Monday 16 January 2023

December and all that.

 Firstly, a belated very Happy New Year.

As ever my January is proving to be completely crazy workwise (and socially too where I am trying to fit in things that had to be rearranged from December.) so I’m later than I would have liked with this post. I have to say the ongoing train strikes certainly curtailed my social life in December, which for some activities was a bit disappointing, but as I support the strikes 100%, well, it was what it was. 

I was certainly delighted to be given an excuse not to have to go to my work Christmas party! I did go to my departmental Christmas lunch, which was followed by a festive quiz, but otherwise was able to duck out with a valid excuse from any other forced festivities in the workplace.

The month started fairly dramatically. I got back from my Pilates class Thursday evening to numerous missed calls on my phone, I had literally just spotted this when my phone rang again. It was my brother saying my Dad had been taken to hospital and that he was just going to get changed and grab a quick sandwich, he had also been at a (different) Pilates class. He would then come and collect me before we drove to collect my Mum, who had had a glass of wine so couldn’t drive.

I have to say for all the chaos going on with the National Health at the moment thanks to our shit show of a government, I have nothing but praise for how my Dad, and indeed my Mum and I, were looked after. They are still only allowing 2 visitors at a time so because my brother had been with my Dad at the care home until the ambulance arrived, he stayed in the car. 

A&E was absolutely ram packed, with people literally wherever there was space, but the lady at reception still took the time to come out from behind the desk and show us where we needed to go. It was just like you see on the news reports, there were ambulances queued up outside and the corridors were full of people on trolleys either being treated where they were or waiting to be seen. Luckily for us Dad had been given a bay and had already had an MRI as soon as he arrived. The care home had thought he was having another stroke, but his scan apparently showed no signs of this. So, the conclusion of the specialist was he had either had a mini stroke or more likely his symptoms were due to a virus. 

He had the nasty cough and cold that had been doing the rounds. He was in good spirits when we saw him, talking coherently and was even able to describe what had happened. We stayed until the stroke registrar had seen him, done some more tests and agreed that he could go home. Initially we were going to wait until the transport had come for him, but in the end, we left at about 12.45am as my brother and I both had work the next day. As it turns out it was a good job we didn’t wait because the transport didn’t come until 6am! 

I went to see Dad the next afternoon and he was shattered bless him, but otherwise fine. Himself and I went to see Dad again on the Sunday too, he was still tired and coughing but otherwise quite cheerful. We sat eating cake and watched the original Clash of the Titans film on TV, which we all enjoyed. I remember going to see it at the cinema with some school friends when it first came out!

On the Saturday I went over to Witney with Soo, to meet our friend Melissa for a mooch round the shops and a long lazy lunch. We had a lovely day, it was so good to catch up with Melissa and I finished the last bits of my Christmas shopping whilst there, so that was a bonus. I also went out for a lovely long boozy lunch with my friends Simon, Liz and Carole the next week. I wore the lovely Monsoon black embroidered blouse bought in Birmingham. 

I had to go into the office on the 19th to meet some prospective students, so I took the opportunity to have lunch with Charlotte and give her her Christmas pressie whilst in Oxford.

Himself had spotted they had re-released The Muppets Christmas Carol at the cinema. It was a restored version with a song they took out for the original video release back in place it so we had to go. Himself is a huge fan of the film anyway and it’s one of the ones we always watch over the holidays.

On the 23rd we dropped by Nephew Number One’s house and delivered their Christmas presents, I was meant to be working but we were unexpectedly given an extra day of leave = Result! I sat at home and watched It’s a Wonderful Life instead.

We took Dad out for lunch at Prezzo on Christmas Eve, there were 9 of us so it was a bit chaotic but good fun.

I wore this dress I bought in the sale from Sugarhill boutique. It looks a bit shapeless on the hanger but was a dream to wear. I know I will get a lot of wear out of it.
Once we got home, I watched the George C Scott version of A Christmas Carol (My favourite version) and drank fizz. 
Christmas morning, we had a lazy start and opened presents before Mum came round. We headed home with her for a few days but had to come back for the Wednesday as Himself had to work between Christmas and New Year. My brother and his wife came over on Boxing day.
I wore this dress from Seasalt, I had a voucher and it was in the sale so how could I resist?

I popped into Oxford to meet my ex-colleague, Megan on the 28th. I was meant to be meeting her on the 23rd but train strikes, so we did the 28th instead. 
We met for hot chocolate at Knoops as neither of us had been there before. It was AMAZING. I chose a 65% dark Colombian. I do love a hot chocolate in the winter,  but never buy it when out because I find generic cafĂ© hot chocolate way too sweet. 
The fact that at Knoops you can choose either white, milk or dark, and then a strength percentage is just inspired, I also love how they describe them like wines on their menu. 
It’s super busy all the time and quite small but luckily Megan and her partner Aaron had found a table in a corner as it was pouring with rain that day. Well let’s face it when hasn’t it been pouring with rain lately? But I digress. It was so lovely to catch up with them both and after a couple of hours we went our separate ways. I dived into a couple of shops I specifically wanted to look in and M&S which I hadn’t planned on, and where of course I bought a dress and a cardigan in the sales! and then headed home. 

On the 31st Himself suggested going over to Reading to look round the shops. I haven’t been shopping there since well before lockdown and we had thought of going before Christmas, but, train strikes. The main place I wanted to go to as I had spotted something in the window when we went to the Garth Marenghi show last month was shut sadly so we headed into the main town centre. It hadn’t changed much and we did some browsing. I bought some bits from the haberdashery department in John Lewis but Himself’s main point of call was HMV. I wanted to see if they had a Detectorists boxset (they did so I bought it) I then ambled over to where he was browsing the Metal section in the CDs. The first thing I saw was an album by a band called TNT which I still have on vinyl somewhere and I hadn’t seen for over 30 years, good grief there’s a blast from the past thought I.

