Monday, December 31, 2007

Oh Lucky Me..

One of the great things about living by the sea is that you can never ignore the weather. I suppose it's the same living close to nature anywhere: in the mountains, beside a river or in the middle of a forest. Anyway, today I walked again by the sea and it was a totally different experience from yesterday. There was not a breath of wind, and the sea was positively pearly. It had a flat sheen, with tiny ripples for waves, and there were occasional sparkles dotted over the pearly water when the sun peeped through the pale silvery clouds. On the horizon there was a dusting of gold light where the sun shone through. It was incredibly beautiful, very calm and clear. When I turned for home, facing west, the sea and sky dissolved into one misty pale blue vista - it was really hard to see where sky ended and sea began. No wonder I walk along singing to myself, even without my iPod, it's always a truly uplifting experience.

Grandson is coming to sleep over with me tonight. I'm not much for New Year celebrations, and will be perfectly happy to watch "Matilda" (again) and have a cuddle with my little darling. I may just take a glass of something later, but nothing excessive. Gay Friend may be calling in for a cup of tea before that, so it will be a cosy afternoon and evening.

Son phoned this morning to say that he and the Girlfriend were on their way to Edinburgh, by train (with some other friends). They have arranged to stay in a friend's flat there and to celebrate Hogmanay in true Scottish style. Not quite sure what that means, but I can imagine it will involve lots of alcohol. I do worry about his liver!

Sister will be arriving early tomorrow morning for our Christmas/New Year get-together. I'm sure to be awake early if Grandson is here, so that will be fine. We can all have breakfast together and then maybe go for a walk if the weather invites us out.

I have heard from my Portuguese client that they are completely happy with the copy I wrote for them before Christmas - this is a first that there are absolutely no revisions. Great news though. He has invited me to send my invoice, so I will!!
And a Happy Hew Year to you All.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

When I go out, the sun goes in..

This morning was glorious again, bright blue sky and no wind, so I decided to do my fast walking early to catch the sun. Sadly, as soon as I got down to the sea, a bank of clouds started to cover the sky. They weren't threatening, but just grey. The sea started out flat and smooth, but by the time I turned for home, it had turned too. I could see the waves picking up, little by little, creeping over the sand and small stones up towards the bank of pebbles that builds up by the promenade. At this time of year, when we have some very high tides, there is always a sprinkling of stones which are thrown over onto the promenade by the waves. I guess that they are swept back onto the beach by the guys who come along every day to collect rubbish and general debris from the beach and promenade. It's a surprisingly tidy place, Hove, actually...

Later, the clouds disappeared and it was a bright blue day again, but as I was invited for lunch downstairs, I couldn't get out in it. My new downstairs neighbour had cooked an organic chicken with gorgeous roast potatoes, and had invited another friend from across the road. It was a nice, cosy lunch, accompanied by pink bubbly, and topped off with a sticky chocolate Nigella dessert and some rum truffles. Rich!
And too dericious. Ah well, the diet will have to start after the New Year.

I bought a Sunday Times on the way back from my walk, and read it over a cup of coffee. Two contrasting stories caught my eye: the terrible fate of the little boy, Archie Lee, who was savagely killed by the family rottweiler in Wakefield, which made me feel physically sick with horror. I can't imagine the awfulness of that accident - and the enduring guilt which will follow those poor people all their lives. Poor little darling, he didn't have a chance. And then I read about the 12 year-old Californian girl who survived a plane crash in Patagonia. She was found, hanging upside down in the wreckage, two days after the plane came down. How amazing that she was not killed. And how her family must have felt - first terrified and then euphoric. How do we make any sense of this? Little Archie died, young Frankie lived. It's a mad, mad world.

Listening to Radio 4 this morning, I heard the best of "I'm sorry I haven't a Clue" which had some absolute gems. One of the best was on alternative dictionary definitions, for example: Definite - street slang for hard of hearing; Onomatopoeia - the first signs of a weak bladder.

This evening I half watched a programme on J.K.Rowling, whom I greatly admire. I know she was a hard-up single parent when she started writing the Harry Potter books, and used to go to her local cafe and sit writing in her notebook, making one cup of coffee last, to save on her heating at home. The interviewer took her back to the flat where she was living with her daughter when she wrote that first book, and it was very emotional. No-one could have doubted how hard that was, and how much she was affected. She and I were both in tears. She may be incredibly rich now, but how richly she deserves every penny!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Past..

Everyone I have spoken to today has been tired - all my friends seem to have poured all their energies into family Christmases, and are now feeling wiped out. I actually sat and sorted out a few bills, checked my credit card receipts (ouch) and tidied up more paper. We have created more paper and packaging rubbish this Christmas than I have seen in a long time; it can't be good for the planet. Our bins are overflowing and I'm planning a trip to the tip in the morning, because our binmen (sorry waste operatives) don't collect again until Monday. I'm also trying to find places for my many presents. I just don't want to add to the stuff in my house, so will have to prune some items. I have to find room for a new, white teddy bear with "Best Mum" embroidered on one foot, a pair of pink spotted (and reversible) slippers which I don't think I'll ever wear, various boxes of chocolates which I'm trying to ignore, gardening sundries, and some very pretty padded, scented hangers. Obviously some of these things are more useful than others. This year I had no soap (I must be looking cleaner), no perfume (must be smelling OK) and no candles (not so dim?). Anyway, my favourite things are my radio, my music and my books - everyone knows I love getting books - and my handbag from Daughter, a lovely white, shapely mug with "M" on it in curly black script, and a gorgeous picture frame from the White Company (chosen and given by my lovely Aristocratic BF). Sorry about the list, but I feel I shouldn't leave anyone out!

Actually, one of the nicest things I received for Christmas was a splendid bouquet from the mother of Grandson's real father. She was utterly mortified when her Son dumped my Daughter with a four-month-old baby, and has since tried to keep in touch with Daughter and to give support and help when she can. She is rather unwell, and so I was very touched when she sent some money to Daughter, asking her to buy me flowers. I understand why she has done it - she would love to be able to see her Grandson and be involved in his life, just to do what I do, but it isn't going to happen. They live up North, and her Son is unlikely to ever change his spots. It's sad for her, but Daughter sends photos and keeps her informed of Grandson's progress. I guess it's the best we can do under the circumstances.

