Sunday, 21 December 2008

We Wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

On one Christmas Eve, many years ago, I overheard the following conversation between two middle aged ladies:

1st lady - "Are you all ready then"?

2nd lady - "No kid - and I always say, if Christmas never came I still wouldn't be ready".

It made me smile then and I have often remembered that conversation at this time of year when there seems so much still to be done.

However, this year I'm really quite well organised. The house is decorated, all ready for a certain little 4 year old, presents are wrapped and under the tree, the
cakes are iced, one for us, one for daughter and one for a friend. As well as that most of the food shopping has been done.

DD and GD are due to arrive this evening and this will probably be my last post until after Christmas, though I may look in a couple of times.

So now, OH and I would like to wish all blogging friends a very happy and peaceful Christmas and best wishes for 2009.

For a jolly Christmas greeting, click here

A x

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A Christmas Carol

A few evenings ago OH answered the door to some carol singers. He heard them out then found them some coins. He said he had asked them "is this a practice because you need to improve before Christmas"! Oh dear!

I didn't hear them but I have heard this lovely carol being sung by Enya and thought what a beautiful version it is. You could click on her name to hear for yourself.

If you wish to see another version of this with the translation, once you are on the relevant page, just click on the first of the related videos. The words are slightly different to those most of us are familiar with.

I do hope you enjoy it.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Christmas (iv) - Getting to know you!

Popped over to Gill - That British Woman's blog and came across this:

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Okay, here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just change all the answers so that they apply to you. You are all's Christmas after all and I don't want to leave anyone out!

1.Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both if there happens to be more than one parcel per person or if we have several going to one household.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Artificial - I do love real ones and the scent of them and don't even mind the needle drop - for me it's just easier.

3. When do you put up the tree? It varies - this year the first weekend in December.

4. When do you take the tree down? Again it varies - but usually leave it up as long as possible.

5. Do you like eggnog? Yes but haven't had any for ages. Perhaps I'll put it on the shopping list for this year!

6. Favourite gift received as a child? I suppose it must be the one I remember best - a doll's crib, draped in blue. My cousin had one in pink. They were both from Santa!

7. Hardest person to buy for? My mother. She tells me there is nothing she wants then a week or two before Christmas buys herself something which would have been perfect! Sound familiar to anyone?

8. Easiest person to buy for? My daughter or the grand-children.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes - we have two. One is traditional and the other is for tealights.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards. Mostly mail but some email too - some of the animated cards are fun.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I don't know.

12. Favourite Christmas Movie? Scrooge - and I'll always watch "The Great Escape" whatever the time of year!

13. When do you start shopping? I suppose as soon as Christmas over if I see something in the sales but usually like to leave it until November. Love the Christmas atmosphere - not the crowds though.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Possibly.

15. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas? Christmas pudding with brandy cream.

16. Lights on the tree? 200

17. Favourite Christmas song? I don't really have a favourite but love to hear Kirsty McCall's " Fairy Tale of New York", Johnny Mathis "When a Child is Born" and any carol being sung by a choir.

18, Travel at Christmas or stay home? Usually at home, with family round. A couple of times at daughter's and one year travelled to Australia on Boxing Day.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes, I think so - if given time to think about it.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Small angel with a star.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Worrying about whether I've bought the right thing!

23. Favourite ornament theme or color? Red and gold

24. Favourite for Christmas dinner? Turkey with ALL the trimmings and Christmas pud with brandy cream.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? It would be nice to know that everyone, children especially, were being cared for but for me - a new cosy dressing gown and some new books.

I thought that was fun - hope you join in - will look forward to reading your responses!

Portrait of Words - Mr X's Plan

This is my entry for December's Portrait of Words. Why not have a go yourself?

Mr X's Plan

Mr X was a man with a plan! It had been forming in his mind for some little while and he had even put the initial part of it into action. He was just having to take his time for the rest to come to fruition and during that time he was "fine-tuning" the final details.

He didn't think of himself as a happy man, in fact for the most part he felt as though his life was just passing him by. That was why the time had come for action. He was in his early 50's and married to Mrs X for the past 20 years. They were not a happy couple, probably never had been really happy and he had often wondered how it was that they had ever taken that final marital step. They had met, through friends, at a party and had paired up because it seemed they were the only ones there who had come alone. He had asked her out and their relationship had just gone on from there. Thinking back to those early days he recalled that there had been some happy times and supposed it was then when he had suggested they get married. She hadn't exactly been eager, had just sort of gone along with it. They didn't have much money to spare so had a civil ceremony in a local registry office. He had no family, she only a sister, who couldn't come anyway so it was just the two of them with witnesses asked in from the street. She liked yellow roses and so he had bought her a single long stem and joked that when they were rich he would buy her a whole bunch of them. But they hadn't got rich and life had become humdrum quite early on.

