We had been warned that finding
accommodation at Christmas could be difficult so we took
the precaution of booking ahead. Three months ahead. Before
we left the UK, we checked availability, confirmed our requirement
and exchanged emails with our host Tuula, giving full details
of our arrival. We were all looking forward to Christmas
at Timaru, for some rest, recuperation and a visit from
Santa. Kirstie wanted everything to be just right for the
boys' Christmas and Matthew and Cameron were really looking
forward to a few days in a real house. We hoped Tuula would
remember our booking and emailed her a reminder a week before.
On the road to Timaru, in accordance
with tradition, we encourntered three men bearing gifts.
The first we met in Pleasant Point, 20km from Christmas,
a town whose 'name says it all' according to the district
council. There, a man took pity upon our bedraggled family
and offered us a bargain rate for a little cabin in the
woodlands where we could all dry out. The
following morning, a second Pleasant man opened up his café
especially for us when all the others were closed, and fed
and watered us to fuel the final leg of our journey.
The third we found high on a hill
in a suburb of Timaru, busy working in the garage at the
back of his house in a grotto of stripy materials. Ken,
the canvas specialist, had a quiet and gentle manner and
took time out of his pre-Christmas canvas rush to help us
out. In seconds he fixed a problem which had been bugging
us for weeks. With a flick of his pliers and a careful tap
of his hammer on a steel plate, he replaced a broken popper
on the raincover of Matthew's buggy. "No charge, just enjoy
Matthew was pleased to be dry again
but there was no respite for us. We headed into Timaru a
day early, to allow time for some Christmas Eve shopping.
Our journey into town felt portentious; a strong head wind,
pouring rain and increasing traffic clogging our lungs and
our path. The flat road gave way to steep hills and we checked
into a cabin for the night unable to face putting the tent
up in the rain. "Funny we haven't heard back from Tuula,"
said Kirstie, "I've got a strange feeling she's not there.
What will we do if she's not?" Kirstie drowned her fears
in alcohol at the first Family on a Bike Christmas party.
A buffet of crisps, nuts, and chocolates with a bottle of
fizzy wine helped us relax
The Family on a Bike Christmas
And the cocktail
of E numbers helped the boys go crazy in a frenzy of bouncy
Later, things hot up and the
boys get on down with some bouncy bed dancing
"Her mobile's also on answerphone,"
said Kirstie the next morning, "Shall I leave another message?"
"No, you've left our number, she'll think you're stalking
her," said Stuart. By now Kirstie was paranoid, "But what,
if she's gone away, where will we stay?" Kirstie was certain
Tuula had gone away for Christmas, our booking forgotten
in the three months since our last contact.
It was fifteen minutes before a
suitable gap in the traffic allowed us to get on the road
to Tuula's place. Thirty minutes
of cycling later we arrived on the edge of town. High on
a flagpole next to a rose covered balcony a union jack was
blowing in the wind. But there was no-one at home. "But
the door's open," said Kirstie feeling like Goldilocks as
she wandered through the house shouting, "Helloooo, is there
It took ten minutes to locate a
beaming faced Finnish woman who spoke little English. "Tuula
on holiday, I look you after" explained Tuula's mother as
she gave us a tour of the house. "You be at home here, all
things you need," she said as she showed us our bedroom,
the jacuzzi and sauna area, garden with sandpit and toys,
home cinema TV with DVD's, bar and kitchen, "I work tomorrow,
make you dinner Christmas at one. OK?" We beamed back. "I
babysit children for you shopping." We beamed some more.
"And pillow present later."
The boys make themselves at home
Within the hour Matthew was helping
Spiderman and Tranny doll drive the Barbie car and Basil
Brush was entertaining Cameron while Stuart and Kirstie
relaxed in the spa bath with a large Finnish vodka tonic.
"We be at home here" said Kirstie. At bedtime, Matthew and
Cameron stumbled across their pillow presents, curling up
contentedly with a chocolate Santa to wait for the real
man to deliver the goods, happy to be in a real house in
a real bed for Christmas.