Monday, 27 December 2010

....and relax.....

I can't move my head this morning.  This is most alarming as I've not been doing anything vigorously enough to ensure my neck goes into spasm apart from trying to get my turquoise footless woolly tights off last night without bending down or falling down the stairs but managed to get entangled anyway.  Maybe that's the problem.  I've been sat sitting on this sofa, in the same position, with a laptop on, um, my lap for what feels like most of this year and perhaps, just perhaps, my body's decided it's had enough.  But, listen here body, causing the muscles in my neck to lock up so that I have to dose myself on Ibuprofen and Paracetamol just so I can turn my head is hardly conducive being more active now, is it? Hmm?  No, it's bloody not. I can barely twist my top half enough to reach the giant sized tube of Smarties on the side table, so I'm hardly likely to head off outside into the freezing wind for an invigorating jog now, am I?  Didn't think that one through, did you? Asshole.

So, here I am, sat sitting on the sofa with the laptop keeping my bits warm, necking Smarties directly from a giant tube, and reflecting on the Christmas that has come to pass.  On the whole, it was pretty good.  There was snow on the ground so it was a proper White Christmas for the first time for many years.  Log burners were lit, champagne imbibed and food crammed down the gullet, which is as it should be.  Sadly I didn't get to see my family beforehand due to the weather, but we're meeting up next week for present-swapping so that's a New Year's Day to look forward to (probably the first ever!).

I discovered the joys of the Amazon wish list a few months back and was using it as a handy place to keep note of the books that I fancied reading at some point in the future.  Then it dawned on me (razor-like brain that I have) that as Xmas approached it could usefully work as a christmas list so when family asked what I wanted, I’d just point them in that direction. They bought me the lot! Nine books in total, including some on knitting ('Domiknitrix' by Jennifer Stafford and 'Purls of Wisdom' by Jenny Lord) and crochet ('Creepy Cute Crochet: Zombies, Ninjas, Robots and More' by Christen Haden) as I'm intending to teach myself how to knit this year; a big vegetarian cookery book (Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian); a gardening book telling you how to grow interesting stuff ('A Taste of the Unexpected' by Mark Diacono); a thriller set in Eastern Europe at the start of WW2 ('Night Soldiers' by Alan Furst); two anthologies covering the entire six books of the Mapp & Lucia series by E F Benson ('Lucia Rising' and 'Lucia Victrix') and finally 'Auntie Mame' by Patrick Dennis.  These are all very fine books indeed and will keep me quiet for an extremely long time.  Bizarrely I have discovered that it takes me ages to read books - I'm yet to start reading books I got for christmas last year!  I've found that if I start reading in the afternoon, after half an hour I have to have a nap, so I mostly now like to read in bed but I don't get the chance to do that very often, hence it takes ages to get through a book.  Perhaps I should make a New Year's Resolution to try and read a bit more....

Apart from the lovely books I got perfume. a scarf, a CD, waterproof gardening gloves, general bits and pieces, but my favourite presents were from The Lovely Husband.  He normally gets me something really special and pricey (in the past I’ve had a camera, or a kiln, or a diamond ring, or an expensive charm bracelet, etc. - yes, yes, I'm materialistic but I'm helping to keep the economy going.  Don't judge me) but money’s been hard-won this year so he’s scaled back - I don’t care because they’re gorgeous:

Purple Celtic Sheepskin slippers - mmmmm, toasty!
Beautiful purple Celtic Sheepskin slippers - mmmmmmmm, toasty!

Beautiful fingerless gloves, Xmas 2010
Gorgeous fingerless gloves, handknitted and crocheted from handspun, hand-dyed wool.  Just look at those colours and wallow in them.  Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Closeup of beautiful fingerless gloves, Xmas 2010

This is most definitely something to aspire to with my future knitting projects.

So today is a lounging around day.  Look, it's after midday and I'm still sat sitting here in my dressing gown and purple slippers, and I really don't give a toss.  Sylvester's been fed some smoked salmon so he's happy.  I'm listening to The Lovely Husband plinking away most proficiently on the ukulele while he's waiting for labels to soak off the many empty wine bottles in the kitchen sink before he spends the afternoon bottling up the Blackberry wine and Damson wine that's been sitting, getting all fermenty, in demijons in our garage for the last six months, and It's. All. Good.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Seeing ghosts....

Sergey Larenkov is an amateur photographer who collects old wartime postcards and had the idea of combining them with modern day photos.  He spends time researching the exact place where the wartime photographer stood to take the shot, so that he can line up his modern day photo to match it, then uses Photoshop to meld the two together.

It's like looking at ghosts.

