Friday, December 28, 2007


Towards the end of last week, I had an email from my wine merchant to say that if I ordered one of their mixed cases, they would guarantee delivery for Christmas. So I did. I also ordered a half case of fizzy wine on the grounds that it didn’t really matter if that didn’t turn up for Christmas, though it would be nice if it did. I also ordered three things on Amazon for The Builder, one of which was sent by one of their partner sellers.

The case of mixed wine duly turned up a day or so later. No packages came from Amazon, despite the email I had saying the partner seller’s package had been posted. I did get an email from Amazon, however, telling me that their stuff would get here on time if they had to bring it themselves.

On Christmas Eve at about half past eight in the morning, there was a bang, bang, banging on the side window. It was a courier with the fizzy wine. He couldn’t get to the back door to knock in the traditional manner on account of the gate still being locked. A bit later thee was a bang, bang, banging on the door (the gate by then had been unlocked). It was one of the Amazon packages. Some time later, there was a bang, bang, bang, bang, banging on the front door. You’d thing that all the plants in front of the door would be a fair sign that the door is not in use, but apparently not. So, everything had turned up – apart from the package that I had had the first email about. That still hasn’t turned up, though about a million seed catalogues came in this morning’s post. But I digress.

I despatched The Builder to Sainsbury just after 9am on Christmas Eve, not really expecting to see him again for several days. The crowds in there even at the end of last week were astonishing. When we called into Waitrose at some point well before Christmas Eve, the car park was absolutely chockablock. Never seen it like that. Never! In the meantime, I dealt with the ironing mountain. He was back in a surprisingly short space of time. It seems that the supermarket was practically empty. So too were the vegetable aisles! He got the last two packets of mixed veg – for Tabitha and Gareth’s rabbits who are staying with us over Christmas. They were starting to discount things even while The Builder was there. Alas – we are out of money. Anyway, last year’s Christmas Eve turkey haunted me right through until the summer when I finally managed to find an occasion to eat it!

We watched the King’s College carol service and pottered about and went to bed.

I was woken on Christmas morning by the theme tune to Dr Who faintly ringing in my ears. It was my phone! But where is it? Aha – downstairs in the dining room being charged! Ran down to get it. And it was Freyja who was astounded to find that The Builder and I were both still asleep at the late hour of 7:00! It is true that we are normally up well before then. And if not up, at least awake and drinking tea. The Builder provided us with tea. Then we got up and opened our presents. I got lots of lovely presents. I got a festive waistcoat and a camel apron and a Dr Who scarf all from Australia. The Builder’s daughter and family gave us a festive Marks and Spencer hamper. His son and co gave me a wine glass with a single glass bottle of wine (he gave The Builder a port glass with two miniatures of port). It was all very jolly. I listened to the Christmas Service from Worcester cathedral. We had a SKYPE video call with the assembled merry-makers at Mount Helen. We talked to Austin and Tabitha and Freyja again. Then I started cooking. I cooked and cooked and cooked and cooked and cooked. All day, I cooked. Eventually the dresser in the dining room was positively groaning with party food ready for the Boxing Day feast. Well, the lunch bit of it anyway. Then The Builder and I sat down to fizzy wine, a truly wonderful seafood platter (langoustine tails and scallops grilled with garlic butter, mussels cooked in white wine, and strips of monk fish and salmon fried in tempura batter – absolutely wonderful). We watched the Dr Who Christmas special and retired reasonably early to bed.

To a disturbed night, from my point of view at least. I kept waking up worrying that the cat was eating, sitting on or pushing off the dresser all of my Boxing Day party food. He didn’t do any of these things, though he did jiggle the plate with the mini prawn toasts on in the morning.

