Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year everyone!

This is a picture for Son-in-Law 1, who likes to see his guinea pigs starring in the blog. As you can see, J, they're fine: trotting around, making wheeking noises and taking an interest in food and water. We've now installed them in their usual bedroom so I'm typing this from the luxury of a chair in the study rather than from my knees: one knee in their run, the other on the carpet.

We couldn't give them their bedroom at first because my nephew was in it, and while there's enough space for the run and him too, they probably wouldn't be very restful companions during the night (Wheeek! Wheek! Chomp! Chomp!). Then, for reasons too boring to recite, I decided that before we installed the piggies we should swap the two beds in one of the upstairs bedrooms for the two beds in the other. This involved Mr Life in dismantling four beds. Poor chap; he took it well. I doubt if many husbands (or indeed men) read this, but probably many chaps react as Mr Life does when they hear their beloveds say, "I was just thinking... ." This usually involves him in moving heavy things around.

So - goodbye to 2012. I'm not sorry to see it go though feel a bit wobbly at bringing the new year in without either of my parents. However, we're off to the home of friends for dinner and a bit of a party, which will be different at least. The children are scattered: Taunton, Worcester and Perth. The umbilical cord is stretched to breaking point.

Ah well, onward. All best wishes for 2013 to all my bloggy friends, lurkers and occasional commenters. May the US avoid the fiscal cliff - whatever that precisely is - may Canada remain solvent, may Britain get its sums right and stop wasting money on the things that got us in this pickle, may the Antipodes have a good time (I feel your finances are better than ours; is that right?) and may you all be happy and healthy wherever you are in Europe or further afield. Even if you don't read my blog or only stumbled upon it by mistake and immediately clicked away.

And remember: it's not Auld Lang ZZZZyne, it's Auld Lang Syne - with an s sound. It's the same word as since and can be used for then. It means old times long since. Not zince.

Happy New Year - and that includes our lovely offspring and our delicious (but alas slightly feverish) Grandson. Get well soon, N! And I'm waving to you, Volume 2. See you quite soon now.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The last day

My brother and family have now gone but Daughter 2 is still here and Son and Daughter-in-Law came for an unexpected visit. DIL had to stay in the house and write up her portfolio but the four of us climbed Corstorphine Hill. It was somewhat muddy and chilly but we enjoyed ourselves nevertheless. Here they are with the Pentland Hills in the background.

This is looking over towards the sea.

In the distance you can see the Calton Hill with Edinburgh's Disgrace and Nelson's Monument.

And there's Arthur's Seat, another of our hills, looking tiny on the horizon. That's a golf course in the foreground. I would quite like to join a golf club for the nice walks and good views, as long as I could just wander round with friends and not bother to hit the little balls.

Downhill again, in the easy direction.

Looking over to the hills of Fife on the other side of the water.

Then home for tea.

Son and DIL have gone now and Daughter 2, who's visiting a friend this evening, goes down tomorrow to Somerset to spend New Year with her actor husband, who's appearing in "The Wind in the Willows" in Taunton. She won't be here for more than a weekend till - who knows when?

At the risk of sounding peevish... I'm really going to miss her. I love her so much.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Tomorrow my brother and sister-in-law and nephew and niece go home. Sniff.

We ate the last of the Christmas pudding tonight. "Eat up the brandy butter," I encouraged my nephew. "It might not be very healthy but... ."

"Oh, it must have the three major food groups," he declared. "Um... fats, sugars and - brandy."

We then watched The Muppet Movie. It was good.

And now I must go because Daughter 1, SIL 1 and Grandson are down in Worcester with Nanny and Gramps, the other grandparents, which means that their guinea pigs are with us, and since all the spare rooms are full of relations, the guinea pigs are in the study. The study is small, their run is large and there's no room for my desk chair so I'm down on one knee typing this, which isn't very comfortable.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


(No, by the way, the lady with the lovely silver hair is not I, but my sister-in-law. I'm the person behind the camera. My hair is greying brown.) Here is Grandson kissing Peter Rabbit, or at least the little puppet inside the book about PR. How lovely that Grandson thinks kissing is an appropriate response to small things. He lives a life surrounded by love.