I ventured out this afternoon for a breath of air and to pay my gas and electricity bills (I know I can do this on the phone or on-line, but I do have to get out). It wasn't seaside walking weather, being very blustery and cold. Every time I crossed the road I glanced towards the sea, and it looked very dark and grey, ruffled with white-topped waves. This evening it's raining and very windy, but I'm hoping for a bright morning tomorrow - Daughter and Grandson will be around (thankfully the Boyfriend won't) and we might get down to the beach for a bit of exercise. I'm still hoping that Sister and her Son will find the time to visit this weekend, though I do know that after the festivities everyone needs a bit of quiet time to get over all the sound and fury.

I can hear the wind rising and rattling at my windows, it's time for a festive cup of hot water and a snuggle up in bed with a good book...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I wish I were in love again..

Today it turned into perhaps a more typical family Christmas when we had a bit of a row going on. Daughter came over with Grandson, the Boyfriend and the Boyfriend's daughter. The idea was that they should open the presents they didn't get around to on Christmas day, but it wasn't that simple! As soon as Grandson's drawing easel was unwrapped, the Boyfriend started drawing, not leaving a minute for the children to join in. He is very good at drawing, so I suggested to Daughter that he might leave the children to be creative, rather than showing them how good he was!! This did not go down well, and resulted in a full-blown row, with the Boyfriend taking our comments as criticism, and being very rude in the process. I wasn't happy, Daughter wasn't happy, and it ended up with the Boyfriend leaving. Just great! (Actually, if I'm really honest, I was very glad he left - I had had enough of his conviction that he knows best in every area of life, and of his rudeness.) Anyway, it left Daughter and me with the two children, which was fine, but somehow I know that it will all end up as my fault...

Son and his girlfriend turned up just after this, this afternoon, having spent hours in traffic driving back down from London. I quickly dropped Daughter and the children home, and came back to make supper. It is really lovely to see Son so happy. His new, gorgeous girlfriend seems just perfect (so far) and they laugh and cuddle a lot. I wish I were in love again, in the words of Ella Fitzgerald. Until I see it, I forget how wonderful it is to be in love. Anyway, I'm so pleased for Son, it's about time he had some good luck in relationships. Long may it last.

I read with complete disbelief and sadness that Benazhir Bhutto has been assassinated today. How awful that her comeback to Pakistan should end in this way. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but so many hopes were riding on her return to political life, and I couldn't help hoping that some good might prevail in a dark world. Her enemies will cheer, and think that they have won. But merely ending the physical life of someone who represents the hopes of a nation will not succeed. I do believe that there is a cosmic (or is it karmic?) justice that will prevail. They'll go to hell for that!

I have eaten far too much, and drunk too much too. It will take a couple of weeks of determined discipline and exercise to shift the extra pounds. Ah well, I can't really say that I regret it. Mostly it was all delicious - or should I say dericious.
This needs explaining: some time last year, I had a student from North Korea, who came to me at very short notice from one of the Language Schools. She spoke very little english, but was very pleasant and polite. I only had her for a couple of weeks, and when she had been here for about 5 days, another Student arrived, from Spain. On the first evening that both Students were here, I cooked a roast chicken for supper, with all the trimmings. As we were eating, I noticed that the Korean student was pushing her chicken around the plate, so I asked if she didn't like chicken? "Ah no" she said "I am regetarian." I felt awful, and offered to remove the offending chicken, roasted potatoes and parsnips from her plate, as they had (obviously) been cooked in the chicken fat in the roasting pan. "Oh No!" she said, with emphasis "Is dericious!" Well, of course they were delicious, but hardly regetarian. In fact, she had been eating all the food I cooked, which was decidedly not vegetarian, over the previous five days. No-one had told me that she didn't eat meat. Now, among my friends who know the story, anything we particularly enjoy eating is naturally "dericious".

I'm so enjoying my new radio, and the Jazz station. It's music I love, takes me back to my youth, and I can sing along to it all day. As Terry Wogan is now on holiday for two weeks, it will keep me company in his absence...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Musical Chairs and Musical Beds..

"The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley".. that's for sure. Our Christmas was great, but not quite what had been planned. Son didn't come to stay on Sunday after all; he came by train, with his girlfriend - to borrow the car - and drove back to London with her, so that he could wrap presents and bring his stuff back the next day. I hadn't met this girlfriend before, though had heard about her, and I must say she was as lovely as I had been led to believe. We only saw each other for about 15 minutes, so quite hard to judge, but she was both beautiful and gentle. A great combination.

Anyway, that left me with more time to myself for present wrapping and general preparation. Son arrived back on Christmas Eve morning, alone, and then collected his work friend from the station later. She is called Dhia (not sure about the spelling), a born and bred Australian but from an Asian family. Quite a mixture, but very nice and very easy to get on with. The other couple (two Americans from Texas - not Canadians as I had thought!) didn't get here at all on Christmas Eve. They were apparently too late arriving back from Stockholm, and managed to get a last-minute room at the Inn (the De Vere Grand, actually), because they didn't want to disturb us. In fact after we had eaten, we went to see my Brighton BF and husband for a drink (more drink!!) and to exchange Christmas presents. By the time we got back, downed more Champagne and finished wrapping presies, they could have turned up at 1am and it wouldn't have mattered.

Christmas morning is already a bit of a blur - I was giddy with food preparation: peeling and counting and par-boiling potatoes and parsnips, making stuffing with sausagemeat and creamed marrons (which was just wonderful), stuffing the big bird and getting the whole lot into my two ovens. Daughter was a great help, and got out the Christmas china and silver, laid the table and did the candles, glasses and crackers. The table did look utterly lovely, and we managed to do everything on time. The expected couple didn't turn up until 3pm precisely - just as the food was ready! They came bearing very good champagne and other treats, and we sat down and got on with it in true festive style. Thankfully, everything was hot, cooked, ready and tasted fine. Of course, we didn't get to eat the pudding - by then no-one could stuff another morsel down.

