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Thursday, 30 December 2010

I think I am learning to like London. I seem to enjoy myself more every time I go. Perhaps because I am a bit lacking in confidence and have mildly OCD tendencies of constantly checking tickets and routes for things, so I'm at my best in places I know. I felt quite bold this time; town mouse in the big city, confidently scuttling around the tube and feeling a teensy little bit superior to all the people consulting maps (I know, it's an unpraiseworthy tendency of mine).

Even when things were a tad disappointing they ended up being quite fun. We ventured out to Persephone Books as I wanted to fritter money on their wonderful books but the shop turned out to be closed until the New Year, grrr. Bloomsbury is rather nice though, isn't it? We had a good wander round and even found a charity shop - I was muchly tempted by an Agnes B red and white shift dress but alas I'm not a size 8!

I'd really like to come back with no fixed plans and just spend a few days walking round and properly exploring. I read London: The Biography earlier in the year and found it absolutely fascinating to read about the growth and development of the city and the historical survivals but I can't help feeling I would have enjoyed it more had I actually known where half of the places were.

The main purpose of this visit was theatre. So we trotted off to Islington to see Gemma Arterton and Stephen Dillane in Ibsen's The Master Builder. Very, very good. Interesting moment in Tesco on the way home though when a rather frazzled looking man pounced on us and went "Are you two together or just friends?" Insane come-on attempt or just curious, who knows? After we replied "um, friends", he then pronounced us "HILARIOUS!" - not sure if this is because he was a mental, because I was shrieking "Herbal teabags!!" at Lee or because we are natural born comedians and our conversation about carrot cake was comedy gold. I suspect it's likely to be the first of the three options.

Then yesterday was a bit of French farce at the Old Vic - A Flea In Her Ear. We'd paid quite a lot for the tickets, mainly so we could be up close to the lovely Tom Hollander and then it turns out he wasn't well and wasn't in that performance. Not so good. The play was v. funny though and the understudy was great, so it didn't bother me too much in the end.

And today we finished things off by going to see Birdsong, starring Ben Barnes (I do muchly love him). Controversial opinion coming up here but I find Sebastian Faulks a terribly dreary writer. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of books I've started and been unable to finish but Charlotte Grey is one of them. It was so dull I almost lost the will to live. It's odd really, because I love fiction set during the wars and lots of people who share my general reading taste absolutely love his books. Perhaps I'll give Birdsong a go in novel form. The play was excellent although as you might expect given the subject matter, a little emotionally draining. Makes me glad that we had a bit of chasing-round-tables, rompy farce yesterday or I'd be going home a wreck!

As it is, I'm on a train to Newcastle for a few days. I'm breaking the habit of a lifetime and going out on New Year's Eve. I really dislike New Year and never do anything for it - last year I watched Truly, Madly, Deeply and went to bed at 12.15 - but I thought it was worth trying something new this time.

ps - My 2010 review post (seems mandatory, doesn't it?) will be up in a few days. In typical fashion I tried to be prepared and wrote a load of things down, then promptly left the notebook at home. I won't be back home till 2nd Jan so it'll just have to wait till then. In the meantime, Happy New Year everyone!

My Christmas

Monday, 27 December 2010

I hope everyone had a wonderful time over the past couple of days. My Christmas was a little different to usual as various people were in other places but it was just perfect. So peaceful and stress-free, full of delicious food and drinks, fun with the family and many presents. Boxing Day was very much the same, although with fewer naps on the sofa.

Do forgive me sounding like a massive brat - I know I am thoroughly spoiled. But here are my presents.

I got books! Many many books! Look at them all! The only slight problem is that I'm going to London tomorrow and then Newcastle and need to pack light, so I'll have to leave all the lovely hardbacks until January.

Pyjamas, how I love thee.

Glam accessories. The scarf is super big and cosy and will be worn an awful lot. And how fab is the vintage handbag please? I was extra excited to see the tag inside.

Crafty stuff. The knitting books scare me a little, I must admit. I will master it though.

Best. Mum. Ever. She knew I'd been bemoaning the lack of nice jewellery holders out there and tracked down these beautiful hand turned wooden ones for me.

Things to pamper myself with

Shoe related things! The Sellotape dispenser is just genius. No-one's going to nick that from my desk at work!!

Lovely Christmas stuff.

A grey version of my beloved H&M suede elbow patch jumper and lots of lovely jewellery. I think the Oddsocks one is particularly inspired.

Lisa knows me too well. If it's cat related or green, she will buy it for me!

And a mug jumper! I love having crafty friends.

A variety of green things.

My bro and I always do the silly presents thing. We pick our own main present (hence the ring) and then let silliness reign. I am now the proud owner of a monkey and he is sporting some Goonies socks. Oh yes.

