It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

We (I) set aside a day for unearthing the decorations, checking that everything still works and putting them up in an effort to look vaguely Christmassy.  I live in a house of bah humbug hypocrites (I still love them though).  They are quite happy to receive the benefits of Christmas – different food, presents, no college/Uni/work  – but trying to get them to help with the decorations or even write down what they want in the Christmas book – it’s one of those camel and eye of needles jobs.

Yes, I have a Christmas book – several actually – dotted around the house in carrier bags that I put in a safe place and later forget where that safe place was. When I eventually unearth one I scan the pages to see if everyone got what they wanted last year (or two, three or four years ago), then rip out the old pages and start badgering people for ideas.

Trouble is – as the boys have become older and want money or DVDs or bits for their computers, the whole skill of Christmas shopping has vanished. For years I bought an assortment of weird and whacky items for my husband until in a rare moment of clarity I noticed that most of them sat in the sparkly gift bags I’d lovingly placed them in and were untouched for the rest of that year and several others.

We had one of those full and frank  talks and he confessed that – coming from a household where one or two presents was the norm – he found my generosity a little hard to cope with  and would rather have just a couple of presents that he really wanted.  Of course finding out what those presents were has proved a challenge over the years as he doesn’t usually know what he wants either.  This year his page in the book has ‘Book from the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ , a pair of YakTracks ( he had to put those down because we bought them together), REAL fudge and ‘a part for one of my markers – I don’t know if I can get hold of it yet and it’s a bit expensive – about £45 I think’ . (Paintballers will recognise this comment).

My eldest has ordered his presents from Amazon courtesy of my account and my debit card.  He may use some of his precious time to brave the crowds and go shopping for a new coat with his old friends from college but for the rest of the Christmas holiday he will be sleeping, eating, ironing his extensive wardrobe of mainly cotton-based clothing and sitting up all night chortling at American TV.  Pretty much what he does at Uni but putting aside the going out with his flatmates to get gloriously drunk in York – Liverpool or Manch may be the choice of venue for a while but only until the  (our) money runs out.

eBay and some dubious-looking army-surplus type online stores have provided my six-foot two-inch baby with the grungy-looking camo gear he wears when shooting his friends with small white plastic pellets.   It’s called ‘Airsoft’ and the back garden is covered with these  pellets because he likes to lean out of the bathroom window and practice shooting at the garage.

Needless to say – I have had to wrack my brains in order to fill several pages with the books, DVDs, perfume and jewellery that I desire.  My excuse is that having a birthday in January this gives my loved ones the opportunity to buy my birthday presents in the sales without having to ask me what I want.  I buy a lot of them for myself and hand them to my husband for wrapping – he forgets about ordering things until it’s too late and getting them myself avoids any domestic crises.  It does mean however, that I have to make it clear which list is for which event – there have been a couple of occasions when I particularly wanted something for Christmas only to find it had been wrapped up in less Christmassy  paper and put aside.  The gap between the 25th and the 12th of January is sometimes just too long and I have had to re-negotiate sometimes.

Sine Mum died – just over two years ago now – my Dad has played a large part in our Christmas and while I find it hard going to bend my own males to my will regarding festive matters, all three of them can be guaranteed to put themselves out for my Dad.  This means that my eldest will get up before midday to join us for Christmas lunch, and my husband will take special care to put together a food package that will ensure my Dad only has to use the microwave for the next week to recreate my lovingly prepared Christmas lunch when he’s taken home after dozing off in a chair with the rest of us on Christmas afternoon.  My baby boy hasn’t eaten Christmas lunch with us for several years.  He doesn’t like turkey and prefers to eat bacon super noodles and pepperoni heavily laced with Tabasco sauce in the privacy of his room.  He may deign to join us later and pull a cracker or two but after suffering numerous strop-laden Christmas Days where we forced him to sit with us – this is a much better option all round.

At half-past four  I go to work.  I always work on Christmas Day evening – I’ve had quite enough of everyone by then and going upstairs to the office to be on-call for other people’s Christmas crises is a cleansing experience after all the excesses.

