29 December 2013

Christmas FloodsHope you’ve all had a splendid holiday break filled with all manner of festive fun.

We’ve had a very mixed end to this year’s weather which created a lot of excitement and disruption in various parts of the country, fortunately, though, not too bad in our area. There have been severe storms and high winds resulting in floods and downed power lines. A considerable number of folks were either homeless or had no electricity over the festive period. Not much fun, I shouldn’t think. We’ve had Christmas disrupted by power cuts in the past but fortunately never for days at a time (over the Christmas period, at least). The storms arrived on Christmas Eve and lots of folks trying to get away for Christmas – either to family in this country or abroad – had their travel plans severely disrupted. Not much fun trying to sleep on a camp bed at Gatwick airport, especially if you’ve got little ones to try to entertain. And how do you explain to your four or five year old that Father Christmas had a bit of trouble making it to your flooded house this year?

In our area we’ve certainly had the rain and winds but we’ve also had some lovely clear and bright days to blow the cobwebs away. When we went over to Nick & Lucy’s they pointed out one of their neighbour’s house which had a large conifer leaning gently against the roof and another large conifer strewn across the roof of their car. Bad luck, and even worse bad luck – the neighbour is away! Fortunately, it doesn’t look like the roof of the house is damaged although the car could well have sustained a dent or two. But it certainly won’t be much fun to come home to.

Walking round the Edgecote estate on Friday, I passed by the water wheel and took the following. Notice the water streaming over the spillway and the row boat which has become untied (I guess) and which has drifted up against the barrier. Compare this with the one I posted last week.

httpv://youtu.be/wF4JGXm37As

Happy BirthdayI had a most enjoyable birthday last Sunday – many, many thanks to everyone – family, friends, acquaintances, cousins, neighbours and everyone else – who posted greetings and kind wishes on Facebook, sent messages, cards and e-mails, phoned, dropped in and/or conveyed their greetings in other ways. It was a great day. We went across to Nick and Lucy’s and they took us out to Wagamama’s, a very nice, child-friendly noodle restaurant in Leamington, for lunch after which we went back to their place and played with Annabelle – what more could anyone want?

As usual, Ms Playchute supplied a suitable birthday card – she always seems to find one which sums up the effect of the advancing years so accurately and succinctly. Click for a larger version.

You’ll be surprised to know that we also went across to Nick & Lucy’s on Christmas Day and had a similarly grand time. Annabelle was very good and opened each of the eighteen hundred presents she received with enthusiasm and precision. Then, she would happily play with each one (apart from the clothes, of course) until, sometime later, she was presented with another one.

Annabelle Reading
Annabelle reading to Lucy and a collection of stuffed toys.

Clearly the concept that there might be more presents hadn’t quite filtered through and she was happy with whatever she was given. The fact that there was another present to open a little while afterwards was just a bonus!

Lunch was chicken breasts stuffed with cream cheese and herbs wrapped in prosciutto, green beans, a vegetable medley au gratin type of affair (very cleverly disguising the taste and sight of the parsnips, turnips, carrots, etc. that some people, i.e., me, are not overly fond of) and Amy potatoes. Nick had done salmon for himself and it was all outstanding – well up to the standard we have come to expect.

Then, on Boxing Day, they came across to us, just for a change. Penelope made a delicious goat cheese and lemon risotto and I baked some fresh ciabatta rolls which, surprisingly, came out considerably better than I had anticipated. There were a couple of presents left over from the day before including a farm yard and animals for Annabelle which was a great hit. We discovered amongst our collection of toys, a couple of additional animals on the same scale which were added to the farm yard menagerie – a couple of additional sheep, an extra cow and, for a bit of excitement, a lion and a couple of dinosaurs, a stegosaurus and a tyrannosaurus. These made an excellent addition and, as Nick pointed out, the variety of animals would undoubtedly have met with the approval of the Creationists out there amongst us.

I spotted the following Peanuts cartoon some days ago and originally had planned to use it likening it to the sorts of plans that our Molly makes every day. But it’s also, I realise, suitable as an indicator of my own plans for the rest of the holiday period. Perhaps not quite so much sleeping or napping, but I certainly expect to spend some time over the next week or so relaxing on the sofa with some seasonal sport. What’s not to like?

Holiday Plans

I ran across a selection of photographs yesterday which pretty well sum up my (and I suspect most folks’) attitude towards Christmas shopping (and large-scale shopping in general, I suppose). I hate it but fortunately I’ve been able to do most things online over the past couple of years. Occasionally, though, Ms Playchute wants some company as she wrestles with the crowds so I go along, perhaps not as happily as I should but willingly nevertheless. Every time I do so, however, I am amazed that shops in this country have yet to recognise the perfect way to keep the men folk happy while the women do the bulk of the shopping. All that is required is for the stores to provide a sofa and a couple of easy chairs, some coffee and newspapers along with some wifi access. A large screen television with sports would be an added bonus, I suppose. All this would certainly keep me content for however long the shopping required and would allow the women to spend as long as they liked browsing. Without such distractions men tend to get impatient and pester their wives or girlfriends to hurry up resulting in resentment and disgruntlement all round.

Miserable MenI was discussing this proposal with one of the assistants at one of the shops while Penelope meandered and he pointed out that, while it was a great idea, providing wifi would not be possible – everyone would use the internet to find the same product cheaper somewhere else or online. Point taken, so I would settle for the sofa and comfortable chair, newspapers and coffee. To prove my point, have a look at these photographs from the Huffington Post of Miserable Men Shopping. As you can see, most of these have got sofas or chairs but the guys still look thoroughly miserable. Provide the coffee, newspapers and ESPN and you will have a shop full of happy campers and sales will go through the roof. Trust me!

Hope that all of you and yours enjoyed a travel-disruption free break and a most enjoyable time with family, friends and loved ones. All that remains is for us to wish you all a very Happy New Year and all the very best for 2014.

Much love to you all,

Greg