21 December 2014

Well, I think we’re ready. The tree is decorated, the stairs are festooned with fairy lights and ivy, the cards have been posted and I even think we’ve finished most (well, some) of the Christmas shopping. Let the festivities begin.

Actually, having just re-read that first paragraph I see that some clarification is in order, otherwise Ms Playchute will crucify me! Firstly, it should say, “Well, I think I’m ready.” I have ordered some of the presents I need and some of them have even been delivered. One or two won’t arrive until the middle of January but what’s a few weeks here and there? As for the food shopping, I have some of the ingredients I need for the two items I have volunteered to prepare this year – the liquorice ice cream and some sultana cupcakes with brandy butter frosting. So, all in all, I’m pretty much on top of things!

Much of my shopping has been completed on-line again this year – what a great improvement over Christmas of days gone by. No need to battle with the hordes of folks who have the same lack of enthusiasm as you and probably a similar level of inspiration! Still, we did have to join the multitude in Banbury one day last week – I shuffled around looking miserable and grumpy, like a hibernating bear with a toothache and Ms Playchute flittered like an angel from place to place with an abundance of willingness and good cheer – we make a great couple!

And I can assure you, we weren’t alone! A mass of humanity and even the local swan population tried to get in on the act.

Swans Christmas Shopping Swans Christmas Shopping

As I said, the cards for those of you on the VIP list have been posted. Since we sent a considerable number of “virtual” Christmas cards with our e-newsletter, we managed to avoid having to approach our bank manager for a second mortgage to cover the cost of sending cards abroad.

Christmas 2014I don’t think the privatised Post Office has quite got the hang of establishing its pricing structure at a level which will enable it to survive. More and more people texting and using e-mail, fewer and fewer people using the postal service so clearly the obvious answer is to raise the price of sending Christmas cards through the roof. Clearly it raises a bit of much-needed cash in the short term but in the end encourages more and more people to find an alternative means for the distribution of their Christmas cheer – texting and e-mail. I suppose it doesn’t really matter – since the government sold it off for several billion less than it was worth, the new owners are presumably laughing all the way to the bank.

For those of you whose Christmas card has yet to arrive, it may be because you didn’t make it on to the ever-shrinking VIP list this year, in which case you should have had a virtual card and e-newsletter. Only one came bouncing back with an undeliverable address so, if yours didn’t arrive it may be that we have only an old, unused e-mail address for you. Either that or, with any luck, your mail server will have rightly identified the mass mailing as spam and will have deleted it for you automatically. If you’re still desperate (or demented) though, you can find the Stragnell Christmas Newsletter online here.

obscene_houseOne amusing little side-note; we combined our Christmas shopping expedition with the annual safety inspection for Penelope’s motor vehicle. We dropped her car at Hartwell’s Ford in town and then made the short walk into the town centre to carry out our shopping needs. Penelope spotted this building with what she described as a positively obscene window arrangement. I’ve walked past this particular building many times and had never noticed. What were they thinking? I guess it’s true – it’s all in the eye of the beholder. (Click for a larger version).

A couple of “interesting” Christmas-themed photo/image collections in the Guardian this week. The first, a visual history of St Nicholas through the ages in pictures and the second a collection of photos of Christmas in the 1940s and 1950s in the UK. Enjoy.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing this holiday, we send lots of love and best wishes.

Love to you all,

Greg