Six Weeks Until Christmas

Six week until Christmas; unbelievable.  I have written a list of cards I need to send. I’m going to Northern Ireland for a week at the start of December, so I think it’d be a good idea to get at least some cards written before I go. The price of stamps is a major incentive to cull the list, but it still seems very long. i have put the letter e by a number of names, meaning I shall send e-cards. Another group come under the delivered-by-hand option, but since the Post office  has been privatised I am less and less keen to boost the bank accounts of share holders.

But at times like these it’s also important to keep in touch, to remember our shared humanity, our overseas friendships, to write a line or two to people who we like but seldom see. The most dystopian forecaster probably wouldn’t have come up with the past twenty-four months. Refugees continue to arrive traumatised and exhausted in leaky boats meant for far fewer people on far shorter journeys. Reports of attempted genocide, with footage for proof flood our screens when we watch the news. Allegations of sexual abuse, of men  using superior power to manipulate and control women in the film industry fill acres of newspapers. Continue reading


Christmas Eve 2016

Christmas Eve, the candles are lit, fairy lights twinkle, the choir of Westminster Abbey sings carols quietly in the background, the Christmas cards from friends and family deck the sideboard, tops of paintings, and book table, MasterB is paying misdirected carnal attentions towards his newest toy, a yellow feather boa that Octavia brought him from Melbourne.


Little Innocent

I know there’s a term for this, people who are turned on by inanimate objects such as lamp posts or handbags, which though odd and somewhat disturbing, is probably no less odd than people who develop phobias about inanimate objects such as lamp posts or handbags. How common a condition these lusts are in cats I don’t know, and why this toy should have sparked such desires in MasterB I have no idea.

I’m spending the evening at home, just me and MasterB. This morning was work, last night nibbles and drinks here with some neighbours. I should have asked more people, but the flat is small and there’s limited seating. Reinhild came before joining her husband at the theatre; my lovely neighbour Lawrence who broke the news to me that he is moving in a month; Charlie (Mr Celia); B&J: Celia a bit later.

Charlie’s arrival was the signal for MasterB to go into hiding. He’s accepted Lawrence, but is deeply suspicious of Charlie. J was bereft. I have a feeling my invitation was only accepted as she wanted to see Himself again. It is a humbling experience to be less socially successful than one’s cat. She tried coaxing him out with biscuits, no luck. Eventually I opened the drawer in which he had secreted himself under the bed and he hopped out. Little Star, he not only conquered his fear of Charlie, he actually rubbed his face against Charlie’s feet, and spent the rest of the evening with us.

December has passed in a blur, hence the lack of blog posts and comments. I finally downloaded my holiday pictures, and looking at them has brought details of my trip flooding back. I probably say “when I was in Australia..” annoyingly often, and I know I should like to return there. Equally I should like to return to Singapore.

Here and in the US, as well as other countries in the west, we are increasingly seeing the politics of division on the rise; there is much talk about our differences, less about our similarities. More in Common became a rallying cry in the wake of the murder of MP Jo Cox by a right wing extremist. In Singapore I saw diverse communities living together in harmony. As a white westerner I was just another ethnic minority, accepted and welcomed. When I looked online at reasons why the crime levels in Singapore are so low, I found articles citing the heavy penalties for anti social behaviour: ten year prison sentences for graffiti for example. The slip of paper handed me by immigration when I entered the country warned of the death penalty for drug smuggling. But it didn’t feel to me as though Singaporeans were only behaving because they feared the consequences of stepping out of line, and I reckon there must be more carrot than stick that makes this society work. People seemed to have a real pride in Singapore, they wanted me, a vistor, to feel welcome. When the rain poured down I was offered the shelter of an umbrella to cross the street; people smiled at me and I smiled back.

One of the things that caught my eye was the Art Connector, a series of seats celebrating fifty years of independence, and all quoting lines from the National Pledge which says, in the four official languages of Singapore; English Chinese, Malay and Tamil:

We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity
and progress for our nation.

The Art Connector

The Art Connector

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Heathrow to Home

There is something about doing a journey in reverse that makes it feel as if you rewinding a holiday. Would I reach home to find November was just starting? In the event, no, but the reality of here, made there, which had been here the previous day, curiously unreal.

The plane had Christmas decorations, and Heathrow was full of festive decs too, if somewhat low on the festive cheer. After a bit of a battle to get into a lift to the bus station, I pulled on my gloves and zipped up my jacket against the cold of a London that had embraced winter in my absence.

