Friday, December 28, 2007

Catlets, just catting about the place

1. Catlets as Christmas decorations.

2. Spot the catlet (1).

3. Spot the catlet (2).
(Sirius is helping Daughter 2 to pack to go down to see her actor boyfriend in panto near Bournemouth. I come into the room, greet her black jumper fondly under the impression that it's a catlet, and then notice the genuine catlet further back on the bed. This picture is worth clicking on to see the one eye gazing balefully at the camera.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Further decorations in Castle Life.

Being very interested in... or nosey about... other people and their lives and their houses and their things, I thought I'd complete the tour of Castle Life's Christmas decorations. (Except for the one that Blogger refuses to upload. It's of a very nice stained-glass wreath of holly that Daughter 1 gave me a couple of years ago. It hangs on the glass door into the dining room. You'll just have to imagine it. Or come back next year, maybe.)
Above, you find some balls that I hung from the light fitting in the sitting room. Mr Life, who's a tall chap, occasionally bumps his head on the yellow ones, which are glass and HEAVY. But it's better to be tall on the whole, I feel (from my 5'3 at most height). I usually have some genuine mistletoe hanging from it, but couldn't find any this year. So there's some fake stuff. Hope this doesn't encourage fake kisses.

My mother-in-law made these birds and I hang them on the sitting room handle in her memory. Don't know why the photo is so blurred. I need to adjust the birds a bit to make them more even. I've been thinking this for some years now.

She also made this, in cross stitch. She died in 1992 at the age of 70, from breast cancer. She lived with us for the last six months of her life because she was too weak to look after herself. My father-in-law had died in 1984 at the age of 64. I often think how thrilled they would be to see our children, their only grandchildren, now.

Now come things that I would like to claim I'd made, but I didn't. I can't even remember where I got this mat - a sale of work somewhere, I expect.

This one was made by Daughter 2's German exchange partner's mother. It's pretty, isn't it?

Our sitting room tv, with stained glass box on top and stained glass ornament leaning against it at the bottom.

A wreath. Again, I didn't actually make it. Oh the shame. A sale of work buy - I think Angela Stewart in our church made it.

And back to the dining room - shelf unit with a glass ball and some crystal snowflakes hanging from the handles.
Again in the dining room, a crystal holly leaf.

Now, as a reward for ploughing your way this far, a couple of gems from my marking of students' essays:

"Teenagers should be prone to take contraception." Can't argue with that one.

"She was in a comma for two years." Shouldn't laugh really - sad story.

I have a huge mountain of ironing to do so I'm off to do it. Happy Boxing Day, all.

Christmas decorations

Well, it's past midnight and Christmas Day is over in Britain. Would you like a short tour around the Life house and its Christmas decor? First of all, our front doorbell with a bunch of ivy and a few baubles.
Then this is in our dining room (the tour isn't in a very logical order, I'm afraid) - some glass Christmas trees that I like to display in a dish.

Still in the dining room, here on some plates are a gold star and heart - the cats love to attack these - and a card that Kirsty from Two Lime Leaves sent me last year.

This is the outside of our bedroom door - we display cards on the doors. Obviously.

In the sitting room, the parcels with pictures of cats on them are for our son from his girlfriend.

We had this Santa at home when I was a child. My mother threatened to throw him out some years ago and I rescued him and titivated him up a bit. Elegant he's not, but he's an old friend.

This hangs outside Daughter 2's room. I bought it at Chatsworth, a stately home near Sheffield where Daughter 2 did her Master's. (You've probably worked out that she did the Master's at the university, not at Chatsworth.)

A nice big silver ball above the stairs, with a few elves to add a bit of colour.

My mother-in-law gave us this Snowman mobile years ago. I love it. She sadly died in 1992.

This is the view down the stairs into the front and back hall. Look! Wallpaper!
Now I should really go and have a bath and go to bed. Hope you all had a wonderful day - as we did.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Funny but not Christmassy

I don't know how to do the thing when you make a little You Tube screen come up on your blog. But anyway, here are links to You Tube things you should look at if you don't know them. They certainly appealed to me.

The first is a woman (Anita something?) singing all the things a mother says in the course of one day - to the tune of the William Tell overture.

The second is a monk faced with new technology (the book) summoning help from the mediaeval help desk. (When I saw it originally, it had subtitles to the end (it's in Norwegian) but now the last few sentences are missing, but anyway, the little book that gets picked up at the end is the manual.) That monk reminds me so much of me, some time ago (or indeed me now, sometimes). I think it's very funny.

I don't know if I'm actually making links that work so sorry if they don't!* My domestic help desk people are currently:

Daughter 2: having a nap
Husband: having a nap
Son: tidying his room (and I don't want to distract him...)
Daughter 1 and Son-in-Law - with his parents in Worcester.

I'll get them to fix it later if necessary.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

The Mom Song:

IT Helpdesk:

*Edited to add - the links seem to work.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas trees and other matters

The Life Christmas tree has been in position for a few days.

