Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife

Night fell a couple of hours ago. The shops are closing. Celia and Charlie have left for Brighton. Octavia is in Yorkshire. In the block of flats where I live, only a handful of residents are at home, and in the section where my flat is, only my lovely neighbours opposite and I are here for Christmas. We’ve decorated our shared landing and exchanged gifts.
Inside, I have candles and fairy lights, tinsel that has so far survived MasterB’s interest, clean sheets, and parcels piled up on the table. Nanci Griffith’s voice fills the air from an old cassette tape.
I am feeling Christmassy, but not Christmassy enough to play CDS of carols. Anyway, I have managed to miswire the CD player of the stereo and sorting it out is beyond me right now. Continue reading

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Doing Christmas

I read a post by JanH about Christmas that chimed with me. Rather than paraphrase or summarise it, I’ll give you the link here.

Cutting back does not mean a sad and miserable yule. Take away those ghastly hours in overheated shops looking for gifts you do not have any confidence the recipient will actually like, and suddenly you have time for the fun side of the jolly season.

With me at the Nine Lessons and Carols at St Bart’s the Great on Tuesday were my blogging pal TBM and some friends who are also neighbours.

These friends have decided not to give Chriatmas presents. Quite a brave move as their boys have not long entered double figures. The boys are with it in theory, but not entirely on side. The younger one, newly twelve, said they weren’t doing Christmas as Christmas really was about presents. His mother disagreed, and sang the carols loudly and rather beautifully. (Under normal circs, when do you discover your friends have good singing voices?)

In the last few years, I have had a pact with most friends not to exchange gifts. With some friends we go for a nice, but not expensive, gift, plus things culled from the charity shops. The charity shop gifts often cause the most amusement/amazement/delight. Continue reading

Being With Mother

Mother and I had lunch together. She was struggling rather with the spoon she had to use. I think I shall look at what might be available from the Alzheimer’s Society. Then we went to her room. She was tired and taken off her glasses and disappeared them. They later turned up up her jumper. I should have guessed. Sometimes she puts them up her sleeve. She dozed while we listened to Welsh Songs, hymns mainly. They were supposed to be Irish Songs, but the wrong CD was in the case, and Mother enjoys it.
Suddenly, she became agitated. It was about thirty minutes since she had finished her lunch, so even if I didn’t know how agitated she becomes when she wants the loo, it wouldn’t have been hard to work out. I went to find a member of staff and met the Nurse-in-Charge. I told her mother needed the toilet. She looked me in the eye and said she would have to wait as staff were having their lunch. I said my mother needed the toilet straightaway. She pursed her lips. This makes me so mad. I have had conversations with management who say that this doesn’t happen, that staff should have staggered lunches, so there is always someone who can work with a resident. Continue reading

Home on the Range Again

I left the East this evening.

I decided to stay and do some work while Not Cat played outside.
The work bit happened and I feel quite smugly pleased with myself about it, especially as the mat was piled high with forms to fill about Mother’s finances when I got home.
Not Cat played extensively first thing.

Busy Boy

But he was very put out when the chaplain came and started to set up things for the service in the lounge next door to Mother’s flat.

Not Cat growled and slunk. Only when he saw me talking to the chaplain did he relax and approach.He checked out the room which he has investigated many times, only to be aghast anew when the congregation arrived. Continue reading

Operatic Aspirations

Asleep Midwash

Not Cat was in great voice for most of the journey. I’m not sure which opera he was interpreting, but it covered most emotions including despair and rage.

I stopped at a wll known supermarket, part of a chain that I usually avoid, but I wanted a pee and to buy food and alcohol for the next few days.

I took Not Cat out of hs caddy, and put on his harness which attaches to a safety belt plug. I secured him to one of the seatbelt plugs on the back seat. Continue reading

A Day in the Garden

Home yesterday and back east tomorrow, so I had loads to do today, but I spent most of it in the garden.

