We’re done, that’s it, the fat lady has sung, the stapler has stapled its last. No more work in 2008.
We visited my family in Yorkshire at the weekend and spent a very good time surrounded by lots of people, many of whom are unlucky enough to be related to me. We had a nice meal in Beverley, the place of my birth (not that this was relevant to the meal) and came home laden down with presents.
All presents are now bought, the meal is planned, and the house is in a state vaguely resembling neatness. We did the big food run to the supermarket yesterday and survived unscathed1. Although my brother’s poncy southern palate2 is now so refined he only has a chicken in case of “emergency” (i.e. failure to buy a goose) we’ve settled on a nice fresh free range chicken (or “happy chicken” as Janet calls chickens that have been allowed to gambol with the lambs and roam in vast herds across the serengeti.)
We’re doing the quiet thing again this year, so just my brother-in-law over for the big day. With Janet’s diabetes we have to be a bit careful about Christmas snacking, but the meal itself should be fine with judicious application of wholemeal bread and a bit of common sense3. I did sit and watch both Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver cooking Christmas things the other day, and aside from an overwhelming desire to slap both of them hard around the face I was amazed at how unhealthy their Christmas dishes were. Apparently Nigella believes that you have to coat all vegetables so liberally with maple syrup that they must emerge from the oven tasting like toffee apples4. I’m currently researching recipes for roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic as the amount of sugar in the supermarket toppings you can buy is ridiculous. Janet is currently making her surprisingly tasty sugar-free chocolate cake (using Splenda).
Then it’s Chr2stmas on Boxing Day when my parents-in-law are doing us a meal.
To get you in the mood — for what is unclear — you can hear Tom McRae doing a version of White Christmas over at his myspace page. Nowhere near as depressing as the suicidal version of Wonderful Christmastime I posted last year, but acceptably mopey Christmas fare.
1 Barring a large hole where my wallet used to be.
3 Sadly our common sense is stored at the back of the cupboard and went out of date in 2006.
4 Also she was flirting with me quite embarrassingly. I think she has a crush on me, poor thing.
Fairly shabby snow it has to be said, but living right near the coast as we do that’s actually as much snow as we’ve seen all winter. I do pine for a nice bit of snow. I’ve been looking at everyone else’s snow pictures and feeling a bit short-changed. At least this stuff is lying.
We had a lovely visit from my parents on Easter Sunday in which I daringly cooked Sunday lunch. Not only did it all get mostly cooked, mostly at the same time, but it was ready exactly as they arrived. I couldn’t do that again if I tried. We then tried to convert my parents to the wonders of Wii bowling and Wii boxing, the latter of which is amazingly knackering.
Other than that we’ve had a strange weekend of occasional fine and sunny weather, occasional snow flurries that have melted as they touch the ground, and some amazing gales on Friday that actually blew one of our recycle bins off the patio and right down to the foot of the garden under the bench. I don’t know what’s been going on with the weather since December but we’ve had some really fierce gales on a regular basis.
We also managed to get a swift nest box and a sparrow nest box attached to the house (courtesy of yours truly, a very tall ladder and a hammer-action drill, a combination not recommended to settle your nerves), which feels very satisfying. Now if I only knew how to get birds to nest in them. Maybe a “Rooms To Let” sign near the bird table. We already have swifts nesting in the eaves above our bedroom window so I’m cautiously optimistic.
And lastly we’ve been watching the unexpectedly not-crap adaptation of The Colour of Magic. Okay, it wasn’t fine art, but it did at least make me laugh and the actors were better cast than I’d originally feared, particularly David Jason. From what I saw of Hogfather this one felt a lot less stilted.
EDIT: Oh and I, er, may have eaten some chocolate. A bit.
