Sunday, 26 December 2010

Being Christmassy

You would have thought that being trapped in the village by over a foot of snow would have meant that I would have plenty of time to write my blog, but this has not been the case.  So here I am, finally drawing breath on Boxing Day and able to think about the blog for the first time since just after the snow started.
First of all, there has been a strong Dunkirk spirit, clearing pavements and communal snowball throwing, whether or not you knew the person you were aiming at.  That in itself has been quite time-consuming, not to mention energetic.  Chloe would be proud of me!  She hasn’t been able to get into our village at all, though whether that’s by choice and she’s taking a safer, less slippery, route, or if she’s just trapped in her own cul-de-sac, I’m not sure.  I did send her a text telling her that I’d been out helping with the snow-clearing, but texts seem to be travelling as slowly as some cars at the moment, so she may not have received it yet.
Secondly, and rather more time-consuming, is the festive spirit that seems to have overcome most of us.  It began the night after I last wrote this blog, when a telephone cascade of some sort went round the village, trying to bail out the Unfortunate Case of the Cancelled Works Do.  My phone call was from Delyth.
“Are you doing anything this evening?”
“Writing Christmas cards and washing some jumpers that have suffered from the snow-clearing exertions.”
“Leave them.  There’s a party at Celia and Paul’s.”
I don’t mind parties when I know people, but I don’t think I’d ever clapped eyes on Paul, and I’d only seen Celia in the distance, through the smoked-glass of her 4x4, though Verity talks about her sometimes.  I explained to Delyth  but she was not to be deterred.
“Doesn’t matter.  There’ll be loads of people there that don’t really know them.  A kind of six degrees thing.  But Paul has had to cancel his works do, and all the food has already been ordered and prepared by Lucy and Jessica Frobisher, so Celia and Paul have decided to have a party at home instead, use the food up that way.  Seven-thirty onwards.  I’ll pick you and your chap up, so you can’t wriggle out of it.”
I did some fairly inept wriggling down the phone but it had no effect.  After instructing me to phone and tell anyone else in the village that I knew, Delyth rang off.
Although I was a bit anxious about going to a party where I didn’t know anyone, especially one catered by Jessica Frobisher who was apparently not pleased with me as it was, once I got there and had a glass of champagne, I started to enjoy myself.  One huge advantage of a party in the village, as I may have mentioned before, is that you don’t need to worry about drinking and driving.  In this weather, more of us should probably have worried about drinking and falling over on the ice, but I heard the following morning that only two sprained wrists had been reported on the grapevine.
That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the week.  Paul is not the only one in the village with a vehicle that can cope with the ungritted roads, but there are very few.  There have been occasional mass-runs to the supermarkets, and there’s been a lot of walking.  Getting over the hump-backed bridge on an icy pavement with gripless wellies has been challenging but it’s at times like that, a walking stick comes into its own.  I’ve seen a couple of people with walking poles, the sort that are very popular in Scandinavia and very expensive in Dartmoor, but in this weather I expect they help.  The real difficulty, assuming one manages to reach the town, is that either the shopping has to be carried home again, in which case one is limited in how much one can buy, or one has to persuade a taxi to attempt the journey.  Fortunately, I have a well-stocked freezer and have seen Edith on several occasions for sandwich fillings.  In the evenings, there has been a succession of parties, as people make the most of being unable to go to more exotic destinations.  Of course, it means that it’s largely the same people at each event, unless the hangover has been so long-lasting that they haven’t managed it.
Then, just in time for Christmas, the temperature went up ever so slightly, Celeste quit her job after being paid a pittance for struggling in through the snow every day, George got home, and we were able to visit the OH’s brother for a Christmas Eve lunch before heading home and starting to trim sprouts and peel potatoes for our own Christmas lunch. 
On Christmas Day itself, Paul had invited a few people round for drinks, and since the OH had been chatting with him at the non-works do at some length, that included us.  It felt a little odd, leaving the turkey on the side to rest while we walked down the road for a drink, but with fewer people there and a cheery glass of champagne from Paul the moment I entered the house, I stopped worrying about it.  I don’t know how many bottles of champagne Paul must have got through in the last week, but I think he must buy it by the case!  Lunch was, unsurprisingly, a little late.  Which meant that we ended up watching the recorded version of Dr Who since we were still eating Christmas pudding when it started.  In our defence, we had paused between the turkey and the pudding to exchange gifts.  Celeste has bought me a speaker for my iPhone and put some more music on it when she realised that otherwise we would be listening to about three tracks over and over again.  I must say, it is quite nice, being able to listen to all my music on a shuffled setting, though it’s a little weird switching from a Mozart slow movement to Christina Aguilera’s latest offering. 
So, happy Christmas to everyone out there, or whichever festival, if any, you celebrate.  I hope the snow has added to your enjoyment of the season rather than detracted from it.  My New Year’s resolution, made early, is to keep my blog more up-to-date.  And Verity has also asked me to write more about what actually happens in the village, so I’ll try to satisfy her too.  After all, she knows where I live...