Daughter 2 worked till 7.30 last night and then dashed home and had five minutes to decorate a hat for a party before she dashed out again.
On another topic... I said to our son this morning (he’s a final year medical student), “What are you doing today?”

“I’m walking to the hospital,” he said, “and then I have a colono-rectal clinic, then two hours’ teaching on poo, then [his girlfriend] and I are going for a walk in the Botanics to celebrate the end of term.”

Seems like a nice symmetrical day, but makes me glad I’m an English teacher.
Especially since I'm now on holiday. (Little dance.)
Happy Christmas, y'all!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Things to do with a Santa hat

This is Santa. I bought him years ago, when Daughter 1 was a baby.

He may well be a close relative of Humpty Dumpty.

His hat is a bit small for Daughter 2.

It's dangerous to lie around our house when there's a Santa hat on the loose.

Yes, I know it's taking advantage of Sirius's good nature, but the tempation's too strong.

He poses politely for another photo.

Ooops - where did it go?

Daughter 1 comes to admire.

Sirius decides it's time to give us a hard stare. Cats, he remarks firmly, don't really wear hats.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ho ho ho

Ah, thank you so much to my soothingly not-quite-yet-Christmassy commenters. Above you see Daughter 2 with Sirius, who is taking a relaxed approach to the season.

The cold is receding somewhat (though Mr Life has it now, alas) and I might be beginning to feel slightly more festive. The cards are all posted and this evening Daughter 2 and I made two Christmas cakes, one for us and one for my mother. (I follow the recipe – butter, sugar, eggs, flour, mixed dried fruits, glacĂ© cherries and so on, though leave out the salt. “That makes it really healthy,” suggested Daughter 2.)

We collect our tree tomorrow. We always have a real one. I’m not sure whether this is environmentally allowable or not – I suppose it depends whether it comes from round about here or from the Amazon rain forest - but at least it’s not plastic and will presently be recycled into bark chippings. And what would Christmas be without that nostalgic piney scent; that annual moaning sound which is Mr Life struggling (this year, through his sneezes) to make the tree stand upright in its holder; and those sharp little needles piercing deep into any besocked feet over the festive season and for some time thereafter?

In fact, not many people here have trees up yet, as I noticed as I walked home the other day (in the dry this time): only about one house in thirty. So we’re not really late – simply displaying normal British reserve and caution.

Unlike one of our janitors at college, who has been making a real effort to make his house look seasonal. I watched him the other day wobbling around on his roof (and he is a man built on generous lines) to install a blow-up Santa complete with sleigh and reindeer. Unfortunately by the time I took the photos Santa appeared to have been strafed by machine-gun fire from a low-flying aircraft – or at least, he was looking somewhat deflated. I decided to omit him from my (sorry) terrible photos.

As you can see, though, his brother seems to be lying unconscious in the garden – there he is, prone at the back. Still, you can’t say that the janitor hasn’t tried, can you? Even the path is festooned.

As yet we have no festoons, but our hall has now been repapered, Fifi! All systems go for decking it with boughs of holly.
Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bah, humbug

This is our hall - the decorators are here to repair the ravages of the flood, but not much progress has been made yet.
We're having the (large) flat part of our roof redone too.
So there are two lots of workmen around: one lot scaring the cats outside by throwing roof down into the garden and one spooking them inside by throwing wallpaper on to the floor.
The cats are not happy.
Neither am I.
I have a streaming cold; I'm very tired; I'm not in the least ready for Christmas; everyone else in the blog world is (what's this passion for putting trees up on December 1? Have you no work to go to, floors to wash, cards to write, mothers to visit, meals to cook?)
Still the catlets are cute, aren't they? A nice furry purring session does much to improve the spirits.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Things that happened this week


A student said to me, “I can’t speak French. Funny thing is, though, I can speak it when I go to France.” Handy.


On Wednesdays I usually walk home from work – it’s about 3 miles – just to stretch my legs properly. This Wednesday, it was, as we say in Scotland, stotting down – pouring with rain that bounced off the pavements and up again in straight lines with little balls of water on the top. Some of the rain stotted up the backs of my legs, soaked into my trousers and gradually trickled down into my socks. My jacket is kind-of-showerproof – it might repel a gentle summer drizzle - and so water soon soaked through my hood and started to run down my neck and back. After a while, I was so wet that it became almost enjoyable – I couldn’t get any wetter so I became part of the shower, a big lump of weather splashing and squelching along. Just as I got home, the rain stopped. The cats were glad to see me. But why didn't you just stay at home today? they enquired.