So to Boxing Day. Which I mostly spent cooking again! Tabitha, Gareth, Freyja and Mark, together with Alex all lobbed in at around 1pm, to a layout in the lounge room of twiglets and dips and munchy things. Freyja brought twisties and barbecue shapes and violet crumbles. There were more presents. Alex gave me a Dr Who annual. I haven’t had an annual for years. Taffa gave me two Dr Who facecloths. Everyone gave me a cartoon style puffin picture. They gave The Builder jaguars and tea sets. Freyja seemed to like her mezzaluna. And Taffa liked her pig bell that The Builder and I bought in the flea market at the Great Dorset Steam Fair in September and have been restoring ever since. At least, I think she did. Everyone liked their presents rather more, I believe, than the present Mark’s brother had given him and Freyja. A fondue set. Bought on eBay. With the heating bit missing. Thus making it hard to use as a fondue set!!

Then it was lunchtime. We had: party pies and party sausage rolls; mini quiches and mini prawn sesame toasts; bacon rolls and cold chipolata sausages; and mini pizzas. There was a separate plate with all of that again suitable for the vegetarians. Apart from the quiches which neither of them likes and the prawn toasts because I couldn’t think of a veggie alternative to the prawns! We had coke and Dr Pepper and Schloer and wine and fizz to hand. We watched a very odd film on the telly and then Hogfather (not that we watched Hogfather, it was just on in the background). They played games. Then we had seafood bisque and potato, leek and cheese soup. Austin SKYPEd in from Gifu where he and Ant (who’s there for New Year) were merry-making in parallel.

Then Mark’s parents rolled in and Alex had to leave to catch the coach back to London. He’s gone snowboarding in France today.

The feasting continued. We had roast rib of beef and roast gammon. The veggies had quorn Wellingtons. There were roast potatoes and roast parsnips and mashed potatoes and peas and broad beans (from the garden, carefully hidden in the freezer for this very event) and sprouts and carrots. We followed this with raspberry trifle and chocolate pavlova and steamed fruit pudding and chocolate mousse made by Freyja and Taffa. We had crackers (not helped by Gaz who left last year’s crackers in Cambridge AGAIN! Fortunately, I had take evasive action by buying some a couple of weeks ago when they were on offer) and chocolate crackers and all sorts. Then Mark’s parents left, taking Freyja and Mark with them. I retired to my boudoir after two solid days of cooking. Taffa, Gaz and The Builder stayed on until much later.

The lounge, dining room and kitchen this morning looked like a major war had been fought in it. The Builder had to excavate the kettle! I came down after my second cup of tea and made a start on it. Actually, it didn’t take all that long. I dealt with it as if it were a battle plan. The Builder helped. Everything now looks quite as normal. Tidier, even, apart from the kitchen floor which I’ll deal with later. Perhaps! Oh, and the spare room but that’s a day’s job in itself. I really must put the old table and chairs on eBay. Though one of the chairs came in handy yesterday when we had one more person than dining chairs.

Our SKY has gone down :( It says it’s updating software and will take 10 minutes. It’s been saying that all day. The SKY woman in an Indian call centre says it will cost a call out fee of £65 to get it fixed. Who has £65 spare the day after Boxing Day?!?!?!?! It’s been something of a day for talking in vain to Indian call centres. Tabitha has lost her train ticket back to Cambridge. She does, however, have the email confirmation of purchase. She rang the train company to see whether if she went to the station with the email printed out, they could reissue the ticket. The woman at the other end failed absolutely to understand any of that. Did Taffa wish to change her ticket? Buy a new one? What precisely was the problem? Eventually Taffa gave up. She’s decided to go to the station in the hope that she finds someone there who understands English! In the meantime, I think the four of them have gone to the cinema. The Builder and I are in our nice, cosy lounge room eating cheese and biscuits, drinking tea and nibbling on twiglets.

Someone seems to have assassinated Benazir Bhutto. Makes you despair, really it does.

PS I've fixed the SKY box. I dismantled absolutely everything, removed the viewing card, and pulled out all the wires and cables. Put everything back and it's all hunky dory again. Who needs a £65 engineer? I would have done all this earlier except the message on the screen said not to disconnect the box.

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