Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Short New Year's Eve Post.


"'Twas New Year's Eve morning 
And all through the house 
Nothing was stirring, 
Not even a mouse." 

Early this morning I crawled out of bed to see my son and his little family safely on their way. Then I took myself back to bed for a few hours to try to sleep off my cold. 

Suddenly the house is very empty but we find ourselves enjoying the peace and quiet. It's lovely to see everyone but it's also quite lovely to get washing up down to normal modest proportions. 

Yesterday we went off and had lunch with my Southport family. Maybe I should have stayed home in bed because I shivered my way back in the car and curled myself up in a warm spot when we got home. This, from a person who has always boasted of not catching colds. 

I thought the extra sleep had worked and then I walked into the village, took a couple of final out and about pics for 2014 and came back exhausted! So it might be time to go back to bed. 

This New Year's Eve may not be celebrated with fireworks but with a huge sneeze instead.

Monday, 29 December 2014

That Between Christmas and New Year time.

Busy, busy, busy. They call it a holiday period but I don't seem to have stopped. We have had a permanent houseful for the last few days. We have no objections at all. It's splendid to get family and friends together. 

And yet, here we all are with coughs and cold and winter sniffles. So much for flu jabs! Or maybe without the flu jabs we would all be so much worse. 

However, we do not let such things get us down. The smallest member of the family, who also has a cough, cold and winter sniffles even though she is not yet a year old, has been a focus of attention for all and sundry. 

Yesterday we set off for a good stomp around the local reservoir. Except that we didn't get all the way round, offspring number one and his wife wanted a trip into Manchester. They ummed and ahed quite a bit about whether to go there and then or wait until this morning and set off early. They needed to be back in time for lunch today as we had invited old friends round. This is the problem when you try to pack too many things into a short space of time. 

In the end they went for the Sunday shopping option, giving them a chance to go round first thing this morning to meet my daughter's crazy little dog. We had all decided that it would be too much excitement for everyone if we had a grand reunion at our house involving an overexcited puppy and a very small child. Especially as the very small child is just about mobile and would no doubt want to climb all over the overexcited puppy. 

Consequently, I phoned Phil yesterday, when offspring number one and his family went to Manchester, and arranged for him to meet me half way back from the reservoir, thus extending my walk and making sure he got out into the sunshine as well. It all worked well. It really was a beautiful day.

Today by contrast has been a day of cold fog. It started clear but by 10 this morning the fog had come damply down, making it feel even colder. But it was fine. We weren't going anywhere. We fed the family and old friends today. The left over turkey has been made into soup and turkey hotpot and is finally over and done with. 

Tomorrow we head off to visit even more family in Southport. And eventually, we will resume our quiet existence. I shall stop buying copious amounts of food and cooking huge meals. Just as well. If we continued like this we would be fat as pigs in no time. 

Misheard song lyrics. At one of the family meals over the last few days, the eldest granddaughter, 17, commented, " I've got a song in my head, you know the one I mean. It goes: Bourgignon, gaviscon, tiny dancer, tiny dancer, What is it?" Here's the answer: "Sur le Pont d'Avignon, l'on y danse, l'on y danse". 

All I can say is that she must have had a rubbish French teacher!

Saturday, 27 December 2014


Well, the weathermen said it would snow late in the evening of Boxing Day and that's what it did. We looked out at around 11.00 pm and thin rainy snow was falling but quite a lot was sticking. 

This morning there was a nice layer all around, not too deep but enough to be a bit of a nuisance. However, the sky was blue. There is nothing like a good, crisp winter morning. Bearing in mind that there was slippy stuff around, instead of running today I donned my boots and set off to stomp to Uppermill and buy some good bread. 

Our road is a main thoroughfare and so was pretty clear. Enough traffic had been over it all night to prevent a layer of snow and ice from building up. The side roads were a different matter. 

I walked up the hill towards Dobcross I saw a car set off up the hill, go about five yards and stop. The driver gave me a wry smile when I asked if he had changed his mind. Just as well he didn't get going up the hill because there was a blockage further up. A white van had backed out of a driveway, realised that he was sliding and stopped. When I saw him, he had placed sandbags by the back wheels to prevent further slipping and was considering what to do next. Really he needed to locate the drivers of the two cars parked just behind his van's projected reversing route. If they were moved he could probably make it. With them still parked there, he risked sliding into them! Such fun! I left him to it. 

Further on, in the little square at the centre of Dobcross, the monument has been knocked off its pedestal. This is not a consequence of the ice and snow but of a careless delivery van the other day, before the snow and ice was even forecast. But it provides a reason for people to stand around and tut. 

So, not a good day for motorists and monuments, perhaps, but I had a fine walkabout while the sun was shining on the snow. And I have the photos to prove it. 


Happy Day After Boxing Day everyone!

Friday, 26 December 2014

Almost post-Christmas thoughts!

Well, that's Christmas Day over and done with for another year. I had prepared copious amounts of food and then our daughter turned up with even more items to add to the groaning board. Everyone did sterling work in trying to demolish the lot. Needless to say, a lot of turkey and ham sandwiches will need to be eaten over the next few days. 

Today we have had our grandson deposited with us while his mother goes shopping - yes, shopping! He is not feeling well: snotty nose, sore throat and a raging temperature. Not the result of overindulgence yesterday! 

I am seeing lots of adverts for the sales which are starting today. Masses of people will be heading for the shops to exchange stuff they received for stuff they really want or stuff in the right size and colour. Amazingly, the items of clothing I purchased for the grandchildren appeared to be well received. Two of them even put the items on at once and wore the, all day. To give our daughter her due, she is only shopping because she has been too busy to buy a present for her brother, who arrives tomorrow with his little family. 

We are in a minor flurry of activity, making sure that the bedroom where the small person will sleep is properly sorted out and that other parts of the house are proofed against a crawler / almost cruiser-round-the-furniture. 

This year we only had one card which contained a dreaded round robin. I just googled "round robin" to see if I could find out why it is so called. I found lots of references to letters sent out in Christmas cards, all-play-all sports tournaments and letters that are sent round a group of people with each adding a comment as it progresses. I quite like that one. The one I like best is the protest letter with signatures arranged in a circle at the bottom so that there is no way of telling who signed first and that person being punished as the instigator. However, I found no kind of etymology. 

Anyway, back to my round robin letter. Because I am quite fond of the sender, it was fairly interesting, despite the references to grandchildren I have never heard of. This was perhaps because I didn't read previous years' round robins with due care and attention. At one point my friend wrote about her daughter's wedding. They had worked hard to dissuade her from going to the church in a open carriage, which was just as well since it poured with rain. They did not manage to put her off the idea of wild flowers in jam jars and milk bottles on the tables at the reception. Their florist quite agreed with the bride and the wild flower decor went ahead. I wonder if it was any cheaper that way or if they had specially grown hot-house wild flowers, if that's not a contradiction in terms. 