Had a fantastic trip back home to Yorkshire on Saturday and Sunday. We had a fine pub meal, chatted lots, and then went for a country walk on the Sunday. Said walk turned out to be considerably longer and colder than anticipated, especially when the low sun didn’t reach our little valley and a freezing fog descended, but we did survive long enough to reach the cars. It did afford an opportunity to see some beautiful frosty scenery, take endless photos, and feel Christmassy. Some pictures via my facebook here.
This was nothing compared to my brother-in-law John’s canoeing trip down the River Tweed on Saturday, however, which looks more or less like he was ice-breaking through the Northwest Passage. He’s posted some spectacular icy photos here.
All of which does make me feel slightly better about the lack of snow for the festive season.
Last night we boozed and played the not-at-all-festive Unreal Tournament 3 with John and another friend of ours, and today we cooked our finest Christmas meal to date, i.e. nothing went disastrously wrong and it was all more or less ready and warm at the same time. I was given plenty of cool presents including a big trilobyte fossil, Absolute Sandman Vol 2, and a Wii light sabre. More importantly I got to watch everyone else open cool presents too.
Now we’re Wii bowling the afternoon way before Doctor Who, and feeling slightly too full of food, chocolate, wine and coffee.
My parents came up the other week and brought with them a load of old tat from my childhood that was unnecessarily taking up room in their house.
It included this fine piece of 100% pure nostalgia, biro scribbles and all:
We have this week off on holiday. That’s good.
So far we’ve spent it in backbreaking labour. That’s bad.
The backbreaking labour is Janet’s new Greenhouse. That’s good.
We rewarded ourselves last night with our first fast food order of the year. That’s double plus good. Janet had Chinese. I had Pizza Hut. It was great. The best thing is we have no need to feel guilty because it was low in sugar for Janet, and the fat’s irrelevant due to the aforementioned backbreaking labour.
The greenhouse itself is Janet’s new pride and joy. She already had a 6 foot x 8 foot one, but her carnivorous plants were beginning to complain about the lack of space. By “complain” I mean that several of them were quite grumpy and more than a few were developing into hunchbacks. The danger of them running amok and taking over the City was ever on our minds. Well, it was on my mind. Janet seems very blasé about the idea of her plants ‘pulling a Wyndham’, as it’s almost certainly known.
Getting back to the story: plants big–greenhouse small. Janet’s foolish husband suggested that we could make room in the garden for a bigger greenhouse, and suddenly there was a Janet-shaped cloud of dust dissipating beside him as she rushed to the internets. She ended up ordering a 6 foot x 14 foot one – nearly twice as long, and also the “High Eaves” version (meaning that the walls are taller before the roof starts).
We spent Sunday taking the old greenhouse down, two VERY long days on Monday and Tuesday assembling the new one, and today fitting all the staging and moving the plants back in from the porch (where they were, quite frankly, unnerving the postie). Thankfully the rain mostly held off despite the odd bit of drizzle, and we’ve even had some warm sun for part of it.
We had Janet’s Mum and Dad helping us to put the greenhouse up, for which we can’t thank them enough. Without them whole eons could have passed before we got the darn thing assembled. It’s a lot trickier than it looks, even having built one a few years back.
Inevitably there are pictures, as with all our projects. Look, just be thankful you don’t have before and after photos of me composing this journal entry…
There’s a nice little interview with Joss Whedon over at geekmonthly.com focusing mainly on the “8th Season” Buffy comic he’s co-writing and ‘executive producing’: Part One, Two, Three, and Four. Spoilers for the comic, naturally.
In the ‘pretty pictures’ department there are also some lovely new CGI images from the remastered version of ‘The Doomsday Machine’, one of Classic Trek‘s best efforts. Although my affection for Star Trek has waned over the years, I somehow still get a kick from seeing images like these.
As previously mentioned I’m heading to London for my brother’s Stag Do this weekend, but sadly far too briefly to even consider meeting fellow denizens of the interwebs. It’s pretty much going to be arrive, booze, recover, leave. Hopefully in that order. As a result you’ll all have to survive the weekend without my dazzling LJ repartee. Much like every other weekend.