After lunch we opened presents and relaxed - though with eight people it was a bit musical chairs. Son and his friends made cocktails and also drank bourbon and yet more champagne. All too much for me, though Daughter and the Boyfriend joined in too. Grandson didn't, of course, but he was having a fine time playing with his presents and with all the new people. He is very gregarious, and is never phased by new faces. At one point he stood and sang "Twinkle, twinkle little Star" all through, word and note perfect, and got a rousing round of applause. Well deserved!
By this time I was so tired that I sat down and practically fell asleep watching Doctor Who. So I went upstairs for a nap, and felt much better for it. All in all it was a fairly normal Christmas Day, I suppose. How lucky we are to have all our family and friends around us. We carried on with the festivities until about midnight - the young ones playing poker and finishing off the champagne (and anything else that was left). I had some lovely presents: a digital radio from Son (so now I can listen to Jazz, and get instant tuning for my favourite stations), plus a gorgeous book and some John Rutter Carols; a handbag from Daughter, and a book about Audrey Hepburn. Lots of other things too - what a lucky lady.

In the end, we didn't need all the extra bedding from ABF, typical! Son had the double room to himself, and Dhia had the single, which worked out fine. More visitors are expected, unexpectedly, because Son has borrowed the car to go and get his girlfriend, and Son's Best Friend is also possibly coming tomorrow. My Sister may also be coming at the week-end, with her Son, so it could be musical beds next..

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Stocking Up!

I'm pretty pooped. The last few days have been frantic, and it's still not over. I set off on Friday to drive to Kent for a visit with my Aristocratic BF, which I was really looking forward to. The sun was shining in a clear blue sky when I left Hove, but as soon as I was over the Downs, freezing fog came down. It was suddenly dark and creepy, and very cold indeed. The drive took over two hours (it's normally an hour and a quarter) and I arrived, thankfully, just as the sun was setting, before it got dark. Aristocratic BF had invited several neighbours for supper, which was fine. We had champagne and smoked salmon to start with, and then a pheasant casserole with some very strong red wine. The conversation was all country stuff, which I used to be able to join in, but now I feel rather more of a townie. Also, the two couples were what I would call "comfortable" - not exactly smug, but pretty close. They talked about their houses and their investments and their pensions. I didn't feel that I had much to contribute, as I'm semi-retired and not very well off. And I certainly don't have investments or property to compare. After a while, I couldn't stop fidgeting, so I retreated to the kitchen and did the clearing up. It was one way of staying awake! Anyway, I drove back home the next day loaded down with goodies and presents, and with plenty of bedding loaned by ABF for my impending visitors.

This morning Daughter and I made another foray to Sainsbury's for yet more shopping.
I don't know quite why we seem to need so much, but even now we haven't finished. Son came down to borrow the car, stopping for five minutes, and has driven back to London to collect all his stuff and wrap presents. He will be back tomorrow, and his friends will also be arriving sometime tomorrow. The house is clean as a whistle, everything a-sparkle, lovely fresh beds and towels etc. I do hope it will be up to expectations. I've planned the food: a baked gammon for tomorrow evening (we're following Nigella's recipe), with sweet potato and parsnip mash and steamed veg, and a tarte au citron to follow. Christmas Day will be the usual turkey-lurkey with home-made stuffing, little sausage and bacon rolls, roast potatoes and parsnips, sprouts and carrots. (I have bought some of those gorgeous growing sprouts on a stick.) I have also bought a new and rather smart football (Tottenham Hotspur colours)- and there's a method in my madness. My plan is that all the lads can take Grandson down to the Lawns for a game of footie on Christmas morning, after a late breakfast (weather permitting of course), which will leave Daughter and I to get on in the kitchen. Then they can all come back refreshed, just in time to open the wine, lay the table and make themselves generally useful. We don't usually sit down to Christmas Dinner until about 3pm, so that will hopefully work out.

I have just about finished wrapping presents. This is a first; normally I don't start until Christmas Eve, and I'm usually still sitting behind the sofa (so that no-one can see what I'm doing), watching "It's a Wonderful Life" with one eye, until about 1 am on Christmas morning. This year will be different. We will have Son's friends staying, none of whom I know, but I'm quite looking forward to that. I'm listening to Christmas Carols, humming along cheerfully, and just about ready for bed. I must try and fit in "It's a Wonderful Life" tomorrow. I always shed a tear at the end, but Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Shopping.

Oops! I think George Bush might be on to me, because my latest reader is from Washington,D.C! Thankfully I didn't say anything too awful about him - in fact I complimented his nice manners, so perhaps I won't have his spies on my doorstep just yet. It just shows you need to be careful what you write in such a global medium. (OK, I know there are millions of people in Washington who aren't George Bush, but you never know.)

Daughter was utterly wonderful this morning, when she came and sorted out my Blog for me. Anyone can now see my list of favourite Blogs, and my Award, of which I am extremely proud. Plus we also put on a photo of the lovely sunset I raved about a
couple of weeks ago, which was taken by my old Advertising BF. He is now a photographer as well as an Art Director (multi-talented), and just happened to capture that particular one. We had both seen it and been completely blown away, and he happened to have his camera handy. What good luck.

My cold is receding fast, which is another piece of good luck. I wonder if it is anything to do with my 'flu jab, or just my positive good health generally. Anyway, it's great that I feel so much better today, and can rejoin the throng of happy shoppers. Every time I go out, I think of something else I am going to need. And as Son's three friends are definitely going to be staying here from Christmas Eve, I'll probably need industrial quantities of eggs, bacon, beans, croissants, orange juice, smoothies etc etc... That's beside two turkeys, a ham, chipolatas, stuffing, bread sauce, potatoes, parsnips, sausage rolls, smoked salmon, prawns...crackers, party poppers, candles, Christmas pudding, brandy cream.. oh and alcohol.. and we'll be making mince pies, brandy butter, stuffing... Not that Christmas is all about food, I'll be hoping to go to the Carol Service in our local church on Christmas Eve, too. Oh, and bread, milk, Christmas cake...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oh Come, all ye Faithful..