I mention the jam jar / milk bottle vases because the other day when I strolled around IKEA with my daughter we came across milk-bottle-shaped vases. £1 apiece. Eventually all your old rubbish can be re-imagined as a designer idea. I must get thinking to see what I can start commercialising and thus make my fortune!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


This morning I saw a bus driven by Santa Claus. It was a very skinny Santa and may have been female but clearly someone had decided that if he/she had to work on Christmas Eve then he/she was going to spread a little cheer along the route. He or she was only going to be working until 6.00 this evening as the service was set to terminate then until Boxing Day. 

 I found this last bit of information in our local bus shelter, under the mysterious heading "Opening Times", just as if the bus service were a shop. Indeed, in keeping with that idea, alongside Christmas Day it said "Closed". Not "No service" but "Closed". I realise it's only a small thing and that there are much bigger problems in the world, but still it niggles, it annoys me. Similarly, when we travelled on a Virgin train recently the public address announcements referred to us as "customers". I'm sorry, but when I travel on a train or bus, I regard myself as a "passenger". I maintain that this is the correct term and I am sticking to it. 

This whole terminology thing is another manifestation of the modern trend to run everything on business lines. And, yes, I am aware that public transport is a business and should be organised as such. However, it's not the same kind of business as a shop. Calling passengers customers is just silly. And when you get started on running schools and hospitals as businesses, well, I am left speechless. So, no further comment. 

Yesterday, my daughter asked me to keep her company while her car went through its MOT check. We would have to wait about an hour, she assured me, no more than that as the car was bound to pass. Famous last words! (See below!)

 So, as her garage was only a few hundred yards from that establishment, we went off for a stroll around IKEA. As a rule, when we do that we are accompanied by two smallish children who think that we are there purely for their entertainment and amusement. They go off and hide in the "rooms" that are set up to show off the furniture and fittings. We stop to look at something and turn round to find that they have disappeared. Then we find them sitting on a bed or testing the sofas. Such fun! So yesterday we had a civilised walkabout and picked up a few last minute bits and pieces ready for tomorrow's festivities. 

Then we stopped off for a coffee, or something called coffee, and waited for a call from the garage. When it came, it was not the instant pass that she had expected. Shock absorbers! That's what was causing the problem! So we ended up on the train home and later drove back to the garage in her partner's car so that I could drive her car home. (The aforementioned partner had gone off to Manchester on public transport or he could have been more useful!) 

Consequently, most of my day disappeared (again!) and some of the preparations for tomorrow's festivities had to be put off until today. But all of that has been put to rights now. The parcels are wrapped and all Santa needs to do is put them under the tree. Desserts have been organised and other dishes have been prepared so that tomorrow all that needs to be done is to pop the turkey and other stuff in the oven at the appropriate time. All good. 

No doubt, a fair amount of wine will be drunk but that's okay because I have found this in an item in the newspaper: "A substance found in red wine may protect the body against age-related diseases by stimulating an ancient evolutionary defence mechanism that guards human cells against genetic damage, scientists said." 

The French have been saying for years that a little wine every day is good for your health. Now the scientists seem to agree with them. As I have said already, all good!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Reflections on online shopping and exercise.

My daughter and I went to the supermarket this morning. It was not particularly late on the day but the car park was quite full; no, it was very full. There were employees in hi- visibility jackets waving hi-vis batons around, directing people to spaces. Inside the supermarket itself it was not as crowded as we had feared, although some people did have very laden trolleys. I felt quite restrained in comparison. 

 As we had sat in the queue, fortunately not for too long as we didn't mind going to the far end and walking back, my daughter commented on the option of shopping online. Apparently if you wanted to have your Christmas food shopping delivered you needed to book a "slot" way back in early November. I suppose some people are that organised. Not me! 

Then just now I read that Sainsbury's and Waitrose have both had computer problems in the last day or so which has played some havoc with their online orders. Some orders were cancelled. Some were rescheduled for delivery on December 27th or even in the New Year. This last one provoked the comment, "This is as much use to me as a chocolate teapot!" In my family that remark always involved chocolate fire guards but the message is the same. 

Imagine the panic, though, if you thought you had your Christmas organisation all sewn up and suddenly you find out that there will be no food delivered after all. Nightmare! 

I still have quite considerable reservations about online food shopping in general. I get quite old fashioned about choosing my own fruit and veg. Other people's standards might not be quite the same as mind when it comes to selecting apples. And then there are the randomly replaced items if they have run out of what you actually ordered. I can even quote the horror story of my daughter's order once being delivered to a house down the road from hers. The chap accepted the stuff and only saw sense and took it all round to my daughter's house when the supermarket contacted him and said they had made a mistake and were coming to collect it. One or two items still mysteriously got lost in transit. How often do orders go astray like this? 

When we got back to my house with our shopping, the house was quiet. No sign of Phil at all. Then we heard the soft whirrr, whirrr, of a wheel. He was exercising. The reason I have been sent off to buy cycle oil and things over the last few weeks is because Phil has been setting up an exercise bike in the back of the kitchen. It's a handy gadget we purchased years ago. You slot the back wheel of the bike into a gadget which lifts the wheel off the ground so that you can cycle away without going anywhere. It seems to work quite well. 

Both granddaughters have have become very excited and had a go on it, involving lowering the saddle considerably. This means that I too will now have no excuse for not clambering up into the thing. Previously I had been saying that it was clearly too high for the likes of me. Now I have no such excuse! 

What I really need to do is investigate booking the device up to something so that we can generate electricity as we pedal.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The vagaries of time.

Time is playing tricks on me again. Not so long ago I was expressing amazement that there was so much Christmas stuff around everywhere. Now the big day is nearly here and I am frantically making arrangements. 

Yesterday, Saturday, disappeared completely. Okay, I exaggerate. I got up in the morning and, instead of running, walked into Uppermill to buy a newspaper and a couple of other things, only available there. As might be expected, because I was on the last minute, the bus back left a few minutes early and I ended up walking back too. Not that I object to that. A good brisk walk is good exercise, after all. 

I had barely been in the house two minutes, not long enough to organise a late breakfast, when our daughter rang. She was out and about, walking the little dog, and wondered if I might care to meet her in ... wait for it ... Uppermill. Well, actually, no, having just come from there, I did not want to head back that way again. So she came round here instead, assuring me that the little dog, who was muddy after his walk, would stay in the basement kitchen. The basement kitchen which I had deep-cleaned the day before, scrubbing the floor extra well. You know the kind of thing. One of those occasions when you look around your kitchen and think, "Goodness, what kind of housewife am I to let it get to this state?" So, of course, the little dog, and sundry grandchildren, came and successfully muddied up the floor once again. 

Having undone all my good work in the kitchen, we left it to fester a while longer (until this morning in fact) and went off to take the small dog home and then go and do some essential shopping. I wanted to lay in stocks of cheap fruit juice and alcohol and some rather good bread from the Aldi store. For that I needed use of a car or at least to be driven around by my daughter. My daughter had stuff she needed to do and the teenager had no clothes at all!! At least, that is what she assured us. The truth was that she had a couple of vouchers for clothes shops and wanted to spend them, as well as spending some of her hard-earned money on Christmas presents for friends. 

