Life, photos but not the universe

All gone, start again….

The last to go was Eldest, yesterday, in a flurry of missing items and breakfast.  I believe  Youngest and Mr Youngest weren’t enormously pleased to be woken early in case he’d left a camera at their house on Boxing Day.  I suppose they were lucky that he left later than intended, due to having stayed up later than intended last night.

Eldest and I share a deep reluctance to go to bed early just because we have to get up early – the difference is, I spend those last hours obsessively scouring the place for possible left behind items and then blog/read/whatever till the even smaller hours.  He does whatever social networking he does, reads, listens to music and watches films all at once until the even smaller hours and then decides that tomorrow will do for packing – as he intends to get up early.  Hence the flurry.

Neither method gets us to places on time but at least mine means I usually get there with everything I need.

I apologise to Eldest for passing on this night-owl trait.

Anyway, He should now be safely home in the far frozen North even if he was delayed on the M6.  So I finally decided it was ok to phone him and see if he found his camera and got home safely and to tell him what else he’s left here.  Predictably, he’s not answering his phone.  This probably means he’s gone out or that he’s now sleeping the sleep of the very, very tired after his late night, early morning and long, foggy drive.  And his ex, who was going to return the shared dog hasn’t rung to ask why he’s not there to receive it so I assume he did get back.**

Meanwhile, the New Year hastens towards us in a flurry of tidying and party preparations.  (I will be so relaxed when the party season is over!)  And I’m supposed to be tidying the dinig room and sitting rooms ready for tonight.

Lots of love to you all.  I hope you will have a good evening and a splendid celebration tonight.

*shrug*.  Once you’ve had children, the being a parent never stops.

**He did.

December 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Watcha get for Christmas then? (Last year : )

I got some snuggly slipper boots and a thermal baselayer and a photojojo token and an album full of photos of NGB and a set of herb pots and a Gertrude Jekyll rose and a very warm fleece  jacket,  Oh and an envelope with Universal Tokens in it and a whole lot of love.

Guess what was best : )

Boxing day at Youngest’s was predictably exciting, delicious, merry and cuddly.  Also very very exhausting!  Grandma fell asleep on the sofa while games were being organised and then panicked a lot when they were being played.  Grandad didn’t actually fall asleep but became suddenly ready-to-go-home-now at about 8 oclock.

The turkey was simply wonderfully cooked (even though Grandma and Grandad were an hour late, due to a midnight conversation on Christmas Day between Mr Youngest and Grandad in which it was suggested that dinner would probably be at about 6pm rather than 3pm which was was Youngest’s plan, or 4pm which was what happened).

There were smoked salmon towers, stuffed with something delicious, turkey with all the trimmings and then some and Christmas pudding icecream.  I think there would have been cheese with madeira wine but we were all so completely stuffed that it fell by the wayside – though who knows, it may have come out later when we were gone.

Meanwhile, the three Gorgeous Grandbabes and New gorgeous Babe were utterly delightful.  Youngest Youngest who has been a bit of a small male handful up until recently, was absolutely charming and very funny (he’s seven) and I can see that in a year or ten, Mums will be torn between locking up their daughters and making a play for him themselves.

As for the two girls, they were as beautiful, clever and cuddly as ever.  It’s a tribute to both Mr and Mrs Youngest that we are unable to distinguish in affection or enjoyment between Youngest’s own Gorgeous Babe and the two that came with Mr Youngest.  Of course, we have special grandparently memories with Gorgeous Babe and that’s as it should be but the other two treat their Step Grandparents with as much affection and respect as anyone could wish for.

Now New Year’s Eve is hurtling towards us at the speed of traffic jams.  At this moment I am procrastinating for all I’m worth – I have to go and shop!  Yesterday, Eldest and I went to Reading and spent a good two hours in stationary traffic – hoping to get into that exciting shopping frenzy before the shops closed!  We made it – and it was quite fun : )

December 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Well we did all that

Cooking, presents, eating, carousing, games, a couple of photos, babies …. (only the one baby but she did give me giggles).

Now they’ve nearly all gone to bed – just me and Eldest at our computers (well actually he’s borrowing my netbook as he forgot his charger) are still up, as we have been so many times before in the middle of the night when everyone else has gone to bed.