So back to the present – today will see us stowing away the decoration boxes for a couple of weeks and a huge shopping trip with the eldest – who has NO food that he likes in the house – one thing he shares with the youngest (who will text or call us during the shopping trip to ask us what he wants).  The main difference between the two boys being that whilst the eldest eats whatever is bought as long as he chooses it, the youngest has butterfly tastes and what he loved and craved  yesterday  is absolutely disgusting today.  Sometimes we will eat up his excess purchases but more often than not they end up in the bin when we clear out the fridge.  Talking of which; husband and youngest defrosted the freezer yesterday.  It took three hair driers and several old towels but was done speedily and in a very scientific manner – allegedly – they sounded like they were having a good time anyway.

Oh, the Christmas tree lights have just come on – looks like the timer needs a bit of adjusting but it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Janice Saves

In the office on Wednesday – trying to get things tied up neatly so I can have the rest of the week off.

Both my meetings turned out to be more contentious than I thought they would be and meant that I had to do extra work because other people hadn’t looked at all aspects of the problem.

Back to the office mid-afternoon to start tidying up and get an early go as I was on the bus (it takes an hour and a half on the bus as opposed to a ten minute car ride).  A snotty e-mail asking me to finish off a report asap.  A less snotty e-mail is sent explaining that I am about to go home and will get it done on Monday – in between the four meetings I have booked in for that day.

A call from our head of service explains that the report is needed before I go home so I stay because she ask me nicely and knows that this works better on me than any number of snotty e-mails.

The report is finished and sent off.  I pack up my stuff and decide to use my emergency money for a taxi because it is dark and cold and the buses are now on evening times – one every half an hour if you are lucky.

I call the taxi rank and a very jolly man says they can have one outside in five minutes.

Ten minutes later as I stand in the dark with a biting wind chilling every bone in my body, I turn down a lift to the bus station because hey! I have a taxi ordered – it’s a little bit late but….

After another five minutes I call the taxi rank again.  ~this time I get a considerably less jolly girl who says I’m next on the list but no taxis are available yet and she doesn’t know why the jolly man said five minutes because that’s just impossible.   I tell her that I’ll walk up to the main road and can the taxi pick me up from there – it’s kind of miserable standing outside work like Billy No Mates whilst everyone else is getting into their cars and going home.

Ten minutes later and still no sign of a taxi so I phone them and cancel.  I’m only five minutes away from the hospital and they have a freephone taxi service and a warm waiting area.

Except there is no answer on the freephone line.  So I decide to cut my losses and walk over to the bus stop outside the hospital.  It’s now been three-quarters of an hour since I left work and I am cold and very hacked off.  So I text my husband for some sympathy – which I get.  And I phone my son for some sympathy  – which I don’t get because he’s been busy on a flight simulator and hasn’t even noticed that I’m not home yet.

And I wait.  three buses go up the road, none come back.  there are five of us at the bus stop and another person joins us to say that there has been a big accident in the town and it’s affecting traffic.  I try four more taxi ranks – no one has cars available for at least half an hour and they all blame congestion.  I think of phoning friends for a lift but feel that I being a bit wussy.

It gets colder; I can’t feel my feet and I text for more sympathy.  being the lovely man that he is, my husband phones round from work and on only his second call finds a friend who is not only in but who will come and get me in the next ten minutes.

Janice saved me.  she sped up in her little red Corsa with the heating on full blast to warm me up.  My son (on his father’s orders) had prepared some mulled wine for me.  Two and a quarter hours to get home.

Thank you Janice.


In the office

‘Let it be’ – The Beatles

‘Hallelujah, I’m a bum’   –

‘Why don’t you work like other folks do?
How the hell can I work when there’s no work to do?

Hallelujah, I’m a bum,
Hallelujah, bum again,
Hallelujah, give us a handout
To revive us again.’

Two cultural debates:

Is it sconz or scOnes?  Apparently the latter is posh – unless you live in Yorkshire – in which case it’s the other way round.

Is it posh to eat dark chocolate.  The general consensus  is yes – ‘posh’ people apparently don’t have the craving for sweet things that common people do.

The Christmas Do

There is such a huge variance between teams about how to celebrate the year by having the Christmas do.  One of the teams goes the whole hog and takes off to a hotel for the weekend – then spends the rest of the year apologising for drunken indiscretions.  Another opts for a burlesque evening followed by a slap up meal and expensive cocktails.  At the other end of the spectrum are teams that plump for the cheap and cheerful Christmas dinner special at the local carvery or Wetherspoons.