It's a reminder that the past is all around us, we are enmeshed in history whether we like it or not.  Where we are walking, stuff happened - good, bad, beautiful, horrific, mundane or of world importance - it occurred, right here. Do click on the pictures to make them bigger and get the full details:

You can see more of the pictures at Sergey's blog

Jo Teeuwisse has done something similar with pictures from Amsterdam:

You can read more information about her work here.  (My Modern Met - where I found all these pictures in the first place - is fast becoming one of my absolute favourite websites.  It says it's a site "where art enthusiasts and trendspotters connect over creative ideas" which is a very Hipsterish thing to say and hence open to ridicule but I'm constantly in awe of the photography and art that is featured there.)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Joneses have a conversation - Algonquin Round Table or Old Peoples' Home? You decide

So, it's snowed a bit then.  Again.  We had a small amount on Friday and then it stopped overnight, and then the next morning (i.e., yesterday), between 8.15am and about lunchtime at least 5 inches of it got dumped on us.  The organiser of my final craft fair of the year rang to cancel it - hooray!  I don't relish having to get up at 6am at the best of times but in the depths of freezing wintery temperatures with the added frisson of the chance of an impromptu sliding car crash with additional visit to A&E thrown in it was not appealing at all!

Mid morning I went out to feed the birds and was quite surprised at how, well, 'warm' is not the right word really so 'not as cold as I was expecting' will have to suffice.  It was so still, like the world was holding its breath, and the snow was loose and powdery, truly like giant drifts of icing sugar.  It was utterly delightful. I got my camera and took some photos of the garden:

As always, there was a robin, waiting for its breakfast of dried mealworms.  Their breasts seem extraordinarily red at this time of year - I've no idea if that's deliberate or just the perceived contrast with the black and white of nature's winter colour scheme.  Anyway, it had a feed and flew off just as I pressed the button in the second picture - an action shot!

I cleared a path up the steps and into the garden in the vain hope that Sylvester could find his way out there to 'use the facilities' rather than leaving stinky great deposits in the litter tray as he currently is.  Stupid human - of course he's not going to freeze his ring off outside when we've provided a convenient and warm alternative.  And as soon as my back was turned, little Bruno from next door appeared, off to hang around the feeding station to hassle the birds (click on the pictures to embiggen):

(I took the following quite interesting self-portrait as I was heading back in - it's me reflected in the double glazed door that leads onto the bridge.  You can see the garden behind but also into the sitting room, with our Christmas Tree on the left, Sylvester on the rug and the snowy hill in the distance between the two houses opposite):

I came back in and suggested to TLH that I rather fancied actually going out for a walk in it, perhaps to make a snowman, but definitely with my camera, maybe to the nearby favoured sledging hillside to photograph suicidal teenagers hurtling down the slope on plastic trays.  "I have a better idea", he said, "Let's walk into town and go to the pub!"  A much better idea!

There were plenty of people walking around, all wrapped up and - shock! horror! - actually acknowledging each other as they passed.  Complete strangers talking to each other!  Cats and dogs sleeping together!

There were no cars so we walked down the middle of the road.  In fact, we sort of live on the side of a hill and the road that goes up it behind our house had been closed by the police.  Presumably it's easier to do that than actually get the gritter lorries out....

Anyway, we walked along this road - view looking towards the town:

And looking back, 180 degrees, along the same road in the direction we'd just come from:

We rounded the corner at the end of this road and went along another, really quite posh street - big houses on one side with panoramic views over the town and hills in the distance:

This road takes you down to another that runs above the railway line and has tank traps beside it, with a lovely view towards the church if you stand in just the right place:

It probably took us about 45 minutes to walk into town, possibly longer, as you can't race along on such a snowy surface.  We wondered if the pub would be open but of course it was - they even had a wedding reception going on in the big back room.  Pints were drunk, lunch was consumed and a most convivial time was had by all.

Now, I may have referred to this in the past but I can't be arsed to go back and check so if I'm repeating myself then you'll just have to suck it up and deal with it.  TLH's hearing is not top-notch and I swear it's getting worse.  He says I speak too quietly these days but, as far as I'm concerned, I'm the same volume I've always been.  Admittedly I don't exactly whisper but I'm not exactly foghorn class either.  But neither is he, I think he talks quite quietly and occasionally we have conversations where we mishear each other.  These conversations always and without fail turn out to be more interesting than the one we were trying to have.  I never, ever remember what we say but I shall endeavour henceforth to write down the most noteworthy ones because, honestly?, to those who overhear us, we must sound like we really need to be in the care of the community.  This is the one in the pub:

     TLH: Let me take a photo of you in the pub, to prove that we were here.

     Me: Ooh, no.  I'm far too self-conscious, there's too many people around.

     TLH: "As self-conscious as someone reading Kerrangg!"?

     Me: There's someone reading the Koran?  In the pub?

You see?  FAR more interesting.  We'd decided we'd probably drunk enough by then and headed off into town where we rather surprisingly managed to finish our Christmas shopping and wandered off towards home through the park close to the church in the picture above and that runs beside the River Wey and through the Lammas Lands:

It was a fab walk and I'm really glad we got out of the house.  Anyway, I hope it's not too horrendous where you are, and if I don't manage to post again before next weekend, I really hope you all have a lovely Christmas and no-one gets too drunk and shouty.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Annual 'Bah, humbug' post....

