Thursday, 23 December 2010

Twas the night before the night before Christmas...

I spent the morning doing church flowers with the faithful band of flower arrangers.   I did this arrangement by the altar

and then I did a little one by the south door....

And another one by the organ.   We are very fortunate that our lovely vicar lets us do the flowers the day before Christmas Eve - in the past it has always been such a rush with visitors arriving, cooking to do and the live crib service at 3 o'clock to prepare for (people start arriving at two to get a good seat!)  The church looks lovely, with all the windowsills and the font decorated.
And doesn't my Christmas tree look nice?  It is absolutely jam packed with old friends which are unpacked year after year.  And the lovely plumber has been to fix the radiators in the dining room and MY bathroom (I told George the only thing I wanted for Christmas was my radiator fixed.  I have to tell you that the sectret of a happy marriage is his and her bathrooms!)   There is a Mary Berry Mincemeat cake in the oven - never done it before but it sounded quick and easy and will fill a few gaps when the boys arrive.

I should be looking forward to Christmas, it is  a  lovely time of the year but this year I am so apprehensive.  And on top of everything else, junior daughter, who won't be with us on Christmas Day, has just announced that  on Boxing Day she wants to go to Heathrow to see a friend who is on a seven hour stop over from Chicago to Australia! Imagine anyone wanting to go and spend several hours in Heathrow  instead of being in the bosom of the family.......!   Ah well.    Tonight I have to go out and deliver the last of the presents to the ladies in the Almshouses - I have made a phone call to make sure she will be in.     Every single year I never manage to get them all in - I usually have to  make  several journeys!   I woke up at 4 this morning remembering that I had left one of the gifts - a large poinsettia - in the car all night but fortunately it didn't get spoilt by the frost. 
And tomorrow - Christmas Eve!   The crib service in the afternoon and Midnight Mass both of which George organises and both of which will be packed. 
 Let the magic of Christmas come in.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Deep and Crisp and Even...

This is how it started - just a light layer of snow.  And then we got this...
Of course it looks beautiful when it is unsullied - like many people I've taken dozens of photographs but gradually the pristine layer is being destroyed as we come and go.  I went to the shop this morning and the pavement is lumpy with impacted snow/ice - walking  is so dangerous!  I have just had an email from a Swedish friend who told me it started snowing there in October and has snowed pretty much every day since!
I have been training this Berberis into the shape of a Christmas tree for a number of years now - and this year it really does look like one!  Well, it could be a sharper shape but George wouldn't cut the berried boughs off because the blackbird likes them!  And he has been busy eating the berries (the blackbird, not George)- the window is  our dining room and as we sat having lunch today we could hear him busily rustling around and see the snow falling off the branches.  He also enjoyed the crusts from the smoked salmon canapes -

 I am really pleased with this photograph - it is taken through my lovely new glass kitchen door - not bad, is it?  Guess what we call him?  Yup, that's right , Blackie.   We had our Christmas party last night after the Carol Service - 45 people (should have been 50 but some out-of-villagers couldn't make it) came back for drinks.  We have been doing this  for some 40 odd years and  it has become a bit of a tradition with our friends - they just  assume that we are going to do it!  Now it is getting harder - clearing the furniture  to make room for everyone is quite a struggle.  And we have been all day today putting everything back. 
It looks cosy, doesn't it?  This was taken after the first light layer of snow.
Oh dear, I wonder are we going to get any more?  The vicar has just called to ask George if he has got enough shepherds for the Crib Service on Christmas Eve - will Noah the donkey be able to get down here from 'up in the hills' above Royston?   The live donkey is the star of the show so fingers crossed.  I am going to go and cosy up round the fire now and just DO NOTHING.

Monday, 13 December 2010

End of the year.....

This is  Margaret Starr's stand  at the Scotsdale Garden Centre Craft Show near Cambridge.    It is held in the David Rayner Cancer Centre, a great venue for a craft show, warm and comfortable for the stall holders and easy access and parking for visitors.  I popped over on Saturday (normally open the last weekend in each month, but every weekend in December) to see how Margaret was getting on.  Her delightful bags were being much admired - and bought, as well.  Well done, Margaret, and your initialled books are terrific and make a wonderful gift.