Friday, 17 December 2010

Heading for a Full House

I’m not a poker player so I wouldn’t have taken any bets on when my kids arrived home for Christmas, but Celeste is already back, so if I had succumbed, I would have lost.  Some of her friends went up to London for the student fee protests, but however strongly Celeste feels about it, she decided not to join them and to head home instead.  Just as well, from what she tells me, because they were just about to break away from the march and head into a coffee shop when they were ‘kettled’.
“It was awful, Mum,” Celeste told me, as shocked as if she had been there herself.  “I mean, all they wanted was a coffee.”
“I don’t think that’s why they were kettled, dear,” I told her.
Anyway, it led to lots of tweeting and texting and facebooking and other –ing uses of IT and two of the girls dropped in here for Friday night, on their way home, Emma to Cornwall and Louise to Cumbria. 
“I can’t stay,” Louise told me.  “Mum says that the snow hasn’t melted yet and there’s more forecast.  If I don’t get back soon, I’ll be stuck here and that would be awful.”
Looking at my face, she realised that could have been misinterpreted, but I forgave her.
George isn’t back yet, but at least with a leg in plaster, a protest march isn’t that easy and it certainly isn’t his thing.  He’s got some sort of holiday job that he can do from home, or wherever his laptop is provided he has internet, so he’s heading down next week, getting a lift from a friend who is a)driving and b)equipped with snow-tyres, as he’s heading over to Switzerland for some Christmas skiing. 
Here in our village, snow-tyres aren’t normally necessary but because we don’t get gritted,  even our high street being such a minor road, today’s tiny snowfall has already caused problems.  I was out this morning after dropping Celeste off at a temp job in our local outlet mall, and as soon as I left the main road, I started skidding.  Buses have already started to think twice about coming this way, though the post-woman is still managing to make it.  This is just as well, since although the first batch of Christmas cards have been written and posted, the second batch is still sitting on the kitchen table, written, addressed and in some cases stamped; yes, I know I’ve missed the deadline for the States and Europe, but better late than never is my motto.
Celeste, meanwhile, is keeping me busy, what with trying to fit in the Christmas shopping and preparing the house for Christmas with her routine, or lack of it.  Fortunately, she tells me that blogs shouldn’t be written too often, and preferably mid-week, so that should take some of the pressure off me!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

After a break. Literally.

Shortly after putting the second card up on the bookshelf and deciding that I needed to buy some Christmas cards, the phone rang.  It was George.
“Err, Mum, you busy?”
I always love to hear from my offspring but any conversation that begins by asking if I’m busy is usually followed by information that leads to my being overloaded.  This one was no exception.
“I’ve had a bit of an accident.  All the snow, you know.  Anyway, I’ve broken my leg.  It’s fine, no long-term damage, but they need to pin it.  Could you or Dad come and get me from the hospital and then let me convalesce for a few days?”
The OH was concerned about taking time off work so it was my responsibility to head north.  Fortunately, George gave me detailed directions because I was convinced that he was in Aberdeen somewhere but it turns out that Abertay University is in Dundee.  I was lucky to check into a reasonable B&B because with all the snow, George’s convalescing was based entirely in Dundee and I have only just got back, with biscuits, cards, and everything else still to do.  I did at least buy some cards in Dundee, in aid of the Scottish SPCA or something, mostly with kittens and tinsel on the front.  If any of my friends are allergic to kittens in tinselly Santa hats, I apologise now.
Now that I’m back, I find that I missed the village’s Progressive Supper.  This are usually extraordinarily drunken affairs, as people wander around the village in fluctuating groups attending different courses at an assortment of houses and washing every course down with more alcohol.  The enjoyability of these affairs varies according to the quality of the food and whether or not you are seated next to someone with selective or actual deafness on your side.  This year, Annie tells me, most people were dressed rather more sensibly than usual, with wellies instead of stilettos, but it didn’t stop one major argument at the end of the evening when one young lady, after too much alcohol, made a pass at a married gentleman who had had too much alcohol and was promptly right-hooked by the gentleman’s wife who had also had too much alcohol.  You may notice a theme here.  In line with Verity’s instructions, I’m not naming names but anyone who was there that night will probably know the people involved!  It’s just as well that Verity wasn’t there herself, because otherwise she would doubtless tell me I couldn’t even describe the events...
In other news, the deli has asked for a hiatus on my biscuits.  “Nothing personal, they’re still selling well, but while you were away, we’ve stocked up on stuffing mixes and sauces for Christmas, and there isn’t really room for your biscuits.  Take some time off and come back in the New Year,” Edith told me.  “Happy Christmas, by the way.”
That’ll teach me to take a break.  Or George.  Either way, at least I don’t need to make my way across the county for more card for my boxes just yet.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


My curiosity was piqued so I did some research on the book and found out the following: I can download to my computer even though I don't have a PC, and there is a blurb to circulate, in case anyone wondered.  Here's the blurb:

When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

... and here's the link to get the book:

Snow, it isn't.