It’s been a lovely Christmas for us – I’m going to say this quickly before we all wake up and rush about and sibling things and parental things raise their boring heads and cause ructions – and it’s so deeply satisfying and happy-making to have the sense that all these dear people – our people – are sleeping (or computering) through the night under our roof.

There have been lots and lots of troubles the young ones have had to deal with and after all, they still come here and are more loveable and more wonderful every year.

Blessed is the only word.  And it seems important to say that though trouble still visits our children and they still bring those troubles here occasionally,  they have become, and continue to be, our friends as well as our children.

It’s just another happy Christmas picture but as long as there’s a little happiness to spread around it seems like the best thing to do.

(I really, really wish I knew how to get them all in focus at once though)


Mrs Middle and Little Middle


Oh well, and Jess too.

And tomorrow,,we get to,see (Older) Gorgeous Babe and the two wonderful Step Grand Babes as well.

Blessed.  And somewhat sleepy and oh I suppose it’s time to bumble off to bed.

Sleep well.


December 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Oh! Oops! It’s Christmas Eve!


Have a wonderful Festive, joyful Season with lots of lovely food, music and presents.  Perhaps more to the point, with friends, families and pets.

I’m wishing you all, as hard as I can, the absolute best for the day and the days after and sending you love and, I dunno – nice stuff.

Also, thanking you kindly for all the wonderful, funny, clever, kindly and altogether happy making comments you’ve sent me.  Quality wins every time.


See you the other side if I don’t find time for a last, midnight post.



December 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments


Quite a lot of it.  And more forecast  (though it was also forecast for a couple of days ago too and I didn’t see any falling)

I’ve just thought, with Christmas being on a Saturday, I wonder if the dustbin men will get a day off this year?  and of course, with the snow, I wonder if they’ll come at all.  If they do come, I might even be moved to leave them a little envelope!  It’s going to be a shit Christmas for them if they don’t get a day off.

And then I wondered if we’d still be white for Christmas!  That would be something!  Or, brownish slush puppy coloured anyway, which would be something quite else.

I’m feeling slightly lightened and almost relaxed.   We finished the cards * and I bought nearly all the presents.  Even, I managed to get something slightly more inspiring than a bottle of whisky for one son in law and something educational and interesting rather than ‘nasty’ for the grandson.   Even even, I have all the addresses for all the cards!  This might be a first, though I expect there will still be a small, sad handful of  hand-undelivered ones available for next year.

Anyway, the sudden rapid approach to some festivity or other is causing me all kinds of confusion and disorganisation.  I have made lists and lists of lists and when I go to sleep, I dream of more lists.   I am ticking stuff off them mind, just not quite as fast as things get added to them.  Never mind.  The plastic tree is up and we had lots of fun making its bendy branches look more like what they did ought to look like and then hiding them under decorations.  I have had several conversations with girls on the subject of their individual Christmas concerns (((from which I see that I have handed on my somewhat jaundiced and grumpy view of the festive preparations to Youngest, who, like me has three children, the Christmas happiness of whom to satisfy. ((Every so often I feel the need to pay lip service to that very special grammatical rule which means that all sentences with prepositions must be restructured so that they are almost unintelligible but do not end with any of those prepositions – actually I only bother to do it when the result will actually be as nearly unintelligible as I can make it.   But what can you expect from a woman with a plastic Christmas tree? (((Meanwhile, I can have fun embedding as many clauses, HTML style**, into this restructured sentence, as possible which will undoubtedly make it totally unintelligible.)))***

Did you follow that?  Well done you at the back there – flop down at your desk again and relax.

To continue with the previous paragraph, I have also learnt (not from himself of course) that Eldest is not stuck in a Spanish airport, nor shivering in an inappropriate English one but is back in Lancaster and should still be coming here for Christmas.  To be allowed to see all three of our children at once, twice in one year is a privilege which I shall treasure and which can only be ascribed to my great age.  (Though it may also have happened in the year when Barney reached the same great age – I can’t remember).

