Monday, 31 December 2012

Family and Holidays

How was everyone's Christmas? (Or non-Christmassy holiday celebrations)

I had a quiet time, with my parents and siblings (and a brother in law and sister's partner) - it was consistently wet, with alternating rain and snow,so we didn't end up going for any walks, or indeed leaving the house except briefly to visit other relatives on Boxing Day, but despite, or perhaps because of, the lack of other activities, we had an enjoyable time.

A small cohort of us rang for the local church service on Christmas morning, we all (including Tybalt) watched the goldfinches and tits on the birdfeeders outside, Tybalt met [one of] the cats who live next door, and also had a lot of fun playing 'wrong side of the door' (my parents house has a *lot* more doors than mine does, AND they have carpets, which means that he cannot be left to scrabble at the door, as this leads rapidly to  scratched carpets, which is Not On.

He didn't succeed in getting to the turkey, despite his many attempts.

I returned home yesterday, and have today and tomorrow at home before I go back to work. I've come home with a nasty cold, so I'm not planning to stay up late tonight - I think I shall have an early (and solitary!) celebratory glass of cava and then go to bed early to help fight off this cold!

2012 has been a very mixed year, with a lot of personal and work-related stress, and family-related happiness. I'm hoping 2013 will be more even, and better, on a personal level.

And I hope it will prove to be a happy and successful year for all my friends out there in the internets!


Tuesday, 25 December 2012

December 25th...

Have A Very Merry Christmas 
(or whatever other celebration you wish!)

Monday, 24 December 2012

A Grand Day Out

I spent Saturday in London, to meet up with friends Jess, Paul, Anabel and Ian. I saw Ian and Anabel when I was in Dublin in October, but it's been over a year since I last saw Jess and Paul (Pittsburg and Trowbridge being, unfortunately, too far apart for frequent visits)

I was concerned about getting to London, as there were reports of flooding causing major delays on the trains, but I found in fact that the train into London was more-or less on time, and not particularly crowded, which was a pleasant surprise!

We all met up the British Library, and then started with a visit to the V&A, where we found Creepy Dolls, and a Wish Fulfilling Cow, and a golden chicken (which he label insisted was a goose, but which was, quite clearly, a chicken, and made me think immediately of The Bloggess).

We visited the Tippoo's Tiger, and looked at some of the South East Asian textiles and other exhibits.

 I loved  this 1900 year old winged lion, which is from India, but which looked somewhat Celtic to me.

After some lunch, we headed over to Sir John Soane's house, which is now a museum. You are not allowed to take pictures inside, but should you find yourself in London it's well worth a visit. Soane was an a architect, who died in 1837. He was a avid collector, and the house has everything from a Caneletto, several Turners and Hogarths, to pieces of Roman masonry,  the sarcophagus of King Seti I, and a roof boss from the old Westminster Hall. The museum is set up as it was at the time Soane died (which does mean that many parts of it are very gloomy, as it is lit by candles!)

We then tried to visit the Hunterian Museum in order to see Babbage's brain,but sadly it was closed, so we went to Forbidden Palnet instead, before finishing the day in a pub near St Pancras.

It was great to hang out with everyone, and to have some bite-sized bits of culture!

I did have some delays getting home - my train from London was fine (although not actually the train which was on the timetable) I felt sorry for those wishing to travel beyond Bristol - just after we pulled out of Paddington (with no further stops until Reading) they announced that the train (due to go to Exeter) was not going beyond Bristol, that there was no alternative transport being provided and that they suggested that anyone wishing to travel went back to their point of origin to try again... Given that the train had been sitting, fully loaded, for about 15 minutes, it seemed a little unkind not to have made the announcement 5 minutes earlier!)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Not the Best Day

Today didn't start badly. I mean, I had to get out of bed when it was still dark outside, and to try to achieve the hand, eye, and sardine coordination to get a pill into the cat, but those are par for the course.

And it seemed to be going well, during the morning. I managed to remember that there were roadworks due to start by the castle on my way to work, so I left extra time for the commute, and then I got to the roadworks just as the lights turned green, so I wasn't delayed, and in fact, arrived early at work, which meant I got the feeling of slightly smug virtue, and the 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to work which are the rewards of early arrival.

