Monthly Archives: December 2006

Eight yards of silk and a glass of beer

Well, since Jen, Martina and Stitchwort mention it – the sari in the pub. No photo however, I’m afraid as it doesn’t exist.

I went to a party a few days before Christmas – this would be five years ago. My friends Bob and Di were the hosts; charming and hospitable as always. We all ate and drank rather a lot over several hours – they live in the village, within walking distance for most of us, so we were were able to relax and not count the units.

At some point, Bob told us about a fancy dress party they had been to, before moving to Mahsrae (I’m imitating BD and using backspeak, to save myself from the Power of Google). He went as Gandhi. This was not an obvious choice; he is slim but well built, with a head of thick white hair and a white beard and moustache (he does not look in the least like Father Christmas) and it was a little hard to imagine, but apparently he managed to make himself look convincing by means of a home-made dhoti – the turban was less authentic. Someone, knowing I’d worn a sari at a wedding I had been to in Madras earlier that year, said we’d make an attractive pair.

We had already all agreed to meet up at the village pub on Christmas Day for a quick drink before the family festivities. I’m not sure who first suggested it – it could even have been me – but at some point I did say that I’d wear my sari if he’d wear his dhoti. He agreed. I’m afraid he was one over the eight at the time.

On Christmas Day there is a church service at ten in the morning, at which I always play the organ. A sari-wearing blonde organist is an unlikely sight in an English country church, but not an unwelcome one, I hope. Afterwards I walked the half-mile to church. There was Bob. In trousers, a shirt and a jacket. Pfft.

Anyway, they were pleased to see me and quite impressed, not least for my sari-folding skills – secure with no pins. Furthermore, not many middle-aged women go around, even now, in this country with a bare midriff and no one had ever seen mine before. It is a simple sari, in plain dark red, fine georgette silk, and the short tight blouse is decorated with gold thread. I stood chatting, clutching my half pint, and I felt something cold at my waist. I turned. Bob, giggling, was pressing his pint mug to my exposed flesh. Really, he’s such a boy.

Is it too early to mention Christmas?

There will be a Trustees meeting here at 6 o’clock this evening. Having made yet more wreaths this morning (58 so far, so the Sage tells me), I have just hoovered up the debris and put a rug over the stains. I looked around. There is no sign of Christmas in the room at all.

Is there anyone else who decorates the house for Christmas, rather than for the whole of December? I think that you have three weeks for preparation and the festivities start on Christmas Eve and go on until 6th January (Epiphany). That’s a fortnight; Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the Twelve Days of Christmas. But this relaxed, albeit expectant, attitude seems at odd with the rest of the country. I can understand shops, offices and schools decorating early, but does one not get fed up with dusty old cards and greenery by the New Year, if they’ve already been dangling around for a month?

I won’t deny that there is a certain degree of procrastination in my attitude. And when my children was young, we were persuaded to put the tree up a week or so in advance. In those days, we used to make elaborate decorations, most of which have fallen apart now. One year we made Father Christmases, using golf balls as heads. These bowed the tree branches down considerably and if I do the same thing in future with the grandbabies I will learn from it and use ping pong balls.

The smartest decorations for the tree date from the time Al and El took stained glass classes. Al made lots of glass decorations; angels, Father Christmases, bells, Christmas trees etc. These are also heavy, but we just make sure we buy a sturdy tree.

I bought some Fairtrade tree ornaments. These include little wooden dolls, wearing saris. How multicultural. Have I told you about the time I wore a sari to the village pub? It doesn’t take much in this village to cause a sensation.

Imperfect memories

I’ve been trying to remember what we used to have in our Christmas order from Fortnum & Mason. I should think we ordered the stilton from there. We used to have a whole stilton; we had a round cheesedish with a big cover. The top crust of the cheese was cut off and we scooped out helpings with a cheese scoop. There was, apparently, a tradition of pouring port into the cheese, but we never did that – sounds like a good way of ruining both stilton and wine to me.

Then there were the sweets. I remember we had griottes en cognac – hope I’ve got the name right. Brandied cherries in dark chocolate. We also used to have butterscotch rolled in flaked almonds; I can’t remember their name. *Something* amandine, logically enough, but the missing word is the one that matters. They were gorgeous and I haven’t been able to get them for years – I’ve asked but haven’t tracked them down. We used to buy tea and coffee from F&M all year round; we drank Earl Grey tea and you couldn’t get that locally in those days. We sent for it and coffee beans every month or so.

