The house is feeling surprisingly quiet and empty this afternoon, as my Christmas guests have departed, and so after a week, it's back to being just me and the cats!
But it has been lovely!
My parents arrived on Wednesday, after I finished work, and so were here to help me put the tree and other decorations up on Christmas Eve.
We had a very civilised, relaxed day on Christmas Day itself, with lots of nice gifts (including several books I wanted! ) Which was delightful!
Then a couple of days after Christmas we went to see my younger sister and her partner, and our brother and his girlfriend, and one of my aunts, and my uncle,and one of their sons, all also came, so we enjoyed a pub lunch (albeit with somewhat hit-and-miss service) and lots of catching up.And some more gifts.
Then yesterday, my sister and brother-in-law, her in-laws and step-daughter (and dog) all came over for lunch, so all in all, I got to see my entire immediate family over the holidays.
I have a couple more days off work, and am going to London to the theatre at the weekend, before heading back to work on Monday.
I am planning, therefore, to be extremely lazy for the next day or two, in the hope of being well-rested before returning to work.
I'm lucky that, at least so far, we have escaped the worst of the storms and floods. It's been very wet and windy, and my back fence has collapsed,which is annoying, but the house remains warm and dry. (The fence was already in a bad way, but I was hoping it would last another few months until I could get it replaced at the same time as the other work I want to have done in the garden.) However, a fallen fence is nothing compared with what people in York and other parts of the country have been suffering!
The kittens, of course, helped. In their own way.
As even the youngest members of the party were well into their 30s, we were able to have a nice, civilized, lie-in, and then stockings and croissants and cooking and gifts and champagne and gifts and eating and such like.
It was low key, but very pleasant.
And then on 27th my brother came down for a flying visit, overlapping with my sister and her partner for a few hours. He was only able to stay for one night, but it was lovely to see him.
Today, my mum and dad left, so it's back to me and the kittens (well, me, the kittens, and about 4 tonnes of chocolate. And the remains of a turkey. I shall be making stock this afternoon!)
I have another couple of days off before I need to go back to work, so hopefully I shall have time to unwind a little and, I hope, to get over the nasty head-cold I have been suffering from...
I hope all of you have had a good time over the holidays, whether or not you were celebrating christmas!
Fortunately it seemed to get better rather than worse as my journey progressed, and by the time I arrived ( with the journey having taken about 40 minutes longer than usual) it had stopped raining (temporarily!)
|Christmas Morning church|
My younger sister and her partner were at my parents for a pre-christmas visit, and we overlapped for about 24 hours - long enough to catch up, exchange gifts, and to cooperate in decorating the Christmas Tree.
Christmas Day itself was fairly quiet - we went to church to ring in the morning, and admired the church full of christmas trees, each decorated by a different group.
|Ringer's tree (Or Dalek)|
The ringers have a bell-shaped tree (or possibly a Dalek in deep disguise)
We got home for second breakfast to discover that the heating element from the oven had blown, but happily my Dad was able to jury-rig the oven to work, by the careful deployment of a large baking tray to turn the grill into an oven-style heating element which, combined with the use of the fan part of the defunct oven setting, allowed us not only to bake out croissants, but also to cook a full Christmas Dinner.
Which was a relief. I'm sure we would have managed, if we'd needed to, with the little cooker in the caravan, the hob, and the microwave, but it would have been more complicated!
As it was, we were able to eat and drink to excess in the traditional manner, and to open gifts and watch Matthew Bourne's 'Sleeping Beauty' and telephone family members.
It was a Good Day.
Boxing Day brought more socialising as my aunt and uncle, together with my cousin, her husband and son, came over for lunch - I tend only to see them 2 or 3 times a year, so it was good to catch up.
And having a 3 year old visit reminds you of the thrills of Christmas. He was just as excited about everyone else's presents as his own, with lots of jumping and "What is it What is it What is it!?!" And we all enjoyed the reading of 'Fox in Socks', which followed. (Kudos to Granny, who managed to read it aloud and without losing her self control, despite 6 other adults getting the giggles around her as she read..)
I had a quiet time, with my parents and siblings (and a brother in law and sister's partner) - it was consistently wet, with alternating rain and snow,so we didn't end up going for any walks, or indeed leaving the house except briefly to visit other relatives on Boxing Day, but despite, or perhaps because of, the lack of other activities, we had an enjoyable time.
