More or Less Christmas

A few days before I left London for Northern Ireland Celia and I were walking down the road spotting the windows where the early adopters of Christmas 2017 decorations had been at work.

Early adopters for London that is. My first walk with WestieBoy revealed that all of Cousin’s neighbours had already dressed their homes for the festive season. Any idea I might have had that this was a country thing was put to flight when we had a three generations meal just outside Belfast. The bus between the Europa station and Saintfield went past house after house bedecked with fairy lights. My cousin Alex and his daughter Nadine were negotiating about how many trees they needed to get. Last year they had four.

I was invited to a wreath making session on Saturday morning, I declined but there were several other occasions where I found myself completely at sea amid earnest discussions about garlands, table runners and goodness knows what esoteric necessities of which I was completely ignorant.

I realised I have never been in Ireland in early December before, though I have spent Christmas there. I was culturally challenged.

I expect Auntie Anne (my mother) made a lot of Christmas, remarked Cousin. Not really, no, I answered. Mother was an ardent declutterer decades before the term entered popular usage. She tolerated Christmas decorations when we were small, but by my teens insisted that cards from friends and family were the only ornaments that mattered. I don’t remember the last time we had a tree. Cousin was surprised. She questioned me further which made me reflect on how Mother had so wholly abandoned this tradition from her native land. Not that there would have been much jollity in her home when she was growing up, but she must have seen what other families did.

I like a bit of tinsel, I am big on fairy lights at any time of year, I have gold and silver stars and little padded Christmas trees that I scatter on surfaces. Mother would not have approved. But I don’t have a tree, and the mass rush to buy and consume at Christmas leaves me cold. So I was very pleased to read this article in today’s Guardian.

There was a programme on the television earlier this week that I could not watch. It was about the most expensive presents imaginable. People with untold wealth commissioning others to find gifts costing millions of pounds. I found the concept obscene. The idea seemed to be to make the rest of us jealous of the mega rich. It made me feel their lives were very poor if this was their definition of pleasure and success. Ostentatious wealth is somehow very unattractive. That isn’t stopping me from buying a lottery ticket for tonight’s draw but my ambitions are fairly modest;enough to buy a two bedroom property with private garden in the same locality I live in now.

I’m set to enjoy my pared down Christmas. There’ll be parties and socialising, but no diamonds either on display or coveted. You can keep your designer labels and overpriced witnots. The gifts I’m giving are not expensive, but I have thought about the recipients. Prosecco will be drunk, nibbles eaten, carols sung, and far from feeling deprived, I anticipate thoroughly enjoying the jolly season.

Have a good one.

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S is for Snow

We’re late. Take off should have been thirty minutes ago. I lift my head from the magazine in my lap and see snow falling, snow I did not know had been forecast. As I watch it becomes heavier, swirling little white dervishes covering the grass and the stationary planes.

Across the aisle there is no visibility from the starboard window. In minutes the snow has covered it as effectively as a shutter. Continue reading

In Departure

I’m very much looking forward to be reunited with MasterB tonight. Having the dog, cat and kittens at Cousin’s is lovely, but none of them replaces my boy.

That said, and our reunion warmly anticipated at least on my part, I shall be delighted to see WestieBoy, Mistress Lily, Dizzy and Dora when I am next this side of the Irish Sea.

Last night I introduced Dizzy to the delights of technology, and he got the idea and the bug so quickly we were already talking about restricting his screen time access.

 

 

 

 

He reached a high score of 420. I was impressed. I deleted the game and tried to install another one, but my iPad decided this was all together too much and baulked, so I put it on my ‘phone, then had a little tussle reclaiming it from Dizzy. Still, it meant Dora was able to play undisturbed with the mouse which is everyone’s, including the dogs’, favourite toy, and to have forty winks undisturbed by her much larger brother.

 

Just look at that little face. I’m increasingly convinced she’s not from the same litter as Dizzy and that he is several weeks older than she. Did you see them with their mother, I asked Cousin. It transpires there were two adult cats with kittens. Do you think they could be from different litters? Oh yes, she replied, the man is a rascal. Dora remains shyer than Dizzy. That sentence is misleading. Dizzy and shyness are complete strangers. He has decided WestieBoy is his pal and role model and greets him confidently, quite without fear, and thinks his new big friend would be a handy cushion.

Dora claimed WestieBoy’s bed in front of the fire. Although it is much greyer than a week ago thanks to the muck and the slush that have stained the dog’s underbelly a dark brown, she seemed touchingly to think she was not highly visible.

 

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Forty-Eight Hours

In forty-eight hours I shall be at Cousin’s. I’ve missed autumn, and now it’s the build up to Christmas and the shortest days of the year. I’m anticipating dark afternoons wearing a hi-viz jacket when walking Westie Boy, heat from the wood burning stove, and a cold bathroom.