So off we went and managed to find most of what we needed and to deny the small boy's suggestions that we should buy a large model reindeer or a large model polar bear, not to mention an extremely attractive model bi-plane, about three feet in length. Just the sort of thing a nine-year old boy needs to hang from his ceiling! 

And suddenly, it was six o'clock in the evening and we had to head for home and start being domestic and making meals for people. In this way, time runs away with you. 

 Today has been much the same, although quieter and more domestic. The kitchen has been restored to its state of pristine cleanliness, plans have been made for meals to be cooked over the holiday period and lists of stuff that still needs to be bought have been made. I have also spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone, trying to coordinate all the various bits of my family so that I can get everyone together at various points over the next couple of weeks. 

It's hard work being the mater-familias! I just need time to slow down a little.I have only read small sections of the weekend papers and only done one sudoku puzzle!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Sweeping statements.

Some time before ten this morning I heard loud knocking at my door. It was a chimney sweep. Was that lucky? Or is that only for weddings? In fact, I was expecting the chimney sweep, just not for another hour. It was lucky I was up and about and decently dressed and not languishing in a bubble bath or some such decadent activity. 

The sweep's previous appointment had been cancelled so he decided to come to our house early. We have been investigating having the coal fire replaced with one of those living flame gas fires. The coal fire had been installed when we moved in here almost thirty years ago, replacing a very decrepit old gas fire. We were young and romantic then. The open fire in the living room went along with the coal burning stove that ran the central heating. It was all very fine while I was a part-time teacher in adult education; I was around often enough during the day to keep an eye on it. Once I went back to full time working, however, it was a real effort, stoking up the stove in the morning to ensure that it would just need shaking and waking by whichever of us got home first at the end of the day. And then there were the occasions when we both were too busy to remember to order the fuel for the next month. Frantic phone calls ensued to get a delivery by the next day, please, please, please! 

Eventually the stove's boiler sprang a leak and it proved more expensive to repair it than it had cost in the first place. So we went for the easier, and cheaper, option of having a gas boiler installed to run the central heating. The added bonus was that we gained extra space by getting rid of the coal bunker and making it part of the basement kitchen-dining area. A win-win situation as they say. 

But the open fire remained, a last remnant of that old romanticism. Time has gone by and the messiness of cleaning the fireplace, removing the ashes and, once again, making sure that there is fuel, has become a bit of a bind. And so we investigated a gas fire once more, a more modern, more attractive one. The appeal of being able to switch on a nice-looking fire and have instant heat has grown on us. Our eldest granddaughter, who every once in a blue moon helps roll newspaper to make firelighters, is threatening to boycott our house if we follow through with this plan. Mind you she says the same when I talk about replacing the sofa. 

She doesn't like change and was rather upset when we cut down the fir tree that used to spread its roots all over the garden, disrupting drains and so on. There were even protests when I repainted the front door a bright blue instead of the old black and white that it used to be. But she got over both these things and will no doubt overcome the trauma of the coal fire disappearing! 

So there I was at around ten in the morning, watching the sun come up over the hill (yes, it takes it that long to come up around here at this time of year) with the chimney sweep about to sweep our chimney and assess whether we would need to install a special flue to prevent the spread of noxious gases in the event of purchasing a modern gas fire. 

He was most efficient, rolling up the rug in front of the fireplace and putting it to one side, spreading covers over furniture and exposed bits of carpet and even putting plastic overshoes on, just like they do in detective films when they investigate a crime scene. He came equipped with his own high-powered vacuum cleaner and even his sweep's brushes were automated. I must say I was impressed! 

I was even more impressed when he scuttled up his ladders to test the chimney and assess whether we would need a flue liner for the proposed fire. He was lucky (there's that sweep thing again - he told me he doesn't do the sweep appearing at a wedding thing though) because the weather had stayed fine. Not long after he had finished all his work and tidied up, the heavens opened once again. Scrambling about on wet roofs, indeed even on dry roofs, is not my idea of fun at all. 

Luck ran out though. Our chimney failed its test. We wondered if it was because this is an old house, thrown up, as the sweep said, to provide accommodation for mill workers in the nineteenth century. However, he said that modern houses regularly fare worse. 

So there it is: decision time is here.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Books, dentists, Christmas shopping and odd coffee.

I was listening to the radio: the arts programme, Front Row on BBC Radio 4. At one point they were talking about books and one of the presenters suggested that Donna Tart should employ a technique which gives background information about events, environments and characters and thus reduce the length of her books. Why? Because apparently quite a lot of people bought her book, "The Goldfinch", began to read it and gave up, ostensibly because it was too long! 

Now, personally, I loved the book. I read it twice in quick succession, once to satisfy my curiosity about events in the novel and a second time, more slowly, savouring detail and style. I do this quite often with books I really enjoy. I also go back and reread certain books every few years. 

However, the radio discussion provoked another argument in my head. Can a book be too long? If it's well written and the events move along at a reasonable pace, does it matter if it's 200 pages or 600 pages? In fact I often find myself in something of a dilemma: I want to know what happens at the end of a novel but at the same time I don't want to finish it. It's a little like leaving an alternative reality where you have got to know the characters and you feel quite comfortably at home. OK, this might seem a little odd, but I am aware of other people who feel the same way. There's even a young man who works in a bookshop I have been in today who agrees with me! 

This, of course, explains why I frequently dislike the film version of books I have loved. Occasionally I object to the choice of actors to play the protagonists; they just don't match my mental image of that character. What really gets my goat, though, is when important details are omitted and happy endings are created, because someone feels that the cinema audience needs to leave on an upnote!!! Give me strength!!! 

It may be that the modern generation just doesn't have the sticking power to read a full length novel. Short attention spans abound (the young man in the bookshop agrees) and everything must come in bite-sized chunks!! I could seriously go off the modern world! 

This morning I went to see the dentist for my usual check-up. I had to dodge the rain and the spray from passing motorists on the way. Yes the damp continues? 

On the way back I stopped to do odds and ends of shopping. Hence the visit to the bookshop. The local Halford's store, where I was buying puncture repair stuff for Phil's bike, asks what could be better than a bike for Christmas. Hmm? Cycle lanes? Housing the homeless? Feeding the hungry? Finding a cure for horrible diseases? World peace? I feel sure we could come up with a few other ideas. 

However, I may be wrong; what might be the best thing, according to some people, is a gadget called a "selfie stick", an object which allows you to hold your camera-phone away from your body to take a selfie. Peter Bradshaw, talking about it in the Guardian, described it as the latest must-have gadget. Here's a little of what he had to say: 

 "I decided I had to have one. But when I mentioned this glorious innovation to my wife, she replied: “What’s wrong with asking someone else to take your picture?” Oh. Oh yeah. Asking someone to take your picture. It’s sort of a nice, shy way of interacting with your fellow human beings. I’d forgotten about that." Well, yes, there is always that! 

