Archive | December, 2010

Annual Review

31 Dec
Bramall Hall, in the County of Greater Manchester.

Image via Wikipedia

The last day of the year seems like a good time to re-hash the last twelve months – not much point doing it next March, is there?  I won’t include links to previous posts because I don’t expect you to go and read them again; I’m just glad you showed up at all today.

On a personal level, we acquired a new dog and six fish (now, sadly, five fish).  I went on a back-to-work course; had a work placement and one interview but still no job.  I was in the audience for the first leaders’ debate and was given a new kitchen and bathroom by my landlord.  The whole of my downstairs and part of my upstairs has been re-decorated this year, and it’s all hidden by the Hub’s ever-growing mountain of crap.  I discovered I am two inches taller than I thought I was; and Glee.  I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary; witnessed a police siege in my street; and won £100 in shopping vouchers.  The Hub’s CFS/ME got steadily worse and he was diagnosed with anaemia and restless leg syndrome, so I doubled my fun-poking efforts.  I became a pirate for a week; had several colds and infections and a wisdom tooth extraction; and still claimed to be as healthy as an ox.  Have you noticed that you never see oxen anymore?  Spud had three holidays – two courtesy of friends – and Tory Boy helped win the election (sort of) and saw the Pope’s back while interning in Westminster.

The general election threw up my favourite quote of the year:

Paddy Ashdown: 

The British people have spoken; now we just have to work out what they’ve said.

As far as the writing goes, I was published in several poetry ezines and two collections; was counted part of the Manchester blogging scene; and saw one of my poems turned into a piece of art work.  I took part in April’s NaPoWriMo and November’s Poetic Asides Poem A Day challenge; performed at Bramhall Hall with Manchester Camerata; and at Stockport Art Gallery with its vanishing audience.  I completed an excellent creative writing course at a local college and was a founder member of Stockport Art Gallery Writing Group.

My blog was given a makeover and I had three guest bloggers.  This blog is growing exponentially.  In March I was thrilled to reach the magic figure of 5000 hits; in the nine months since then I have had over 21,000 hits with the figure at this moment standing at 26,671.  I started a new blog for my South African poems and sometimes it gets as many as three readers a day. 

Not a bad year, overall.  Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share it with me.

*

The prompt for Big Tent was to write a list poem.  I was inspired to write a haiku by today outside:

A Stockport Winter

dull grey cold muddy
miserable the same as
a Stockport summer

If The Tree’s Not Full, You’re Doing It Wrong

31 Dec

I decorate the tree using the above principle. I believe in moderation in everything except Christmas and Maltesers. Speaking of which, I still have seven of my nine boxes & bags left and it’s been five days; I’d better get myself to the doctor.

Here are a few of our tree decorations. We buy at least one new one every year. That was Tory Boy’s first question when he arrived home on Christmas Eve: ‘Where’s the new decoration?’

The mirrored bell you see below is the first decoration TB ever bought me, from St Matthew’s Christmas Fair, here in Edgeley about ten years ago.

 

This is a decoration from the White House, from 1995. It comes in its own specially marked box. The White House issues new ones each year for the public to buy, though this one was a gift from the Hub via eBay. It is a solid piece.

The candy cane is also from America, one of a box of ten sent by one of the Hub’s chat room friends. They are about ten years old, those that are left. We never took them out of their plastic wrappers but they are getting a bit soft now. Don’t think we are mean to our children: we can buy them here in the pound shop. We just appreciated Brenda’s kindness and didn’t have the heart to eat them

 

 

The white stocking was made by Spud in reception (kindergarten); the Christmas sock is one of a mis-matched pair given to me by my Mother-in-law when we brought her and the Hub’s Dad out to South Africa one Christmas. I think the funny basket rat thing held mini Easter eggs once; I bought it on a boot sale because I liked it so much. The glass bauble to the right is part of an expensive set of ten that the Hub got for a knock-down price on eBay. Each ball contains a different Christmas figure. They have their own specially designed wooden crate with an acetate showing which bauble goes where.

 
 
This is our most precious decoration.  The Hub bought it for his parents in 1970 and it went on the top of their tree every year until they died.  It went on the top of our tree after that until about five years ago, when Tory Boy bought us a new angel with his pocket money.  I forgot to take a close-up of his angel but if you look at my earlier posts you will see it.
 
 
  
The tatty silver and gold balls were once shiny and new gold balls, part of a set of six we bought for our first Christmas tree, twenty-five years ago.  These are the only two left.  The pink fairy was handmade by me under Flo’s tutelage; I also have a reindeer and a Christmas tree, all made from dolly pegs.  I also made the cross stitch snowman.
 