They lived in a third floor apartment, moving there about a year after they were married. There were no children, never ever any signs of a pregnancy and for the past 10 years they had slept in separate bedrooms. They had grown apart. It was because of this situation that the first inklings of his plan had come about. Not for the first few years of his almost solitary existance, but slowly thoughts had crept into his mind and for the past 5 years he had been working on a scheme that would set them free from the rut they had got themselves into. It was a slow process but if he was careful it could and would work.

They both worked, he as a sales rep and she as an assistant in a care home. Each morning she left the apartment before he did, returning slightly before him, but they had very little contact now. Mrs X got her meals at work so only snacked at home, and he usually ate at cafes and restaurants during the week, during the course of his work. Weekends she went out with friends, shopping or whatever, holidays she spent with her sister who was now living about 40 miles away. He went to football matches or just watched TV. To all intents and purposes they lived separate lives and he had had enough. His dream was to own a small-holding out in the country somewhere, with a few animals and enough land to grow vegetable and fruit, maybe to sell at a local market.

His plan started to form when one night he had gone out with some friends to a casino and had spectacular luck on the roulette wheel. He had come away with winnings equal to six months wages. Once back at home he decided to keep the winning news to himself and thought about where to put the money. He and Mrs X did not have a joint bank account and he did not want to put the money into his sole account in case somehow she found out about it. He decided to hide it in one of the inside pockets of his old fishing jacket which hung in the cupboard in his room, knowing that it would be undiscovered there as she never came into his room anyway, as far as he knew.

So having had one win he thought that if he was careful he might be able to add to his winnings and save a really tidy sum of money, enough to get away from here and maybe start to live the dream, before it was all too late.

And so it began. First of all he needed to keep it a secret from Mrs X. Her bedroom was at the front of the apartment, close to the door, so he decided that once she had gone to bed at night he would sneak out, down the fire escape, thus avoiding making any noise which might arouse her suspicions. He didn't go out every night, just 3 nights in a week and never touched his initial winnings, wanting to keep that intact, just adding to it whenever he came home ahead. Well that worked OK for the first few weeks but then one evening when he got home from work she asked why he hadn't answered the phone the night before, it had rung and rung, disturbing her. He had to admit that he had gone out, making the excuse that he had had a few beers with a work colleague. Because of that he decided to buy an answering machine and when she questioned why, he said that it would cut out the nuisance calls from sales people that seemed to be increasing these days.

She looked doubtful but merely raised her eyebrows and said nothing. He set the answerphone up to ring only twice before the message cut in, figuring that if she did happen to hear it ring, it wouldn't really disturb her.

He kept going with his plan. Three nights almost every week he would quietly make his way down the fire escape, drive to the casino, stay a few hours then drive home, back up the fire escape again and creep back into the apartment. He would check the answerphone before going to bed, but there were rarely any messages. Little by little his "pot" increased. He knew that if it was in a savings account he would be earning interest on it but determined to carry on the way he was for a while longer. There were some weeks when he had no luck at all but every now and again he won a substantial amount which helped to make up for the bad times. Then, one night he seemed to be on a winning streak and again won a sizeable sum of money - almost a jackpot! Lady Luck was certainly with him. Back at home he counted his stache and whistled quietly when he realised that he now had enough to put the next part of his plan into action. He had worked out that once he had enough for a deposit on a property and to keep him going for a couple of years until he was on his feet, he would do just that. He didn't want to rush into anything. On his travels he had come across a few areas that would be perfect and he kept his eye on those localities for just the right place to come up. Lately there had been a couple and now the time had come for him to take the next step.

The next day was hot and sunny and he dressed casually, in shorts and trainers. As soon as the coast was clear he made a couple of phone calls. First to work, calling in sick, then to the local esate agents to set up appointments to view the properties he has his eye on. He would see both places that he was interested in later that morning. He took enough of his money to pay a holding deposit, should he find something suitable.

By the afternoon he had made a decision on the one he wanted and paid the deposit. He would go back to the apartment, pick up the rest of his money and then leave, alone, to begin a new life.

As he arrived back at the apartment he saw his wife getting into a taxi. She saw him too but didn't acknowledge him and the cab moved away.

He stood, watching and wondering where she was going at this time of the day when she would normally be at work. He went on up to the apartment and as soon as he got inside he saw the flowers - on the table next to the answerphone was a bunch of yellow roses. The answerphone light was flashing and he checked the message. It was from his wife. "Its me, you said when we got rich you would buy me a whole bunch of yellow roses. I just got rich so I left a bunch for you. Goodbye".

Light suddenly dawned and he rushed into his bedroom. The cupboard door was open and there on the bed was his old fishing jacket .............

To look at more Portraits of Words and/or to join in click here.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Christmas (iii) - Getting into the Christmas Spirit

I have just spent a few days with my daughter. She lives in Stratford upon Avon and it is always a pleasure to go there, mostly because I am able to spend time with my girl and her little girl but also because Stratford is such a lovely place to visit.

