Thursday 28 January 2021

The January Round Up

 So usually my January post would be a bit of a round up including the usual the good, the bad and the ugly dress purchases from the previous 12 months, and maybe a few of the things I’m looking forward to in the next few months.Obviously last year was an extraordinary year... 

Certainly the year started well, I went to a ‘January Sale’ vintage fair and made purchases there and elsewhere, all of which definitely fell under the good, bad & ugly definition! (When will I ever learn??) I went to a cool theatre production set in a real courtroom, I had tickets for Beautiful the musical in August and the Chelsea Flower Show in May which had been on my bucket list for years. I had managed to persuade Himself to have more than just a long weekend away and quickly booked a week in Cornwall before he changed his mind, and I was signed up for 4 events at the Oxford Literary Festival. So much to look forward too.

The week we went into lockdown I was actually on holiday with dates set and tickets booked for the Bright Young Things exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and the Kimono; Kyoto to Catwalk Exhibition at the V&A. Instead both venues closed, and I ended up cancelling my leave to dash into the office to collect my work laptop and anything else from my desk I thought I might need to work from home for a few months. I never expected to still be working from home nearly a year later. 

I started to adjust to the new normal. It wasn’t easy and there have definitely been more downs than ups. Whilst I thank god we have remained well I’ve had the sad and sobering experience of seeing people I know as well as friends I care about getting sick or having family members die. I will never fathom the covid deniers and anti maskers, never. 

Like many I plunged into gardening with a passion and comfort ate with the best of them. As I said to a colleague it’s a good job I’m not in the office right now because none of my clothes fit! 

I tried to go out and walk. Himself signed up for a couple of virtual challenges and by the end of the year had pounded the pavements and clocked up an impressive 1500 miles, lost a shedload of weight (damn him) and general got fitter.

 I started small with a 21 mile challenge and then another for 31 miles in September because who wouldn’t want this awesome elephant medal? This walking plan didn’t start so well as Himself was well into his challenge and was walking far and fast, whilst I was out of practice overweight and unfit! I drove him mad walking too slowly and only for 3 or 4 miles before I had to give up and go home, in the end I stopped going out. I then moaned about being unfit and over weight so we struck a compromise. I would go out with him a couple of times a week and we would walk at my pace for a few miles I would then branch off and go home and he would crack on for another 10 or 12 miles. I was slowly building up my distance and sometimes I would carry on without him at my own speed. This all slid off towards the end of the year but after the excesses of Christmas I knew enough was enough. 

I have been watching what I eat but still allowing the odd treat like chips & wine, I also signed up for a new and bigger challenge. I’m doing the Cabot Trail because I liked the medal (yes I am that shallow) and it also reminded me of Murder She Wrote and Angela Lansbury which was set in the fictitious town of Cabot Cove!

It’s 184 miles long and I started it on a very foggy 1st January, so far I have done 65 miles. 

I am walking every other day and my speed and distance are improving. I have still been doing my pilates class though hugely frustratingly my frozen shoulder has meant I have been able to do less and less of the class. I have also reduced by caffeine intake dramatically to try and help with the mad night sweats. It’s been interesting to see how alcohol affects those. I may well do more experimenting on this but so far spiced rum & coke is a big trigger (weeps) wine less so and beer not so much at all. Of course there is no way I will ever stop drinking the rum, but I’m limiting it to a Friday or Saturday night so it doesn’t matter so much if I have a crap night’s sleep and want to have a lie in the next day! 

A plus of lockdown is having more time to read which has been bliss. I got quite a few books for Christmas as you can see above, but I am trying to resist dipping into the new ones until I have cleared some of the ones that have been in my book mountain for years now. Having said that I dived straight into the Peanuts one on Christmas morning I loved it. 

I’ve noticed a few blogs listing what they read last year so I shall add my list at the end of this post so you can skip over it if you really couldn't care less about my reading habits. I have used Goodreads for several years now as a sort of virtual bookshelf and I always sign up for their annual reading challenge. On Goodreads you rate the books from one star to five and whilst I didn’t actually give up on any this year some were definitely better that others. 

Just because I’ve got fatter doesn’t mean I stop shopping I just move from clothes to accessories! 

As you can see I had a bit of a brooch splurge.The suns and the boats were job lots. 

I also got this fabulous Erstwilder one from Himself for Christmas. Ok so I just might have bought it as soon as the collection dropped because I knew it would sell out instantly, and then given it to him to give me for Christmas, but as my favourite Peanuts character has always been Linus this was a no brainer. 

Oh and make-up. My favourite ever eye liners are Urban Decay so I may have invested in some when they had an offer on. I also thought I'd try one of their eye shadow palettes. The handbags keep coming

 and still keep coming, I have added to the collection with several more since these!

At least the days are getting longer, I woke up to the most gorgeous sky last week so ran downstairs and grabbed the camera and hung out of the bathroom window to get a shot. 

Onwards and upwards.

I'll finish up with my list, I’ve highlighted in bold any I gave a score of 4 or more on Goodreads.


Among the Bohemian: Experiments in Living 1900-1939 – Virginia Nicholson

Duplicate Death – Georgette Heyer

Last of the Giants: The true story of Guns N’ Roses – Mick Wall

Hollywood Rocks!: The ultimate guide to 1980’s Hollywood rock and roll scene – Michael Rocchio

Detection Unlimited – Georgette Heyer

Courtesans: Money, Sex and Fame in the 19th Centuary – Katie Hickman

Marianna North: A very intrepid painter – Michelle Payne

A Century of Bags – Claire Wilcox

No Wind of Blame - Georgette Heyer

Dear Mrs Bird – AJ Pearce

Nautical Chic – Amber Butchart

Watching You – Lisa Jewell

The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell

The Glittering Hour – Iona Grey

A House of Ghosts – WC Ryan

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Steven Turton

Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel – Ruth Hogan

Corsets and Codpieces: A History of Outrageous Fashion – Karen Bowman

Before the Coffee gets Cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi

The Love Child – Rachel Hore

Bags – Claire Wilcox

Nigel, My Family and Other Dogs – Monty Don

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson

Arthur: The dog who crossed a jungle to find a home – Mikael Lindnord

Longbourn – Jo Baker

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy – Rachel Joyce

Maisie Dobbs – Jacqueline Winspear

Historical Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to Fiction, Film & TV  - Barry Forshaw

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

The Cleaner of Chartres – Sally Vickers

The Picture House by the Sea – Holly Hepburn

Appetite for Dysfunction : A Cautionary Tale – Vicky Hamilton

The Riviera Set – Mary Lovell

The Trick to Time – Kit de Waal

Once Upon a River – Diane Setterfield

The Foundling – Stacey Halls

Rebecca’s Tale – Sally Beauman ( the only book I gave a 5 star review!)

Drawn to the Edge – John Threlfall

The Street of Wonderful Possibilities: Whistler, Wilde and Sargent in Tite Street – Devon Cox

Art Deco Masterpieces of Art – Janet Tyson

Twenties London : A City in the Jazz Age – Cathy Ross 

Alice Diamond and The Forty Elephants: Britain’s First Female Crime Syndicate – Brian McDonald

The Land Girl – Allie Burns

The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse – Alexander McCall Smith

Tombland – CJ Sansom

The Peanuts Book – Simon Beechcroft 



Sunday 10 January 2021

Christmas and all that.

 Well as ever I'm late to the party. I have been meaning to blog before but, well, you've all heard that one before! 

I have now excuse really in that I actually had 2 full weeks off over the Christmas break for the first time ever, at Christmas or anytime actually. I never usually take that long off in one go but the chancellor of the university gave all the staff an extra 2 days off in recognition of all the hard work we have been doing. We had a virtual team bake and a zoom quiz on Friday 18th and shut up shop so to speak. Which was very nice but meant that last week was absolutely manic and I did a couple of very late evenings (8am to 11pm anyone?) 

Which may well have been a contributing factor in me sleeping until pretty much lunchtime the next few days! I could have felt guilt for sleeping half the day away but frankly I was exhausted, and it's not like we had anything planned. Not only has work been very busy, the night sweats have been soundly kicking my arse these last couple of months. One night my internal inferno woke me up 12 times!?! 

I have spent the whole of this week drastically cutting the caffeine and it has seemed to have made a difference. Alcohol is another trigger but if I fancy a drink I'll have one and deal with the consequence.  

I popped into Oxford a couple of times before we were locked down again. I have what seems to be another middle aged woman's curse, a frozen shoulder which is not only extremely debilitating it's ridiculously painful too, so off to the osteopath I went. I am the triple threat apparently, female, over 40 and with a thyroid condition. The clinic I use is in Oxford just across the road from work, handy when you are in work, not so much so when you aren't.

The first week I went I caught an earlier train and popped into Debenhams. Sadly another historic high street name that has gone into receivership. I have so many wonderful memories from the Oxford branch which is/was an old rambling Victorian building with the most amazing cafe back in the day. I had some vouchers to spend and at that point they were still accepting them. As you can see I ended up buying myself a load of sparkles (magpie by name magpie by nature.) I'm a sucker for a jewellery sale and ALWAYS found something in theirs, I shall miss it sorely.  


 From there I went and got pulled about by the Osteopath, it was bloody painful but I left with an appointment for the following week and a couple of new exercises to do daily. Apparently my shoulder could have been a lot worse than it is, so I guess that is something.

The next week I had to pop into work to collect a hamper they were giving out in lieu of a Christmas party any time between 10am - 2pm and the osteopath couldn't fit me in until 3.45pm so I arranged to meet Charlotte, have a lovely catch up, lunch and a browse round the Ashmolean and the latest exhibition at the Bodleian.

 It is called The Art of Advertising and though tiny, was fascinating. We were the only people in there so distancing wasn't an issue. It was just so wonderful to be able to go to an exhibition again I felt quite emotional. I have missed them so much. 

There was the added bonus of another free exhibition on at the same time called Helen Muspratt Photographer. I have never heard of her before but her photographs were just gorgeous and some of the techniques she used frankly extraordinary. 

I gather it's a travelling exhibition so if it comes your way I'd highly recommend it, and certainly google her if you love photography. 

We had delicious pizza at Franco Manca where they had cleverly divided the restaurant up with perspex sheeting so it felt perfectly safe,. Again the chance to do something as simple as have pizza with a friend felt wonderful. We had booked timed tickets for the Ashmolean and had a lovely amble about in our allotted slot before I headed of to get mangled again. It was just as painful as the week before and he booked be straight in for a session on the 23rd Dec which ended up being cancelled due to the new restrictions. 

The next evening Himself and I took ourselves over to visit Nephew Number One and his girlfriend who have just bought themselves their first home, having finally moved in a couple of weeks before. It's about a 30 minute walk from our house so we combined it with getting some exercise and dropping off their Christmas presents. We were a bit naughty and did nip in for a quick inspection because I was dying to see the place. We did take off our shoes, sanitize our hands and keep our masks on whilst we did so. It's a wonderful house and I'm so happy for them.

On the 22nd Soo popped over to exchange presents and go for a socially distanced walk. It was so lovely to see her, it's been an age since we had seen each other so there was a lot to catch up on. We bought lunch in a cafe in town then meandered back home. 

Himself and I were meant to be going to my Mum for Christmas and staying over with her for a few days but it was becoming clear another lockdown was looming and that wasn't going to happen. Once we knew that was the case on the 24th Dec we walked down to Dad's care home to meet her outside and give her her presents and drop Dad's off too. They have *finally* built a perspex booth at the home so Mum is able to visit Dad again. She only get's one 20 minute appointment a week but at least it's something. I'm glad she got on on Christmas Eve. It was frustrating for the rest of us because the phone on Dad's floor broke that week and they didn't fix it until the new year so none of us got to speak to him until then. Poor Dad was quite upset as was my Aunt as she had been trying to ring. I was more annoyed because they didn't bother to report it as broken for 5 days!?! 

Luckily I had spoken to him on the 23rd. We also walked down to my brother's in the evening of the 23rd to wish them a Happy Christmas from the doorstep and drop some stuff off. 

There was a gorgeous sunset. We walked home via the chip shop for a cheeky chip shop chips dinner, as we weren't sure if they would close during lockdown again or not.

Christmas eve watched 3 different versions of A Christmas Carol going out for a walk in between to stretch our legs and walk off our huge dinner. So many more people have decorated their houses this year it was fun to walk around the streets seeing them all but dear lord it was bitterly cold!

So we ended up having our first ever full Christmas of just the 2 of us in 23 years of being together! 

We had a lazy morning with buck's fizz opening presents in our bedroom where we have my Nan's old tinsel Christmas tree in the corner of the room. 

I took a picture of these two kites from our bedroom window because I loved the way the sun was catching them.  

We went out for a long walk 

the weather was gorgeous, very cold but sunny. I fell in love with this tree. If I had a tree on my front lawn I would do this for sure, it looked so pretty.

When we got home my Brother, Sister in law & Mum (they are Mum's bubble so she went there for lunch) called round and wished us a Happy Christmas from the gate. 

All in all a lovely quiet day. I shall leave you with some of my new Christmas decorations. I saw these old fashioned wooden designs in a Home and Antiques magazine and had to invest in some.

I bought a ship, a whale, an elephant, a tiger and a lion. The felt squirrel in the first picture is also new, I couldn't resist him to remind me of the ones I saw on Brownsea.