 

 

My friend Elone often buys me Christmas decorations when she goes on her travels; this one of Sponge Bob came from Disneyland.  I also have one of Mickey Mouse and a blue glass teardrop from Kusadasi which is my favourite of all she has bought me, mostly because I love saying ‘Kusadasi’.  The dog is an old Christmas tag made of foam.  The Hub bought a set for my presents one year, and I like them so much I use them as decorations.

  

The red and gold box top right first held a ring that the Hub bought me and hid on the tree long ago.  The gold bell next to it was our first top-of-the-tree decoration when we married in 1985.  The cloth bell came from a little shop in Jo’burg on Louis Botha Avenue in the early years of our marriage.  The shop sold all homemade/hand-made things, including cakes and clothes and Christmas decorations. 

 

Homemade and hand-made decorations are my favourite, but I love them all.  I overload the tree because I am seriously sentimental at times and when I decorate the tree, I’m bringing out happy memories.  Who wouldn’t want a treeful of those?

North And South

29 Dec
Margaret Hale

Image via Wikipedia

One of my Christmas presents from Spud was a dvd of the BBC production of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (not to be confused with the delectable Patrick Swayze’s Eighties mini-series).  It stars Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale and swoon> Richard Armitage as John Thornton.  Set in Victorian Manchester, it is about blurring class lines and, of course, love.

I put it on last night, intending to watch for a couple of hours and then go to sleep; four hours later I finally turned it off.  It’s a wonderful adaptation and well worth a look if you enjoy costume drama.  You can get the dvd for a few pounds from Amazon (Spud isn’t made of money, you know).

It is one of the few adaptations I have watched before reading the book, where I preferred the book’s ending to the film’s – and I loved the film’s ending.

Strongly recommended.

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If you want to read about racial divides instead of class divides (though they are sometimes the same thing) go to my sapoems blog.

Talk About Leaving It To The Last Minute

29 Dec
Saddest Christmas dog ever

Image by quinn.anya via Flickr

This Freegle ‘wanted’ ad came to my inbox on Christmas Eve at three minutes past eleven P.M.:

Hi everyone I know I’ve left this really late but we were expecting a delivery today of Xmas presents for our 9 yr old girl but they didn’t turn up , so if anyone has anything suitable we would appreciate it , thanks in advance can collect tonight.

No ‘received’ emails have come through so that poor child must have had a miserable Christmas morning.

 

Finally, Christmas Day

28 Dec

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.  Burton Hills. 

‘Tis the season to be soppy…

I wondered whether it was worth sharing details of our Christmas Day because it was the same as last year, and every year.  I could have just re-posted last Christmas Day’s blog.

I’ll tell you about our little traditions:

  • No one allowed in the lounge until tea has been made – I can’t function without my morning tea and we need time to set up the camera: no spontaneity in this house; everything must be recorded for posterity.  When my children are grown and ignoring my calls I want to be able to look back at expensive times and know that I got some things right.
  • We all write clues on the presents and have to guess what we’ve got before we open them.  The Hub started that tradition.  He is the best at guessing and the worst at writing them: What do you get if you cross a dog with a tie?  Answer: three pairs of knickers (panties-pant-dogs pant-ties-plural, not singular).
  • He insists I tell you this one as well, to prove that they’re not all bad.  See if you can work it out; I did, but that’s not saying much because I’d dropped hints all year that I wanted it.  You’ll find the answer at the end: Smell like Julia Oscar Oscar Papa.
  • We open one present at a time, taking turns; it is all very civilised.  Everyone sees what everyone else has received, and appreciative noises can be made.  We always splurge at Christmas and we don’t want our children to be ungrateful brats, so we lead by example.  We have main (expensive/Christmas-listed) presents and (cheap) stocking fillers – socks, chocs and funny things.  The appreciation comes from the thought that has gone into the giving, wrapping and clues.
  • We use a lot of the same wrapping.  Some years ago our local pound shop had Christmas gift box sets for sale and the Hub went mad.  They come in different shapes and sizes and they are great for disguising presents e.g. Tory Boy squashed my Maltesers into a t-shirt and then a small box so they couldn’t rattle – unlike the Hub, who gave up this year and just stuck a bow on each box and bag.  We also have lots of cloth gift bags, knitted stockings, little homemade bags and boxes I’ve picked up over the years.  Even tins.  I tried to put one of the boys’ presents into a lovely M&S Christmas biscuit tin and the Hub said I couldn’t do that so wasn’t he surprised to find a pair of tracksuit pants in that same tin?  No; he knows what I’m like.  It’s not about saving money (hardly; I buy more each year) but about the fun of family traditions.
  • We have a bin bag at the ready for the discarded wrapping and I sort it all later for re-using, recycling or binning. 
  • After we’re done I make tea and toast for us all with, get this, the toast being served on one plate and crumbs allowed to fall while we eat.  I refuse to spend my Christmas Day worrying about the dishes.
  • Then the Hub goes to bed for a couple of hours and the boys disappear to their rooms with their swag.  We each have our own sack that the gifts are popped into as we unwrap, so carting them upstairs is easy.
  • The lounge is tidied and vacuumed (usually by me but TB obliged this time) and then I stretch out on the couch, eat sweets and watch a bit of telly before starting Christmas dinner.  Don’t feel sorry for Tilly-No-Mates – I have been working my backside off for a month and I cherish those two hours of peace and solitude and cheesy Christmas films.