And my presents from Dad. Oh he did exceedingly well. Greatest boxset ever, a giant parcel of Lush goodies and a snuggly red hoody amongst other delights.

But I'm not quite as self centred as all that lot might make me seem. The important thing is that all the presents I bought for people seem to have been very well received. I like to hope that all the effort I put into thinking of present ideas paid off. Here's Dad, very chuffed with his new tshirt (he's a Buddhist btw).

And my brother got engaged! Bless him, he's quite the secret romantic.

Frocks Galore!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

I think all this time off work has already gone to my head. It's either that or the continued lack of sleep - I was up at 5.30am to hit the supermarkets at 6am and get the food shopping done before it got busy. Or perhaps the good news - my best friend is pregnant!! I am already preparing to be Mad Auntie Alex.

Whatever the cause, I've been in thoroughly merry form all day and so I have been playing dress up. Not something I do very often.

You might remember that at some point during the giveaway I mentioned the arrival of a rather wonderful parcel. Well, it was from the very lovely Christina, who had been having a wardrobe clearout (have you finished yet?) and was generous enough to send some stuff my way. She's about 8 inches taller than I am and considerably slimmer as well as being much more glam than me, so I must admit to being a tad worried as to whether anything would actually fit me but most of it did! Thank you so much Christina - it really was amazingly generous of you. I don't deserve it but I most definitely appreciate it.

I am totally smitten with this Ghost tunic. I think I'm just about short enough to get away with wearing it as a dress. Oh it's so pretty.

A rather awesome vintage jumpsuit. I'm not entirely convinced I'm tall enough or glam enough to get away with this one but I enjoyed prancing round the house in it!

Ooh la la, you've caught me in my nightie. Posh eh?

Honest opinions on this one please girls. I think it's utterly beautiful but I have a horrid feeling that the drop waist is not the best look on a pearshaped short girl...I'm wondering if it would be rude to chop the bottom section off, re-hem it and wear it as a shorter tunic?

I love this one. Bet you I spill wine all over it though!

There was also a rather snazzy purple frock in there and a beautiful one shoulder black Ghost dress but they don't feature in the photos as they're a little too snug over the old tum at the moment. Hopefully they'll fit in the New Year!

When I was feeling a little more sensible, I got dressed and braved the snow, ice and minus 6 temperatures to meet the girls for lunch.

Self in typical flap mode - hair and scarf going all over the place

A bit more composed although I've only just noticed how manic my eyes look!

Jacket - Tu
Shorts - Henry Holland @ Debenhams
Tights & scarf - dunno
Boots - Chiara
Earmuffs & mittens - Accessorize

And the ring is a giveaway prize! I won it (and a matching necklace) in Jen's 12 Days of Christmas giveaway (thanks again Jen!) and it's from Stolen Thunder. I was so thrilled to win this and even happier when it turned up - not only was it beautifully packaged but both pieces of jewellery are really lovely. I am absolutely hopeless at thinking of snappy messages so had a right struggle to think of what to put on it. No doubt I'll think of something awesome tomorrow and kick myself but I do like what I've picked - I think the style of the ring and font go rather well with it.

This evening the silliness returned. I attempted to recreate this corking photo that Christina shared in a great post a few days ago. I don't quite have all the outfit components but I think I've got the manic grin down quite well!

Dress - Pilot (fake fur added by moi for a uni party YEARS ago)
Shoes - Irregular Choice via Char

I'll be back on 27th so I'll take this opportunity to say Merry Christmas everyone. If you're celebrating, I hope you have a wonderful time. If not, I hope you have a wonderful time anyway!


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

I'm freeee!!!! Much as I love my job (and I really do), there are points of the year when I really need some time off. Yesterday was my last day in work for 2010 and I've got so much holiday left to take that I'm not back in work till 10th January. Squeeeee!!! Ok, so this is mildly spoiled by the fact that I have to go in on 4th Jan to do my PDR as the boss has been struck down with the lurgy and couldn't come in yesterday to do it. But still, loads of time off work! HUZZAH!

I'm spending today violently boshing away at the housework; Santa does not visit a messy house. It will all get done today. I have no wish whatsoever to still be hoovering and dusting on Christmas Eve. I will change the bedding then because new sheets and new pj's are de rigeur on Christmas Eve, but I want the housework over and done with as soon as possible. Once the boring stuff is finished I can get on with the fun Christmas tasks, namely reading, watching films and eating mince pies.

And what does my reading list consist of? Well, I hopefully have the following waiting for me under the Christmas tree:


A great big cheesey yay!

A nostalgic, oh-my-god-I-adore-the-Church-Mice-books yay!

A fingers desperately crossed that SOMEONE buys me this as all the people that I thought were getting it for me turn out not to have done, hopeful sort of yay!