It's been a little while since I checked in, about 2 1/2 weeks I think.  Some stuff has happened in the intervening period, some hasn't, you know, the usual things.  I think I've had a spot of mild depression, actually.  Or maybe I've just been busy being my usual miserable cow at this time of year.

The nasty, virusy-headcold thing I had lasted a good three weeks and quite how TLH managed not to stab me due to the incessant coughing is a wonder, but he didn't.  The weird thing is I have absolutely no idea where I got it from - I've been my usual fairly antisocial self of late and haven't seen anyone other than a handful of people, and none of them had the remotest snivel or hacking cough, so it's a mystery.  I did get very sad and miserable for about a week following the death of poor Pepper Bean and being quite that down does, I believe, depress your immune system so in some ways I'm not too surprised that I contracted such virulent head-rot with additional gangrenous throat and tubercular lungs, plus additional nosebleeds.  It was definitely as cheery as it sounds.

But it's gone now.  Just in time for Christmas.  Whoopee.  I don't know why I take against Christmas so.  I mean, before the days of the intertubes, it used to be unadulterated hell shopping for presents, elbowing your ways through crowds of people in overheated shops, and fighting over the last turkey on the shelf.  Plus I was working full-time so had to cram all that in as well.  By comparison I have it so much easier now - as I'm a Trophy Wife (aka lazy layabout) I'm at home all day and I can just do all my shopping over the internet and have it delivered to my door!  Bliss!  I don't have children so the only presents I have to get are for a few young nieces and nephew and the rest are grownups who can be placated, usually, with a bottle of spirits and a decent book so I'm not really sure what my problem is.

I still feel the pressure, though.  The endless, endless, bloody advertisements for food and perfume and aftershave, the no-getting-away-from-it-ness.  I hate it all with so much passion that I would willingly consider going on one of those silent spiritual retreats to a monastery in the arse-end of nowhere where you get a little room to yourself in which to contemplate the infinite, only emerging after all the bollocks of New Year has been and gone.  I know I've said it before (probably last year, actually), but as far as I'm concerned, the best Christmas I ever had was in 1989 when The Artist and I buggered off to Thailand for 10 days and sat on a beach from 22 December to just after New Year and managed to avoid the whole damn thing.  I can still remember how stress-free I felt in the run up to going away because the relentless TV advertising didn't mean a thing to me that year.  And by the time we got back it was all over anyway and felt like it had never happened.  I shall do this again one year, I hereby promise myself.  I shall donate some money to a charity in lieu of presents and cards, and go lie in the sunshine for a couple of weeks.

/end rant.

So what else has happened while I've been maintaining radio silence?  Sylvester Bean is healing up nicely from his cyst removal and the fur is beginning to grow back, so he looks less like a lobotomy victim and more like someone's had a bit of an accident with the hair clippers.  He's also turned into the chattiest cat I've ever been pestered by.  It's quite odd.  Obviously now Pepper's gone he's become the focus of all our attention and that seems to have resulted in him suddenly discovering he's got an awful lot to say about things.  He's also having a difficult time coming to terms with the new cats in the neighbourhood.  Our immediate neighbours have an adorable young cat called Bruno who looks exactly like the cartoon Felix cat (the one advertising the cat food) -

He's a lovely little cat, the most curious I've ever met.  He wants to know absolutely everything that you're doing and I think has been inside everyone's house in the close because as soon as a front door's opened, he's in there like a shot!  Except Sylvester hates him with the heat of a thousand suns, and has already beaten him up at least 3 times in the last 10 days, like the grumpy old man cat defending his territory that he is.

Also, as I mentioned previously, some extremely good friends of mine have moved opposite and have brought their 3 cats with them.  Two of them - Prince and Puffle - aren't interested in coming out yet, but Maggie has been around and about for the last week, including visiting our garden a couple of times.  Interestingly, although Sylvester was outraged and hissed at her, she stood her ground and didn't run, and neither of them attacked each other.  They both then moved a safe-ish distance apart and just kept a wary eye on each other. 


Why it didn't turn into a scrap - as it does every time with Bruno - I have no idea.  Maybe it's because Maggie's female?  I dunno.  Cat psychology, eh?

On the job front, TLH has been working for a couple of weeks in a town that Betjeman's 'friendly bombs' unfortunately managed to miss.  This particular job is likely to last until March and he doesn't seem to mind the commute so far, even driving through the heavyish snow and icy roads that we had recently.

I realise I haven't expressly described exactly what he does for work.  Mostly because he doesn't like being discussed in a public forum (and I'm happy to concede with his wishes) but also because I don't really know myself.  Let's just say that he does contract work and if that makes him sound like a hit-man, well, you didn't hear it from me, okay?