He went on to comment on the latest fashion in coffee drinking: coffee with butter. Milk in coffee, he says is apparently passé. Instead you should drink your coffee with a blob of butter in it. They call it "bulletproof coffee", goodness only knows why. He tried it and was less than impressed. In fact he suggested its name might come from the fact that drinking it felt like being shot. 

Reading about it I was taken back to my time as a student in France (Proustian moment?) when I had a tiny one ring gas-burner on which I could make coffee in my little room. One Sunday, alone in the school as all the pupils had gone home for the weekend, I realised I had no milk for my coffee. Sunday, in a small village in the depths of the French countryside and nowhere open. Instant coffee was just not right served black. All I had to take the edge off the bitterness was margarine. It worked after a fashion. 

Clearly I was ahead of my time!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Dreaming of a Wet Christmas. And silly news items.

The weathermen are expressing their amazement at how mild it is all of a sudden. As for me, I am simply expressing amazement at how soggy it is. Because it is so mild, there has been no frost to speak of and the ground is trying hard to soak up all the water that keeps on falling. The net result is MUD. And if not mud, then very soft and soggy grass. The ladies who teeter around on spiky heels must be having a difficult time of it. 

As the rain was falling steadily this morning, instead of running to the market in Uppermill, I walked, under my trusty, huge, spotty umbrella. It is not the most convenient to carry around with you as an insurance policy to prevent the rain from starting. Once the rain has started, however, it is big enough to keep me and my rucksack reasonably dry. 

When I reached Uppermill, I found the stepping stones across the river submerged and converted into some kind of rapids. Beautiful in its way! 

I walked along the canal towpath, past a barge that has been moored there for a good while. I am almost convinced I could hear music coming from the barge. Is someone overwintering in their barge on the canal? If so, what do they do for drinking water and washing water and so on? There is plenty of water around but I wouldn't fancy using the canal water to do anything other than water the plants in the pot on the roof of the barge. Do they have to pay mooring fees if they plan to stay there? Life is full of these questions. 

I imagine the canal barge people are quite pleased the weather has become so mild. It must not be fun in a boat on a canal if the temperature plummets to blow zero. Others might dream of a white Christmas but I suspect that these would prefer it to remain simply soggy. 

Having bought fish and fruit at the market, I caught the bus home in time for a second breakfast and took a look at the newspapers online. 

After all the bad news stories of awful events going on around the world, which I am not commenting on at the moment as it will only make me angry, I found some silly stories instead. 

Here's an underwear story, A Japanese lingerie maker is recalling more than 20,000 brassieres after complaints that underwires suddenly poked out, sometimes while women were wearing them. You will be pleased to hear that no-one has been injured in this lingerie catastrophe. A spokesman for the company commented: "It would be terrible if it happened again and somebody's skin was scratched." Well yes, I suppose it would. But does this make it world news, even with a headline about faulty wiring in underwear? Especially as none of the faulty items were sold outside Japan. 

What really intrigued me was reading that the company concerned made a name for itself with concept lingerie such as a solar-powered bra. What is that exactly? (Come to that, what is concept lingerie?) Why does a bra need to be solar-powered? Would such an item be wireless? It's all too much for me. 

And then there is the French railway company SNCF which has been giving advice to its staff about personal presentation. A document was leaked onto Twitter (what else?) and the train operators have been accused or sexism because they advise their female staff on use of lipstick and mascara and keeping their hands looking nice. They defend themselves on the grounds that they also advise their male a staff about beards and deodorants and aftershave. Here's a link to the article

Personally, I think SNCF don't have a leg to stand on. They highlight the advice to ladies in PINK and the advice to the gentlemen in BLUE. That sounds like sexism to me!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Perceptions! Ideas! Ways of doing things!

No village chaos this morning. Or at any rate, no more than normal chaos. I ran round and through the village at the time when people were taking their children to school. Even though the village itself is quite small, a large number of people still take their children to school by car. I suppose some of them live in more outlying places and others have jobs to go to and need to drop the children off quickly and make a fast getaway. Even so, there seem to be an awful lot of cars making their way from the school and through the village centre at around nine in the morning. All it needs to slow everything down is a delivery van outside the co-op, like this morning. Nowhere near as large as the truck that got stuck yesterday, it was still big enough to reduce the traffic to one lane. Faster on foot! 

I got home just in time to avoid the torrential rain that fell later. It hasn't kept that up all day but it has been rather dull and gloomy. It's probably a good job that some people over-decorate their houses with Christmas baubles. I was thinking about this as we were on the bus this afternoon, going past all the decorated houses. I can remember around 15 years ago, travelling to Southport by car to visit the family over there. We had the eldest, at that time the only, grandchild with us, then aged two and a half. We made a game of who could spot the next Christmas tree or set of Christmas lights. Now you would have to do the reverse and see who could spot a dark patch! 

It has to be said, though, that it makes the gloom more cheerful. I write this as a person who has put my Christmas ear-rings in today. Phil spotted them as we stood at the bus stop and harrumphed! The girl at the supermarket checkout loved them. I always used to wear them for the last week of term when I was teaching. I see no reason to change old habits if they raise a smile. Sharing a bit of pleasure is never a bad thing. 

Oversharing is a different matter. This is a new term I have come across for putting unnecessary details of your life on Facebook. You know the sort of thing: "Cleaned the toilet - boy was it horrid!" As if cleaning the toilet was such an unusual thing that you have to crow about it to all your virtual friends. Better to say nothing.

Scan pictures of a 12 week foetus almost classify as oversharing but I suppose it's not a bad way of letting your friends know you are expecting a happy event. And nowadays hospitals give a print of the first scan automatically (baby's first photo!) whereas in the past you were lucky if they let you look at the screen. How things change! 

Another thing that is changing, according to something I read recently, is the attitude towards underarm hair. Showing that you had hair in your armpits used to be pretty much universally frowned upon. Only really fierce women's libbers didn't get rid of it. Now it seems that the latest weird fashion fad is to have your head hair dyed an unusual colour, green, turquoise, pink or similar, and then to have your armpit hair dyed to match. Now I am a believer in being colour coordinated but that seems to me to be a step too far! Another kind of oversharing, in my opinion! 

Here's something else. George Monbiot, whom I enjoy reading as he usually makes a lot of sense, is trying to persuade us to change our meat-eating habits. He maintains that if we are to be able to feed everyone in the world, we should revert to the habits of yesteryear when people only ate meat about once a month. It would almost certainly be very difficult to persuade most people to do this. His suggested solution? School children should be taken, as part of the curriculum, on visits to factory farms - of all kind, not just chickens - and abattoirs to see what goes on. This would provide them with a reality to set against the storybook world of the kind of farms that hardly exists any more with a farmer caring for a range of animals, all of which he calls by name. 

It might work, at least to some extent. Our daughter is one of a quite large number of people I know who will not eat fish if it looks like fish. A nice anonymous fillet is one thing. A fish served up with its head and tail, looking at you and implying it might like to swim away, is something else again! 