I can’t remember what else we bought. Things like tinned anchovies, olives and olive oil, avocado pears … in the 1950s and early 1960s few people used these things, but my parents were early devotees of Elizabeth David and were adventurous cooks. My mother went to a great deal of trouble with food and my father was a keen vegetable gardener. We had a full-time gardener, but Daddy had an extra greenhouse too, where he grew the things he fancied. I remember one year he grew loofahs and had his picture in the local paper. We used them for years and the black seeds used to drop out in the bath. I’ve grown them myself, they are like cucumbers to grow, but you have to leave the fruit to dry out, until only the skeleton is left. If it starts to blacken at all, the whole thing will rot, so that needs care. I hung them above the Aga to dry out slowly.

Anyway, yesterday my sister and I pottered happily around F&M food hall for some time, and I bought a Christmas pudding. She says her contribution to Christmas dinner will be champagne and smoked salmon. I think I’m all sorted.

A veggie weekend

A friend of Ro’s is coming to stay for the weekend. I’ve met him briefly a couple of times, delightful lad, but it’s at times like this that I notice how odd we are and how people might be a bit puzzled by the way we live. However, no point in glossing over this sort of thing, this is how we are and we just have to be matter-of-fact about it.

I was a little more taxed about feeding the boy. He is Muslim and only eats Halal meat. In effect, that means that he eats no meat when away from home. He is also teetotal. I have been asking Ro, anxiously, what other things I have to take into account. Fortunately, that’s about it. Apart from vegetarian cheese. And he does eat fish. And he is extremely polite, said Ro helpfully, so he will eat whatever you give him anyway. As long as it hasn’t touched meat. We had spaghetti carbonara last night, to use up the bacon and, apart from a jugful of stock, the fridge is now a meat-free zone.

I’m going to London tomorrow to spend the day with my sister, who lives in Wiltshire. She will come to Waterloo by train, I’ll go to Liverpool Street, and we are going to meet at the National Gallery and decide what to do. We’re meeting other friends, who are up from Somerset for the weekend to visit their son, for lunch and so, apart from the sheer stupidity of visiting London a week before Christmas, it should be fun, as long as we can move for the frenetically shopping crowds. My sister suggests visiting Fortnum & Mason for old times’ sake – she used to work in the Millinery department back in the late 60s, but I have been there at holiday times before and it heaves with humanity.

She sold hats to all sorts of people; she served the Aga Khan (she tied his helpful finger into the bow fixing the hat box), Michael Caine (he gave her peppermints), Dame Flora Robson (she was her favourite assistant and Dame Flora always asked for her). Awfully low pay, but there was commission and it was fun. In those days, my parents always used to have a big order sent from Fortnum & Mason for Christmas. A few years ago, my mother said, wistfully, “we used to spend about £25. What would that be now?” We though about it, and decided that it would be at least £600, after inflation. Actually, I suspect it would be more.

The two year birthday and other ponders

A friend of mine will be 89 in January. So she has decided that 2007, being her 90th year, will be for her an all-year-round celebration, just in case she doesn’t make the big day. She is planning holidays, parties and general fun. Furthermore, if she does get to the Big Day in as fine form as she is now, she will be able to celebrate being 90 for another whole year. I think this is a great idea and certainly one to follow when I next approach a significant date.

After fine words yesterday about writing cards, it didn’t happen. I spent two hours making wreaths and the Sage, after a strenuous day in London, read the papers. There are more wreaths to make this evening, unhappily. The drawing room carpet is stained with crushed holly berries, although I have put down a sheet. I will not do it in another room, I want to be somewhere where there is a lighted fire and company and television and a place to put a wine glass.

Mail order stuff is piling up, and I do hope it is all right as I haven’t got around to opening it yet to check it. Some stuff still to come, but nothing too important. I have ordered the beef for Christmas day but have done nothing else foodwise. A friend makes us a cake – I would make one, but as she kindly gives us one and it lasts all through January, another would be redundant. I no longer make a pudding as we eat so little of it, so will buy one. I’m not sure if this makes for a minimalist Christmas, but I don’t see the point of buying loads of food when we won’t eat much more than usual.

