Friday, 23 December 2011

Happy Christmas in our village? Perhaps.

   It’s been incredibly busy around the village lately as we all catch up on Christmas shopping and the purchase of sufficient alcohol to sink the proverbial battleship, but we have now lapsed into a mulled haze of pleasantries and goodwill.  Work is officially over for the OH this afternoon but he’s managed to arrange to work from home today, which is just as well as we went carol-singing round the village last night.  This is generally a very pleasant evening out, aided by the unseasonably mild weather which meant we were all sweating buckets by the time we got into the pub that was our final stop, but no-one seemed to either notice or mind.
    There was only one downer in the entire evening, in fact.  Most houses in the village now have at least a wreath on the door or a visible Christmas tree lit up in the front room, but quite a few have illuminated icicles, rippling snow-flurries or even Santas in their sleighs.  I hate to think what the electricity bill is for some people as not everyone fitted solar panels...  However, one house had a wide array of lights attached to its front and planted in the garden but none had been switched on.
  “Oh look,” I said to one of my fellow singers, “they’ve realised how much electricity they’re using and have decided not to turn them on yet.”
  “Didn’t you know? That’s Janet and Brian’s house.”  I shrugged in my ignorance, so my informant continued, “She was pregnant with twins? Tall woman with blonde hair?”
    I thought back over some of the larger people I had seen around the village lately and could faintly recall an attractive blonde who was clearly finding pregnancy very tiring.  “Has she had them then?”
  “They weren’t due until January 17th, but she went into labour last week.  Both babies went into a special care unit but one of them didn’t survive and it’s touch and go for the other.  They’re probably at the hospital.”
  It was sobering information through all the merriment.  How does anyone celebrate Christmas under such circumstances?   It made the words of ‘Away in a Manger’ far more poignant when we sang it at the next stop, whatever one’s religious beliefs.  And I had a chat with our ‘head chorister’, Les.  He was going to donate the money we collected to the Parkinson’s Society for family reasons, but now it’s all going to go to Sands, a support group for people like Janet and Brian.  And I shall pop a note through their door this afternoon, asking if they want to drop in for some cake when they get back from the hospital.  I can’t imagine they will, but the least I can do is offer.  Merry Christmas indeed.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Bring me sunshine...

As I was walking down to the post office last Friday, attempting to post all my overseas cards before the last posting date, I could have sworn that I saw Verity's Max speeding by in his car, the indicator flashing as though he was heading back to his former home.  I haven't seen him in the village since Verity threw him out back in April, so I wasn't entirely certain, but the car was definitely familiar. I speeded up my steps to the post office,  joined the lengthy queue of like-minded people and eventually returned home only to discover I'd left Celeste's presents on the kitchen table, and she has now decided she will be staying in Switzerland after all since it has snowed, so it was back to the Post Office again before they closed for lunch...
All of which meant that by the time I was able to phone Verity to ask if she knew Max was driving through the village, there was no answer.  I think she had said she would be at a planning lunch for next year's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in our local town, though it was probably a Christmas lunch for the planning committee without any actual work being done.   Either way, I wasn't able to get hold of her that day, or over the weekend.  Finally, yesterday, she returned one of my calls.  She was unusually vague about where she had been over the weekend, but she was able to confirm that it had indeed been Max who I had seen on Friday.
"Wretched solar panel people, couldn't actually pick a day to turn up and then keep to it," she said, "so I asked Max to be there and make sure they didn't leave a hole in the roof."
"I didn't realise you were even talking to Max," I said.
"Well, it wasn't ideal, but he at least knows where all the various switches are in the house that they might have needed access to," she admitted.  The words came in a rush, as though I wasn't the first person she'd had to explain to.
 "Why couldn't they come back today instead, when you could be there?"
"Oh, I'm not staying at home today, I have some book thing to go to and then some Christmas shopping to do.  Besides, it would be too late for the deadline - haven't you been following the news? I thought you were going to get solar panels yourselves."
We had looked into solar panels at one point, but the outlay needed was horrific and I thought the subject had been dropped.  I asked the OH when he got home, though.
"Oh, there was a good deal on the price you could sell the electricity back, and they're halving it from tomorrow.  That's what she meant about the deadline.  Still haven't ruled it out, though.  As technology improves, the price of the panels and their installation will probably come down, we can do it then. Seems the decent thing to do."  And he went back to reading the post while the TV was still on, wasting more electricity.
I'm going to have to invite Verity for lunch at some point, I think, to find out exactly what's going on, because she's far too keen to rush through phone calls and dash off at present.  It can't all be because she has to finish her Christmas shopping!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

News of the World I'm Not

You're probably wondering what happened about Fiona's flowers.  Well, actually, if you've been as busy as I have over the last couple of weeks, you've had too much to think about to wonder about the mendacious Fiona and her envy-inducing flowers.  I've been trying to shop for Christmas presents, without much success - nothing looks terribly appealing, or if it does, I'm rather put off by the price tag.  Still, I bought some lovely earmuffs and matching scarf and gloves for Celeste, since she was going to be a chalet maid for the time being, at which point she phoned and said that since there hadn't been much snow, it was possible she would be home for Christmas after all.  Perhaps it will be cold and snowy again here? 
Anyway, I went round to Fiona's as soon as I'd finished doing the washing-up after dinner that night (grilled pork chop with a stir-fry vegetable medley and some steamed cabbage, in case you're interested) to hand over the flowers and challenge her on her lack of honesty.  Not that I really care, you understand, just to see what she said.  I was very disappointed.
"Oh, thanks for taking those in.  I'd taken my little charges up to town to see the new art exhibition.  You can't start introducing children to culture too soon, in my opinion." (The children she looks after are all under three.  I doubt they know what an art gallery is, other than a place to run around. I bet she was intensely unpopular and didn't care an ounce.) "It never occurred to me that there might be a delivery."
"I was a little surprised you were out," I told her, keeping as straight as face as I could manage before dropping my little bombshell.  "Though I was even more surprised that someone could be under the illusion that you've just turned forty."
Fiona turned very slightly pink before retorting with a reasonably-well aimed barb of, "Taken to reading other people's cards, now, have you? I suppose with nothing interesting in your own life, you have to resort to invading others'."
I tried to point out that the card had fallen out of the flowers but not wanting to have a full-blown argument on the doorstep at a time when other people are still out and about, I stopped defending myself and went, without even asking who D was.  I'd make a terrible tabloid reporter and an even worse witness at that Leveson enquiry, crumbling at the first refusal.
Meanwhile, I have found an old recipe for Christmas pudding, so I thought this year I would have a go at making my own.  The only disadvantage is that even once the quantity has been reduced down as far as I can, it makes about 20 pounds of pudding.  Consequently I've been boiling small puddings every night for the last week and plan to give them as Christmas presents to some of the older residents in the village.  It's a good recipe and there's something lovely about home-made, so I hope the recipients appreciate my efforts.  The house is developing a lingering odour of Guinness and currants; the OH is talking about getting it redecorated next year and I don't think it's a coincidence.