Being a small but perfectly formed team, we chose a Tapas bar in the centre of town where four of us had tapas and the other four went for more traditional food (not ‘fare’  – ‘traditional fare’ makes my teeth itch).  ‘Now that’s what I call Christmas’ was very much in evidence in the bar but somebody with taste skipped over ‘Mistletoe and Wine’.   The tapas was plentiful and acceptable although the calimari was on the rubbery side and we could have done with more aoli.

Much wine was consumed however, and with our numbers dwindled to five we trudged through the rain to meet up with the Wetherspoons crowd who were upstairs sitting on unfeasibly high stools and surrounded with Christmas detritus: pulled crackers and party poppers, discarded paper hats and half-eaten Christmas  pudding.  They were mellow.

More wine was consumed and people who barely acknowledged each other throughout the year parted with the fondest of hugs until there were only four of us left and the wine bottles were empty.  A hungry teenager on the phone, desperate for late night chips  and a sausage, broke up the party and we went on a hunt for a chippy that was still open at twenty to twelve.  Luck was with us and on being met by a wailing cat and a rumbling son as we walked in the door, peace was restored by chips for the boy and chicken for the cat.  And several glasses of water for me to try and dilute some of that wine.

Overton Hill (aka the Frodsham Monument)

Overton Hill

Few people will know this local monument by its official name, for many it is known as the Frodsham Memorial.  Perched high on the top of the sandstone cliffs overlooking Frodsham, for me this is place of many emotions and experiences.  I have visited with my children when they were small; half-terrified in case they ventured too close to the unguarded cliff edge and I have brought them back here as teenagers to watch the sunset together.  My husband and I are frequent visitors in fair weather and foul; never ceasing to be eased as we discover some new aspect of the view, our fellow visitors or the surrounding environment.  We brought my father up here on the day my mother died; needing to escape from the sterile hospital and seeking solace in the fresh air and open space.

The plaque that stands just inside the gate leading to the monument states that Overton Hill was donated to the people of Frodsham by local landowners as a place to remember those who gave their lives in the wars.  A short and undemanding walk through grass and gorse leads up to the viewing point where, under the shadow of the memorial stone, you can sit on one of the benches donated in loving memory, and watch the world go by.  On a day of optimum visibility, the panorama stretches from Moel Famau in North Wales to Jodrell Bank’s huge satellite dish; taking in the tall masts of Winter Hill, Liverpool Airport’s control tower, the constant lights of Castle Rock, the span of the Runcorn Bridge and the immense cooling towers of Fiddler’s Ferry power station.  Closer to view are the Mersey flood plains, the roaring motorway, the little purple train coming back from Chester and Frodsham itself, nestled far below the drop of the cliff.

Rabbits come here when the visitors have gone; leaving their droppings as the only evidence of their presence.  Once you zone out the motorway’s drone there is a choir of birdsong  and the wheeling antics of gull and magpies whilst  birds of prey loop lazily in the sky.  It is rare to come here and not encounter another human visitor; dog-walkers, photographers seeking to capture the breadth of the landscape, hand-holding couples both young and old, and when we visit today; a group of local schoolchildren on a geography trip.  They chatter like the magpies earlier seen, and this is interspersed with terse commands from their teacher, who like myself so many years ago, is worried that they will go too close to the edge.

On the way back to the car we stop, as we always do, to admire the progress of my favourite tree.  A blue spruce, just a little larger than the average Christmas tree, it stands to one side of the path, branches of almost furry needles outspread as if to send us on our way with a farewell and safe journey.  This then, is Overton Hill, a place of extremes; environment, inhabitants and emotions, a legacy left for our enjoyment and remembrance.