In the meantime, Christmas approaches and I, for one, plan to cook that turkey and tuck into some fine sausages. Pigs in bacon, that's what our grandchildren will expect to see as well on the table. Now, there's a good gruesome name for a food item, if ever there was one!

Monday, 15 December 2014


The tree was finally decorated yesterday afternoon. It sat for a while in a half-way state, with nothing but lights, well, lights and one robin decoration, which I really like. I am always tempted to leave it just like that. In a pleasing state of simplicity. 

However, the grandchildren turned up and covered it in angels, baubles wooden Santas and the usual sort of Christmas tree stuff. Some people have beautifully themed trees. My sister's tree is almost always totally colour-coordinated. I, on the other hand, have never managed that. Like my flower bed in the spring, it has a kind of wild charm. Well, that's the theory anyway. What it hasn't got is tinsel - disgusting stuff- or chocolate decorations. The latter will probably have to be bought. I am feeling pressure from the grandchildren building up! 

After the grandchildren had departed yesterday, I spent an inordinate amount of time writing Christmas cards. Each year I toy with the idea of sending out an email or Facebook Christmas greeting to all my friends but somehow it lacks something of the Christmas spirit. And, besides, I truly loathe the e-cards that some people send for birthdays. So I simply sat down with my address book and wrote cards. 

This morning I walked into the village to post them before heading into Manchester to shop. (There are people who expect gifts at Christmas time, after all!) My idea was to go to the post office and then wait for the bus at the stop outside that establishment. When I reached the crossroads, however, I noticed a police "accident" sign across the road into the village and lots of police in hi-visibility jackets milling around. No one stopped me walking up the road, so clearly there was nothing too gruesome to be seen. 

As I got closer to the centre I could see it: a huge lorry completely blocked the junction of the main road through the village and the road coming down the hill. There was no way any vehicle was getting past it. 

Obviously, the lorry driver had come down the hill and tried to turn left to go through the village. My theory is that he was following satnav and ignored the weight limit signs, which should have been right up at the top of the hill. He might just about have managed a right turn although that too would have been difficult. As it was, he was well and truly stuck. 

Someone told me that he was unable to reverse because he did not have enough weight at the back of his truck to give him the necessary traction. They were sending for cranes. Goodness knows how the cranes would get themselves into the right position. I suppose that two would be needed, one approaching through the village from the other end and one coming down the hill. Quite a masterpiece of communication would be needed to coordinate it all. 

I was not hanging around to see it, however. I had a bus to catch and if that bus was not going to be able to get into the village to do its usual turn-around, it would miss out the village completely and head straight towards Oldham. Consequently, I had to get back to the crossroads sharpish in order to be there when the bus arrived. I assume that a successful rescue took place because when I returned later in the day the police notices were gone and the village appeared to be fully open once more. 

When I first saw the truck this morning, a policewoman with an odd sense of humour told me that they planned to put fairy lights on it and leave it there for the Christmas period. That would be the kind of Christmas decoration that the Wake Up Delph Committee had not been planning for.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Keeping busy!

We went into Manchester yesterday to have lunch with a host of old friends. So old that Phil was at school with most of them. When we arrived, we pretty well had the city centre pub to ourselves. A copious buffet lunch was served. Nostalgia was in the air, as everyone caught up with what we had all been up in the last too many years to mention. And suddenly it was late afternoon. I went downstairs to visit the ladies' room (why are ladies' toilets in old pubs always freezing cold?) and it was like descending into a Bosch painting. Bodies were squashed together. Faces leered up the stairs at those descending. And the noise was horrendous. Friday afternoon / evening in a city centre pub! What else should you expect! It's a good job we had met for lunch. Had we met in the evening, I doubt we could have heard each other reminiscing! 

Somewhere in the middle of all this nostalgia fest I checked my phone for messages. Or maybe I just wanted to find a photo to show someone and discovered messages on my phone. Three or four consecutive messages from the second grandchild, aged eleven. The first asked me if I could go round to her house and talk to her. The second explained that she had accidentally sent a message to her mother, a rude message intended for someone else and never meant to be sent at all. Writing the message had just been a way of relieving stress about a grumpy teacher. The third expanded on this, explaining that her mother might think the message was really meant for her and that would be a disaster. And finally the last one said," GRANDMA, ANSWER ME!!!!!" That's how you shout in text-speak. I couldn't do anything except send a consoling text as I was busy in Manchester. By then, though, everything had calmed down and all was well again. But sometimes the whole texting and messaging thing gets a little out of hand. 

On that subject, I was reading today an interview with a young actress, Maisie Williams, who has become famous playing the role of Arya Stark in "Game of Thrones". Apparently, when she began to be famous, aged only about 13, she suffered a lot of cyber-bullying. People sent her vindictive messages on her phone and via Twitter, including people she was at school with. How sad that her schoolmates - she was at a school specialising in performing arts - should be so jealous of her success. 

She seems to have come through it though and appears to be a fairly well-balanced seventeen year old, doing normal seventeen year old things but with rather more money at her disposal than the average teenager. 

In the interview she spoke about one of her brothers having a job - with the a lingerie company, I think - which she found amusing or, as she put it, "so jokes". When did we start using nouns as if they were adjectives? I almost ranted about this yesterday but got too busy to do so. Yesterday's provocation came from the headline, "Why kissing is so fun!" "SO FUN"? Surely that should be "so much fun" or "such fun". I keep hearing "fun" used in this way. People say things, "This is very fun". I have not yet heard about things being "funner" or "funnest" but I expect to do so any day now. The article about kissing was not very satisfactory: some talk about how we swap microbes when we kiss and things about pleasure centres in the brain, but nothing new or excitingly interesting! 

Today has been a run-around sort of day. I did a run around the village this morning in the fog. Yes, damp, even dank, fog had descended on the place and made it feel very cold indeed. Later I set off, in sunshine, amazingly, for the local supermarket. En route, I walked through a hailstorm. Fortunately I had arranged for my daughter to meet me at the supermarket; I had far too much stuff to carry home on the bus. 

Later still we went out looking for a Christmas tree. It's actually quite hard to find one that is not six feet tall at least. There is a mania for putting up a tree that totally fills your living room. The one I finally bought was described as small. OK, it's not as tall as I am but even so, I would have preferred something even smaller. But it was raining hard and we could not be bothered to trail round to another place in the increasing gloom of the end of the afternoon. 

So, a tree has been bought and set up in a corner of the living room. Tomorrow the grandchildren can help to decorate it. Christmas has officially begun in this blogger's household. Mince pies can now be eaten!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Back up north!

Yesterday we left a chilly but fine and bright Chesham, where our son and his little family live, to make our way back to the north west of England. By the time we arrived in Manchester it was raining. Somehow there was something predictable about that. Of course, I know that the weather does not follow those kinds of rules but sometimes it seems as though it has to conform to the stereotypes: in this case, that Manchester regularly has bad weather. But it does feel very cold up here in the North! 