Yesterday we all went for a walk: the two daughters, Mr Life, Grandson, my brother and sister-in-law, nephew and niece.

I have a baddish cold. So does my brother. Presumably not the same cold, since he lives normally in Surrey and though I got it first, I don't think there was enough time for me to infect him so thoroughly. He is now laid fairly low with it.

I've just finished a book called "London Belongs to Me", which I very much recommend. It's by Norman Collins and it was first published in 1945. I can't remember where I read about this book. On a blog? Anyway, Norman Collins worked for the BBC and ITV, fairly high up, and still had time to write quite a few books including this - long - one. It's a bit JB Priestley-like, somewhat reminiscent of "Angel Pavement", about a house in London and all the lodgers who live there. It's very readable but not piffle at all, in my view.

It's astonishing, I often feel, how much some people achieve in the same 24 hours a day that the rest of us have access to. I often think this when I read the obituaries in the paper. A top lawyer is praised for his top-class lawyering but he also hillwalked a lot, was captain of his local golf club, amassed a famous collection of stamps, took up pottery when he retired and became fluent in six languages. And I think: when did you do the hoovering? Or sort out the photos? Or just do the constant tidying-up that one needs to do in order to live in some semblance of clutterlessness? I always think that he must have had a very selfless wife.

Talking of selfless wives... this is our 39th wedding anniversary. Start saving for the rubies, Mr Life!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

We sang carols last night, my niece at the piano.

We tried to put a paper hat on Grandson but he took it off.

He's still a very smiley boy.

The reindeer herd is complete.

Son-in-Law 1's very nice brother asked his very nice girlfriend to marry him and she accepted. How excellent! We saw them and the ring on Skype. Congratulations, B and S!

I hope you all had a lovely day too.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve...

Happy Christmas for tomorrow, everyone!

The last two presents: hers to us: a little stollen and a final reindeer.

Us to her: a very mature piece of literature.

Must go and wrap Mr Life's present... .

Sunday, December 23, 2012


A large chocolate coin - not yet eaten - and another tree on the advent calendar.

 A bookmark for her. So adult.

We played "Articulate".

Here are the offspring (including Volume 2) plus Daughter-in-Law.

Look at those eyelashes.

He didn't think he should wear a hat indoors.

"If you go on playing with your phone," I said to my nephew, "I'll put you in my blog." So he hid it.

Later we got out all my mum's treasures - jewellery and trinkets and my dad's medals and her dad's medals and the box that my granny's father made for her and so on - and the children all chose various mementoes. It was sad but lovely.

Eleven and a half people use a lot of plates and cups in the course of a day.

Past twelve o'clock...

Today's advent presents: hers to us, above. Yes, it's a fold-out polar bear, though you wouldn't guess this from my truly awful photo.

Ours to her: an apple filled with jelly beans.

It's been a busy day: choir rehearsal all morning, performance all evening. Carol services just before Christmas - whose idea was that? January would be a more convenient time, if not so seasonal. Then my brother and his wife, son and daughter arrived in the early evening (in my absence, but Mr Life and other family members held the fort) so at the moment the house is full of nine of us: Daughter 2 and also Son and Daughter-in-Law are here. And the cats.

This still feels like the 22nd to me but in fact it's the 23rd so I'm off to have my bath. Sleep well!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Chocolate and robins and such like

This is becoming a bit like those folded-over games we used to play - what were they called? Consequences? Anyway - she gave him... he gave her... their children were called... sort of thing. Today Daughter 2 gave us a felt robin - very nice, though after its incarceration in paper it looked rather like a bright hedgehog. It has since unfurled its wings somewhat.

