Jessica left today to return to London and then back home to Rome. It was great seeing her and she made the start of a New Year fabulous.
We all got out of bed late and lazed around until 11am. Then it was a rush to get Zelda dressed and off to her last birthday party of the year. We dropped Jess off at the train on the way. It was the best birthday party so far. Here in England, or at least in Durham, it is very popular to have a childrens party at your local Leisure Center. A bouncy castle is included in the deal, and so it makes for a very fun event for the kids. Bouncy castle aside, the place is usually very grim, cold and dingy. The gymnasium is converted into a party space with a few tables and is poorly lit with halogen lighting. I was not really looking forward to yet another party like this, but I was pleasantly surprised. When we arrived, the gym was full of children and parents. The birthday girls mom directed us to hot coffee and cupcakes! This scored high with me. The kids were entertained by Mr Windbags and afterwards they sat down to a nutritious meal that included a fresh fruit for a dessert. Usually a large assortment of junk food is served, chalk up another point for this party. There was no birthday cake to be eaten, but rather a plastic model of a cake with candles to be blown out, point number three. Finally, the goody bags that were given as we left contained only one sweet. The bag was full of fun things to play with rather than eat. Point four. No hyper child to deal with into the late evening.
Shortly after we arrived we were greeted by N and M, parents whom we recently met at a Halloween party. We spent the majority of the party speaking with them. It turns out that they have become friendly with another set of parents that we also have recently become friendly with. We discussed our "no plans" for New Years and they told us that they too were not doing much, just going to a tapas place with their three small kids at 5pm for dinner. One of their children is a good friend of Zelda. N asked us if we wanted to join them and told us that the other set of friends we both know will also be eating there. We accepted and headed home to rest before the evening.
I was on cloud 9. I always knew this was how things were supposed to be, and not the other way around like in France. People here are so open and generous. I guess it also helps to be liked by the natives!
We arrived at 5 on the dot. N and M and kids showed up a few minutes later. We ordered some Sangria and the kids started to run around and have fun. At 5:30 the other set of friends arrived. They did not know we were going to be there and it looked as if they also had no idea they were going to be sitting with all of us. They thought they were eating dinner by themselves with their daughter, who is also a friend of Zelda. SURPRISE, an impromptu party was born. The food and service were terrific. We all talked, laughed and relaxed while our kids entertained themselves and intermittently came to our sides for cuddles.
We had to give the tables up at 8pm, so we all headed back to our house. The five girls watched movies, ate popcorn, healthy snacks of fruits and veggies and we settled in downstairs with wine. Before we knew it, midnight was upon us. I found some fireworks in the garage of the house we are renting and M set them up. I opened a bottle of cava and we were ready! All six of us watched the fireworks go off, toasted to 2011 and gazed up at the amazingly clear sky full of bright stars. At that moment, I felt as though I was one of those bright stars and that the clarity of the sky was really my life as it is to become. 2011 was already perfect.