The snow is sort of hanging around in a slightly embarrassed and threadbare sort of way, the temperature hasn’t dropped below freezing since the snow fell but no more snow has arrived either.  Today is the big shopping day – food shopping that is.  (I decline to buy any more presents).  So shortly I will be off into the snowy-ish wastes to deliver things and collect things and get rid of things which I’ve thrown out (but they only got as far as the car boot – which is quite far enough to be throwing stuff but I might need the boot before the day is out).  So who knows, I might find time to stop and take a few pictures before it gets too dark.  Or not.  The Dump, the Waitrose car park and our driveway aren’t the most inspiring of places just now.

And I expect the ice in the pond will be less pristine than it was.

Hope you’re all having fun too.

*The day before the last posting date!  This is definitely a first.

**Or  maybe that’s spreadsheet style, I don’t do either of those any more so I don’t remember clearly

***Hmm.  Clauses?  I’m not sure if that’s what those are.Try, ‘confusing insertions which are only very slightly, if at all, related to the sense of the main body of the sentence’

December 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Tree? Plastic? Paper?

I’m feeling a bit dim this morning.  I do most mornings though, so I’m quite safe saying this even if I don’t post it for several days.

Post now!  There’s a thing.  A lot of it about at this time of year.  Just now, a parcel arrived and I could hear the delivery man struggling to get it in the mail box.  After a bit, he rang the bell.  Shortly after that the postman arrived and dropped a whole lot more stuff in the box.  (his load was only envelopes whereas the first one was delivering a floppy parcel)

So all these parcels are arriving – mostly presents I’ve ordered for people.  It’s quite fun getting them (especially as one or two of the parcels contain things I couldn’t resist buying for myself).  And naturally, a lot of Christmas cards.  What’s not arriving is the parcel of Christmas cards I ordered from Redbubble even though they sent me a rather coy message recently about how they’d lovingly and tenderly wrapped and parceled my cards after carefully printing them (how careful do you have to be to press a few buttons and churn out a few photos?  And what exactly is loving and tender about plunking some stuff in a couple of bags, sticking an address label on the front and handing it over to the ‘shipping’ department?)

Also, since we regularly get letters sent to persons unknown at this address, I sometimes worry that my cards will be going somewhere else.  Hmm.

I may have to struggle with my own printer and make some address labels for us – by the time these cards arrive it’ll be getting late!

For years and years, in spite of heaps and carpets of pine needles, of the impossibility of reaching the switch to turn off the lights and the sheer inconvenience of having a large prickly thing filling most of the sitting room, Barney has insisted on having a BIG natural Christmas tree.   I have become accustomed or resigned or something.

Suddenly, this year, he’s wondering if life would be easier with a plastic one.  Well that’s a no-brainer!  But do we want a plastic (small, fold-away, ready lit, non-shedding) one?  We have three real ones in the garden, one of which died last year.  Eventually we gave up on rooted ones since it seemed wasteful to throw them away and we need a little pine forest in the garden like we need another big hole to dig.  (Not).  We still have last year’s rootless one, lurking around in the undergrowth.

And, infuriatingly I am suddenly reluctant to give up the pleasure of a living, slightly pine scented (unmanageably large, needle shedding, prickly, inconvenient)  tree for Christmas.  I must be nuts?

Oh well, I shall wrestle with Outlook and Word and attempt to produce labels which don’t need editing.  By the time I’ve done that I shall be nuts and I will be able to view plastic simplicity with approval.  It’s not as though there aren’t a few trees still around out there and the outdoor ones come with sunsets and moons attached.


December 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Low energy = low light or even darkness?

We’re having a light crisis.  Not only are all the light bulbs giving up (as many of the long-life, low-energy ones as the old fashioned kind – which are becoming hard to find now) but at least two of the light fixtures have given up too!  No sooner do we replace one than another goes out – and as Barney rather crossly pointed out the other day, there’s not much point in saving energy by just not working.

Never mind.  I have many candles.

And also a good friend in the local fire brigade.

Anyway, I was looking at my flickr activity today and I noticed that the two photos I posted of the air ambulance arriving after the accident in August, had been favoured, so being curious about the choice of favourite, I looked at the photos of the person who did it.  Couldn’t help smiling a bit as he seems to be a bit of an emergency vehicle anorak.  He has pages and pages of photos of police cars and motor bikes, fire engines and ambulances.  For instance, a very rare TVP Vauxhall Astra van.


