Friday, 31 December 2010

Learning curves

I have learnt several things in the past few days.

1. If you are having 27 family members to lunch, and they say can they bring anything, never, ever say "no - just bring yourselves!" This is daft, and you will live to regret it.

2. Do not buy a small nifty vacuum cleaner by a very well-known manufacturer. Yes, it's light and easy to carry about. Yes, it's quite pretty. But it does not - repeat not - do the business. There is no point in having a vacuum cleaner if you have to follow it picking up all the fluff it has decided to ignore. You can carry it up the stairs (we live on four floors) with one finger, but what's the point of that if it won't do what it's supposed to do?

3. When you wisely replace it with a bigger (heavier) one, get someone to show you how to put it together. True, there's a sheet of instructions with no words, just pictures and the word"click" written in various places (nothing clicks). There is also a helpline functioning practically round the clock (that in itself should arouse suspicion). But when the helpful operator tells you she's sitting with this same model of cleaner balanced on her knees and the wheels facing towards her, and can you see the little grey button on the left? trust me. You can't.

4. The thing (in this case, the vacuum cleaner) which fitted so nicely in its cardboard box when it arrived will never fit back in again once you've taken it out. It just won't. It's like some kind of Chinese puzzle.

5. Echinacea does not prevent colds (which is why we are not out partying this evening). By the way, has anyone else noticed that tomorrow will be 1/1/11?
Happy new year!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Round Robins

Teresa Ashby posted recently 0n the subject of the dreaded annual round robin http://teresaashby.blogspot.com/2010/12/annual-round-robin.html but I thought I'd add my thoughts.

Unlike Teresa, who is uncompromising and fearless in her approach, we don't shred these, but we collect them until after Christmas, and then award a prize for the best/worst. One of our regular winners is yet to arrive (maybe we've been struck off?) but this year I would like to announce that the winners are (cue fanfare) Mr. and Mrs. H.

These people are barely known to us, and have - wait for it - seven children, plus enough grandchildren to people a small village. They are all (naturally) high achievers, and appear to be scattered across the globe, bringing happiness and prosperity to all those who are fortunate to come across them. I lost track after I'd counted 27 names - not one of whom I'd heard of - and immediately awarded them the prize. Really, there was no contest.

Why do people do this? My brother, one of the worst offenders (hello there, Steve) says "people want to know". But I say, no, they don't. If they have no children, they don't necessarily want to hear about yours. If they have - er - low-achieving children, they certainly don't want to hear about all those straight As. And in any case, the people who really want to know (family; close friends) will have been told already.

There is an entertaining little book - The Cat that could Open the Fridge - which is a collection of round robin gems (eg a school report that said "in Sophia, you have given us a little diamond. All we have to do his polish it". See what I mean?).

But after all this, I'm afraid I have to confess that we enjoy the round robins, if for all the wrong reasons. For without them, there would be no competiton. And for us, that is part of the fun of Christmas.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Da da!

By popular (well, Tim's and Teresa's) request. And yes. I've got much better (more important) things to do than take pics of my shopping trolley, but you must admit it's rather jolly.

Trolleys - Part Two

I've done it!

I wasn't going to. As I struggled to and fro laden with shopping bags (we are close to the shops, so rarely have to use the car) , I was determined to hold out against the shopping trolley. That little voice kept telling me I wasn't old enough; that a shopping trolley was the beginning of the slippery slope (together with thick stockings, big knickers and bubbly grey perms). But then I saw it.

It was bright and blue and cheerful, with yellow daisies. It was very, very cheap. and it called to me. In I went, and wheeled it about a bit. It was wonderful. It turned on a sixpence, was easy to park, and had plenty of room. So I bought it.

How did I ever manage without it? I wheeled it through the streets of Devizes (pulling, not pushing. You don't run so many people over that way), light as a feather (although by now, competely full) and wondered how on earth I had ever managed without it.

It is my Christmas present to myself (John's present to me is apparently stranded in Turkey, so I need cheering up). And I LOVE it!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Shortest day



I've just remembered that this is/was the shortest day of the year. "If winter's here, can spring be far behind?" (Shelley). Well, yes. But perhaps not that far...