The rest of the morning passed smoothly, with no more than the usual number of interruptions or foolish questions.

It was around lunchtime that the day started to go downhill.

Our bathroom has two cubicles, each of which has a small sink, with an individual hot water heater, as well as the WC. So, as I was .. minding my own business, when I noticed the sound of trickling water - not something which attracts much attention, under the circumstances. The next thing which happened was much harder to ignore. I was hit with a sudden and vigorous jet of icy cold water, as whatever widget it is which lives inside a tap and keeps it turned off when it's off, failed, suddenly and dramatically. This did nothing to add to my enjoyment of the day. Particularly as I was not, at that moment, in any position to retreat.. It is surprising how very wet you can get in a very short time.

There is a tap on the pipe leading into the water heater, and I thought turning that off would stop the flow. It might have done, had I been able to turn it, but I couldn't, and achieved only a wrenched shoulder from trying to hard and at an awkward angle. (It is a slight comfort to me that my bigger and stronger (male) colleague, when I was able to get him, couldn't, either)

We did manage to track down and turn off the stop-cock, (inconveniently located in the shop next door) and to catch most of the flood in the bin, and to track down an emergency plumber..Eventually.

It's surprising just how wet you can get, in just a few moments. After helping to sort out the plumber, and dealing with a few other things which couldn't really wait, I decided to head home. Somehow spending the next 4 hours in trousers wet from the hip downwards and a shirt with one soaking sleeve didn't appeal. The drive home wasn't a lot of fun, either.

I suppose that on a positive note, tomorrow ought to be an improvement. I just wish I had had time to eat lunch before all this happened.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Small, Day to Day Things (and Carols)

Saturday turned out very wet indeed, so there was no incentive to go out, but today was milder, and the sun even came out for a short while!

I caught up with a little shopping (standard, non-christmassy things) and tidied up the garden a bit - it's been so very wet and cold that I haven't had any opportunity to clear up the last of the leaves, for instance.

This evening, I decided to go to the the Service of 9 Lessons and Carols at the local church - I'm not a frequent church-goer, but there is something special about singing carols with lots of others, and to take a little time for quiet reflection.

I had mixed feelings about the service. On the one hand, the church is beautiful - I forget, between visits, that it has a roof full of angels with gilded wings, and they had some beautiful crimson and gold flowers today, too.

The church was pretty full, which is always good for the singing. And the carols we got to sing were all "proper" ones - the traditional ones which everyone knows. I was however disappointed that whoever is in charge if the choir had decided that this would be a good opportunity to show off their skills, and make more than half of the carols 'choir only'. This is fine if you have maybe one or two less well known carols which the choir can perform, but to have seven and a half (out of 14) restricted to the choir, including  3 and a half well known carols (which were sung to the usual tunes, and with the normal words, so there were no special circumstances to justify excluding the congregation) seemed to me excessive. Particularly as the choir's level of talent and skill was not so great that you could lose yourself in the music.  So that was a little disappointing.

Still, despite that, I did enjoy most of the service, and I'm glad I went. It never feels quite like christmas without at least one church service..

Friday, 14 December 2012

Errands and things

I had a day off today, so have been catching up with various errands, on the basis that shopping and such are likely to be less stressful today, than on Saturday when no doubt everywhere will be busier.

I had planned to have a nice lie-in before starting everything else, but naturally, having made that plan, I then work up at about 5.30 and couldn't get back to sleep, so ended up getting up in disgust a little earlier than on a normal working day. And as there's a lot of cloud around, I couldn't even take the opportunity to try to spot some of the Geminid shower.

After all the ice and frost of the last few days, it's turned very wet (somehow without feeling any less cold, which seems illogical) so I had no encouragement to linger when I got into town.

