A disappointing visit to see Santa at the Celtic Manor hotel, Newport

20131223_222122-1We went to see Santa the other day. All three of us set off an hour early, bundled together in our warmest garb ready to meet the elements.

The traffic was heavier than we were expecting, but we arrived in plenty of time to find a space in what seemed a packed parking lot. As we made our way up the hill we noticed there was a train up to the hotel. Nice, I was expecting a lovely old style train with carriages affair (like I’d seen in the shopping centre, more fool me), instead we got a big old standard bus. Oh well, it’ll get better, I mean for fifteen quid, it had to get better right?

We took apart the pram and carried Siôn, our now excited one year old, into the bus which went up to the hotel in about five minutes. We assembled the pram again, settling the baby in there before we followed everyone (and the signs) up to Santa’s Grotto. To my dismay a large stumbling block loomed up ahead. Steps! Lots of steps. I groaned. I’m too big, heavy and unfit for steps at the moment. They rose from the ground like an impossible  invitation to Mount Olympus.Santa was calling and I had to suck it up. Grumbling under my breath I took the bottom half of the pram while my husband took the other end and we climbed.

First impressions of the first level was wow it was busy. On the right a restaurant, which was then a swimming pool as we walked, in the main building and to the left the winter wonderland.

Passing the skating rink we realised we had fifteen minutes to go, so we cased Santa’s Grotto to find out where it was and then spent some time watching the skaters.

Eventually, ok ten minutes, we tried the double doors and we were in. This looked promising. There were fake icicles coming off the ceiling, a television playing Elf in front and a reception to the right.

We ambled over to the right and proffered our ticket to the ‘elves’. They entered the information into their computer system and our son was given a sticker with his name handwritten on it stating he’d gone to see Santa. A bit premature you might think.

Anyway, we’d checked in so we went to look at the reindeer that Siôn seemed singularly unimpressed with. He preferred to play with the sign. There is no accounting for taste with babies. The reindeer seemed well cared for but starting at animals was never my thing so we had a look around the small area to see what else was on offer.

Not much is the answer. As mentioned before, there was the film, which you would only get a brief look at, I mean it wasn’t a film visit after all. There was some tiny tables and chairs where the little ones went to draw and colour-in I imagine.

The room began to fill up and I started to get worried about having to scramble into a queue but I needn’t have worried, checking in at the beginning meant that they called us in the order we came in. I just wish they had told us that when we arrived.

We hung around the entrance and was impressed with the speed that we were called but unfortunately this was delayed by a gentlemen complaining that his child didn’t have an age-appropriate gift. Whoops, this was looking more and more like a waste of money. Still, we just had to wait and see. The man left disappointed and we followed the ‘elf’ down the long white corridor to the room where Santa was waiting. Ooh exciting, I’d never done this before. Really this whole trip was for me as well as my son.

The room was decked-out like a typical living room with Santa on the sofa. It was actually quite nice. My husband was holding Siôn, so I hung back with the pram. Santa was lovely, he didn’t say much but then he didn’t have to. Siôn lasted about 1 minute before his eyes widened and big blobs of water fell down his cheeks. Yep, he cried. The ‘elf’ hurriedly brought a present and we distracted Siôn with the photo.

It was really quick and we then went to the photo kiosk where we bought the photo for a fiver. Siôn didn’t look very happy in it but hey it was the first time and I wanted something to remember it by.

Then there was the toy. The neatly wrapped soft package was gently unwrapped with the help of my son and the trip was made worthwhile by the sheer joy on his face when he saw the little dog in the winter outfit.

So all in all I would say it was a disappointing visit. I was expecting more from the Celtic Manor and indeed from fifteen pounds (twenty if you include the photo), I won’t be going there again as I’m sure there are better options. I don’t mind paying if the experience is worth it. Value is everything, sadly, I think this time I did not choose as wisely as I could have done.

The Clarklet Saga – Why the NHS is the most stressful part of expecting

I’m really looking forward to the little Clarklet, and even with all the little niggles that come with being pregnant, I’m starting to enjoy the process. No hubby, don’t worry, he will still be the one and only addition to our family!