What I hadn’t been anticipating until a text came this afternoon were cats. But I now know three cats have joined the household. What Westie Boy makes of them I am eager to see. Why three, what they look like and how they were acquired, I have no idea. I’m hoping they are able to come indoors. Cold evenings are the perfect time to have a warm cat on your knee.

The plan is to see Uncle Bill on Thursday, so that’ll mean a trip to Belfast. I hope there’ll be a second trip too, but a week goes by very quickly. I’d like to go to the Fintan O’Toole lecture at Heaney Homeplace, but that’s on Thursday too, and I don’t think it’d work. Anyway, who would I go with?

Pylons

Golden


On a long leash


Slieve Gullion

A year ago it’d have been Ann D, but she since died. I think this visit is where I will have to accept that death has happened, because from here I find it impossible to imagine Cousin’s without Ann’s presence and conversation. Maybe that’s where the cats will come in. Cats for comfort and distraction.
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Day Trip to Walton-on-the-Naze in (many many) Pictures

Well, on Thursday I went to the place mentioned in the title and posted two blogs about my journey. I know, I know, WP recommends regular blogging habits for a success it has yet to define and my irregularity has become the most notable thing about my blogging life. But hey, life is too short to obey rules for a success I don’t even begin to understand.

If you want the details, read the last two posts. If you do, you’ll learn I had an unexpected delay and so time to kill at Thorpe-le-Soken where I had anticipated a dash across the platform to get the connecting train. Admittedly I had imagined a bigger platform. Waterloo it ain’t.

Walton-on-the-Naze is by the sea, just up the coast from Frinton where, if memory serves, I spent at least one holiday as a small child with my parents, sister, great aunt, her daughter and grand daughter Alison. Under Alison’s supervision we dug man traps on the beach but I don’t think we caught anyone. Alison is now a successful (not a WP definition) artist based at Southwold. Frinton’s station platform was colourful.

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I’m on the Train part 2

What a splendid place Walton-on-the-Naze is to spend time on a fine day outside the high season. The train conductor on the second train thought it should be fine for me to come home later so I am hoping that confidence is borne out when someone comes to check the tickets.

There’s not a lot doing by the station at Thorpe-le-Soken and I didn’t have enough time to explore, but there was evidence of decayed grandeur and Google informed me that Eduardo Paolozzi lived there. Google also informed me that beautiful properties for the price of my London flat are available.

Having spilt my snack down my front, I followed up by dropping avocado onto my jumper. Fortunately the sun was shining brightly when I reached WotN so I stuffed said jumper in my bag and presented a clean shirt to the world.

Out of the station and a walk beside a sparkling sea. I’m guessing most of the people I saw walking their dogs, or pushing young children in pushchairs are locals. The schools are back, many of the ice cream sellers and chip shops seemed to have shut up, maybe to allow staff to go on their own holidays. Continue reading

Isobel and Fiona Go Shopping

I live in hope that tonight it will still be today when I go to bed. True, I was between the sheets a whole hour earlier last night than on Sunday, but it was still more than hour after my desired bedtime. So again this morning was a later than anticipated start, and I did not take Westie Boy for the walk I promised him before I left for Belfast.

My intention had been to arrive betimes and spend few hours wandering and looking, maybe stop in one of the many coffee shops for elevenses, and go to the Linen Hall Library café for lunch. As it was I started with the lunch, a very lovely mushroom soup with some wheaten bread. Then I set to wandering, but as I had an engagement to meet Speccy at three o'clock at City Hall I needed to make sure I did not wander too far.

My wanderings found me a branch of Tiger, a much bigger branch than the one I usually patronise at St James Park station, and I duly wandered in and around it, emerging with several purchases, including a new collar for Westie Boy. I doubt if it'll make up for the missed walk, but it is a boyish blue, so when he feels doubts about the floral pink number he currently sports on his perambulations he will have an alternative. I think he's pretty comfortable with his sexuality, or lack of since he has been neutered, but it was an excuse. For myself I could not resist the carrot shaver which looks like a big pencil sharpener. Alas, I forgot to pick up some organic carrots in M&S before getting the bus back to Cousin's.

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Flying Into Light

My flight was delayed by longer than I care to think about, ironic as I was in a panic at the railway station when I learned the train I planned to catch had been cancelled. A quick reroute, and I arrived at the airport more or less on time. And then had to kill it in a series of crowded areas amid families heading off for their summer hols. When I booked my flight I hadn't considered that this was the weekend after many schools in England would have broken up for the summer and hence one of the busiest times for travel all year.

We left Luton as the sun was setting. The sun is still setting. The sky looks much as it did thirty minutes ago, but we are flying north where the days are significantly longer at this time of year than in London and the Home Counties.

From which you have worked out that I am off to Cousin's again and flying to Belfast. I have no plans, or rather I had no plans, but in the moments before take off a swift exchange of texts and now I am seeing a friend tomorrow. Earlier texts at the airport with Speccy means that Tuesday afternoon is also pencilled in the diary as a possible time to meet up.

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