A small cohort of us rang for the local church service on Christmas morning, we all (including Tybalt) watched the goldfinches and tits on the birdfeeders outside, Tybalt met [one of] the cats who live next door, and also had a lot of fun playing 'wrong side of the door' (my parents house has a *lot* more doors than mine does, AND they have carpets, which means that he cannot be left to scrabble at the door, as this leads rapidly to scratched carpets, which is Not On.
He didn't succeed in getting to the turkey, despite his many attempts.
I returned home yesterday, and have today and tomorrow at home before I go back to work. I've come home with a nasty cold, so I'm not planning to stay up late tonight - I think I shall have an early (and solitary!) celebratory glass of cava and then go to bed early to help fight off this cold!
2012 has been a very mixed year, with a lot of personal and work-related stress, and family-related happiness. I'm hoping 2013 will be more even, and better, on a personal level.
And I hope it will prove to be a happy and successful year for all my friends out there in the internets!
I caught up with a little shopping (standard, non-christmassy things) and tidied up the garden a bit - it's been so very wet and cold that I haven't had any opportunity to clear up the last of the leaves, for instance.
This evening, I decided to go to the the Service of 9 Lessons and Carols at the local church - I'm not a frequent church-goer, but there is something special about singing carols with lots of others, and to take a little time for quiet reflection.
I had mixed feelings about the service. On the one hand, the church is beautiful - I forget, between visits, that it has a roof full of angels with gilded wings, and they had some beautiful crimson and gold flowers today, too.
The church was pretty full, which is always good for the singing. And the carols we got to sing were all "proper" ones - the traditional ones which everyone knows. I was however disappointed that whoever is in charge if the choir had decided that this would be a good opportunity to show off their skills, and make more than half of the carols 'choir only'. This is fine if you have maybe one or two less well known carols which the choir can perform, but to have seven and a half (out of 14) restricted to the choir, including 3 and a half well known carols (which were sung to the usual tunes, and with the normal words, so there were no special circumstances to justify excluding the congregation) seemed to me excessive. Particularly as the choir's level of talent and skill was not so great that you could lose yourself in the music. So that was a little disappointing.
Still, despite that, I did enjoy most of the service, and I'm glad I went. It never feels quite like christmas without at least one church service..
I had a day off today, so have been catching up with various errands, on the basis that shopping and such are likely to be less stressful today, than on Saturday when no doubt everywhere will be busier.
I had planned to have a nice lie-in before starting everything else, but naturally, having made that plan, I then work up at about 5.30 and couldn't get back to sleep, so ended up getting up in disgust a little earlier than on a normal working day. And as there's a lot of cloud around, I couldn't even take the opportunity to try to spot some of the Geminid shower.
After all the ice and frost of the last few days, it's turned very wet (somehow without feeling any less cold, which seems illogical) so I had no encouragement to linger when I got into town.
This morning involved:
- A trip to the Post Office, to post 9 parcels (amazingly, I didn't need to queue, which I am quite sure would not be the case on Saturday morning!)
- A trip to Boots, to pick up my repeat prescriptions to ensure that I don't run out of anything over christmas.
- A trip to the vet, to ensure that Tybalt doesn't run out of his meds over christmas
- A trip to the paper shop to pay my account off, and sort out what papers I want when.
- A trip to Big Supermarket, initially just to pick up an extra pint of milk, and some chocolates to take into work, but in fact, as it turned out, also to pick up some booze and chocolates, mostly either as gifts or to take with me to share over christmas.
Then this afternoon I made a start on wrapping gifts for the people I shall be spending time with over christmas (unless I've forgotten something, all the ones which need to be posted, have now been posted) I'm starting to feel just a little bit festive..
It was a lovely, relaxing time. My younger sister, and my brother were both there, too (My elder sister was with her out-laws) On Christmas Eve we decorated the tree (we also decorated my brother, in order to allow him to prove to sceptical friends that he can do Festive if he wishes, but I promised not to post that particular photo on the internet, so you will have to imagine it!)
The tree was decorated to within an inch of its life. We have 40 years worth of decorations, and E declared that the aim was to make it "As gaudy as possible". I think it's fair to say we met those specifications!