And we gave her a chocolate teddy and snowman.

She's currently rolling northwards on a train - at Doncaster when she last texted. Soon she'll be in Scotland. My brother and his family will set out tomorrow morning and be with us in the early evening, as will Son and Daughter-in-Law, though unfortunately I shall be at my choir carol concert (bother).

I had a nice lunch with my ex-department today. It was lovely to see them all and hear their news. It was also very good to know that none of the travails of the college merger that's happened since I retired would affect me - though I'm sorry that it's all affecting them. Pudding was a very delicious chocolate pot. It was so rich that I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it, but kept taking just one more teaspoonful. And then another. And ... oops, it was finished. I'm still full at nearly 10 at night.

Will not witter on. You have things to do. So do I.

PS It had indeed occurred to me, as suggested in the comments, that I might predecease Mr Life. But I would worry even more about leaving him all alone so it wasn't really a very cheering thought. Anyway, neither of us is planning to conk out yet. And now I'm really off.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Next Christmas?

Today Daughter 2 gave us some reindeer-shaped table confetti - such as every well-dressed Christmas table must feature -

and we gave her a mint chocolate tree.

Every second year nowadays, our daughters come to us for Christmas and to their in-laws for New Year; and the alternate year they go to their in-laws for Christmas and come to us for New Year. (Theoretically our son does too but this isn't working out this year.) Also, my brother and his wife and two offspring come up from England for Christmas every two years and the girls make sure that they time it so that we're all together at once. Of course, this means that when they're not here, it's just Mr Life and me, so this New Year's Day it'll be just the two of us (though we've been invited to a dinner party for Hogmanay and the bells so you don't need to feel too sorry for us).

Until recently this was very much not the case. Our offspring lived with us and my brother and his family used to stay over New Year as well as Christmas - though only every second year. Also my parents were still alive so they were with us, as was my late (latterly confused) aunt and not that long ago also her husband. Because they'd worked abroad, they often had a visiting foreigner who was staying with them and he would come along too. So there were frequently about thirteen of us for Christmas and New Year meals.

Now, for once I'm not trying to sound pathetic - but I was struck the other day by the realisation that if Mr Life departed this world in the next few months or left me for a glamorous blonde, then because of the way we've arranged things, next Christmas it would just be me - sitting in front of the telly with a good book. Well, me and the cats. It seems so recently that there were thirteen of us and now so much has changed. I know there are lots of people who have Christmas alone, and I'm sure I'd be fine, but it's just that - it didn't occur to me that this change could happen so quickly: centre of operations and surrounded by people expecting turkey and trimmings one year; old lady with cats the next. And it makes me realise that the same must be true of lots of old ladies with cats. Not to say old gentlemen.

Actually, I said all this to my family the other day and Son-in-Law 1, who is a kindly soul, said that if that scenario looked likely to happen then he would take me down to have Christmas with his family. (Thank you, SIL 1, though I don't quite know what we would do about the cats and your guinea pigs.)

I'm happy to say, by the way, that Mr Life is feeling quite well. Which is good. But possibly not well enough to pursue any glamorous blondes. Which has its advantages too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snippets from the day

Today's present from Daughter 2: Galaxy with toffee filling. Delicious. And a tree in the calendar.

Ours to her: duck paperclips. "Maybe not suitable for the office," I said. "Very suitable," she said. So, of our little presents to her: black cat highlighters, office-suitable. Santa pen, not. Duck paper clips, yes.

Grandson had been giving me a cheery - indeed, a cheesy (camera-suitable) - smile but it had faded by the time my phone actually took the picture. Perhaps my usual Christmas decoration of little glass trees in a heavy glass dish is going to have to be moved. He really liked them, though.

He likes books. Which is good. I hope it lasts.

I've made a little family picture gallery on the fridge, which he looks at while he has his lunch. "Nan!" he said enthusiastically today, looking at the photo with his Worcester grandmother, aka Nanny.