However part of the reason for going this time was to finish Christmas shopping and to see my grand-daughter in her first school play - she was a snowflake!

The evening I arrived we went to the school for the "Christmas Fayre". All sorts of things going on and the children having loads of fun, extracting cash out of parents for face painting, transfers, secret Santa presents etc. It was ex SIL's weekend to have little girl and they were already there when we arrived. We spent about 45 minutes with them then left them to it and made our way home, fortunately just around the corner.

The next two days were spent quite leisurely and with no rushing about I got most of my shopping finished. There was plenty of Christmas atmosphere in the town, it is beautifully decorated and the lights are wonderful. There were the usual buskers as well. One, a young lad possibly about 14, was playing a banjo and was very good. We wondered if his mum knew what he was doing and decided that she would guess on Christmas morning!

Another was a one man band and his dog. We spotted them as we were making our way to another part of the town and looked for them on the way back. By then they had gathered quite a crowd. The man was playing Christmas songs and carols and occasionally at the end of a "verse/line" would lean towards the dog who then barked. Then he said "over to you Bessie" and the dog sat up, raised her head and howled a few bars. It was very entertaining.

On Monday morning we went to buy a Christmas tree, set it in place and got the lights on it. When my grand-daughter arrived home from school we put on some Christmas music and all three of us decorated the tree. Lovely.

Tuesday was school play day. My daughter had not been able to get me a ticket as, predictably, they are hard to come by. Disappointing but not a problem - I intended to do some ironing for her while she was gone. I had just switched on the iron when the phone rang. There was room and she was holding my seat! Switched iron off, donned coat and boots and raced along to the school arriving just as the children were filing into the hall. Phew!

They performed "The Little Fir Tree". It was lovely. All the children had a part, the older ones having had to learn a line. One little girl had tears in her eyes and sobbed through hers! I did have a tissue handy (for me). Did I mention that my grand-daughter was a snowflake. She and all the other snowflakes were dressed in white (obviously), the sunbeams were in yellow and the raindrops in blue. It was charming. All the children did well but of course most of my attention was on the reception year and GD in particular. I love to see those little ones, all a bit uncertain as to exactly what is going on and watching one another in order to make the right moves. I was so thrilled to have seen it. The second performance was on Wednesday evening and ex SIL would be going to that one.

For me those few days set the Christmas scene. It is what it is all about. Forget the parties with music so loud you have to shout to be heard. I've done all of that in my youth anyway, without the shouting!

So, now at home, I'm getting back into the preparations. Have to finish decorating the house as DD and GD will be with us, as well as wrapping presents and icing cakes.

In the words of the song "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas"

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Christmas (ii) - A Cool Shepherd

Over the years, like most families, we have accumulated lots of different Christmas decorations. Some lasted only a short time, either getting broken or, dare I say it, becoming unfashionable. However quite a few have stood the test of time, are rediscovered each year and set in their customary place of honour.

One such was made by my son when he first started school, so he would have been 5 years old. Each year this is placed beneath our Christmas tree and after the festivities are over is reverently wrapped up and carefully stowed away again for another eleven months.

A few years ago our eldest grand-daughter, then about 5 years old herself, asked me about it and I told her how her uncle had made it at school when he was about her age. She looked at it and then at me and said "I think it's really cool".

So do I.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

SkyWatch Friday

A windy day at the beach

The Quantock Hills are in the distance

If you wish to take part in Skywatch Friday or just look at skies around the world, click here.

Christmas (i) - Any room at the Inn?

Well Christmas is fast approaching and I have to admit that I love all the preparations. This is the first Christmas I have not been at work and all the jobs which always seemed to take days, writing cards for example, are being completed in a relatively short time. So with puddings and cakes made (cakes not iced yet though) I decided to start trimming the house. OH kindly got into the loft for the boxes of decorations and I have been unpacking some of them and replacing our usual ornaments with various seasonal ones. In one of the boxes was the little nativity scene which is now well over 30 years old. I think it cost me about £4 and although at the time money was a bit tight I did decide to buy it and have always loved it.

Anyway, seeing it again reminded me of a nativity story I heard a few years ago.

A friend of mine has a nephew who was chosen to be the Innkeeper in his school nativity. He would have been about 4 or 5 years old. Rehearsals done it was time
for them to play to their audience and the relevant scene went something like this:

Mary and Joseph arrive at the Inn. Joseph knocks on the door. Door opened by Innkeeper.

Joseph - " .... have you a room for the night"?

Innkeeper - "yes, come in".

Voice off - "you are supposed to say "sorry there's no room at the Inn" "

Innkeeper - "but they can have my room"

Bless his heart - the true spirit of Christmas.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Watery Wednesday

If you wish to take part in WateryWednesday or simply look at photos from around the world, click here.

I visited Adelaide Zoo earlier this year with my 8 year old grandson and he borrowed my camera to take these shots.