The journey home was uneventful; bus, train, taxi. I lumbered up the stairs to my flat where no one was surprised to see me. The cat/flat sitters had been exchanging texts with me since I landed so were obviously expecting me, but MasterB seemed remarkably unphased by my reentry into his life. He was engrossed in a biscuit game with B, who could have an alternative career training cats.He gave me a nod, rubbed against me and resumed his game. It was a while before I got the nose rub, but it came. I know people who say their cats ignore them when they come home. That has never been my experience. Continue reading

The Penultimate Leg part 1

I was going to call this the last leg, but that will be Heathrow to Home, and even this penultimate leg divides in separate parts however you look at it.

I was early to bed and earlyish to rise. With only five Singaporean dollars to my name this morning, the hotel blow out buffet was never an option. But I had a very good vegetarian selection at a nearby Indian café last night for a princely almost five dollars, and had the sense to ask if they did breakfasts. The answer being in the affirmative, once washed and my bags rearranged for the nth time, I set off.

It was obviously a breakfast venue popular with locals too.

You may not find Dynamic Dining in any of the eating guides to Singapore, but I recommend it for good food and friendly service. There was a slight hiccough with my coffee which was served already sweetened, but my food was great from the word go. It turns out one of the cooks used to work for P&O as a chef. The before and after pictures of my meal tell their own story.


This chap arrived by motorbike just as I was paying.

Then back to the hotel and a quick trip to the eighth floor for some last views of Singapore.


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Above the clouds

High above the clouds above the Indian Ocean, the landmass of Australia behind me, three hours away from Singapore, it is sinking in that I resume my normal life in less than forty-eight hours. How much less I’m not sure as time zones confuse my mind as well as my body.

I had the obligatory mass panic at the start of my journey, thinking it had left my ‘phone in Loris and Ibb’s flat. I even called Ibb on a borrowed ‘phone. Fortunately it was in my bag, so the only problem was feeling foolish. Well it’s not the first time.

Sydney airport was busy and hot. Signs to toilets misled as some were being renovated. The free wifi was initially elusive. By the time I got myself organised my flight was being called and my seat was in the first group. As in my outward journey, my vegetarian meal was served in advance of everyone else’s. Passengers near me craned to see what I had, gave me curious looks. I ate and continued watching my first film: Florence Foster Jenkins. I saw Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant on Graham Norton some months back when the film first came out. It was more touching than I expected and a tear rolled down my cheek at the end.

Straight on to film number two: Marseille. I lived in Marseille for a year a long time ago, and the opening scenes of the city with Notre Dame de la Garde high up on the hill brought a wave of nostalgia that surprised me, but it was the sound if the Marseillais accent that really stirred my emotions. Time to go back for a visit. It was a fairly slight film, the sort of thing that would be made for television in the UK, with holes in the plot line you could drive a lorry through, but I loved every minute.

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The Third Day of Christmas

Back to work this morning and I was amazed at how many people were about. Some neighbours are coming round shortly for drinks and nibbles, so the party season has not entirely given way to shopping in this locale. Let it last. The build up is long enough. The shops were heaving on Christmas Eve when I popped round to the largest of our local supermarkets to recycle some old batteries. I can only think the compulsion to head up to the West End and the Sales is born of habit rather than need.

I’ve had a rest from shops and the internet. It’s been really nice. I was offered a place at the dinner table on Christmas Day by some well meaning neighbours. I smilingly refused. I’d have been countimg the minutes. We’ve been in and out of each other’s houses, and I am uncomfortably aware that the cheese I am serving tonight falls a long way short of the cheddar I was given on Christmas Day morning when we sat in front of a log fire sipping bubbly. It’s a different set of neighbours tonight, so I am hoping they are less fastidious. The Prosecco should please at least.

The jigsaw is coming along. MasterB seems a bit confused by it, but he’s only walked across it, not lain down in the middle, so my tactic of fussing him hugely every time he comes near it seems to be staving off any Love Rival behaviour.



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Christmas Eve

Tealights glow among the battery operated candles and solar powered fairy lights. The cards, despite MasterB’s best efforts, are currently upright. There’s a faint smell of beeswax polish in the air from my efforts with duster and vacuum cleaner earlier today. The silver and brass is shined and clean. A pint size Christmas tree sits on the table with the new bauble of MasterB in front of it. There are bowls of fruit, walnuts and chocolates. A few wrapped presents sit grouped together. One is a bottle, another I am pretty confident is a book, as may be one of the others. I am hoping the package from Barcelona is turrón, and then there’s one of those fancy bags with packages inside I have resisted looking at. One card turned out to be gift voucher for M&S, and a good bottle of wine came unwrapped and ready for Christmas lunch courtesy of Octavia before she set off to spend Christmas in South Africa.

