Daughter S and I visited a Victorian Christmas fair the Sunday before last, in a local market town. We went on the train. It was a cold, sunny day, and we ate roast chestnuts and bought Christmas tree decorations in the shape of tiny gingerbread men.
One of the attractions was a small old-fashioned 'ferris wheel', only large enough for young children. One little boy was so excited that he was screaming with joy every time his chair went over the top of the wheel, waving his arms and legs, his face a picture of delight.
We enjoyed ourselves in a more sedate way, but it was a magical afternoon, which finished with a beautiful sunset, the bare trees silhouetted against flame coloured clouds. On the train, the guard was wearing a contraption which blared out Christmas hits - it was bizarre but fun.
Last weekend we went in a family party to France - Husband R and me, Dad H, son G, sister T and her husband C, and friend B. We stayed in a restaurant with rooms, taking up four of the five rooms, and pigged out on gourmet food. On Saturday, some of us visited nearby Hazebrouck, once again on a train, but this time a double-decker train (the restaurant Le Buffet is literally opposite Isbergues Station). We met St Nicholas outside a cafe, who gave us delicious little cups of hot chocolate.
At the end of the visit, when we paid the bill, the proprietor's wife presented us with two bottles of wine, to enjoy when the family is together at Christmas. Before going back through the Tunnel we walked on the beach at Calais, and saw the White Cliffs of Dover.
Now I'm back at work and have just finished a lengthy report about a piece of work which I've had to do in a very short space of time. I feel exhausted, but it's done, and it's been an example of how a team can pull together and create something worthwhile.
The empty nest is getting closer - this time next year we can still visit the Christmas fair, or take a trip to France, but the family unit of 4 will be 2 - or sometimes 6.
I'm relishing the joys of these times, a bit like the small boy on the ferris wheel, making the most of them. And looking forward to new sources of joy when everything changes next year.
The best thing about the last week: Hard to choose one, but probably travelling upstairs for the first time on a French double decker train
The worst thing: having to get up really early for work when I'm not a morning person