I forgot to take photos of this year's table but you've probably guessed by now that it looks the same every year, more or less; so here's last year's table

  • The turkey & gammon are always cooked on Christmas Eve because I refuse to spend all of Christmas Day in the kitchen (I might have said something similar already); the rest of the meal is quick and easy to do.  The menu varies only in the additions we make each year.  We haven’t had a starter since the disastrous green pears of 1986; but last year I made prawn cocktail in an Abigail’s Party flashback and it went down so well I did it again this year.  We always have a gezillion puddings that last until Easter.  Which leaves the main course:
  • 3 meats – turkey, gammon and a new bacon and sprout leaves recipe the Hub tried.  I’m thinking of including chippolata sausages next year because it felt like something was missing.
  • 3 potatoes – roast, mash and cheese roast, the latter courtesy of Tesco’s marked down shelf.
  • 8 vegetables – sprouts (proper sprouts, not that fancy-schmancy bacon thing), carrots, leeks, parsnips, peas, cauliflower, green beans, broccoli (not much different from my usual roasts, if I’m honest; I like vegetables).
  • Yorkshire Puddings (shop-bought but I have a new stove so I’m going to try and make my own again next year).
  • Gravy – another good thing about cooking the meat the night before is the stock has settled and the fat can be skimmed off for the roasties, leaving a non-greasy and delicious gravy to polish off the meal.
  • After dinner we usually retire to the living room for a movie.
  • The Hub and I normally clear up, a habit acquired from years of hosting Christmas for the extended family that we never quite shook off.  This year I decided to change that tradition because the boys are way big enough to be doing it, but I had to take over because they didn’t know which were the dishes to dishwashed; which dishes to be handwashed, dried and put away for next year; which dishes to be handwashed, dried and put away for other special occasions; which dishes were to be handwashed, dried and left out for re-use; and which dishes to be handwashed and left to air dry and thus not put away.  There are some jobs only a mother can do and she gets a bit precious about it, if I’m honest.
  • While that was going on the Hub had to go to bed again; he always does so much more to help than he should that he never really enjoys Christmas Day because he feels too ill.
  • Then it was plonk in front of the telly for Doctor Who, The Royle Family and other assorted Christmas specials.

You may notice there was no dog walk in that rigid itinerary.  It is the one day of the year that we don’t take them out; there is just too much to do.  The funny thing is, they seem to know.  Hardly surprising, because it is an odd day: everyone is up at the same time; there’s lots of noise, laughter and paper to chew, and a few presents for cute doggies; then they are stuffed full of delicious meat treats all day long.  They didn’t once ask for their walk, and Toby even went to bed early, tired from all the excitement.

The boys went to bed early on Christmas Eve: Tory Boy arrived home just before nine and was shattered from working all day and then the journey home; Spud was just excited.  I went up to do some last-minute wrapping in our room and I heard TB say to his Dad, ‘Isn’t Mum going to read us The Night Before Christmas?’  Let me remind you that Tory Boy is twenty.  However, reading The Night Before Christmas to the boys on Christmas Eve is one of our longest-held traditions, so that’s what I did.  And I was glad to; it is Christmas, after all.

*

Answer: A bottle of Joop perfume.  How did you do?

This became one of my favourite perfumes by accident.  Back in my Cosmo-reading days I often saw Joy advertised as the most expensive perfume in the world and regularly told the Hub I would love to own some.  Once he started travelling for his job he spent a lot of time in Duty Free buying guilt gifts for Tory Boy and me; he proudly came home one day with a bottle of the most expensive perfume in the world, which he had found strangely reasonably priced.  He had confused the name, of course; but I didn’t mind because Joop is a lovely perfume.

But I have still never smelled Joy; never mind owning some.

Opening Presents On Christmas Morning

27 Dec

No one is allowed into the lounge until tea has been madeEven in lean years presents go deep under the tree.

He got what he wanted.

The gift is the frame; the artwork was for Mother’s Day

Tory Boy seemed happy with his spoils

So was Spud

The dogs helped us unwrap

They weren’t left out

My Boxing Day

26 Dec

 

 

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