I have been slacking again this week, as far as blogging is concerned - I'm afraid that Christmas cleaning has taken over. As I'm expecting the Orphans of the World to descend, I'm cleaning every inch of the place, bottom to top, washing curtains and bedding, stuffing unsightly items into the loft and lesser things under my bed. I'm sure it's all bad Feng Shui, but I'll sort it out after Christmas.

Son has invited an old friend from work - actually a young woman, but a friend rather than a girlfriend. She is not going home to Australia for Christmas, so will be staying here. Another couple, also friends of Son, will be here on Christmas Day and maybe for longer - also because they come from far-flung places. He is from Canada and his lady friend, whose name is Oceana, comes from somewhere Eastern and exotic. We also have Son's best friend from Cambridge days, who has just separated from his wife of two years (!). They have sold their flat here in Brighton (well Hove, actually) and so he is homeless for the holidays. I could go on, but I don't want to bore you. Of course Daughter and Grandson will be here too, plus the Boyfriend (and the Boyfriend's daughter after Boxing Day), but thankfully, they will not be sleeping here. It's actually rather good fortune that Son's flat sale hasn't quite gone through, or we would have sleeping bags in every room. Why do I need to clean the place if I'm expecting such an invasion? I have no idea, but I had a chat with Sister yesterday evening, and she is doing exactly the same - so maybe it's in the genes..

Just to jolly up the season, I also have a cold. It started last evening when I was entertaining my new neighbour from downstairs. We were both sniffing and sneezing, while drinking bubbly. I suppose there are worse things. This morning the car was due in for a check over, but when I got there, having scraped ice from all the windows, their mechanic was off sick. No joy there then. And now that Son's best friend has dumped a few more things on me (heading for the loft), I'm off to finish my Christmas shopping - no doubt spreading a few diseases with my coughs and sneezes.

This morning on the phone, our Solicitor was telling me how healthy he is because he
cycles the 7 miles to work every day. He reckons it has been about minus 5 degrees for the last week or so, and he sounds fit as a flea. Oh, bah, humbug..

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Talking Aloud..

This morning I caught myself interacting with the Archers Omnibus - it was my first utterance of the day and went something like "Yes it is Shula, you silly cow!" I quite startled myself with this, and realized I was talking out loud, when normally my conversations with myself are more internal. I really must get out more.

Yesterday was a complete write-off because I felt awful, for no particular reason. I had Grandson all day, and we were both a bit off colour. He was grumpy and argumentative, which is not normal at all, and it took me a while to realize that he was tired - I guess because I'm just not used to having a three-year-old around all the time. Once I had realized that, I got him upstairs and he was asleep in about five seconds. I just laid down beside him and dozed too. I'm sure it did us both a power of good. He slept for about 2 hours, and was much more cheerful when he woke up. I didn't feel much better, though I wasn't so tired. I had been invited to two parties,but didn't feel like going anywhere. Fortunately, one of the parties was cancelled, so I only had to let one person down. But as it was a fortieth Birthday party, and in a local pub, I don't imagine I was missed. Sod's Law though, that on the one evening when I'm invited out I just didn't feel like going!

At last I have had a response from my Portuguese client. His email, which I received a couple of days ago, went like this: "In the first reading that i made to the texts i must tell you that i am surprised, and i must gave you congratulations,because it was exactly what we wanted." Now, writing exactly what clients want is my job. I very nearly replied, sharpish, that it was no accident. But then I stopped, thought, and didn't reply immediately. I really am learning not to react too quickly. The good news is that they like the copy, so I sent a very cheerful reply, saying that I was pleased that they were happy. Their comments will come later, but not two days before Christmas, I hope.

Golden Brown seems to be behaving very badly all round. I can hardly credit that he thinks it's OK not to turn up for meetings on Climate Change, or to turn up late, when everyone else has signed and agreed terms, and sulkily put his name on the dotted line. What was his mother thinking when she brought him up without any manners? I have heard, repeatedly, that he is a nasty customer to deal with, and not one to cross. Do we really want someone like this representing our country, showing his lack of breeding to the world. He's heading for the naughty chair if I'm not mistaken. I have to say that even George Bush looks quite cultured by comparison, and that's saying something. He may not be the brightest bulb in the batch, but at least he has decent manners. ..

The house is looking very Christmassy. I've decorated the tree with silver baubles and star lights, and put up a few other bits and pieces. If I was any good at adding photos to my Blog, I would - but I'm hopeless. Some of my fellow Bloggers are brilliant at this, and have put on some gorgeous pictures; snowy gardens, frosty roses and cheery robins. Very festive and seasonal. I still have to put my lights out on the balcony, which always looks lovely. I think I'll wait until Daughter comes over in the morning and do them then.

Friday, December 14, 2007

'Tis the Season to be Jolly.

I may have been slacking for a couple of days, but you will be glad to know that Horsemart is "Keeping me in the Saddle!" Now I haven't a clue either what Horsemart is, or how they got my email address, but I keep getting their newsletter. I wonder if it's a bit of a prank on the part of my Aristocratic BF, because she is decidedly horsey, having owned and run racehorses for years. I'm going to see her next week for a pre-Christmas junket (or pudding and bubbly), so I will ask. I don't think it's her, but she is the only horsey connection I can think of. It's a puzzle!

Daughter's Birthday was a great success; we went to Ikea for the day, and bought her a few goodies. Plus, of course, a few Christmas presies for Grandson. We drank their lovely coffee (and bought some for home consumption) and had lunch too. It was a sunshiny day, and the car behaved itself all the way there and back. We picked up Grandson from Nursery, as he was staying the night with me. That was lovely too, except that I did my usual trick of lying awake and hearing every cough and whimper.
However, he slept until 7am, which was perfect, so I didn't have to crawl out of bed too early.

My next treat was a lovely lunch with my very talented London BF, who whizzed down for a business meeting and managed to fit in a meeting with me, a yummy burger and a glass of rose wine. We exchanged Christmas gifts, caught up with our news, and both said how much we are looking forward to a very different New Year in 2008. All good things are coming our way, and that's a fact...

I really must thank all my readers and other Bloggers who make such nice comments and who are interested in what I get up to - they are also ever-ready to help with any problems or to pass on words of encouragement and wisdom. It's a very real community, which I didn't expect, and which I am so pleased to be a part of.