 I won’t bore you with names of bands you have likely never heard of but I then spotted another and another, it was honestly like someone had taken notes of my vinyl collection in the late 80’s. I mean I was an avid, avid collector back in the day, and some of these were pretty obscure to say the least! The best bit was the majority of them were £7-£8. Himself actually left me to it and ambled off to the shopping centre toilets as I feverishly flipping through from A-Z, and ended up heading to the tills with an armful of cds! I have to say I have had a blissful couple of weeks playing the likes of Y&T, King Kobra, Armoured Saint, Helloween and Danny Wilde. On closer inspection they were all re-mastered rereleases by a company called Rock Candy. So, I now have their website bookmarked for further updates. My poor wallet. 

We had planned to go for a walk and a drink at our favourite pub The Fleur de Leys on  New Year’s Eve but it absolutely poured with rain all day, so instead we pootled about at home. I hate new year anyway so I’m always happy to stay in.

New Year’s day it had finally stopped raining, so late morning we went for our cancelled walk from the day before. Himself suggested we call in at the Fleur, would it be open I asked? He looked at me like I was insane and said “Of COURSE it will be open!” I had to point out that back in my pub going days I used to go out on NY Eve and was invariably in bed dying on NY Day so didn’t know such things.

 Anyway, he was proved right it was open and doing a roaring trade in late breakfasts. We only planned on having one pint and managed to nab a table from a group of 4 people with assorted musical instruments who were moving to a bigger table that had opened up in the corner. As we drank, a steady trickle of people with some manner of instrument case or another arrived and sure enough a jam started. It was an eclectic mix of sea shanties and traditional local folk tunes, mostly without singing. 

There was something so cosy and uplifting about it, so, we bought another drink and another and another. We finally headed home at 6pm and by then they had taken over the whole bottom end of the pub and some were even in the corridor to the toilets! An unexpected and thoroughly delightful way to start the new year.

I got some books for Christmas

which have already been added to the book mountain by my bed.

As usual I will end the post by sharing my reading list from 2022. As you may recall last year I discovered Elly Griffiths and quickly devoured the whole Ruth Galloway series. I was a bit bereft when done so imagine my delight when I discovered she had written another series! 

I had set myself the target of 50 books and as mentioned in previous posts 2022 proved a difficult year for my mental health, so I ended up reading more because it's a way of switching off and blocking out the world. I didn't award any 5/5 ratings but I certainly read more 3's and 4's this year.

The Dead of Winter – Nicola Upson 3
The Night She Disappeared -  Lisa Jewell 3
A Beautiful Spy – Rachel Hore 2
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books -  Martin Edwards 4
The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo 2
Home Stretch – Graham Norton 3
The Call of the Curlew – Elizabeth Brooks 2
Saving Missy – Beth Morrey 3
The Devil’s Breath – Tessa Harris 3
Around the World in 80 Cliches – Laura Lees 3
Older and Wider : A Survivors Guide to the Menopause – Jenny Eclair 3
Because of You – Dawn French 3
Cheddar Gorge, A Book of English Cheeses – Ernest Sheppard 2
Old Baggage – Lissa Evans 3
The Midnight Library – Matt Haigh 4
The Moving Tot Shop – Edwin Crispin 2
The Man in the Queue – Josephine Tey 1
The Two Houses – Fran Cooper 3
Holding the Home Front: The Women’s Land Army in WW1  - Caroline Scott 3
The Lamplighters – Emma Stonex 4
A Kind of Magic : Art Deco Vanity Cases – Sarah Hue-Williams 4
Maiden Voyages : Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Travelled and Worked Aboard Them  - Sian Evans 4
The Man Who Died Twice – Richard Osman 4
The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths 3
The Postscript Murders – Elly Griffiths 4
The Zig Zag Girl – Elly Griffiths 3
Fashion in the 70s : The Definitive Sourcebook Emmanuelle Dirix 3
Smoke and Mirrors – Elly Griffiths 3
The Art of Winnie the Pooh :How E H Shepard Illustrated and Icon – James Campbell 3
The Blood Card – Elly Griffiths 3
The Vanishing Box – Elly Griffiths 4
Now You See Them- Elly Griffiths 3
The Bone Code – Kathy Reichs 3
Absolutely – Joanna Lumley 2
Should I Tell You? – Jill Mansell 3
Blood Orange – Harriet Tyce 2
Lily – Rose Tremain 2
The Strawberry Thief – Joanne Harris 4
The Summer of the Danes – Ellis Peters
The Hunting Party – Lucy Foley 3
The Devil and the Dark Water – Stuart Turton 4
A is for Arsnic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie – Kathryn Harkup 4
The Golden Thread : How Fabric Changed History – Kassia St Clair 4
American Hair Metal – Steven Blush 3
The Locked Room – Elly Griffiths 3
Friend Request – Laura Marshall 3
The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music – Dave Grohl 3
The Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde 2
The Creek – L J Ross 2
The Paris Apartment – Lucy Foley 4
The Beloved Girls – Harriet Evans 4
Wanderers : A History of Women Walking – Kerri Andrews 4
Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney 2
Apples never Fall – Liane Moriarty 4
Trick of the Dark – Val McDermid 3
Magpie Lane – Lucy Atkins 4
Christmas Traditions: A Celebration of Festive Lore – George Goodwin 3
One Moonlit Night – Rachel Hore 3