When I was a child, my mother used to work for hours and hours in the kitchen and I’m not sure what she was doing. She did make two stuffings for the turkey and we had a whole ham, but these are easy enough to cook. A big starter would have been too much to eat, so we had consommé (tinned) with added sherry, and followed with Christmas pudding of course. We had a dishwasher, even when I was a small child, so whatever took so long?

When I had children, I knew that their parents’ time was what they really wanted, because that’s what I would have liked to have had, and so I did all the preparations I could in advance and made time plans, with regular stops scheduled for fun with the family. If preparations fell behind, things would be simplified or left out, I never wanted to say I was too busy to enjoy Christmas day with my children.

Coos and bills

I took a break to open some of the post. A credit card bill. Several Christmas cards – I’ll leave them til later, when the Sage is home from London. An electricity bill, for the Sage’s workshop, so not for me. Tickets I’d sent for and wasn’t at all sure I’d be able to get. Unmistakably, a dividend cheque! I opened the tickets envelope first, happily, then the divi, expectantly. £4.30. Ah.

I’ve got a load to do from the meeting last night. For once, housework is a welcome distraction from the computer instead of the other way round.

The Sage is home, so we opened the cards. A party invitation! Whee!! To celebrate a 40th wedding anniversary. These friends give extremely enjoyable and lavish parties, so I will send polite apologies to the next churchwardens’ meeting and go and have fun instead.

There was also a round robin letter in one card. I can see the point of these if, for instance, you have moved away from a circle of close friends and want to keep in touch, but these are people we have known for many years, but not that well and their children not at all. I duly read the whole, small fonted A4 sheet and it confirmed my intention never to write such a letter. Entertaining though it was in its way.

GRR – in a good-humoured way, of course

Oh dear. I look at Bloglines and there are 124 posts to read (mind you, sometimes someone has 25 and I’ve read all of them, what? What? Is that what happens when you republish?), not counting the ones that aren’t Bloglined, like those who post every day. But I have been a bit busy for the last couple of days.

Largely making sodding holly wreaths. Grr. GRR. I so don’t enjoy it. But Al keeps selling the buggers and the Sage took Hard Cash for another 3 today – one of them obscenely overpriced as the person concerned has London Ways (not my daughter, she isn’t daft) – I won’t see a penny of it, I’ll just get prickled by the splendidly-berried holly – and promised a Particularly Splendid ‘Nother One in return for some lovely greenery. I made 2 last night and 5 this morning, and Al sold them all, so I made another 8 this afternoon – before going to a meeting where I multi-tasked to the extent that a darling friend took me privately aside and told me I looked tired and should take care of myself, honestly, I nearly cried at the kindness before assuring him that I was fine. Which I am. In fact, I’ve been leaving honeyed comments on blogs which are, actually, sincerely meant, in case any of you were recipients.

I’ll be acid tomorrow. The Sage is going to be in London ALL DAY on business (which means coming home with money) and I am planning the pre-Christmas house clean. Housework is not my favourite job, but if I don’t do it, no bugger will.

Did I say GRR?

PS. I just checked the business emails. Just the titles. There are three. Two, from Lawence01, say PAYMENT OVERDUE. The third, from Online lottery winne says BRITISH LOTTERY CERTIFIED WINNER’S CLAIM. At least the apostrophe is in the right place. It is five to twelve. I will delete them tomorrow. Is anyone, please tell me, anyone? still taken in by these?

I thought I’d be a Daimler Dart, but this’ll do

Taken from the fabulous and, happily, newly returned BD.

I’m a Porsche 911!

You have a classic style, but you’re up-to-date with the latest technology. You’re ambitious, competitive, and you love to win. Performance, precision, and prestige – you’re one of the elite,and you know it.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

I looked at his second quiz but I couldn’t answer the questions – for example, it asked you to choose between three films and I’d not heard of any of them. And ‘would you work for a startup company?’ – I’d only work for my own company, pigheaded lass that I am.

Of booze and hips and healing whacks, of adjectives and fillings

I puzzled the osteopath a bit. He doesn’t think that bursitis should keep coming back like this (third time in fourish years) and wonders if it could be something else. He had me bending over and touching my toes and suchlike agilities and seemed to decide that my back and hip are all right. So I received an extremely painful massage and he hopes that will do the trick. I wanted some more of that nice ultrasound, which hurts but really works – the massage works too, but was more painful than I really wanted to have to deal with. At one point I silently gabbles the seventeen times table, which is normally my refuge at the dentist (it really works, soothes me no end).