I'm looking after Grandson again tomorrow, because Daughter has been having extended Birthday celebrations. She is going out tonight with several of her old Cambridge buddies who now live in Brighton. They are going clubbing and she is staying out for the night, while the Boyfriend does duty as babysitter. Grandson is being delivered to me at 8am, so I had better look lively in the morning. I'm still writing Christmas cards, putting up decorations and Christmas lights and wrapping presents. (Well to be truthful, my wrapping is only done on a "need it now" basis.) I'm hoping that tomorrow I can get a bit more done, depending on how active Grandson wants to be. This morning we went to his Nursery Christmas event - they were doing a special Dance Class to which parents were invited, and it was a delight. I did remember to take tissues, but couldn't find one when I needed it - and of course we all needed one. The children really enjoyed themselves, and were so surprised when we applauded them - it was their first public appearance. Grandson was, of course, the star of the show, though I may be slightly biased.

The end of Dombey and Son, and I love it when even the worst characters are included in the happy ending. Mr Dombey really did not deserve to be so loved by Florence, or to be presented with a grandson, but there you are: Dickens was a true humanitarian, and gave his characters the benefit of the doubt, mostly. I was completely wrong about Walter Gay, who was happily accepted by Florence, but right about Carker's sticky end. I do wonder what happened to proud Mrs. Dombey, but perhaps I missed that bit.

My French Lady is here again for the weekend, and will be off teaching at the European School of Animal Osteopathy tomorrow at the crack of dawn. Come to think of it, maybe Horsemart comes from her? Though if it did, it would be in French I guess.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dem Bones Dem Bones: Best Blogging Buddies award!

Dem Bones Dem Bones: Best Blogging Buddies award!

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas..

I have been the slowest of slowcoaches today. For some reason I couldn't get going,
though I did my fast walking first thing this morning, and that was fine. There was a mackerel sky, flat and patterned with pale grey clouds on a pale orange horizon. It was lovely, and the sea was flat too; quite a change from yesterday's two-metre- high waves which were really scary. But when I got back, I just couldn't motivate myself to shower, dress and scurry out for the Christmas shopping, which was what I'd planned. I fiddled and faddled about, writing lists, making coffee and wrapping eBay things to post. I finally left the house at 12.30! Not exactly an early start!

Then I couldn't focus - I had my list, and some things to return, but nothing made any sense. I had asked Son what he wants for Christmas, and he said nothing, as usual. Daughter is more or less done because she always knows what she wants. But what am I going to buy for everyone else? After several hours of looking, all I got was hot and bothered in all the overheated shops. I did buy a few things, but don't hold out much hope that they're going to be right. Why do we put ourselves through this every year?

In the end I gave up and walked down to the sea to sit in my favourite beach cafe and drink a cup of tea with KT (mother of Hon. Grandaughter),who works there. The sea was smooth and flat, the sun was shining and the sky was a glorious blue with jet trails painting enticing lines towards the golden horizon. We sat very comfortably enjoying the view, and mused on Christmas and the impossibility of thinking of anything to buy, or even anything we want! They are off to Majorca for Christmas, to join her Mother and Stepfather who live there. Sounds perfect to me - I wish I was escaping too..

Daughter's Birthday tomorrow. Today she and the Boyfriend drove to Surrey to start looking for places to rent - they took Grandson, and had quite a good day. She said that Grandson was very businesslike; he tucked the details under his little arm, and had a polite word for all the Estate Agents they met. I do hope they find somewhere lovely to live.

Dombey and Son lived up to expectations this morning. It was quite exciting when Rob the Grinder was forcibly fed rum, and gave the game away. (I was right about Carker and Mrs Dombey, by the way ). Walter Gay has ideas above his station, see if he doesn't. And Mr. Dombey will come to a bad end, as sure as night follows day.

I have just eaten a forbidden truffle - very naughty but worth it - and am now going to send some e-cards for Christmas. There has been no word from my Portuguese client about the copy I sent him last week. This is typical of course - clients often give false deadlines because they don't think you'll deliver the work on time. I'm only hoping he doesn't come up with "urgent" revisions a couple of days before the holidays. That would be just my luck.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Life in the Fast Lane!

Daughter and I are back on easy terms again - that's the funny thing about family arguments, after a very short while you just can't remember what all the fuss was about. Anyway, we got together this morning to return one of her presents to Zara (a t-shirt with the sequins falling off) and replaced it with a t-shirt without sequins. Next we wandered round Habitat looking at picture frames to fit Grandson's Christmas photos, and then we had a really frothy cappucino in the Border's Coffee Shop. It's odd not having any work to do after last week.

This morning on Dombey and Son, I could feel all the loose ends being gradually pulled together. The fact that Dickens wrote his stories in parts, which were published either weekly or monthly, means that they lend themselves perfectly to being serialized (and the radio is the best medium, I think, because we create our own pictures to fit the characters and the descriptions). Walter Gay came back from the dead at the end of today's episode, which I was sort-of expecting anyway. It's a good Dickens device for putting the cat among the pigeons, and since there was no telephone or any other kind of immediate communication, these happenings were quite acceptable. News certainly didn't travel fast in those days. Carker has disappeared, with a yellow flower in his buttonhole (I wonder if Mrs Dombey might be the cause of that?), and Mr Dombey is about to fall, or be tripped up. Next instalment please!

Later this afternoon, I went with Daughter to see her Doctor about the aftermath of her treatment for pre-cancerous cells in the cervix. Poor thing, she has been bleeding constantly since the procedure was done - a couple of months ago - with a break of only two or three days. No wonder she is looking pale. Her Doctor was extremely nice, and is proposing some treatment. He has given her more antibiotics in case the continued bleeding and discharge are caused by another infection, and will do a physical examination on Friday, to see if anything is amiss. He said he doesn't think that there's anything bad to worry about - just that it's sensible to check things out. I have been saying this to Daughter for some time now, but I don't think she wanted to listen, or to do anything about it. I don't blame her at all, because the whole business is pretty unpleasant, but it's potentially too serious to ignore.