My excuse? Not Cat. Flatteringly, he wanted to be both with me and in the garden. I did some work outside and took dozens of photographs. Don’t worry, I’ll only include a few.

I collected Not Cat from the cattery straight after breakfast. The noises he made on the way home were quite extraordinary. It wasn’t a long journey, and he seems to have been increasing his vocal range over the past few days. I wish I had been able to record it. I’d love to pass it to Gareth Malone. Which reminds me, he has a new series starting soon. If you’ve never watched him work his singing magic, amend your ways. You shan’t regret it. Continue reading

The Anticipated Burns

Poetry Group tonight, and a special session anticipating Burns night.

I can now truthfully claim to have drunk whisky in the library. But not to be drunk on whisky. My dry period from pre-‘flu to now is over.

David, a poet and our convenor, who works as a library assistant, had engaged the services of other staff who appeared ceremoniously with a meat haggis and a vegetarian one. We had our plastic glasses charged with Old Grouse, which make s a change from the usual apple juice. David had already read the Selkirk Grace, now he launched into Address to a Haggis and stabbed both of them (with different knives, obviously).

We also had oat cakes, trifle – that most Scottish of puddings – and shortbread. Continue reading

Christmas Cheer

Christmas started officially chez IsobelandCat on Sunday.

More for the Isobel part than the Cat bit.

Each year, on the Sunday before Christmas, I attend the service of Nine Lessons and Carols at St Bartholomew the Great, in the City of London.
For those of you who don’t know it, it’s the church where Hugh Grant didn’t get married in Four Weddings etc. As a venue, it’s dramatic, beautiful and atmospheric. The choir is semi-professional. Sometimes a group of us meet up in The Rising Sun close by and swap cards and gifts before we go and sing our hearts out. Our numbers vary; I’ve gone alone, and as part of a group of twelve. Continue reading

Judas Maccabaeus and Me

If there were a soundtrack to my life, at the moment it would be Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus. I’m not trying to identify myself with the eponymous hero and the highs and lows of his life. It’s just that last night I took part in a amateur production of the piece and having listened to it month after month since we first started rehearsing in the autumn, I find it’s taken up residence in my head. Even as I type, I can the hear the soprano soloist singing Oh Lovely Peace  in the background, and see her just behind my eyes. I’m hoping it’s a temporary thing, because much as I have learned to love the piece, I’d like a bit of a break from it.

At one point my i-pod decided it was called Judas Maccabaeus, not Isobel’s i-pod. If I plugged it in to import something new, there his name would be. Equally, it decided that I should only listen to JM, though occasionally it would permit shuffle, where the Beatles, Elvis Costello or whoever would make brief and disconcerting appearances sandwiched between See the  Conquering Hero and We Never Will Bow Down, for example.

Maybe it’s the anticlimax I’m feeling after last night’s performance.  The atmosphere beforehand in the room reserved for the choir was one of nervous anticipation as we surveyed each other in our black and white. The men had scrubbed up very nicely and looked wonderfully smart in their dinner jackets and bow ties. Ten minutes before we were due on, we stood up and had a warm-up, grinning at each other in the hot room. A team. Everything we had been working for over the winter coming to fruition. The bouquets were placed in buckets of water, and our scores wrapped in black paper. There was a last minute pep talk from the choir mistress about ‘telling the story’ and putting energy into our singing. Then we were on. We had a good size audience.

And we did put energy in. I probably sang more wrong notes than right ones, but boy, I did it with gusto. The basses were magnificent. Our choir mistress exuded energy and passion. Certainly no need for her to go to the gym anytime soon. We ended the first part on a rousing chorus.

The second half went unbelievably quickly.  It seemed like no time before we reached the Hallelujah Amen, a Beechers Brook of a chorus and the final one, and came through it unscathed.

Lots of applause. Lots of bowing.  Exiting and re-entering of soloists. Flowers. More applause.

And it was all over.

I couldn’t get to sleep for ages, and kept waking up with the music going round my head. But I wouldn’t have missed it for worlds.

It was fabulous.