Thursday, December 22, 2011

End of the Year

Wow! is it really some months since I was last here? How time flies!

Whatever has occurred in the interval since my last post cannot have been of any note, can it? What I do know is that our famous British weather has lived up to its reputation - the summer was cool and wet, the autumn warm and dry, and so far winter has been unseasonably warm. Christmas is upon us and according to the forecasts we could be having picnics.

My study badly needed redecorating. I calculate that it has been some 15 years, and the wallpaper was peeling. So, armed with the necessary enthusiasm I resolved to tackle the whole job, carpet and all. It is not easy, or ideal, to decorate without removing the furniture, but available space in the house was taken up by my books so there was little choice. Soon there was paint and paper everywhere as I was dabbing it here, dabbing it there. I wasn't actually stuck to the floor but some lines of the old song certainly rang true. Now it is done. It only remains for a new blind to be bought and fitted (after a disastrous first effort involving wrong reading of measurements), and I think it looks first rate.

On Saturdays we like to have breakfast out. Our usual haunts are The Copper kettle in Andover, CaffĂ© Nero in Winchester, and either Costa Coffee or Debenhams in Basingstoke. Recently though we have found another place in Winchester, run by Raymond Blanc. It is a little more expensive, but the quality of the food and the service certainly makes up for it. Last Saturday though was different. Because of the proximity of the date to Christmas we decided to go early to Winchester to ensure a parking spot and avoid the worst of the crowds. Breakfasting at Raymond Blanc's establishment was disastrous. The wrong drinks were delivered, the boiled eggs were raw, cutlery had to be sought (they tried supplying desert spoons and forks - for boiled eggs?) and other people were delivered goods which they had not ordered. Eventually the chaos was sorted (for us, anyway) and recompense offered as money off the bill. A great shame as until then the venue had been a good experience. We shall try again, but if the situation is unimproved we shall not return.

It is now four days before Christmas and all the shopping is done! Presents are wrapped, food and drink bought. Forgive me if I'm a little smug. Cooking still needs doing and the decorations put up, and of course the fresh fruit & vegetables bought, but we are readier and more relaxed than for some years. On Saturday to come (Christmas Eve) we are visiting our local Indian restaurant. The Wife & I ate there recently for the first time in a while and were impressed. Saturday should be good, convivial, and jolly. Food and drink will abound no doubt, but I hope that it will not give cause for another entry here.

For the last several years we have hosted a neighbourhood gathering one evening before Christmas. Drinks and nibbles are served and a generally happy and pleasant evening is enjoyed by all. There are something like a dozen people who attend and for four hours or so it is better than an over-the-garden-fence chat. This year we had to cancel the event at the last minute. One neighbour received terrible news about her son which depressed the neighbourhood too, and cancellation was obviously the thing to do. The lady herself is away now staying with a daughter. We shall arrange another evening, perhaps in the Spring, for the annual gossip. In the meantime our thoughts are with our lady neighbour.

Another disaster has befallen us. Actually it is a bit of a mystery too. Every day or two The Wife checks the pond fish. A couple of weeks ago she missed the light-coloured goldfish, but as the weather was very cold assumed that they had sounded like whales. After another couple of days she reported it to me and further investigation revealed the absence not only of those three fish, but of the two large koi as well. The reddish goldfish remain but current thinking is that we have been visited by a heron. Until last year the pond was overshadowed by a magnolia tree. We felled it because the roots had begun to push over the pond's retaining wall. We never gave a thought to the fact that the space was now available to a heron because there is still a pergola on one side of the pond and other bushes at either end. During the Summer, of course, the pond is adorned with plants and waterlilies which would shield the fish. Oh, well, one well-fed heron! The fish stock will be replenished in the Spring, and security of the pond improved. In the meantime, to protect the remaining fish I have laid garden trellis panels across the pond. Let's see the little devil fish there now!

Looking at my diary for 2011 I see that the year has been remarkable. There have been triumphs and disasters and the making of new friends. We have acquired a new daughter in law, two step-grandchildren, two lovely and charming Norwegian friends, and a step-dog. We are to be repeat grandparents in about July 2012 and are thrilled. Hopefully we shall be able to visit Norway next Summer to see her/him and to celebrate our younger step-grandchild's confirmation. Next year, too, I shall turn 70 and am busy thinking of the best way to celebrate (is that the word?) the event. Ten years ago I was treated to a wonderful day out in London, and five years ago Number One Son and his then wife came over especially to be here for a special meal out at an up-market restaurant. Watch this space...

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