Today’s little drama involved a Midwife visit. For most people this isn’t the most stressful thing one has to deal with during a pregnancy but if you are partially-sighted with an overactive imagination this is the worst part of the experience.

Our doctor’s is the nearest to where we live but is still 25 minutes walk with two ‘busy’ roads to cross and no pedestrian crossings or traffic lights as far as I know. Don’t forget I am short-sighted!

So I set off at 11.45, knowing the appointment is at 12.30. I stress if I am late and am usually early for everything. I was 3 minutes early for the last appointment two days before and I felt unsettled, even though they were late in seeing me!

I go up an incline and then turn a sharp corner to go up a steep hill. I have to stop every few minutes to massage my back as my belly is pulling me forward and I haven’t got used to the extra weight yet. At the top of the hill is a main road. I go to the curb, hold my breath, cross my fingers and put one foot out on the tarmac. Oops, what;s that moving thing? B*****, it’s a grey car. The only clue I have to the purveyor of encroaching death is the surroundings appear to be moving, Nope it is not the trees turning into triffids but a car the same colour as the bleeding road. I quickly step back.

It was raining today by the way, thought I would just mention that. Luckily I found an umbrella while going through some old clothes bag a few days ago so I was relatively dry – swearing under my breath – but dry.

Second times the charm, I psyche myself up, hold my breath, cross my fingers and lurch across the road as fast as my stumpy legs will take me. I used to have nice legs by the way. I received a lot of compliments in my teens and early twenties, now they just look like transplanted tree trunks, but I digress.

I’m safe across the road, now and am half-way. I have a pleasant-ish couple of minutes walking by the park and have to cross the road again to go down the never-ending hill. It wouldn’t be so bad if said hill wasn’t going to have to be climbed at the end of the appointment. Just call me Prometheus.

I crossed the road without incident and proceeded to go down the impossibly long hill (and to my eyes, mountain). You might think I am exaggerating slightly. In fact I am prone to this, but consider for a moment walking with my eyes. I can’t see the end of the road, my sense of time is hazy so it literally feels like a road that goes for ever until you hit the bottom. The doctor’s is that last house on the hill so I can’t miss it.

The bit going down is fun until the world tilted and I had to fling my arms out. I had slipped in to some dog mess. Yes, Newport, Wales has a doggy doodoo problem and today it was also my problem. What was worse is that my maternity trousers are slightly too long for me so my trouser leg also had a nice brown coating at the bottom. Lovely. So I’m stopping to rub my shoe against passing vegetation every few seconds with a new explosion of vocabulary I didn’t even know I knew.

I arrived about ten minutes early, so I was happy about that. The Midwife was already there and she greeted me. Trouble is I didn’t know it was her until I heard her voice and as I have only heard it a couple of times I haven’t quite associated it yet plus I was hyper-grumpy over the journey + doggy poo incident.

In case you are wondering there is no direct buses there and a taxi would cost around £12 total which we can’t really justify at the moment.

So I sit down on the ripped seats in the waiting room and wait for the call. About ten minutes later I hear a disembodied voice, “Ceri, Ceri”. the ghost of NHS past? Nope it is the Midwife calling from across the room where I can’t see her. I don’t know if she is motioning me or pointing at something or what. So I say, “What do you want me to do?” in the general direction the voice is coming from. She says to come over so I wander over to the ‘voice’.

…and the appointment began. It went well, Baby appears to be fine although shy of the ultrasound. Every time she found him, he squirmed away! I found some secret delight with that. I have a feeling I was supposed to be impressed that I could hear a heartbeat but as I have my own doppler at home, I am not so easily impressed.

Anyway, after trekking doggie doodoo all over the Midwife’s office floor, I felt slightly guilty but also slightly consoled after having to mount an expedition to get to the place and deal with being treated like I can see when I obviously can’t. I don’t know why they bother to keep records, I really don’t. It’s not as if they read them.

The upshot is, now the community midwife is venturing into the community and seeing me at my home next time!

Oh and I put my trainers and trousers straight into the washing machine when I got back!