Heaven knows why, but I'm really tired this evening. I have written some more Christmas cards and added a few things to my Christmas List. Nothing exactly taxing.
Perhaps it was watching Nigella producing her Express Christmas goodies in such an effortlessly casual way! I'm sure it can't be as easy as it looks, but I might have a go at her spiced peaches and ham - and the gorgeous fudge with crushed pistachios. Tomorrow I'm planning to get most of my Christmas Shopping done - and Wednesday is Daughter's Birthday, so that will be devoted to giving her a nice day. She will be 26! The Boyfriend is taking her out for dinner, so I'll have Grandson here for the night. Ooh goody, an excuse for a lovely cuddle.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Like Lambs to the Slaughter.

The singing continued this morning when Hon. Grandaughter and I looked out of the window and saw the weather - it was lashing down with rain (and hail), and blowing a gale. We both started singing "Oh, the weather outside is frightful". Let it snow, indeed. So we didn't go and buy another goldfish, which was what she wanted to do. In fact we didn't do much except get a bit of shopping in Tesco's (she chose Twiglets and a magazine) and go to a local Artist's studio to pick up the things I bought on my Christmas shopping trip yesterday. We tried to visit BBF's two cats, but having dropped the key in the coal-hole in the dark yesterday evening, I also discovered that the front door had been double-locked, so couldn't get in anyway. BBF and her husband are in New York for a few days as a belated Anniversary treat, and someone else is feeding the cats, so it wasn't critical, just frustrating.

This morning I was mortified to hear that Advertising is the latest target for a Ministerial enquiry. Now it will be "A Copywriter's place is in the Wrong." Actually, I agree with this in principle. I do think it's appalling that children (or their parents) should be persuaded to buy the rubbish we see advertised on TV generally, and especially what's being put out during Childrens' programmes. How much attention they actually pay to Advertising, I'm not sure, but I do think that both clients and Agencies have got away with too much for too long. I have always tried to be ethical and responsible in what I have written over the years, and often refused to work on things that I didn't approve of. I'm not sure that it actually made much difference but it made me feel better about myself. I wouldn't work on cigarette ads, for example, although I had smoked when I was younger. I just didn't feel it was right to encourage young people (or any people actually) to smoke.

Talking about being in the wrong (again), Daughter and I had a bit of a run-in last week, while I was working on my Advertising rubbish. She and Grandson came over to see me on a ghastly rainy morning, and I took a couple of hours off to socialize. When it came time to go, she assumed that I would drive them home and drop them off (which is what I normally do), but I said "Oh no,I must get back to work." This was not what Daughter wanted to hear, and she threw a wobbly which meant that we ended up shouting at each other - with Grandson looking on. I hate that more than anything, and offered to take them anyway, but by then Daughter was in full flood and couldn't stop herself. It spoiled a perfectly nice couple of hours, and I shouted after her "Don't take it out on that boy." But, of course, I still felt that I was in the wrong - even though I knew that I was being perfectly reasonable - and I was working and she wasn't!

There was a programme on Radio 4 this morning about Farmers and how they slaughter their animals. I didn't really want to listen, but found I couldn't turn it off. One Farmer was explaining how he is commercially viable because he sends something like 400 or 500 lambs in one go, in a lorry down to Dorset (from Yorkshire), to be slaughtered for the overseas market. It must be a hellish journey for those lambs -
and their poor mothers must wonder where they have all disappeared to.

My reader in Red Deer, Alberta has actually been in touch, and I have now read her Blog, which is just amazing. I know that we all have different lives and different stories, but hers is so outside my comprehension, and so painful to read, that I felt a physical reaction as I tried to absorb what she had written. Nothing that I have experienced can begin to compare with what she has endured and survived. I felt that I was intruding on something utterly private, but I also understood that writing it down was helping her to come to terms with it. Full of admiration for her bravery, full of sadness for her suffering, and feeling utterly inadequate, I'm going to bed.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Up with the Starlings..

Heaven knows why, but I was wide awake at six o'clock this morning. I did a quick hop and skip to my "on-suit" loo, and then an even quicker one back to bed - it was freezing out there. Then I lay under the cosy duvet expecting to drop off again. But no. An hour later I was still awake, making lists of Christmas things in my head - what food to buy and make, what presents to choose for friends etc.. And then I suddenly realized. I 'm excited! Not only that, but I'm happy and excited. I was singing songs to myself under the bedclothes, just like I did as a girl (when to poke your nose above the eiderdown was to practically get it frozen off, and the insides of the windows were decorated with icy ferns!). Anyway, there I was singing away cheerfully ("My Blue Heaven" followed by "It's the most Wonderful time of the Year" since you ask) and looking forward to getting on with the day. So now I'm sitting here with a lovely hot cup of tea, and looking forward to shopping! Who'd a thought it...

I was in the kitchen making my tea, when I looked out and saw dark dotted skeins of starlings, looping their way back from the Pier to wherever they hang out all day.
When I first came here, five years ago, I used to walk or cycle down to the pier at sunset, just to see this marvellous display: thousands of birds swooping around the old West Pier in amazingly co-ordinated flying manoeuvres, making fantastic patterns in the sky. Sadly, thousands of them were killed when someone set fire to the old Pier, four years ago. Apparently they wouldn't leave their old roosting place and so were burnt alive! Horrible.

Talking of early risers, I was chatting to our Solicitor yesterday and he told me that his alarm goes off at 4.45 AM every working day! He leaves for work an hour later, and cycles the 7 miles to Braintree. He was saying how much he looks forward to the Christmas break - he still wakes up early, but just rolls over and goes back to sleep again, presumably with a smile on his face. Simple pleasures.

I completely forgot to mention the Interest Rate cut on Thursday, probably because I was immersed in the work. Oh, but it does make me angry. This cut is so long overdue and the bastards have only done it now to avoid the real possibility of a financial crash: heaven forfend that it might hit their pockets. I don't know how the greedy bastards sleep at night. I was talking to Son about it on the phone, and his opinion was "F*** 'em." Succinct and to the point, I think.