Probably, regular gentle exercise would help, but I’m never going to do it. Far too much once in a while is more my way. On the way home, I wondered if I should investigate a Pilates or yoga class, but I’d talked myself out of it, to my relief, by the time I’d driven the couple of miles to my house. I simply wouldn’t bother and there’s no point pretending I would.

Getting dressed, I contemplated a drawerful of underwear. One has to get the knickers right on this sort of occasion. Too frivolous or – eek – too revealing and it would be embarrassing, but hopelessly sensible would be just dispiriting. And ancient and falling apart has no place in my bedroom, unless it’s me or the Sage.

I spent the morning at the High School, with the teacher who deals with remedial reading. I sat in – and joined in – on various lessons and afterwards talked to him. He’s a lovely bloke, had some years in industry and earned a lot of money before deciding that teaching would fulfil him more (I didn’t discover this today, I interviewed him for his original job as a teaching assistant). I asked about liaison with feeder schools and it seems to me that this is an area rather ripe for development – he has spent quite a lot of time at one of the middle schools, but I think that time, when available, spent on some analysis could be worthwhile. I am sure that a pupil who comes along at the age of 13 not knowing the difference between a noun and a verb has already received some learning support, but it doesn’t seem to have worked very well and it would be helpful to see the sort of remedial teaching in each of the dozen or more primary schools that feed the two middle schools, and their relative worth. Schools are supposed to ‘share best practice’ nowadays and if comparisons could be made, it might be found that one or two schools stand out either before or behind the rest. One has to be immensely tactful, however, as schools do not necessarily appreciate ‘helpful’ comments from outsiders, even other schools.

When I arrived home, the Sage and Ro had just got back from the dentist. Ro had not been for three years and was rather dreading it – extremely chuffed with a clean bill of dental health. The Sage was not quite so lucky and had had a tooth extracted – it could have been crowned but it was right at the back and the dentist felt it would not be missed. No alcohol tonight, apparently – ow, poor dear… does one do that?

The family that drinks together links together

I rootled through the cupboard in search of a little something. I’d already eaten chocolate – it is Superb Chocolate and therefore limited to one piece per evening. I found some Cadbury’s Snaps (chocolates shaped like tuile biscuits) and some jelly babies, but they are reserved for the PCC meeting on Tuesday. I wondered if I had any icecream, but I knew I did not.

I nearly gave up and made tea. But, after all, I found an unopened packet of Plain Chocolate Digestives. Hah! Unopened no longer!

The day started early, around midnight, when the Sage arrived home after a jolly evening out (without me, hmph) and I politely asked if he had called at the church to turn on the heating. Forgotten, he was apologetic and said he’d go and do it – I heard the faint reluctance and said I’d go. Brightening, he offered to accompany me. I pointed out – look, I was good-humoured, can you tell me you would have been? – that there wasn’t a lot of point in both of us going and off I toddled with Tilly. There was a hard frost and I was very careful at the end of the road where a regular wintry entertainment is watching the pedestrians go feet in air and bum on ground.

Back in church at 7.30 to get ready for the 8 o’clock service; I am truly adorable (and if there is, after all, no heaven, I will be mightily pissed off – unless I find Belial in hell, as – according to Milton anyway – he is quite hot) for which there were only seven people, including me, the Rector and her husband.

Back again at 10.00 for the 11 o’clock service, when I was playing the organ – had I practised? Is it likely? I had by 10.30. And then, Sue taught me how to programme the boiler so that I don’t have to go down at all hours in future, but can warm up the church for little children’s events automatically. It is the Nativity Play on Wednesday evening.

I came home and completed making delicious soup which we had for lunch.

This afternoon, went to Norwich to see Casino Royale. On the way home, Ro and I debated whether Daniel Craig’s eyes really are that blue. I, pathetically, want them to be; Ro thinks he may have been wearing contact lenses. Do you know?

We arrived home to find the Sage dishing up dinner. Well, not a bad day. We shared, the three of us, a bottle of wine. The Sage and Ro don’t always drink wine – though never say no to champagne or similarly jolly fizz – so it always feels like a moment of togetherness.