Someone somewhere near here seems to be operating a very powerful snowcloud repellent; as the rest of the country freezes to a halt, we have had a thin sprinkling of snow yesterday, which largely evaporated during the day, so that today there has been some snow and a little ice around.  All of which makes getting around the village that much easier.  The roads are pretty much okay, to judge by the speeds some folks are still attaining, but maybe the speed heats the air up a little more?
However, some people aren’t able to carry out normal plans so I should not have been too surprised by a visit first of all from Jenny, to ask if I had a kindle and could I please download a book by Talli Roland called The Hating Game.  I wondered if she needed to borrow a copy but it seems there is some campaign to ‘fix’ Amazon’s chart of top download figures.  Much as I would have loved to help thwart the aims of big business, being a very small business myself, I pointed out to Jenny that being almost a technical luddite, I did not have a kindle and had only recently started either blogging or Facebook.
“Oh, in that case, mention it in your blog,” she told me. Splash, apparently.  I’m going to have to have a long chat with the kids when they come home for Christmas.  My attempts to keep up to the 21st century are clearly finite.
Jenny toddled off after some coffee and chat to go and persuade someone else to be part of her campaign and I had just settled down to planning a shopping list for the next batch of biscuits, when Delyth dropped in.
“Aren’t you at work today?”
“Apparently not.  Any biscuits going spare?” Delyth has been trying to lose weight but in her efforts to eat less than 1000 calories a day, she is so hungry that she picks at all the wrong things.  I pick at all the wrong things too, but not because I’m on under 1000 calories a day, more because I just like the wrong things.
After we’d finished the last of the biscuits, Delyth headed home for some lunch and I went back to my shopping list.  I should have known better.  The phone rang.  Annie.
“Could you possibly collect the newsletter from the printers? I’ve got extra kids today because of the snow and I can’t fit them all in the car.  And then drop them off here?”
Fortunately, I had more or less completed the shopping list by then so decided I could combine the two trips.  However, by the time I got round to Annie’s, she appeared to be a child-free zone and was sitting gazing at something out of Star Trek Voyager.
“What are you doing?” I asked as I handed over a large box of newsletters.  “Where are the kids?”
“It was amazing,” Annie said.  “About two minutes after I spoke to you, all of them were collected by their mums whose offices had closed early after the heating broke down.  I thought you might have gone already, so I downloaded an e-book onto my kindle that everyone’s been going on about.”
“The Hating Game?”
“Have you got it too?  I didn’t figure you for a kindle owner.”  She at least seems to have the right idea about me.
“No, but Jenny mentioned it.  Is it good?  I might buy the proper version if it is.”
“You can’t yet, the paperback’s not out until next year sometime.  Yes, it’s good fun.  Romantic comedy.  Probably what you’d call chick lit.” She absently allowed her eyes to stray back to the page she was on and didn’t really engage in conversation.
I left her to her newsletters and e-book.  Well, mostly e-book.  I don’t think she was overly bothered about the newsletter at that moment.  Anyway, the deli may be closed today for no reason to do with snow whatsoever, but I have biscuits to bake for tomorrow and some Christmas cards to write.  The first one has already arrived...