On Christmas Day, my parents and I went to the church, to ring the bells. Ringing is a long term hobby of theirs, and all four of us were taught, as a matter of course, as children, but none of us currently rings regularly.
When my mum and dad moved down to Devon, after retiring, there was no regular band in the village, but a little over a year ago, they agreed to teach a local band.
The learners have now reached the point where they can ring rounds (i.e. all 6 bells ringing together) and this is the first Christmas they have been able to ring for Christmas Morning.
I went along to help out, and I recorded a snatch of the ringing when I wasn't joining in. It isn't great ringing (The aim is for the bells to ring evenly, with the same gap between each 'strike', but this is very good considering how short a time they have been learning, and the fact that they've all been learning together - it is much easier if you are the one learner and everyone else can just ring in the right place regardless of whether or not you do!)
The village church had been decorated for Christmas - there were around 30 different trees - I think all of the different groups, such as the pre-school, the school etc. had all decorated trees, and others were themed. Guess which of the three below was the bell-ringers' tree?
My mum and I stayed for the service (partly to support one of the ringers, who was leading it, as a lay-reader) which I enjoyed, even though I prefer the Prayer Book and King James' Bible to 'Mission Praise' and and 'Good News'. We got 3 proper carols, which is pretty much all I ask of a Christmas day service!
Then on Boxing Day we played host to my Uncle and Aunt, and to my cousin, her husband and their 14 month old son, who I haven't seen since he was 3 months old. |He's much bigger now, and crawling very fast. He was fascinated by the Christmas Tree, but as there were 9 adults around he was thwarted in all his attempts to clamber up it or take things off it! I particularly enjoyed watching him with my brother and my dad (both of whom are very good with small children, despite their best efforts to pretend otherwise!)
Friday night was our office Christmas Party - I wasn't feeling terribly festive but I think it went reasonably well. The Christmas trees are up in our receptions, at work, and the lights are up in the town centres, and I am beginning to look forward to seeing my family, and have done most of my shopping. Having lots of cards to send to friends in America spurred me on to organise myself, in order to catch the last posting date, so my inland cards went pretty promptly, too (am now sitting back, to wait for the first card to show up from someone I've forgotten to send one to, or for whom I don't have an address.....
Next task is to pack up the gifts for people I won't be seeing, in order to post them. This is bound to involve a lot of queueing, I fear..
Today, my (2nd) cousin came over for lunch, and to drop of gifts for my family and my (1st) cousins, who I shall be seeing and she
won't. it was a nice lunch, though I do say so myself. I made Beouf Bourgignon, served with jacket potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower. And as a bonus, I find there are enough lefftovers for me to have it again, another day, which I was not expecting!
I have been having some issues with my central heating, which I only realised when it got very cold earlier this week - I found that one (the biggest - it would be) of my 3 radiators wasn't getting hot. I thought that |step one would be to bleed it, and this caused me to realise that, to my shame, I've never done this and had no idea how it was done. Fortunately, Twitter knows everything, so I got answers within minutes, and then had to go out and buy a radiator key ( and picked up a spare heater at the same time, to tide me over) Unfortunately, bleeding it does not seem to have worked as far as acheiving actual warmth is concerned (although it worked quite well as far as getting dirty water around the living room was concerned!)
I belive that the next step is flushing it and add inhibitor, but I think I shall need a plumber for that step. *sigh* Still, at least I have plug-in heater I just bought, to prevent me getting hypothermia in the mean time. (and over Christmas I shall be staying with my parents, and they have lots and lots of loverly central heating, even upstairs!)
I think next weekend I shall perhaps get further into the festive spirit by making some mince pies.
On Monday, on of my colleagues who is a member of a local shoot, gave me 2 brace of pheasant. He explained that he'd brought 4 birds as some of them were quite small, which was kind of him, but rather overlooked the fact that there is only one of me, so even a small pheasant goes quite a long way!
Anyway, I decided that I lacked the patience to pluck that many birds, so I skinned them (well, 3 of them) instead, which is much quicker, and two of them were casseroled with cider and apples (which worked very well - and which leaves me with at least 3 more servings in the freezer, for high-quality dining the next few times I don't want to cook properly!) One went to a friend, and the last one is in the freezer (jointed and de-feathered. Putting a feathery one in the freezer would be weird) awaiting further inspiration.