Well what can you say?  I’m sure there are even more odd things that people lust after.  Come to think of it, I know a lad who used to collect milk bottles.  He occasionally took his collection to Milk Bottle Collectors conventions.  Really.

And Barney would like a book for Christmas called “The Englishman who posted himself (and other curious things)”.  There really was one Reginald Bray who did this and spent a lifetime devising surprising and improbable ways to test the abilities of the British postal service.  I suspect the book is going to be quite fascinating.

It’s a good thing though, don’t you think, that people are prepared to love and study and collect weird things?  It’s bit like those odd little plastic or metal knobbles and screws and shapes that you find on the floor and can’t throw away in case one day you discover the thing of which they are a vital missing part.  It would be a shame to lose all those old milk bottle and to forget the man who posted himself.  Um, I’ll have to think a bit about the emergency vehicles but I’m sure they’re a vital part of something?

On the subject of missing parts, I was told the other day that when we get old and find our memories letting us down, it’s not because the memory is breaking down (unless you have one of those scary things like Alzheimers), it’s because the memory is getting full.  so Bart Simpson was right.  Whenever you put something new in your head, something else falls out.  As I’m currently trying to learn a duet to play at the end of term concert, I’m putting a lot of new stuff in my head and no doubt that’s why I had to look up Alzheimers.  I’m a bit worried though.  The piece might be just long enough that by the time I’ve learnt the high, twiddly bit in the second part, the other high twiddly bit in the first half might have fallen out of my head.

And tomorow night I’m going to another scratch orchestra do.  Last time we did Bach but tomorrow we’re doing English – Vaughan Williams fantasia for double string orchestra (I don’t think the The theme from Tallis is the right one but it’s nice anyway) , Warlock’s Capriol suite and Holst’s St Paul’s suite.  Gorgeous stuff.  I won’t be able to play more than one note in ten – twelve?  But who cares.

So here’s a bit of English countryside to go with them.

Oh dear, I shouldn’t have listened to the Holst.  I’m jumping up and down now and it’s time to go to bed!


Update:  It was the Theme from Tallis so I suppose its full title would be ‘Fantasia on a theme by Tallis for double string orchestra’.  Quite a mouthful.  Quite a handful of notes too.

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Everywhere but here

the country (nay the world, it sounds like) has been snowed on, heavily.  Here we had a scattering of white, followed by a good bit of rain and then some good, hard frost after enough wind to dry the roads so that they weren’t very icy.

But as a result of inches of snow in Leeds, Sister in Law couldn’t come to my party but wished to exchange parcels of presents  (Christmas presents mostly).  So this morning I had an appointment at Watford Gap, a service station on the M1.  It’s, roughly, a two hour journey each, hers from the frozen (but presumably now thawed) North and mine from the temperate climes of the Central South (an odd area as far as the weather people are concerned, being neither SW nor SE England).  It’s quite a good plan really, though in the middle of the night it occurred to me that after our meeting we would have to drive onward in opposite directions in order to find the next road junction at which to turn round.

Although Watford Gap is one of the least pleasant service stations on our motorway system, it does have the asset of being very close to a stretch of canal with locks and even a tunnel if I remember rightly.  Barney suggested that I attempt to visit it.  Well I might have done.  If it had been very convenient.  And if it had been a nice day.  Naturally, I had to investigate this possibility on Google maps and I found that the locks are quite a distance from the service station and that the tunnel is even further.  It’s quite weird following the aerial photo of the canal and seeing it come to a neatly rounded end in the middle of a field and then reappear a little further north, where it emerges from the tunnel, in the middle of another field.