Monday, 29 November 2010

Monday 29th November

Greetings to anyone who is still out there, from this small village.
While I haven’t completely forgiven Verity for being rather blunt with me last week, I suppose I have come round to the idea that people don’t want to read about me ranting about parking charges in the nearby towns.  Mind you, if they started charging for parking here, there’d be a bit of a riot!
It’s been quite a busy week since I last wrote, quite a lot of it not taking place in the village, so I won’t bore you with the details.  However, one entertaining item has occurred, and whilst I recognise that it *could* take place in a town with a pond, it happened here.
We have a couple of areas of woodland.  One, round the back of our house, has been there for ages, probably before the Enclosures Acts.  The other is known as Millennium Wood as it was planted to celebrate the millennium i.e. it’s been there since 2000.  It was previously a field, without being the sort you might encounter in Kansas, so the wood’s not massive, although the trees have now grown sufficiently that you could get lost with a little effort.  It does take a little effort as the wood has become a popular destination for dog walkers, in part doubtless because of the dog-poo bin just by the entrance, and so the path is relatively well trodden.  Or pawed.  Either way.  There is also a pond, with a small island in the sort-of middle where the ducks can nest (and do), and a bench where you can sit to admire the view across the pond to the island and try and spot the ducks.  In the correct season, there is fishing there as well, but you need a licence.  You can probably tell that I’m not a fishing aficionado but there are definitely signs up that warn of dire consequences for those fishing without licences.
Anyway, on with the item.  Not having a dog, but wanting a breath of fresh air and a brisk walk to counteract the effects of the biscuit-tasting sessions, I went for a walk this weekend around the wood.  It was relatively early, I suppose, with frost still crisping the leaves that were clinging onto their branches for another few days at most.  Some of the muddy ruts were a little hard to navigate, frozen solid as they were, but on the whole, it was pleasant.  I had taken the route that finishes by the pond, my ‘brisk’ constituting an amble for those who had to walk the dog more than once and would quite like to get back indoors, thank you very much, and I had nearly reached the end when I was overtaken first by a speeding spaniel, quite a remarkable sight in itself, and shortly afterwards by a less-speeding owner.  He looked vaguely familiar from the pub, I think, but on this occasion he was calling out, “Gertie – puff – Gertie – puff – wait – puff” (etc.) as he made his vain attempt to catch up with the excited dog.
Just as I rounded the bend, the pond, the dog and the owner all came into view.  Gertie had clearly stopped to check out an interesting smell in a clump of grass right at the edge of the pond, her owner had bent down to clip the lead back onto Gertie’s collar, and the pond was just being the pond.  And coldly so.   At that moment, something else – possibly a bird, possibly me – startled Gertie and head aloft, she shot off in the opposite direction from the pond.  Her owner, who it should already be clear was not up to the same level of fitness as Gertie, fell over.  Backwards.  Into the pond.
I smirked.  Sorry, but it’s true.  I may not be allowed to be entirely truthful about everyone else in the village, but I don’t see the point in glossing over myself.  Fortunately for the owner, the pond is not deep.  He sat up almost immediately, dripping wet and slightly muddy, and glared at me. 
“Sorry,” I muttered, and tried to slink past so that I could laugh in peace.
“You could at least try and catch the bloody dog for me!” he called after me as I broke into a gentle trot en route to home and hilarity.
I know, it was cold, it was wet, it was muddy, it was possibly slightly painful and it was certainly injurious to self-esteem, so I shouldn’t laugh.  But most importantly, it wasn’t me!  Tee hee!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Monday 22nd November

                Verity came round at the weekend to ‘sort me out’, to use her phrase.  It seems that my blog is not living up to her expectations, that there’s not enough about village life in it because I’m forever going into town and writing about that instead.
                “If you’re going to call it ‘Notes from a Small Village’, then it needs to be about the village,” she informed me.  “It’s no wonder that no-one’s reading it.  Who wants to hear about the cost of parking in the town?  They want to know what’s going on in the village.  And that’s another thing.  You need to be more careful in your descriptions of people.  Jessica Frobisher called me yesterday to complain about your blog.  Apparently you put her and her dogs in it and were rather unflattering.  You can’t write about living in a village and slag everyone off!”
                I found it a little hard to get a word in edgeways, Verity was running at such full steam.  I would have tried to point out the contradictions in what she said, since clearly Jessica Frobisher was reading it at least.  Reading it and writing comments after it are two quite different things.  But if Verity thinks I shouldn’t be putting things in that don’t happen in the village, then I won’t mention going to see the new Harry Potter movie at the weekend (quite dark, literally and metaphorically, but then so’s the book, so it would have been a bit odd if it hadn’t been) or meeting up with some friends for a coffee in our nearest ‘city’.  I would describe Delyth’s party, which did take place in the village in a rather nice converted barn that the owners run as a venue for weddings and so on, but if I have to be more careful about descriptions of people, then I can’t really name the ones who’d had too much to drink and started singing loudly and tunelessly as the entertainer was just getting starter, nor the ‘gentleman’ who greeted me as his long-lost wife, with associated grope, even though I’ve only ever seen him in the queue at the post office before.  I’ll just have to say that wine flowed freely and was drunk in similar quantities.  At least in a village, most people don’t need to worry about driving home afterwards.
                You may have gathered that I am a little peeved with Verity at the moment.  Doubtless it will wear off in time, but until then, I will be posting severely censored blogs and we’ll see if anyone would rather read those, Verity!