We had arrived at Euston Station yesterday in plenty of time for our train so we went for refreshments before boarding the train. I had a halfway decent but still oversized and overpriced cup of coffee from one of those station cafes that claim to have a connection with France but, despite selling pain au chocolat, really have no idea what France is all about. 

Phil made the mistake of ordering a tea with milk. It was a truly disgusting cup of tea. Like the coffee, it was far too big, although as a rule it is quite acceptable to drink a large mug of tea. This was supposed to be a small paper cup but still held a good half-pint. The main problem with it was that no time appeared to have been left between pouring hot water on the teabag and adding milk. At first sight, after removing the plastic lid they always clamp on such hot drinks, it looked like watery hot milk with a teabag string hanging from it. It only became remotely tea-coloured after the teabag had been agitated a little in the mixture. Not good at all! Eventually Phil abandoned it and we went to investigate the train situation. 

An almost complete lack of information awaited us. Although the train was now due to depart in about twenty minutes, there was no platform announcement. This would be slow even for budget airlines telling you which gate to go to! According to the (imminent) departures board, the train was "preparing". If this meant that they were cleaning it up after its previous journey, then it must have been somewhere. However, even when there were only 11 minutes to go until departure time, there was still no information about the platform. Eventually there was an announcement, ending up with, "Will passengers please board the train as it is ready to depart". Goodness knows what anyone with mobility problems would do!! 

After that the journey was more or less incident free. Naturally, we had to walk almost the full length of the train to find our compartment but that has become par for the course. We had seats in a "quiet coach" so we only heard one phone ring and being guiltily answered during the journey. Mind you, even a "quiet coach" doesn't escape the numerous messages from the train staff, always preceded by a bright "piiiiing", giving customers, not passengers these days, helpful advice about remembering their belongings and so on. 

Back in Manchester, I saw Phil onto a tram with both suitcases and went off to meet a couple of friends. This had been planned before we left the country so it was no surprise to him. I felt he should regard it as an opportunity - an opportunity to get the house nicely warmed up before I arrived home!!! 

For five or six years now my friends and I have attended a carol service, raising money for an organisation that helps alcoholics and drug addicts find solutions to their problems. It has become a kind of symbolic start to the Christmas festivities for us and, besides, having a good sing song is always good. 

As a rule we go and have something to eat before hand. This time we went along to Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant in Manchester. One of our number has a loyalty card which entitles her to free gifts or reductions from time to time. She was rather hoping that this time she might receive a free bottle of wine to share with us but this was not the case; a piece of pottery was promised. So we selected some dishes from the menu, all very tasty, and bought a bottle of wine to share anyway. 

Eventually, as we were about to pay the bill, the promised pottery arrived: a sort of earthenware plate, emblazoned with the words "pasta plate". My friend can be quite blunt. "Is that it?" she demanded, in somewhat disgruntled tones. A little taken aback, the waiter offered an alternative, perhaps a deeper dish of some kind. My friend calmed down and recovered her usual charm, even persuading the young man to wrap it for her and even put it in a larger bag than was necessary so that she could hide in there some presents she wanted to keep out f the sight of other friends she was seeing at the carol concert. Some people lead unnecessarily complicated lives, it seems to me. 

We enjoyed the carol service, which took place in the lovely little church of Saint Ann, one of Manchester's treasures, in fact usually called "the hidden gem". The choir from Chethams School of Music sang beautifully for us. We tried to sing beautifully in turn but with less success. 

I almost had a fit of the giggles over the words of "Ding Dong! Merrily on High". The second verse was printed as follows: 

 E'en so here below, below, 
let steeple bells be swungen, 
and i-o, i-o, i-o, 
by priest and people sungen. 

I can never previously remember having to sing what I assume to be old (olde?) English "swungen" and "sungen" in that Christmas carol before. And all that "i-o" business seemed new as well. Or maybe I am suffering from selective forgetfulness. 

And then someone seemed to have changed some of the words of the old "Once in Royal David's City" as well. However, on investigation it turned out that they had just omitted one verse. Maybe it is no longer politically correct to sing a verse that ends up with these lines: 

Christian children all must be 
mild, obedient, good as He. 

 It was written in or around 1848 by Cecil Frances Alexander, wife of a clergyman and eventually of a bishop when the clergyman progressed upwards in his career. She also wrote "All Things Bright and Beautiful", the children hymn which had to have some lines removed in more politically correct times. As a child I sang about everyone having his place in society: the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate. We thought nothing of it then but such sentiments are no longer allowed in children's songs and hymns. 

The 19th century was perhaps a more innocent age!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A busy Tuesday!

After much deliberation about how to spend today, we finally opted to go into London and see the Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery. 

En route, as we had a change of tube trains at Baker Street station, we had to go and call in at the Chess and Bridge shop on Baker Street itself. This is a sort of London routine we have. It beats having your photo taken with the statue of Sherlock Holmes outside the tube station. I saw lots of Japanese tourists doing that! 

While Phil was contemplating purchases of even more chess books, I walked up and down Baker Street looking for somewhere that might sell me a cardigan. Before we set off I had debated putting on another layer and had decided just to put on my trusty trench coat over a thin jumper. Mistake! It was chilly! However, Baker Street has almost nothing but cafes and places to eat, with the occasional posh kitchen shop thrown into the mix. Fortunately, the walking up and down warmed me up. 

As I did the aforementioned walking up and down Baker Street, I spotted a Tesco Extra and a Sainsbury's Local, both mini-manifestations of the big supermarkets. But I also found a Little Waitrose. Who knew there were such things? Who knew it had such a sweet name? Who thinks up these names? Presumably it's those strange people in advertising known as "creatives". They don't seem to have Little Waitrose in Manchester. Maybe in the posher bits but not in the parts I go to. 

Anyway, after buying chess books, we went back to the tube station and caught a train to the National Gallery. The Rembrandt exhibition, of his later works, borrowed from all over the world it seems, was excellent. We also took a look at some Canaletto ( should the plural be Canaletti?) and some Caravaggio. Splendid stuff. And then we found a couple of Goya as well. The National Gallery is really well worth visiting!!! 

However, the large blue cockerel currently on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square leaves a little to be desired. 

Then we headed for Euston Station for a rapid rendezvous with our daughter and her school party who have been at a chess event today. They seemed to have been successful. What was it she said? "The smallest team but the highest prize to pupil ratio." When we saw them, the children were counting their money to see how much food they could order from Burger King in the station. Too much, as far as I could tell! 

We left them to it and headed back to Chesham where our son lives, quite fortuitously bumping into his friend (and best man at his wedding) on the train. How small the world really is!!!! 

Tomorrow we catch the train back to Manchester, just in time for me to go to the carol service which I always go to with an old friend, organised by a charity group helping addicts of various kinds. 

And suddenly it's Christmas. Time to buy a tree and lay in stocks of mince pies and other goodies. Ho, hum, humbug!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Leaving Pontevedra, Vigo, Galicia.

