for the last week I was there rather than risk giving it to him, though I was well enough to see him the night before my trip home.
I had meant to be online while I was up there, ordering a 3GB data sim, which should have been more than enough to last me while I was away. It took a few days to arrive, but when it did I hooked it up, did a little light catching up (mostly DW and webcomics), and after 3 hours it announced I'd used up my entire data allowance. I was not impressed. I was initially cursing myself for not turning off Windows Updates, but after a little poking around the system Windows told me that even with updates enabled I had only used 740MB of wifi in the last month, less than a quarter of what Three were claiming I had used in three hours. Not Impressed! But it's an impossible argument to win with the mobile companies. I could have bought a top-up of course, but I was understandably loathe to risk throwing good money after bad. And when I did finally risk their cheapest deal, a) their website crashed, b) Firefox took offence to Kaspersky's ebanking functionality and blocked access to my bank. *Headdesk* *Bah, humbug!*
Being stuck without net access meant I couldn't do the literary agent research I'd been promising to do over the holidays, though I did manage to work my way through the Acknowledgements pages of most of the books of my Kindle - surprisingly few authors credit their agents. On the brighter side it meant I was able to concentrate on writing instead and I'm now 15,000 words into the new novel with a much better idea of where the plot is going (Answer: Underhill).
My trip back worked even better than the trip up, this time everyone knew I was travelling and all the assistance was waiting for me when needed - in fact I had three separate people turn up to get me off the local train at Darlington - driver, guard, and passenger assistance! The only slightly worrying moment was when I came down the ramp at Kings Cross and even with my hands clamped on wheels it was steep enough the chair skidded. (In a masterpiece of not thinking the issues through, the train stops with the exit from the carriage with the wheelchair spaces right next to where the new escalator lands on the platform, meaning there's only just room to get off the ramp before hitting the side of the escalator, and if a passenger chooses to step into that space at the same time you're skidding down the ramp... well, it's just as well she had good reactions...). My subconscious was so completely thrown by booked assistance working without a flaw for once it keeps hitting me with dreams about missed connections!
Weatherwise we escaped the flooding that afflicted most of the North. It was decidedly soggy, but the worst of it was east of us, then south of us, and finally north of us (and of course being a couple of hundred feet above the river doesn't hurt). I saw an awful lot of flooded fields on my trip south, though fortunately nothing to disrupt train travel. Compared to previous years, when we've had to worry about trains being cancelled due to snow, it was positively uneventful.
And so that's Christmas done for another year. Same time next year?