I had a dental check-up at 8 am and arrived before the dentist. Our current dentist is very young, but normally he wears his white dentist’s top and appears reasonably… dental. However, he arrived looking like a sixteen-year-old: woolly hat pulled down over his ears, scruffy jacket, black jeans. Taking off his jacket, he then revealed a crumpled yellow t-shirt emblazoned with the name of some band. And I thought… this is what it’s going to be for the rest of my life. As I approach retirement and for ever after, all my dealings with professionals will feel as if I’m putting my faith, my health, my life in the hands of children. Strange. I once vaguely thought that I might do a PhD or something when I retired, but in fact I won’t. How embarrassing it would be to be told by a smooth-faced youth that my ideas were foolish.

Still, of course, the world belongs to the young, and why shouldn’t it? It belonged to us when we were young. Anyway, I suppose I’m better having a youngster tending my teeth than an arthritic 60-year-old with failing eyesight.

And once he put on his dentist’s uniform he looked more convincing.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Eight random facts

I was tagged a while ago by Loth of "The Gym isn't Working" for 8 random facts about myself. I apologise in advance for the mundane nature of my life – I was similarly tagged some months ago and probably have nothing interesting left to say. However, I won’t let that stop me… .

1. I really enjoy Anne Tyler’s novels – some of her earlier ones are uncomfortably dark, but I particularly love "A Patchwork Planet" and "An Amateur Marriage".

2. When I was a girl, my family had a cat called Dido. She was a stray and just moved in on us when she was maybe six months old and I was 15. She was lovely – white with a black patch between her ears. My school uniform was navy blue – and constantly covered in white fluff. She stayed on in my parents’ house when I married and moved out and lived till she was about 15.
(Why did I waste my youth worrying that I was fat? And that was really quite a short skirt, wasn't it? - but it was the fashion at the time - about 1969, I think. I was 19.)

3. Continuing the theme of being 15, I’ve kept a diary since I was 15. I don’t write in it every day by any means – sometimes several weeks pass without an entry – but it’s continuous, and thus occupies quite a lot of hardback notebooks. I have no idea why I do it but I can’t stop. I hardly ever read past volumes, though there has been the odd occasion (not for years) when I’ve read from the beginning. It’s quite salutary to see how silly I sometimes was when I was 15. I thought I was quite sensible at the time and I think others probably thought so too. As I get older, I wonder what will happen to it when I die. Sometimes I contemplate a big bonfire. It interests me to ask myself whom I think I’m writing for. In the past, I just wrote what I thought, but of recent years I’ve probably written with a bit more circumspection, since it now begins to seem possible that I might some day actually die and it might outlive me.

4. I’m very phobic about blood.

5. I’m not very keen on piercings either. Even pierced ears, if the hole is visible. Especially ears with big stretched holes and heavy earrings hanging from them. Shudder.

6. We’ve recently had our bedroom redecorated and our new bedspread is red velvet. (How odd to be telling the world this. Fortunately, not much of the world is paying attention.) I made the cushion myself… no, you spotted the lie, did you? I bought it in Marks and Spencer. But I’d like to have made it. I don't know why it looks as if our bedroom slopes. It doesn't really.

7. My grandfather was shot in the hand at Gallipoli and his right forefinger was bent down towards his palm for the rest of his life. Did I ask him what Gallipoli was like? And why not?

8. On December 18, it will be 40 years since I took Mr Life to my final year school Christmas dance (I went to a girls’ school), which was the start of our relationship. I didn’t quite realise the momentousness of this event, but it seems to have worked out well.
I know many of you have done this already but if WifeMomChocaholic of "Nearly a Normal Eater" and Beakus of "This is Me" (or anyone else) would like to pick up the baton, this would be fine.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Work work work and a birthday

Life is going through one of those periods when I hurtle from day to day with never a spare moment, just trying to get through all that needs to be done each day before falling into bed and getting up for the next one.

Last weekend I took Friday off work (which isn’t as good as it sounds, because Friday is the day I have most of my preparation time at work so it made the rest of the week rather packed with activity) and Daughter 2, my mother and I went down to my brother’s 60th birthday party.

The catlets helped Daughter 2 to pack. Can you see me in one of the pictures on her wall? Bottom row, middle picture, turquoise shirt.

My brother lives in Epsom, south of London, so it’s quite a long trip for my 85-year-old mum. It was nice, but rather tiring (we spent most of Saturday preparing food, socialised all evening and then did dishes till 10 to 2 am on Sunday morning). It was good to see my brother and sister-in-law and nephew and niece – both lovely young people. My niece graduated from Cambridge in the summer and my nephew has just started there and seemed very enthusiastic about his course, which is good because although clever, he's a bit disorganised and we're not all that convinced that he'll get round to doing as much work as he should. He definitely seems to be doing a bit of partying, judging by glimpses I've had of his Facebook page.
How wonderful to be starting university: the best time of one’s life, or at least one of the best.

However, I'm quite looking forward to being 60, personally, because I will quite possibly retire then. How blissful it would be to have some time to oneself.
Edited to add (re some comments) - ok, I'll be more specific. I'm the shortish, darkish person in the turquoise shirt between the lady in the hat (my sister-in-law) and the tall man (my husband).