We found Pontevedra decked out for Christmas. Very bright and sparkly. Here's Méndez Núñez under a Christmas tree, of sorts!
We had gone to visit our friend Colin and to try out a tapas bar we had not been to before. Once we got there and I saw the name - Meigas Fora, which means Witches Out I believe - I realised that we have walked past in many times already. The food was very good. 

On Sunday morning as we approached the square where Méndez Núñez has his statue, I thought someone had dressed him up in old clothes. Then I realised that it was one of those living statue acts, standing alongside Mr Méndez Núñez so that everyone would know who he was. I would have taken a picture but my camera and my phone were both in the bottom of my bag and suddenly were past him and on our way .

We were going back to the Hotel Rúas, where we stayed in the summer for a chess tournament in Pontevedra, to have some lunch. There is a tapas competition going on in the city at the moment. Participating restaurants serve up their newly concocted delicacy and punters are asked to give an assessment of it. Eventually one of them will win. I'm not sure what they win apart from prestige. The Hotel Ruas offering was quite good. 

 And after lunch we were off back to Vigo. We had suitcases to pack. And rubbish to throw out. All kinds of sorting out to do ready for departure. 

This morning we were up at the crack of dawn. And this time it really was the crack of dawn. The huge super moon was still in the sky. We still hadn't managed to book tickets for the bus to Oporto and so we wanted to be at the bus station in plenty of time to be first in the queue. Success. By the time the sun came up we were already on our way out of Vigo on the bus. 

At Oporto airport an Autna bus company employee was distributing timetables for their service. So I went and told her about the difficulties - no, impossibilities - we had experienced with their webpage. Even though she told me that my Spanish was much better than hers (she was Portuguese), she wasn't able to offer much of a solution their advanced booking problem. We'll just have to deal with that next time we are in Spain. 

The rest of our journey back to the UK was very straightforward, ending with serendipitously finding ourselves on the same tube train as our son. An excellent end to the latest Iberian adventure.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Eating habits.

In the bread shop this morning a customer was saying that, although she likes bread, she can only eat very little as she immediately puts weight on. The bread shop lady at once declared, "El pan no engorda." Well, I suppose she would say that, wouldn't she. If you sell bread for a living, you don't want to go round saying it puts weight on. In her opinion, it's not so much the bread as what you out on it. And in the case of her customer, someone she clearly knows well, she said it was probably her medication that made her put weight on, no matter how little she ate. The lady in question was not even particularly fat but, as she said, it's when you have clothes in the wardrobe that no longer fit properly that you feel you have a problem. 

This eating business can cause all sorts of problems. 

Yesterday evening I was reading about something called a durian. It's some kind of fruit that is so spiky it looks a bit like a green hedgehog. 

The writer of the article was at the Woodstock fruit festival in upstate New York. They were waiting, apparently for a delivery of this strange fruit. When it arrived, the crowd of people went mad to get it. Our hero was more restrained. Here's an extract of what he had to say: "When the crowd thinned I approached one of the carts. The durians that were left were smaller, less plump, and still somewhat frozen. I lifted one up gingerly by the netting and carried it over to a table. The more experienced durian eaters told me to “find the weak spot and start digging there”, but as I turned the durian over all I saw were strong spots covered in small sharp points. Eventually a stranger came over to help me out. He had a huge red beard and wore a T-shirt that said “VEGAN”. He flipped the fruit over and pointed out the seam, an invisible line at which the spikes of the durian began to part in opposite directions. When he put his thumbs on either side of the seam, the creaturely fruit popped open. Under his expectant eyes, I dug three fingers into the belly of the freezing-cold fruit and shovelled it up into my mouth. It tasted like custard and sour banana and very, very strongly like onion. “You like it?” he asked, and I nodded and made a couple of high-pitched positive sounds. When he left I gave away the remaining three-quarters of my durian to a group of people who had already demolished their fourth. My fingers smelt of cold egg and onion, and I was tired and still hungry." Somehow it doesn't sound like my kind of fruit at all. A little bit food-faddy! 

The argument goes on about what you should or shouldn't eat. I think I could probably survive on a total fruit diet but there are so many good things I would miss. During the fruit festival there were support group meetings for people having problems! Support groups!!! I ask you! But when you join this sort of thing you have to go the whole hog ( wrong expression for the food types under discussion) and swear off all other things. One woman talked about missing coffee in terms that recovering alcoholics perhaps talk about missing alcohol. ' “I have come here,” she said in a soft Russian accent, “to talk about coffee. I miss coffee so bad here. I know it is bad for me, but it was like a friend.” The circle of seated women made quiet, sympathetic sounds as the Russian woman softly wept.' Slightly crazy, as is everything in excess. 

I can to some extent understand the appeal of such extreme "diets" though. The writer talked about being introduced to fruitarianism by a friend who came to stay and began her visit by consuming huge quantities of grapes and telling her that eating nothing but fruit was great. "She had been on a fruit-based diet for just a couple of months, but was already reporting astounding changes: an end to the stomach pains that had troubled her for years; bursting, glowy levels of energy; sharpened concentration; happiness. “I love it,” she told me. “It’s like the whole world is made of delicious, dripping sugar.” Her diet didn’t sound safe, but my friend looked well. She buzzed with intense wellbeing and her skin looked enviably great, although she took frequent naps." It's very appealing.

I can remember once being persuaded into macrobiotic vegetarianism in much the same way by a French friend whose energy levels were so high and who seemed really well on her diet. It worked for me too but I did get a bit bored with it. And I suspect that my French friend would have been like that anyway just because of her metabolism. 

I also remember the husband of a friend, back in the 1980s, deciding that he was allergic to so many things in modern life that he was going on a detox diet. Yes, a DETOX diet! He lived on potatoes - mostly boiled but occasionally baked because of you roasted or fried them you added other stuff - for some time and gradually introduced other food items. At one point he was eating so many carrots that his skin started to turn orange with all the carotene. Then they moved away and I never found out what happened to his allergies. 

Anyway, that's enough extremism. We are off to Pontevedra to eat lots of seafood!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Just a little frustrating stuff!

This must be our week for Internet stuff to go a little awry. We wanted to book tickets for our bus travel to Oporto airport ready for Monday morning, when we travel back to the UK. If you have your tickets in advance you can just go to the front of the queue when the bus arrives instead of waiting while other people buy their tickets. It also gives you peace of mind knowing that you have your tickets already. Then there is less chance of a random group of schoolchildren or pilgrims being ahead of you in the queue and taking all the seats before your turn comes along. And yes, I have seen groups of 15 pilgrims all travelling together and buying their tickets one by one, holding up the rest of the queue! 

So yesterday we tried to book them online, as we have done several times before. All went well until we got to the paying stage. When we clicked on "pay" nothing happened. Zilch, zero, nothing at all. Not quite a frozen page, as you could go back. It just wouldn't go forwards. We even cancelled it all and tried again. Twice. Same result each time. This morning, therefore, I got up bright and early and went along to the bus station, hoping to be able to buy our tickets directly over the counter. 

Of course, Murphy's Law being what it is, the bus company we wanted to travel with is the one that doesn't have a ticket office at Vigo bus station. The other company, which does have a ticket office, has no bus until 1.30 on Monday: too late for us. I asked at the information office; they said you have to buy them as you get on the bus. There was still time for me to pop downstairs and ask the driver of today's early bus if he could sell me a ticket. No good! He can only sell for today's bus! What a palaver! 

On my way back I saw a travel agency that was about to open. I waited around and went in and asked if they could sell me tickets. A very polite young lady explained to me that you have to go on line and buy them from the bus company's website. I was beginning to feel as though I was going round in circles. Just a little frustrating! 

What kind of company doesn't have a ticket office? Or make it possible for travel agents to sell their tickets? Or have a fully operational website? The one that we want to use, obviously. And this in a country where there isn't necessarily a computer in every household. Or if they have a computer they may not have Internet. That is why so many cafes have wifi available for their customers. 

Still, I got a walk and saw the sun come up - well, not quite, but I did see the sky changing colour from pinky-white to blue. And the sun shone all day, which is always a bonus.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Pictures, points of view, popularity!

Sitting in a cafe yesterday growing increasingly frustrated with an Internet connection that refused to post photos from my phone to Facebook (usually the fastest way for me to have them available for my log), I looked around at the other customers. 

A couple of very smartly turned out "older" ladies chatted quietly, ladies of a certain age, perfectly made up and not a hair out of place, almost a caricature of the smart older lady. Not yet old enough to be really old but beyond youth, one of them seemed to be going for a restrained Bette Middler look. 

On another table, three not very much younger but nowhere near so smart ladies were also talking. Or rather, one of them was talking and the other two were nodding and murmuring agreement from time to time. There's a special tone of voice that some women here have: slightly shrill, very rapid and loud enough to dominate a whole cafe, even drowning out the television game show host. It's rather like a pneumatic drill or a machine gun going off in short, and sometimes less short, bursts. It was a relief when they got up and left. 

Earlier in the day I had been catching up on "la prensa rosa" at the hairdressers. They call the scandal magazines "the pink press" but sometimes it's a little red in tooth and claw as they set about criticising the (lack of) dress-sense, excessive weight loss or gain and general looks and behaviour of the rich and famous. 

 Incidentally, I am currently reading Clive James' autobiography (in several volumes). At one point he comments that no-one becomes famous for doing nothing. I wonder if he still says that now in this age of the "personality". It is now possible to state your ambition in life as "I want to be famous" without any need to say what you plan to be famous for. It's a funny old world. 

Anyway, back to the scandal mags. There was a lovely picture of a member of the public picking her chin up off the floor as she almost bumped into the king and queen of Spain, hand in hand, on their way to the theatre or a party or some such event, just like your normal, average rich couple. The press is at pains to point out the hand-in-hand thing and any other public show of affection, explaining that rumours of a possible divorce that were around only months ago were clearly nonsense. (Another "royal" couple doing the same things are the Beckhams, with Victoria making public statements about her adoration of the much tattooed David when she picked up her fashion award recently. Being rich doesn't guarantee happiness but it probably helps!) 

 It seems, however, that the royal family can divorce its members in a way. It is now official, apparently, that the Infanta Cristina, having been involved in all kinds of financial shenanigans, is no longer a member of the royal family. They can't stop her being the sister of the king but she has no royal duties and receives no royal salary. And to think that when she married Iñaki they were quite the golden couple, the bright hope of Spanish royalty. What a come-down! The modern world will no longer put up with that kind of messing around. So it goes! 

Anyway, here are the pictures I failed to post yesterday. 

The snowglobe:

Celta de Vigo football colours on the street:

The Gran Via fishermen and their Christmas catch:


Success at last!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Goings-on in Vigo.

Chaos and confusion at the school gates this morning! I have been back on my usual running route (which takes me past the school) in the morning since we came back to Vigo. I must admit that it was quite hard work getting back into that initial run up the San Joan do Monte hill but we humans are adaptable creatures. And now one section of my route is in the throes of some kind of road works. I think they are laying cables for something or other. The upshot is that bits of the road are restricted to narrow lanes and some are closed altogether. 

Now, I had already noted that there seem to be far more parents taking their little darlings by car to the school behind us by than ever in the past. I had even thought of getting up earlier (not a very realistic option!) to be there before the stream of cars starts to flow past me. Today there was no flow at all. Odd!

I soon discovered why this was the case. Because of one of the closed sections of road making it difficult for people who live along that stretch of one-way street to get out in their usual fashion, a few of them had decided to take unilateral action. They drove the wrong way along the road with the idea of getting out just beyond the school where it becomes two-directional again. A fairly typical Iberian decision in my experience! The problem was that the people coming in from the other end thought that this was still a one-way stretch. And so at a bend in the narrow road, two cars were facing in one direction (illegally) and about fifteen were facing in the other direction, trying to follow the rules. 

As you might expect, it was total chaos. Horns were being hooted. Tempers were fraying. Some drivers were getting out of cars and walking along to see what was going on. Others were making frantic mobile phone calls. Lots of tutting was taking place and a fair amount of shaking of heads in disgusted amazement! I have no idea what happened in the end as I just wove my way through the stationary vehicles and continued on my way. Such fun! 

Later, as I made my way into town, I heard a mournful sort of whistling, of the penny whistle variety. The same few bars were repeated over and over. Never was a whole tune completed. It was more than a little annoying. It's rather unusual to have buskers at our end of Calle Aragón but I thought briefly that someone might be practising prior to heading for the centre. And then I saw him: a chap with a bicycle, on the back of which there was a knife grinder's stone wheel. Some enterprising chap had decided that he would resurrect an old profession as a way of earning some money. Well, good for him I say! 

Meanwhile, Vigo is gearing up for Christmas. Strings of Santas are climbing up ropes to get to balconies. This is odd as traditionally it should be the Three Kings who leave the presents on the balconies! A shop that sells fireplaces and stoves and so on has Santas coming out of, or possibly going into, their stove pipes. I have seen a number of people scuttling along with Christmas wreaths (and yet more Santas of various kinds) in carrier bags, clearly intending to embellish their houses. 

In the centre a huge Christmas tree has been erected and close by is a sort of portacabin, making an appeal for people to give gifts to go on or under the tree, to be given to needy folk at Christmas itself. Jolly good! 

Outside the art gallery two bubbles have been set up with strange red Christmas trees inside and artificial snow blowers - a kind of gigantic snowstorm scene such as my grandmother used to let us shake once in a while. 

The shopping street, Príncipe, is full of huge poinsettia displays and pretend Christmas presents. 

Even the fishermen at the bottom of Gran Vía seem to have caught Christmas baubles in their fishing nets. That must have been a surprise for them! 

But the old chap who,has been living camped out in a shop doorway for the last couple of years on Calle Urzáiz seems to have disappeared. I just hope that someone has found a better place for him to live! 

There should be photos to accompany this post but I have been having problems uploading them. Photos, like jam, tomorrow!