But before then, I always take great seasonal comfort in curling up with these. All kids books, but that's a) because I love kids books and b) I'm usually very short of time pre-Christmas day and have no time or attention span for anything longer.

Holly in Love by Caroline B. Cooney
I will not hear a word of criticism about this book. Yes, it's an early 80's teen novel and they're not renowned for being great works of literature but who wants to sit down with War and Peace at this time of year? This book is full of very sweet teenage romance, snow and lashings of cocoa and hot buttered muffins. Yum!

The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
Oh Rumer Godden, why don't more people read your glorious books? The children's books are some of my absolute favourites and the adult books are really rather wonderful (ok, I am not so keen on the ones set in India but China Court is utterly marvellous). The Story of Holly and Ivy is festive, magical and brings a tear to my eye every time.

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
It's not necessarily Christmassy per se, but the section in These Happy Golden Years where Almanzo takes Laura sleigh riding is perfect. All of the Little House books do winter in thoroughly atmospheric style.

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
The Christmas descriptions are just wonderful. As is the rest of the book, but I don't always read it all at this time of year.

The Best of Times by Michael Morpurgo
This was a new addition to the bookcase last year. The illustrations are very beautiful and Mr Morpurgo always writes a good story, regardless of length.

And I'll be watching a random assortment of Christmas films and the Christmas special episodes of:

Father Ted (which gets extra points for featuring a young Kevin McKidd)
The Smoking Room (genius. Buy it. Buy it now. It's really very cheap. And then I'll have some more people who'll understand me when I quote it and that will make me oh so happy.)
Bones, esp the Christmas episode from series 1

And Noël from series 2 of The West Wing. It's right up there on my list of best tv episodes ever. It's not happy but it's seriously brilliant, plus it's beautifully played out over the sounds of the prelude to Bach's Cello Suite No.1 (my favourite piece of classical music). Ooh, the very thought of it gives me goosebumps.

On the ipod will be the following:

My very favourite Christmas carol. I don't know why I'm so drawn to it - perhaps it's the age and the words - but it haunts me.

I also adore this one - a 17th century carol written by a missionary among the Hurons in Canada which blends the Christmas story with native religious ideas. My teacher in Year 6 at primary school taught it to us and I honestly don't know anyone else here who knows it.

And because I am a massive cheesemonster, my all time favourite Christmas song. Get me drunk and I'll sing it all for you.

I love a bit of Paloma too, even if this is a bit of a grinchy song.

So there you go, that's some of the stuff I like to do to get in the mood for Christmas. Not that I need much help. In case you haven't guessed already, I LOVE Christmas. I know some of you aren't so keen though, so I do apologise if you're feeling bored by me recently. I shall return with an outfit post tomorrow! I look like Mrs Mop today.

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...

Sunday, 19 December 2010

So, we have snow again. It all came down in a great big whump in about two hours on Friday night when I was at a carol concert. Very fun to walk out into a winter wonderland, especially as I wasn't the one who had to drive home! It's meant that a lot of my weekend plans have had to be cancelled because various people are stuck at the other end of the country. But all is not lost. I've been doing other nice things like lying in front of the fire watching the showjumping from Olympia, making lots of leek and potato soup and braving the snow for a 4 mile walk to the shops to get Free From mince pies as various family members were craving them and putting up the Christmas tree!

We were quite possibly the most demanding customers ever when we went to buy it. The poor man had to unwrap about 8 trees before we were satisfied we'd picked one with a nice shape. I don't understand people who buy them already netted up - what happens when they get it home and it looks wonky?

I seem to remember someone commenting when I showed you my beaded baubles that I must have a really stylish tree. HA! I like stylish trees but they have no place in my house. I prefer tradition and that means a massive jumble of decorations.

The beaded baubles do feature but it would take MONTHS to make enough to fill a whole tree with.

Some are older than me - meet Rockin' Robin. After the lights and tinsel, he's always the first one on the tree.

We have the remains of a box of shiny 70's baubles.

We have posh baubles from the gift shop at Castle Howard

We have a rather random butterfly from the gift shop at Chatsworth. It was green, I had to buy it... And it hangs by some ceramic snowflakes and Jimbo and Jumbo (named by me because they reminded me so much of Jimbo and the Jetset)

We have decorations that my brother and I made years and years ago from a paper crafts Christmas book

We have really unChristmassy things - I'm not sure why Spot the Dog and Snoopy were ever made into tree decorations but it wouldn't be the same without them

And we have a cat that sometimes sleeps underneath it.

I think it looks rather nice. Chockablock with things that all mean something to me; just the way I like it. Now I just need to wrap some presents to put underneath it! (the ones already there are from various friends)

ps - one part of my weekend plans hasn't been cancelled! I'm just off to see John Bishop this evening. He was utterly hilarious last year so I'm very much looking forward to tonight.