On waiting

Waiting is one of the most difficult things anyone has to do. Whether it's waiting for someone to arrive (you can't get down to anything, because they might be here any minute), to waiting for a verdict (I had a breast lump once; waiting for the - fortunately ok- result of that was awful). Even waiting for a train to depart can be awkward, when you've said good-bye to the person you're seeing off, have nothing else to say, but still the train doesn't move.

We writers do a lot of waiting. We wait for an agent to reply, for a publisher to reply, for a book to sell. We (or should I say, I ) check emails, check the post, start hoping for verdicts long before they can possibly be expected to arrive. In a way, I find waiting paralyses me. I can't settle; I am preoccupied - even obsessed - wiht whatever it is I'm waiting for.

I know I'm not the only MNWer waiting at the moment, and I wonder whether they (you) are feeling the same way as I am. I can't settle to writing another book (after all, if this one doesn't sell, then there may be lessons to be learnt before I launch myself into a new one), so the creative part of my brain is jiggling up and down saying "come on, come on, COME ON!" but I have to ignore it. I am preoccupied with the waiting.

But never mind. There's Christmas fast approaching, sons arriving with and without new babies, snow to be shovelled (I have to get out and do it before our 80-year-old neigbour - who has the energy of ten of me - skips out with her shovel and puts me to shame), and today's list of Things to Do to be tackled. So I must stop faffing about and do them.

But once again, a very happy Christmas to all MNWers (and anyone else passing by). And if you're currently waiting, may whatever you're waiting for happen soon, and be just what you wanted.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Letter to Delia

Dear Delia

I like you. I really do. I like your wholesomeness; the fact that you are down-to-earth, and when you're on the TV you don't do that coy thing creeping down to the (studio) fridge in your nightie to pig out on something fattening; the fact that you remind us to put on our oven gloves in case we burn ourselves. You are a nice person.

But I can't get on with your recipes. I've tried. I really have. I know I'm in a minority. I know it's almost certainly my own fault. But there it is. Last week we had friends to dinner, and I tried your recipe for ratatouille. I followed the instructions minutely, cut the veg in inch-thick slices (which really went against the grain, but you are Deila and you know). Well, it was a disaster. Although I gave it extra cooking time, it was like chewing boot leather. It didn't work. I love ratatouille. It's one of my favourite dishes ("why didn't you stick to to your usual receipe?" asked my daughter. Good point. But I thought that because you are Delia, yours would be even better. It wasn't). So I shall put my Delia book away for a while. Maybe I'll try again one day; maybe I won't. At the moment, I need time to get over the humiliation of watching seven people trying to look as though they're enjoying something horrible.

But have a wonderful Chrsitmas, anyway, and no hard feelings, eh? After all, with so many fans, you don't really need me.

Friday, 17 December 2010

A cat called Frances. Possibly.

My correspondent on death row has been waiting for ages to be allowed to keep a kitten. Prisoners are allowed to have a cat provided they can pay for its keep, and someone has kindly offered to do that for him. But there's a snag. The powers that be have decided that there are enough cats in the prison and they have said no. However, he has appealed, and is optimistic about the outcome. He wants a female kitten, and he wants to call it after me. I feel ridiculously pleased about this. No-one* has ever named anyone after me before, and a prison cat's pretty special, thoughI have to admit that Frances is a pretty silly name for a cat (its not that great for a human being, either, but I'm stuck with it).

*My daughter thought of calling one of her daughters after me (second name), but didn't want to upset her mother-in-law. Quite right, too.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Ho ho ho...

I went to our local Sainsburys this morning, and there were crowds of people, and the shelves were groaning with Christmas stuff, and a merry song was belting out, telling us all how jolly and happy we all were, and everyone looked soooo miserable. As I passed a couple, the man caught his partner by the collar and dragged her away saying, "NO! You DON'T need any more of that!" The poor cow probably has more than enough to do, and didn't need to be treated like that. Christmas can be a difficult time for women (my husband said that one of the nice things about being married was that he only had to buy one present).