If you follow the link and look where the map label says ‘traffic’ at the top of the page you can see what looks like a double hedgerow, heading slightly west of south and then stopping and if you follow the line of it past the squiggly pattern that looks like a motorcycle racing track  and then past the label for Watford Road, you can see the other end, suddenly taking up the double hedgerow again as if it had never vanished underground.  Very weird indeed to think that under there is something like this photo and perhaps boats rumbling along with their engines’ noise magnified by the tunnel walls and echoing along the water.  Tunnels were often dug out from both ends which meant that they had to be straight and well directed enough to meet, underground, in the middle.   What an extraordinary feat when you look from above and think how hard it is just to find the two ends on a satelite map.  Before narrow boats had engines, the horses used to be led over the hill (no towpath in the tunnel) while the boat was  ‘legged‘ through.   (Legging through a tunnel is done by lying on your side on a plank which allows you to reach the sides of the tunnel with your feet and then pushing against the wall with your feet to move the boat).  Crick tunnel is 1379 metres long and it might have taken an hour and a half to leg through it.

Well the other reason I had for checking the map was to make sure that we would actually be able to meet.  It would have been very sad to go all that way and then find ourselves standing on opposite sides of the motorway, waving helplessly and clutching our Christmas parcels.  There did  seem to be a footbridge though it looked a long way from either of the parking,  food, drink and loo places.  So in the morning, overcome by a sensible idea, I sent her a text saying “I’ll meet you on the southbound side”.  We could have met on the footbridge I suppose but it was a bit cold.

All successful in the end.  After a foggy, then sunny then foggy again drive, we met, had lunch (should we start a new fad for Ladies Who Lunch at Motorway Caffs?) and exchanged our presents.  As I returned, the weather followed exactly the reverse pattern as if it hadn’t moved at all since I set off in the morning.  and I was tempted to stop at the Otmoor nature reserve.  It’s a wonderful marshy place where, on winter evenings there is a starling roost.  I haven’t seen starlings doing this since I was at school in Manchester and they used to do it above the bus station at Picadilly Square.

I didn’t see the starlings last night, I wasn’t really dressed for a muddy trek through the marshes and I was a bit early which would have meant a long cold wait.  Also, I didn’t have a torch for finding the way back after sunset.  But it was a lovely, misty sunset and I didn’t feel as though my detour was wasted.  However, I definitely have a date with the starlings.  They absolutely must be seen don’t you think?


fog in the distance - that's where I'm going


Looks like a long cold walk


Reed and marshland


And it will be dark soon

Time to go home

Later, we had the office christmas party.

office christmas party - very merry and already a little blurred.

I had lobster which oddly I’ve never had before.  It was very interesting and quite complicated to eat.  I wish I’d thought to take a picture of it with my new little camera!  Busy day altogether and this morning I was quite reluctant to get out of bed.  But I seem to have done so and now I need to clean my boots which were made for walking but not in  muddy marshes.  I need them on my feet to go christmas shopping.  Urgh.  Ahem.

Hey Ho.  I shall take a leaf from Mel’s fairies and be grateful for the joys of shopping.  I bet the rest of you have done yours.  I bet you’re properly grateful for that : )  I would, er, will, be.

Have fun.



December 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On the subject of warmth

Very dear to my heart that.  And currently not much of it around.

Anyway, a demand for urgent washing of thermal underwear today led to the discovery that himself (who works on roofs in all weathers) has only one set of thermals!  I suppose I should have noticed before but I’ve been more concerned with my own thermals recently.  So I hastened, (virtually) to investigate good old Damart and having discovered that they still supply thermolactyl mens’ underwear after all these years (yes, his one set is as old as that) I found myself drawn to the female side of the catalogue.  Thermolactyl vests and tops and all that.  Loverly!  Looks as though they’ve kept the same old photos of the same old models too.  Well they probably weren’t old when the catalogue was made but I sort of feel that they might be now.  And then I discovered that they sell something called a ‘boiled wool’ jacket.  I have to say it doesn’t sound very, well, very feminine, does it?  Somehow suggests wet sheep and steam rather than cosy warmth and comfort.

Oh well that’s Damart for you.  Thermolactyl and wet sheep and no pretence of glamour.   But practically vintage.

Still, even without thermals, I was tempted to go out in the frost the other day.  It took all day for the temptation to win over the common sense idea of staying in and keeping warm but I’m quite pleased that I did go out in the end.

And just in time to catch a nice sunset : )

Keep warm won’t you.

December 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments


Thought you might like to see some more now I’ve got my computer back.

(More here)

December 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment