That was a December!
A few days after the SOGs lunch (see last posting) I drove to Herefordshire to see my mother and family at The Green and deliver Christmas presents, leaving Diana and Tris at home (Diana had Council meetings). After a few miles I realised I was wearing the wrong shoes – trainers rather than black leather. This was a problem not so much for the shoes themselves as for the orthotic insoles in them, which go in my other shoes as well (except trainers). So I did a turnabout, waiting for the next convenient roundabout rather than instantly blocking the A322 with an attempted U-ie, and greatly surprised Diana when I came back in through the door. As I put on the right shoes, she told me that my mother had phoned and the lane outside her house and the drive to the house were blocked by a tree that had just fallen down in high winds. It almost made the wasted half hour not a waste.
So, I approached The Green from the other end of the lane and parked in the farmyard. Mum was out so I collected the key from my sister-in-law Ann next door and unloaded the car. Ann said that the local council had in fact cleared the tree so the lane was now open. Remarkable alacrity from the council. I stayed a few days, put up the heavy curtains over the front door (effective draft proofing), helped with shopping and left the presents and a Christmas cake. Nice to see the family.
Then I headed to Cornwall for a site meeting at Treforest. Since the beginning of October, the upstairs at Treforest has been pulled apart and reconfigured to put in a loft room and proper stairs. The work was approaching its end and I wanted to be there when the decorators started work, to answer any questions and avoid things like the yellow paint of the hall being used in the bedroom.
It rained pretty much the whole time I was there. It was raining on Sunday afternoon as I arrived and called into Tesco to stock with milk and food and stuff. It slackened off a little on Monday morning when I walked around town and bought some Christmas presents and failed to buy others. It rained the rest of Monday, such that I didn’t even fancy going out for fish and chips. It rained on Tuesday and eased by the evening when I did go out for fish and chips. It rained on Wednesday morning and I packed the car between showers. It rained most of the way home.
The next day was the Woking Writers Circle Christmas Dinner. We have not gone for real Christmassy dinners the last few years (2009 and 2010 were Chinese) and 2011 was no exception. We went to the Greek Olive, a Green restaurant – pardon me, the Green Olive, a Greek restaurant in Chobham and had a pleasant mezze with lots of different tastes and some nice wine. Dermot had created a multiple choice quiz, which caused some controversy. One question asked which two animals were crossed to make a quagga, and I picked the right answer, according to Dermot. However, there was a vociferous school of thought which claimed the quagga as a species in its own right. Technically they were correct, but since the ‘umpire is always right’, I scored the point and won the quiz. No prizes, just smug satisfaction.
At the weekend Diana and I both went to Cornwall again, for the final week of works. The new doors were all fitted, though not all of them had handles yet – we had to be careful not to trap ourselves in the sitting room – some lengths of skirting board were missing (still being made to match by the carpenter) and decorating not yet finished, but generally it looked about done. We showed our neighbours, who have the almost mirror image house next door, what we had been up to.
On Tuesday we went to see Sherlock Holmes 2 at the Regal, Wadebridge’s two-screen cinema. Lots of action and disguises, but not much plot, and what plot there was pulled out of a hat.
On Wednesday we went round the house looking at everything with a critical eye, this time spotting all the little blemishes and writing them down, in preparation for the final site meeting on Thursday when we went round again with the architect and building manager. This resulted in the official ‘snagging list’ which the builders and their sub-contractors have to fix before the job is complete. We’ll be down again in January to see how it’s turned out and start planning the next step – carpets.
On Friday we packed ourselves up (except for my phone charger, as it happened), called in at Tesco to buy sandwiches for the journey (preferable to Little Chefs and motorway services, we’ve decided) and a turkey, and went home. On Saturday it was the final pre-Christmas shop in Waitrose (not too harrowing), putting up the tree (a synthetic one with fibre optic branches and glowing branch tips – dead easy!), final present wrapping and the discovery of the missing phone charger. Fortunately, I can borrow Diana’s cable, when she doesn’t need it.
Christmas was the three of us. So was Boxing Day. Grateful not to be driving anywhere.
On 27th, Ellie and Joe came for a few days, brought by Joe’s parents Chez and Richard, who stayed for a very pleasant lunch. After they had left, Ellie launched into bedroom clearance. She and Joe now own a house in Oxford, with space for books and stuff – and believe me she has plenty of both in her old bedroom. Or rather, she had plenty. Most of it is now in Oxford, quite a bit in our waste and recycling bins and some at the hospice shop. We drove them up on Thursday with the back loaded high enough to obscure but not obliterate the rear view. There will be another trip, though, with the back seats folded flat to give enough space for the (disassembled) desk, telescope and other large objects.
Last night was New Year’s Eve. Tris went out with friends. Diana and I stayed in, trying not to estimate the carbon footprint of the fireworks display around Westminster and the London Eye.