This morning involved:

  • A trip to the Post Office, to post 9 parcels (amazingly, I didn't need to queue, which I am quite sure would not be the case on Saturday morning!)
  • A trip to Boots, to pick up my repeat prescriptions to ensure that I don't run out of anything over christmas.
  • A trip to the vet, to ensure that Tybalt doesn't run out of his meds over christmas
  • A trip to the paper shop to pay my account off, and sort out what papers I want when.
  • A trip to Big Supermarket, initially just to pick up an extra pint of milk, and some chocolates to take into work, but in fact, as it turned out, also to pick up some booze and chocolates, mostly either as gifts or to take with me to share over christmas.
Then this afternoon I made a start on wrapping gifts for the people I shall be spending time with over christmas (unless I've forgotten something, all the ones which need to be posted, have now been posted) I'm starting to feel just a little bit festive..

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Ice and Frost

The past few days have been bitterly cold (at least by the standards of this country!)

Tuesday was horrible - lots of ice, and fog. However, Wednesday was very different -  I drove into work in sunshine, and as there was a very heavy hoar frost it was a drive through beautiful scenes.

I saw a group of roe deer in one of the fields - I haven't seen them much recently, so that cheered me up.

I had to drive across from one of our offices to another at lunch time, so I took a few minutes to stop and admire the scenery (particularly as the sun came out again) Despite it being mid day, very little of the frost had melted, and the trees looked as though it had snowed.

 It was almost lovely enough to make one forget just how brass-monkeys cold it was!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

'London Falling'

I've met Paul Cornell  several times, at BristolCon, and EasterCon, and Melksham, and he's alkways lived up to his reputation as one of the nicest men in SciFi.  He also wrote one of my favourite Doctor Who episodes (Family of Blood), and is a good friend of my friend Cheryl.

He's now written a novel, 'London Falling' and he was in Bath at Topping and Co to read from it.

It was a bitterly cold night, but despite that there was a reasonable turnout, and it was a fun evening.

 Paul  talked about the book (it's all about the occult history of West Ham football club, apparently), read several extracts from the novel, and answered questions.

And, of course, afterwards, he signed copies of the book for those of us who wanted them, plus extras, so if you are in Bath and want a copy, Topping & Co should be able to meet your needs!

Several of the others who came to the event know Paul from Cons. and Paul had some time before his train home, so after the official event, a group of us popped into the pub down the road, where conversation covered issues as divergent as Fringe, the Church of England, Arrow, Wicca, Marriage Equality, and Babies.

And Paul showed us a picture of baby Tom, who looks adorable.

It was a good evening. I'm looking forward to reading the novel.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

In Which there is Art, and Family

My parents were here to visit this weekend.

I noticed a little while back that Kaffe Fassett was due to speak at Topping and Co in Bath, and knowing that my mum has been a long-term admirer of his work, I asked her if she would like to go, which she did, so I booked a couple of tickets, and she and my dad arranged to come for the weekend.

The event was on Friday night, and I found it interesting despite being there primarily to keep my mum company! (I like Fassett's work, but probably would not have chosen to go to the event if it were just me!)

The talk was as part of a tour to publicise his new autobiography, and he spoke about his journey from painter to knitter to quilter and embroiderer, his passion for colour. He showed 2 of his current works in progress (photos aren't very good, as we were sitting quite far back!)

It's clear he has a passion for his work, and a huge enthusiasm for his work, and for sharing it and encouraging others to explore their own creativity.

On Saturday, the three of us went to Stourhead for a walk. It was a lovely day - very cold, but bright and clear.

We started by walking up to the obelisk, and then walked down through the woods and around the lake.

There was a 'festival of song' taking place which meant that there were 3 or 4 choirs singing at
different places around the grounds, so there were faint echoes and the sound of distant song as we walked around.
There is a rather nice pub just outside the gardens, so we treated ourselves to a delicious lunch (and some totally unnecessary and extravagant desserts) and then went for a short further walk, as a result...

I noticed, for the first time, that the relief on the outside of the 'Temple of Flora' includes these rather nice ox skulls.
Detail, Temple of Flora
We'd timed it all well. As we left, it started to rain.

Sunday was a much quieter, lazy day. In the morning, we went into Frome, which was having it's 'Christmas Extravaganza' - the High Street was closed, and there were all the usual stallholders from the Farmer's Market together with various craft-stalls. After that, we spent the rest of the day relaxing, reading papers and such, finishing with a supper of venison casserole and an early night.

A most enjoyable weekend!