The garden centre was heaving with folk buying their Christmas trees - I do hope they all spare a few minutes to go and look at the  high quality craft on offer.  We've got a MESCH meeting this week and I have to confess that I haven't done much!
It was a busy week - keeping my mind off family troubles -  a NADFAS lecture on Mozart at Churchill College followed by our U3A Book Group Christmas tea party at the Garden House Hotel.  Well, they don't call it that now, but to us oldies that is what it will always be called.  Beautifully situated on the banks of the Cam with punts gliding by, it is quite special.  As was our tea, with dainty sandwiches, scones and  lots of fancy cakes.  And endless cups of tea whilst we discussed the book of the month - The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. 
This year we altered our format, reading three thrillers, three romances, three comedies and three historical  books comparing the variety within the genres.  But I don't think we shall do that again, we are reverting to our old ways.  Anyway, everyone loved the Guernsey etc book and it was voted the best read of the year - but not by me!  I have just read Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope for discussion by another group and enjoyed that and now I am reading Behind the Scenes at the Museum  by Kate Atkinson.  I thought it very odd at first but as I got into it it has completely gripped me and I can hardly put it down.
I am fascinated by my fingernails at the moment!  They are daringly painted with Chanel's Diabolical varnish which, as you may imagine, is practically black.  I feel very adventurous and every time I look at my hands I get a surprise!  Such fun.   I may even go green.......

Sunday, 5 December 2010

DO IT WITH STYLE !!! I think not.

I wrote on the 5th October of coming back from France to find a leak in our conservatory.  It had been leaking for some time and the man from STYLE came out to look at it - we thought it was a problem with the internal hidden gutter, but after the big leak it was eventually confirmed that it was a problem with the roof.  Now isn't it peculiar that whilst the conservatory is under guarantee for ten years, the roofwork is only under guarantee for two years!  So Style are not responsible.  Just a minute, the roofers were  their subcontractors , not ours!  

It has proved very difficult to get  through to someone who could deal with us.There have been many telephone calls and many absences from the office for 'visiting a sick mother' and the person who is dealing with our case 'is on holiday' and instances where our calls were not answered from our home number but were answered when I used a mobile phone.   Eventually in desperation, and with Christmas looming, we got a man to come and do some work on the roof last week  - but Style will not replace the internal cladding until we are sure that the leak is mended.  So bizarrely we have been praying for rain - and what did we get?  Snow.  But yesterday it rained and yes, it is still leaking.    So more work to be done.   OK, I know I haven't turned the picture but you get the idea!
You can see the proximity of the big bookcase and imagine how the water crept up the paper and of course all the big, expensive art books were on the bottom row and some have had to be slung. 
So you can imagine with what delight we had a leaflet through the door with the local paper yesterday -

I must confess that I did say something unprintable and handed it to George.  He said something even more unprintable but hey, what is this he has spotted?  Can it be?  YES, it is.   US, our very own conservatory -

No possible mistake, it IS us.  There are the balloons we had for a party!   Whaahey!   Now if only I had known that they were going to use us for their advertising I would have asked them to put in a little note to say we would just LOVE people to come round and have a look.   Now is a good time.  We could show them the big watermark on the  antique rug

 some of the ruined   Art Books, all the past editions of the Melbourn Magazine which were waterlogged and must be thrown away, the buckets - we would have so much to talk about to any prospective |STYLE customer !

I will be the first to let you know when/if   STYLE   come good and who knows, they just may foot the bill for the roof work.  They may pay for the rug to be cleaned in the hope that the watermark disappears. (I have to say, they have been very good in the past about fixing doors etc) They may even apologise for all the ruined books.  I just have a feeling that none of this will happen before our Christmas party when  fifty people will be wanting to spill into the conservatory!  

But with all the angst we have been going through just recently, you will understand that  receiving that leaflet was the last straw.  I LOVE my conservatory (or should I say LOVED).  With a sittingroom panelled in wood, to go into the light & sunny room was a joy.  We had lunch there most days.  I used it for my Open Studio weekends.  I want it back.

Honestly, if you didn't laugh you would cry.