This scandal with the Darwins is quite surreal. Now it emerges he was hiding out in another part of the "marital home" and nipped back and forth between the two, through a hole in the back of a wardrobe, making himself scarce when either of the sons was coming home. How bizarre! Mrs Darwin must have been completely potty about him to go along with that one. And I perfectly understand that the sons must feel both angry and betrayed. Real life is certainly stranger than fiction - and it's going to make the most wonderful film, isn't it?

Yesterday in Dombey and Son - oh catastrophe: Florence has left the house 'forever', weeping and in a terrible state, the new Mrs Dombey has swept out haughtily, as is her wont, and poor, brave Susan Nipper has been thrown out! Mr Dombey is left to ponder, in solitary splendour. Not that introspection or self-examination have ever seemed to trouble him, but I wonder what's next. This is one of the Dickens novels I haven't read before, so I'm waiting with bated breath for Monday's episode.

Finally, just heard on the news that a Religious Think Tank (now that is a contradiction in terms) has discovered that most young people haven't a clue where Jesus was born! Why they would be asking the question I don't know, except that it's topical in the run up to Christmas, I suppose. Do we need reminding?

Catching up...

My reward today for my week of endeavour was a gorgeous walk along by the sea. It was very rough, with huge waves crashing dramatically onto the sand and shingle. The sun was shining, although the sea was a beaten-pewter grey, and there was a sheen on the water's edge. It was very beautiful and the small stones on the waterline glittered like little jewels. I picked up a small, perfectly smooth oval of sea-scoured glass; it is a pale duck-egg colour with a frosted finish - quite lovely - and has been added to my collection.

I met up with one of my BBFs for an indulgent cup of coffee and a chat. I listened enthralled as she described a visit from her sister and her sister's new boyfriend (though at our ages, I think the word 'boyfriend' is a bit twee). It was great to hear how they met, and how he seems to be completely besotted with her. Aahh..

Christmas shopping is rearing its ugly head - not that I hate it, quite the reverse - it's just that I haven't done any and know I will have to catch up next week. If I throw money at it, I'll probably be OK. It is also Daughter's birthday next week, on Wednesday. She will be 26 and I have offered to take her out for the day - probably for some shopping. We did shop for her a bit in the week. She chose some trainers from TK Maxx (great value) and a couple of things from Zara (ditto). The thing about Daughter is that I seriously doubt sometimes if she belongs to me, because she loves
Shopping (with a capital S). I hate it, unless I've got lots of time and money to spend, and that seldom happens these days. Anyway, I'll do the parental thing and spoil her for the day I expect. Which reminds me: she telephoned this evening to say that she had had a Birthday card from her Father. Just that - a Birthday card! I still marvel at his ability to be mean, even after all this time and from this distance (he's in New Zealand), but I know it's hurtful to her - and it's probably meant to be. Oh shit - I'll be making up for it, as usual. And that's fine, but I do wonder when (or if) he will ever wake up to the fact that he has two great children, and that one of life's joys is to give to them, not excessively, but on occasions like this, and simply because you love them.

My copy has been sent, dutifully and on time, to my client in Portugal. I expect I will hear back from him with some revisions, but that's fine. It's a great feeling when I press that 'send' button, having written, re-written, edited and re-edited.
It's never perfect, but I hope he will like it. I work on the Oscar Wilde principle that it takes longer to write something shorter: like a poem, a good piece of copy should say everything it needs to say in the least possible number of words. I was good at 'precis' when I was at Grammar School, so I guess that's where I learned the skill. It has been my bread and butter for a long time - and aren't I lucky that it's something I enjoy doing?

Another weekend - and I have honorary Grandaughter tomorrow for the night. I haven't seen her since before half term, so it will be a delight to catch up on her news. I have bought her a Bratz Advent Calendar (is that a contradiction in terms?) and she will have eight days of chocolates to eat! Supper will be sausages and mash with petit pois, followed by chocolate ice-cream for dessert. This menu never varies when she comes to me, and I usually try and make a face out of the sausages and mash and peas, with the judicious addition of some ketchup for a nose or eyes. We have been through all the characters in Harry Potter, Father Christmas (who had a mashed potato beard) and anyone else I can dream up. I expect she will grow out of it soon, but it's fun while it lasts...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thursday's Miscellany.

I have to welcome two new readers today - one from Red Deer, Alberta and the second from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. How romantic North America is - one thinks of pioneers, covered wagons, Indians and frozen lakes. And those names conjure up vivid images: Canadian buckskin and American oak stands with distant views. I know I'm susceptible to such romanticism, and I love it. It takes me away on dreamlike journeys to the ends of the earth and I couldn't enjoy it more if it was real!

Dombey and Son has had me enraptured for the past two weeks, on Radio 4 in the mornings. Dickens is a huge favourite of mine, and we share a birthday, (though not our ages, Billy, before you say it!). The bleak, spare perfection of his descriptions
and the intimate insight we have into his characters has me mesmerised. I have cried for young Paul, ached for Florence and longed for the come-uppance of Carker. Will Fred Gay re-appear? Who is the mystery woman? Anyway, it's wonderful. This morning Mr Dombey actually said "Mrs. Dombey doesn't understand me." I wonder if this was the first recorded instance of this statement?

Poor Nigella. Everyone seems to be having a pop at her on the weight question. I think she's marvellous, and looks just perfect. (Of course her father is Nigel Lawson, ex-Chancellor from the 1980s, and apparently still going strong as some Lord or other.) In my opinion, she's a great role model: she looks wonderful, very curvy and natural, she loves food and she can cook. And she has a fabulous social life - what more could anyone ask? Of course, the fact that she's married to Charlie Saatchi could be a bit of a downer. I notice he never appears at her dinner parties on TV (and I would recognise him). I wonder why?

Heard this morning on Terry Wogan - there's a man in Argentina campaigning for ugly people to pay less tax so that they can feel better about themselves!! Can someone please explain this to me - I just don't get it.

Parting words from Sir Tel today, "Go easy on the sherry trifle this Christmas." There's no answer to that..

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Coming up for Air.

Well, it's mostly perspiration this week - lots to be written in a short space of time. Thankfully, it's going pretty well; I have three pieces of copy more-or-less written and two drafts. I have two more days to go, so that should do it.

