The cheese landed on the evening of the nineteenth, having taken a little break in Madrid.
It, and the suitcase containing it, have just been delivered to the door by a charming gentleman who, intrigued by the aroma of his cargo, enquired as to the nature of the contents.
He recoiled as if faced by a striking snake when I freed the zips and with the driving force of a thousand horse the collective odours of the cheeses of France and England made their presence known.
He gathered himself together.
Had something died?
Costa Rica is not a great cheese producing nation.
All stacked away in the fridge...not ideal, but when in the tropics....I can count my journey as finally over, and look forward to the first band of visitors arriving tonight, the only anxiety being whether - having contumaciously decided to travel via the United States - the packages of whole smoked fish will get past U.S. customs.
I have enjoyed seeing friends, meeting and telephoning fellow bloggers, visiting old haunts and new; have managed to do most of the admin things which needed attention, have visited mother, but am truly relieved to be home, where not only has the kitchen been finished but the exterior of the house has been painted in a most dashing combination of deep yellow and green.
The dogs were as delighted to see me as I was to see them, the newly hatched ducklings are waddling about in their pen and reducing the contents of their water bowl to sludge in the space of an hour, the hoses are laid out for watering and every house I passed on my way home was alive with Christmas lights.
And what do I remember of my trip?
That the fashion for Mod style pork pie hats has returned for girls in France.
That ankle boots are worn...usually looking incongruous on the end of stick thin legs.
That travel by Eurolines resembles an ill managed retreat from Moscow.....
Firstly, their bus no longer leaves outside the front door of Tours station but from a layby about a kilometre away down a dingy side street deserted at night, where the office does not open until you have started to board the bus, only to be repelled and sent to the office to get a boarding pass.
Then you are decanted at Lille station in the dark of a winter morning where the perversity of SNCF is such that it first refuses to open the doors, leaving the Eurolines stragglers outside in the wind tunnel and then refuses to close them, so that the said stragglers have to find refuge from the chill in the only warm places - the ticket office and the loos, the haunts of SNCF employees.
Staff at the franchised caffs have to work in the cold.
Unloading the luggage at the Chunnel is another joy.....large smug young customs officers watching tired travellers struggling to put luggage on a scanner, the ritual stop and search of a Bulgarian, the queue for the loos.....the only pleasure being on the approaches to Victoria Coach station where social mobility is such that areas of the South Circular are becoming sub gentrified.
That a first visit to Spain was a delight.
That while the majority of men above middle age in Southampton are well built and fair haired those characteristics seem to disappear when considering younger men.
That travelling on the bus in Southampton is a friendly, chatty affair.
That the carol concert by candlelight would have been improved by some mulled wine.
That the food available in the U.K. is infinitely varied and of good quality.
That my days of lumbering two overloaded suitcases, a cabin bag and handbag across Europe are over.
Roll on Christmas, I'm just about ready for it. Cheese and all.