I felt strangely cheered by all this because (a) it was quite amusing seeing all these miserable people buying things to make them happy, and manifestly failing, and (b) because I've pretty well finished my Christmas shopping (please note, Aliya), found some half-price Christmas crackers, and am feeling quite jolly.

I was going to finish this with a fairly amusing cracker joke from the newpaper, but sadly I've already forgotten it (I can never remember jokes, except for one that's so rude that there's hardly anyone I can tell it to).

Thursday, 9 December 2010

But there are exceptions...

...especially at this time of year.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Every cloud....

I've always liked happy endings.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The icing on the cake



This is what happened next. (It's an ill wind etc.)

Monday, 6 December 2010

And even worse off still

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=-JpNravrwZc

We just missed this on the Today programme this morning. But it's worth sharing.

There's always someone worse off



I absolutely HATE this weather, can't ride the horse (who's out in a field eating snow) and am still toying with various plot ideas. We only have one elderly neighbour to look out for, and she's friskier than I am. Unlike Aliya, I haven't finished my Christmas shopping, and I haven't started on the Christmas cards.

But this pic made me realise things could be worse.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Hallelujah!


This was sent to me this morning. Amazingly cheering, (and takes the mind off the weather, snow, blocked roads, cancelled trains...).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE

Friday, 3 December 2010

Second novel syndrome

I know of people who are so brimming with plots that they're spoilt for choice. As soon as they've finished one novel, they're on to the next. Some even write two or more at a time.

And then there are people like me. As someone once said, the plot for a first novel is relatively easy, since that's the book you've (probably) been incubating for years. Hence the notoriously difficult second novel. I seem to have second novel syndrome each time. It takes me ages to happen upon (that's usually how it seems) a good enough new plot. It's a bit like trying to get pregnant, without any of the fun. So here I am, wasting time blogging (between Christmas shopping, and making mince pies), and waiting for that plot to drop into my head. Which is quite frightening, since maybe it won't. Maybe I'll never have another plot or write another novel. I rather envy the NaNo people, who had the discipline to write a novel in a month. The imperative to write may well have inspired the plot. Too late for me this year (although there's no reason why I can't set myself a personal NaNo). I've got a vague plot about people stuck in ia lift, but is that enough for a novel? If I were an Ian McEwan, certainly it would be. Sadly, I'm not.

On a lighter note, I read in the paper today that a company is designing larger cat flaps for fatter cats, since apparently feline obesity is becoming a problem, and ordinary cat flaps are too small. This got me wondering: there must be a fine line between a fat cat and thin burglar. I hope they know what they're doing.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Alternatively...


Or maybe this would be more suitable. One small granddaughter has been awake all night because she's so excited about the snow. I have not. Not being excited about snow is a sign of old age, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Hats (a cheery subject for a cold day)


Talking of weddings (well, a lot of people seem to be) I just love hats. I'm not a dressy person; I spend most of my life in jeans. But hats - they're different. There's something splendid about hats, but all too few occasions upon which I can wear one.
Here in Devizes we have a magnificent hat-hire shop. Inside this charming, low-beamed building there is an entire rainbow of hats; big, small, fluffy, flowery - you name it, Joan has got it. You bring in your outfit, and she finds you the hat. And she's alway right. Having found the hat, she will attach little bit of things - feathers and other fripperies - to match, say, your shoes.
But sadly, apart from a niece's wedding next year (that will be a big hat day), there will be no other occasion in the forseeable future for me to visit Joan and her hats. The only other hat occasion I can think of is a royal garden party, and I would really hate to go to one of those (if anyone royal is reading this, please don't take offence; just invite someone else instead). The idea of having to dress up and trawl into London to have posh tea with hundreds (or is it thousands?) of strangers fills me with horror. That, and the fact that the hat would probably get squashed on the train (well, you can't wear a big hat on a train, can you? There's hardly room for the passengers, without hats).
Never mind. Just remember; if you are in the South West, and need a hat, Joan's your woman. Oh, and please can I come with you to help choose it?