It all feels festive and relaxed. All my immediate neighbours have departed. This is the one time of year when I know I can turn up the stereo without disturbing anyone. Bliss. Aunt sounded happy when I called. Linda was visiting with her family, so we didn’t talk for long. I’ll call her tomorrow too before I head out for drinks with neighbours.

On Sunday we went to the Nine lessons and carols at St Bartholomew the Great which has been in fixture in my personal Christmas rituals for many years now. There have been drinks with neighbours, meals, a party. My liver will be glad when it’s all over.







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A Day With Aunt

It has been a good day. More has come out of Aunt's flat than gone into it, though she did receive a box of Manuka honey ordered by her good friend in Scotland who is keen on bulk buying. Manuka honey has many wonderful properties, and if Aunt could absorb it by osmosis she'd probably be fit to run the marathon next April. Her friend sends her a lot of it. Every cupboard you open contains a least a brace of jars.


This afternoon I began the job of tackling the sideboard. I was hoping to find some Christmas wrapping paper and Aunt's essential oil diffuser. I found neither. I did find that Aunt shares the same gene as Mother and me regarding greetings cards. We find it almost impossible not to buy one or two when the opportunity arises. And the opportunity arises quite often. She is evidently also a keen buyer of batteries. Or maybe that is the Scottish friend again who does not believe in sending small parcels. Aunt tells me she is a whizz on the internet.


There are multiple bottles and tubes of things, and nearly all of them have been started. Two tubes of hand cream open and on the go I understand, even three, but six or seven or more and I am baffled. Today Aunt provided the answer, explaining she has always enjoyed opening new things.


Aah. Continue reading

A Visit to Aunt Before Christmas

I’ll try taking a picture of her tomorrow and you’ll see her smile is just the same, but I thought I could see the skull beneath the skin before, yet when I first saw her today I was shocked.


Hours in her company have done their work and now I see she’s still Aunt, but I do wonder how much longer she can continue like this. She’s wrapped in layers of warm clothing, the central heating supplemented by a clever Dyson machine her friend gave her. I brought various fruit juices for her to try. The anti sickness tablets are helping her to keep food down, but as she explained, she isn’t much interested in eating or drinking. I think she’s shutting down. Certainly she is sleeping much more, and her mind is not so clear. She is forgetful, muddled. But that doesn’t stop her being independent.


Maybe my opinion will change tomorrow, but tonight I am wondering if this is the last time I shall see her. A good friend of hers who is also frail will spend Christmas Day with her. There will be visits from members of her church who have stayed loyal to her over these months when she has been unable to attend. She hasn’t written any cards, and she hasn’t put up the ones she has received.

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Of Friends, Visitors, Christmas and Time Passing

At first I thought they were leaves, but a nano second later realised I was looking at some rather fab fungi. Janh may be able to identify them, as she did the ones I snapped in Greece last year. I’m hoping so anyway.

Fungi, not leaves

Fungi, not leaves

I took that picture this morning, in the rain. Some people think it rains all the time here in London. It doesn’t. And usually when it does it’s like today, drizzly rather than lashing.

I am just back from a very enjoyable evening with Octavia, one of our frequent Sunday evening meals. The Grey Ninja was as beautiful as ever, and Octavia’s hall is newly painted a gorgeous pale olive green.

Last night I met up with Sophie Scott and her chap. We ate in a local Italian restaurant, and then repaired to the ice cream parlour for pudding. It’s been open for about eighteen months and I had never set foot in it. In summer, with the doors open, the smell of sugar caramelises the air on the pavement outside. The decor, black and Brighton rock pink, repulses me. But my hazelnut and pistachio ice cream was to die for. I may have to hold silver coins and crucifixes when I go by in future. Then we came back to the flat. Sophie was confident of a welcome from MasterB which he duly supplied before demanding Outside Time.

Lovely Neighbour Aeftheld dropped in on Friday night on a visit to London. She was worried MasterB might have forgotten her. She met me outside as I arrived home from work. When I unlocked the door, Himself came out, and all but ignoring me, let her know she was not only remembered, but that he was delighted to see her. Ahh.

She has her own cat now, a youngster of less than twelve months called Pippin. Although she wanted a MasterB calendar for next year, I reckon there will be Pippin calendars by 2017. Much to my delight, Aeftheld departed with varous toys MasterB has outgrown, cook books I have culled from my shelves, a rolling pin that was Mother’s that I hardly ever use, and that most essential of kitchen items, an egg coddler.

I was so pleased she wanted them, and that these things woud be going to a home where they would be used and appreciated.

Octavia had already received her first Christmas card. I haven’t written one, but I shall admit to enjoying the sight of the Christmas trees around London. It’s hard to believe that another year is almost at an end. I can remember back so many decades now. Am I really so old already?