This is the freezer. It has: a fridge magnet saying There is no such thing as a cat owner; a tiny photo of our three as small children; a scan of Volume 2 (due at the end of February - how exciting); a picture of a jumping mouse which Grandson loves (he says "Aiiiiiii!" whenever he sees it - his version of "Eeeeeee!", which is what we consider mice to say); and the carol I'm supposed to know off by heart for the carol concert on Saturday. I think I do, now.

Aren't they cute? (Nostalgic sigh.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In 1967...

From Daughter 2: some indoor sparklers. We'll keep them for Christmas.

And look! A deer which has turned to its left on the Advent calendar.

From us to her: some chocolate snowmen.

It's really difficult to get good photos of Grandson these days. He poses nicely, with dazzling smiles, but only for a second. And my camera phone has a delay so that I think I'm going to get a lovely photo but it turns out to be of the top of his head. Or he's blurred. He fairly whizzes about now.

In person, though, he's unbelievably delicious. Soft and squashy and smiley and enthusiastic.

Three days till Daughter 2 comes home for Christmas. Hooray!

(The cake, by the way, is a rich fruit one with sultanas, raisins, currants, mixed peel, cherries, almonds, eggs, sugar, flour, treacle and spices. Then I cover it with thick marzipan because we all like this except Daughter-in-Law and then ice it. Theoretically it should last for weeks. In practice - sometimes there's some left over by New Year's Day.)

Forty-five years ago today, Mr Life and I were on our first date. Goodness me. That does sound a long time ago.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Oops. I can't show you what Daughter 2 gave us this morning because I forgot to take a photo of it. Or at least, I thought I had taken one. But my phone camera doesn't seem to agree. Anyway, it's too late because she gave us chocolate reindeer lollipops and we ate them. So this is our little gift to her: a frame with a photo of the offspring and their husbands/wife at Son's wedding.

Instead of chocolate reindeer, then, I give you a photo of something that I found today in Marks and Spencer's vegetarian aisle: creamy Brussels sprouts with bacon lardons and chestnuts. Nearly, M & S, but not quite.

And a picture of my Christmas cake. Every year I think I might make a big effort and do something really artistic. And then I think - nah. Too much else to do, for example getting better at "We Three Kings of Orient Are" before my piano lesson tomorrow. It's quite easy to start off with but becomes more tricky later on. Much like life itself.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas dightdightdights

Daughter 2 gave us a flat-pack locomotive.
Mr Life rose to the challenge.
Less imaginatively, we gave her a chocolate snowman and teddy.
Daughter 1, SIL 1 and Grandson came to lunch. Grandson played with his stones...
... and did a lot of hiding under the table.
He liked the Christmas tree. "Dight!" he said. "Dight! Dight! Hello Gah! Dightdight!" Surprisingly, he just fingered the ornaments rather than pulling them off. "("Ball! Ball! Ball!")
When he touches something I don't want him to, I tend to go "Ah-ah-ah!" and he's developed a habit of reaching out to a forbidden object and then murmuring to himself "Ah-ah-ah" before withdrawing his hand. I wish I could persuade the cats to self-regulate in this convenient way. Someone has scratched our bedroom wallpaper and it wasn't Grandson. Mind you, someone else left the door open and it wasn't me. Or Grandson. He can't reach the handle.
Daughter 1 is making a blanket of granny squares for his little sister, Volume 2. She put it round him like a robe. He wandered around in kingly fashion.
It's not really just over a week till Christmas, is it? Oh dear. Tomorrow is free-ish (in other words, must be crammed with myriad activities) then on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we have Grandson. I'm out Tuesday evening, tutoring a friend's son on Wednesday evening, out to lunch on Friday and rehearsing on Saturday morning for our choir carol service, which is on Saturday night. Meanwhile, my brother and his family arrive to stay on Saturday. Is everything organised for Christmas?
Well... .
Better get on.