I turn the radio on, or listen to music, while I'm working and it seems to add to my concentration rather than the reverse. I remember that I used to listen to Mozart while I was writing essays for my degree, and that seemed to help too. This morning I laughed when I heard about the current problem of overcrowding in HM prisons. Not that the subject is funny, but a mental cartoon appeared to me, and I wished, once again, that I could draw. I'll try and describe it: A Judge inclines his head towards a court official and asks a question " Before I pass sentence, do we have any space available for this prisoner?" The court official replies "Yes, your Honour, we have just the one single en-suite room available tonight." It just tickles me to think that prisoners should have the best facilities. I can quite see that getting locked up could be a better prospect than sleeping rough, especially at this time of year. As I walked to the newsagent this evening,I passed a bloke lying in a shop doorway. He was tucked up with a couple of blankets and several newspapers
but I didn't see him until I was right on top of him. Not that he was any kind of threat, but it really made me jump - perhaps I'm getting wobbly in my old age.

Talking about bathrooms, Daughter has been looking on the Internet for places to rent. She and Grandson will be moving out when Son's flat is sold, and they will be moving in with the Boyfriend. Some of the rental property descriptions are laughable - one she noticed said that the Master (they don't bother with the word 'bedroom'), was "on-suit" - obviously nicely dressed. God help us and the English language - or should that be the French - if we are left to the
tender mercies of Estate Agents and their command of the language.

I have been meaning to mention Cranford, which I have been watching with Gay Friend every Sunday evening. It has rather taken the place of our video evenings for the last few weeks. Lovely. We are rather concerned, though, at the rate at which the characters are dropping off their perches. (So is Sir Terry Wogan, who has suggested that Miss Matty might be the prime suspect.) We keep hoping for something sunny to happen, but it seems unlikely. I remember reading Mrs Gaskell as part of my degree course, and thought then that she (and her women characters) certainly lived in a grim world. We have been laughing, though, at the trivial concerns of the Cranford ladies: their bonnets and their frocks, and the cow in its unforgettable undies. It is utterly charming, but also very sharply observed - and she has a wry tonque in her cheek most of the time. Only two more weeks to go, alas..

Monday, December 3, 2007

Inspiration or Perspiration.

I'm afraid it's going to be slim pickens on the Blog this week, as I have had the copywriting work confirmed - yesterday - and they want it finished by Friday! This is typical - clients want your best work, concepts and thoughts, naturally, but they always want them quickly. Throughout the years I have been doing this writing work, it seldom varies. No-one ever seems to understand that your best work, in a creative sense, takes time. The brief goes in, you read all the information, you digest all the facts and then the data has to be processed in your head. Once this has happened (and you can't turn the process off once it has started) creative ideas, solutions and concepts start to appear. Sometimes they flood out, and sometimes it's very slow. (I keep a pad and pen by the bed, because you never know when a genius thought might strike!) And sooner or later, depending on the time available, you end up with a creative idea that fits - hopefully one that's good too. (Even better, one with a twinkle of humour in there somewhere.) I started working on this brief this morning, having digested it fairly thoroughly before I gave them an estimate for the work, so I'm now in the process of Creative Thinking. I love doing it - there is a familiar rhythm to it. I write everything out on paper before I get to the computer,because that's all part of the process. When I see the written words on the page, I know whether they are right or not. Don't know how, I just do. (And before anyone else says it, I know it's only Advertising. It's not going to change the world.)

Of course the other part of the deal is agreeing a price for the work! And that involves a bit of fancy footwork, because clients like to think that they are getting a bargain and I like to think that I'm being paid a reasonable rate for the job. Fair enough. On this occasion, the client (I think) delayed agreeing the price because he wanted to give me the least possible time to earn my crust! Or get the most out of me for the money. That's OK though, I was there before him...

Yesterday I had Son and his friend here enjoying my B & B facilities. I had also got the forms and letters for the Flat Sale ready for him to sign. After it was done, though, we realised that he had possibly signed the wrong box! Our Solicitor was very sanguine about it on the phone this morning - I'm sure it happens all the time. Anyway it has all gone off in the post, and if it's wrong he will just have to do it again.

It's lovely and sunny, but I can't treat myself to a walk by the sea just yet. And I can't sit here rabbiting all day. Back to the old familiar grindstone..

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Those were the days, my Friend..

Well, I'm very popular today. Daughter and Grandson came over for a visit on this sunny morning, and then I had a call from Son to say that he is coming down this evening and can he have a bed. There's a Birthday Party in Brighton tonight, and loads of his friends are descending on the town. When they were on the train I had another call to see if there might be an extra spare bed (there is), so I may well have two, or even three, overnight visitors. As long as one of them is Son, I don't mind who else comes. We have had more stuff from the Solicitor today too: forms and queries relating to the Flat Sale. So I have written replies and put it all ready for Son to sign - it all helps to speed things up. I also had a phone call from our buyer this morning, with a few more questions. And it seems that her buyers are still keen to move before Christmas! Funny how some days are all movement and others, like yesterday, are more or less static.

Last night I had a phone call from my dear old Drummer Friend - he had read my blog when I sent him the link, and had been trying to email me. It didn't help that he had the wrong email address, so we sorted that out. We were reminiscing about times past, music, old friends, and everything we used to have in common. Neither of us can really believe that we're not still the lively, lovely young things we once were, with all the energy and optimism of youth. And the innocence. Where did all those years go, and how did we get to where we are now? In fact, in my head, I'm still that elfin girl with her collar turned up, laughing as we all revolved in that revolving door one dark, rainy night in Romford. Terry, Graham and me.

This morning I was listening to reports of the latest riots in Paris, and I wondered (not for the first time) why it is that we don't revolt in this country? The people of France are always ready to stand up and be counted when they don't agree with Authority or policies. And they very often achieve their aims - they just don't take no for an answer. Here, we may be privately revolting (!), but we seldom actually do anything about it. Why? You would think, with all the recent dodgy stuff around the Government and the obviously suspect activity which senior Cabinet members and Politicians seem to be indulging in, that there would be public outcry.Far from it. We are a nation of procrastinators. We haver (to use a Scottish word). And as a result, we have the Government we deserve. It's pathetic.