Temple Newsam : I love it when a plan comes together

It so very nearly didn’t! I wanted so much to weave some magic on Christmas Eve. I love a light show, and when I saw this one advertised, on the outskirts of Leeds… well, it was worth a try! We had been to Temple Newsam a time or two. Broad, open spaces… good trees for climbing… a lake, and a petting farm. A good place for kids!

We had to run the gamut of testing, and be pronounced fit to enter the UK. Not a problem! Staying fit enough to return to Portugal, from Leeds City Centre, was more of an issue. But there was no doubt in my mind that it was worth the risk, to see our son and family this Christmas. If the effectiveness of the vaccine was to be tested, so be it! And so we arrived on 23rd December, took the PCR test, and checked into our hotel. We already had a negative lateral flow test, taken in the Algarve on 22nd. Come the evening, a phone call from our son. “Someone in the youngster’s school class has tested positive. Quarantine until the result of his PCR comes through, hopefully within 72 hours, but it’s Christmas so who knows? He’s coughing a bit, but he’s mildly asthmatic so that’s normal at this time of year. He’s tested negative on 2 lateral flows and we’ll test him again in the morning.”

Waiting with baited breath, we also had our own issues. It seemed that yet another test was needed, to enable our return to Portugal. Though valid for the 72 hours of our stay, the PCR was purely for the UK government’s statistics, and didn’t provide a certificate as evidence of the negative test, required by the Portuguese government. More money in the coffers to be misspent, it seems. But the youngster’s health was of far greater concern to us. We took a further test Christmas Eve morning, also negative, but were still waiting to hear how he was. The verdict? “A third negative test, no temperature or coughing, but no PCR result yet.” Should we risk the light show? Of one thing I was sure. I was going to see the family, whether or no I courted Covid. Call me irresponsible, if you like! And so we bundled up warm, and set out into the drizzly night, with one super-excited youngster.

I said drizzly night, but in fact it didn’t feel very wet. Perhaps it was that Christmas magic I was looking for, because if you looked up at the lights you could see the fine droplets of water dancing in the air, but our clothes didn’t appear to be getting very wet. The shimmer of the damp snowflake on the path ahead made us all smile.

Of course, we were a little anxious. The car park had been almost full and we worried about the volume of people, but we were outdoors and masked and took care to maintain space. The youngster’s obvious enjoyment, and our own, soon made any misgivings fade. We passed swiftly through the arch of lights at the entrance. I hung behind to take just one shot.

Maybe we were a little reckless, but it was so nice to be a part of Christmas celebrations. The atmosphere was warm, despite the rain!

The field of balls glowed from red into violet and shades of blue, then faded to soft pastels as we watched.

Beyond the field, shadows made ghostly patterns on the trees. Turning a corner the air was pierced by laser beams, sparkling green through a fine mist. On the path, a Celtic knot glowed. At just this moment an email arrived. His PCR test was negative.

I won’t pretend that we weren’t greatly relieved. With light hearts we carried on, around the lake with its beautifully illuminated boats. Happiness was complete when we came upon a stall selling marshmallows, for toasting over a charcoal fire.

I hope you managed to find a little Christmas magic, and that the year to come will be kind to all of us.

Wishing you all good health and happiness as we sail forward into a new year.