By chiara1421 Posted in Places

Windswept Wednesday

Less rain today but more wind and still the occasional machine gun rattle of hailstones.  Bumped into the Swagger in the corridor again this morning.  Asked – out of curiosity more than anything  – why didn’t he let his wife have the car to take the kids to school yesterday so that they wouldn’t get wet.  Apparently he did; he just thought it was dreadful that they had to walk 100 yards or so from the car because the school won’t let them park any closer.  I know I sound like one of the four Yorkshiremen but really – when we were kids we had to walk  half a mile to school.  There was no bus and we didn’t have a car.  I have vivid memories of spending the day in clothes and shoes so wet that they weren’t even dry by the time we went home.  All the kids were in the same situation though, with every schoolroom redolent with the scent of damp child and scorched pullovers that had been left on very hot radiators.

In the office

C had her interview and is now officially one of the team – not that any of us thought she wasn’t – but it means she’ll get paid a bit more and the snidey backbiters can stop making comments about her being given the job without an interview.  Lent her ‘Bridesmaids’ to watch on the weekend.  Recommended a large bottle of red and a Tena Lady.

‘Sybil’  – multiple personalities

More talk of going mad today – getting to be a habit

Fear and trembling  in senior management – they have 44 days (including 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year) to apply for their own jobs.  Bet it won’t be anywhere near as poorly organised and protracted as our review was.

Tapas for our Christmas night out on Friday – not particularly Christmassy and rather too soon for my liking but it’s a night out and we all need one right now

I now have beautifully pedicured feet with very attractive red nails.  There’s nothing quite like reflexology for making it all go away.  Sandra has well and truly searched my soles.

Caught up on episodes of ‘The Cafe’


Hail Tuesday

On the way to work this morning we passed a pair of pink flowered Wellington boots lying on their sides on the pavement as if the owner had just jumped out of them and boarded a bus.  Just around the corner  a pair of chestnut coloured woollen gloves on the grass; carefully balled and obviously fallen from someone’s pocket.  Sad to think of the owners of the boots and gloves.  Hope they weren’t the same person.

The hail started when we were halfway there; huge icy nuggets that really meant business.  Inside the car with Real XS playing ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and us singing along.  The hail had turned to rain by the time we got to work and it was such a wrench to leave N, the radio and most of all the heated seat to dash through the rain and fumble with the fob at the security door.

Once inside I pass the Swagger and he glares at me and says “Look at this weather; my kids are having to walk to school in this weather, having to walk to school!”   Not really sure whether he is berating me for the weather or the fact that he is at work when he should be driving his kids to school – not my problem either way.

 In the office today

S and his flipchart  – stood in uffish thought with marker pen poised.

A’s Freudian slip – poor Mary Millington – got her mixed up with another Mary when talking to someone a bit important..

The secretary who kept notes on her fellow staff : how often they went out for cigarettes, how long they took for lunch and whether  they should be allowed extra time to put their lipstick back on after lunch.  No one asked her to do this but she wrote it all down in a polka dot ring-bound notebook from Paperchase.

If I ever want to get myself sectioned under the Mental Health Act – P has given me some excellent tips – hallucinations and inner voices are best – hmmm.

Senior management cuts and reshuffle – they have thirty days to weight it all up – we had it sorted in five minutes.

A day of laughter  and work accomplished followed by a shopping trip only slightly sullied by the outrageous demands of a hungry teenager.

Monday, Monday

In the office today:-

‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ – Monkees

‘Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up smoking’ – Airplane

Glad to be at work on such a horrible day and gladder still that we have a new meeting room and don’t have to trek across the wind tunnel of a car park to sit hunched up in the portakabins, freezing on one side from the draughty windows and melting on the other from the hyperactive heaters.

The smokers were having a particularly bad time of it today – caught in the hail showers as they darted across to the relative safety of the designated smoking area (or fire exit with a slight overhang).

Zumba night – thirty women initially well-muffled against the cold wet wind, shedding layers of sporting clothing until by the end of the hour we are all positively glowing.  H’s enthusiasm is inspiring; the sight of her little face beaming and laughing at the front of the class is enough to motivate the couchiest of potatoes.

Cilla Black on  NMTB – too much ‘Surprise, Surprise’ but not bad on the whole and followed by the wonderful ‘Mongrels’

Welcome to my blog

According to friends, family and people who know about these things, all aspiring writers should be on Twitter, Facebook and have a blog.

So here is my first attempt – in which I will do my best not to identify and embarrass my loved ones – although I am very grateful to one of my gifted sons who has put this web page together for me – and for a very reasonable fee.