Tuesday evening was spent with relatives - my Dad's cousin M (a very young 80 year-old) invited me over for dinner, and to see our mutual cousin, J (who is the one I visit in London, and go to the theatre with, and who is the same age as my dad) I enjoyed the evening - it's nice to have a meal which I haven't had to cook for myself, and it was also very pleasant to simply sit and chat.
Then I managed to do some early Christmas shopping, as I found myself in Bath at lunch time, after going to court, which meant I DIDN'T need to go in on Saturday, which was a bonus! It meant I got to go to the library on Saturday, instead. And to catch up with chores at home, which is good, as things are now tidier with fewer heaps-of-stuff. And I got to read two Amelia Peabody novels over the weekend.
The Bath Christmas Market has opened this week - lots of nice things, although as I get older and crankier I find I'm less and less willing to buy the kind of things which will be amusing for 10 minutes, and then will gather dust for the rest of their existence. In fact, what with that trip, and the wonders of online shopping, I've done a lot of my shopping - just have Awkward Men, a 5 year-old boy and a few stocking fillers still to do. Which is good. It means I don't have to get too stressed about shopping. although I will have the wonderful queueing-in-the-post-office with parcels event to do.
And I just realised that the stamps I have for sticking on cards for the USA all have George III's portrait on them. They beat him in the end, so no ones going to be offended, right?
This weekend I have a day-trip to London coming up - I'm meeting up with my cousin J and his partner, and we're having lunch and then seeing the Southwark Playhouse's production of Diana Wynne Jones' 'Howl's Moving Castle' - should be interesting.
I think I am both fortunate, and perhaps unusual, in that I get on well with my (born)family, and the various component parts of the family all get along pretty well, too. Which is good a lot of the time, but particularly at Christmas, when the idea of being gathered together near the middle of no-where with all of my immediate family is something to look forward to, and enjoy, rather than to view as an endurance test.
There was a certain amount of tree-decoration going on - mostly consisting of my mother decking the tree while 4 offspring and one partner-of-offspring offered "helpful" advice and constructive critisism. In the true spirit of Christmas she refrained from decking us too!
I found out last week that I had a day of holiday left from this year's entitlement, so I booked it for today.
I feel I have used it wisely.
There is, I think, very little which is more pleasurable than being able to lie in bed, and in the smug knowledge that all around you other people are having to get up and go out to work. Not, I hasten to add, that I stayed there all morning, but just an extra hour can sometimes make a lot of difference.
Most of the rest of the day was taken up with various jobs - I went and queued in the Post office to send Christmas gifts to friends and family members: It appears that the last posting date for posting 2nd class post in time for Christmas was yesterday, but I decided to risk it and send everything 2nd class anyway - none of the people I was sending stuff to are young enough to get upset if their Christmas presents are a day or two late, and anyway, I have a vast and touching faith in Royal Mail, and secretly believe that they will get there on time despite the late posting! We shall see.
I also did some shopping (mainly food) and some cooking - mostly the time-consuming stuff for the things I'm planning to cook at the weekend when my friends come to stay. Then I did a second lot of shopping to buy the things I forgot the first time, such as the camembert, which is destined to be studded with garlic, and baked into cheesy submission, and the lasagna dish, as I realised that the only dish I have is fine for making lasagna for one, but that I don't have a dish suitable for making lasagna. Just as well I realised today, and not, say, on saturday morning with a sheet of lasagna in one hand and a spoonful of sauce in the other...
And as it was, after all, my day off, I also found time to watch a little TV (A very old episode of StarTrek TNG, since you ask) and to have a lovely long hot bath accompanied by a murder mystery and and a nice cup of tea.
It didn't snow here, despite the weather forecast. It was however, cold. Tybalt managed to get into my bed, under the duvet (which he knows is not allowed, at least until he learns to wipe his feet first) twice - the second time despite my not only having made the bed, but also most unfairly having tucked the throw in all the way round to stop him... Of course, if he had been paying more attention, he might have noticed that as I was at home, I'd turned the heating on all day, so downstairs (where there are radiators) was much warmer than upstairs (where there are not).
Tomorrow I shall be back at work, and have the questionable pleasure of a meeting with Social Services to look forward to.