Sunday Musings At The End Of November

Another very quiet week. It’s that time of year. Colder weather, dark before 4pm. People are counting down the days until Christmas Day. I went to the restaurant to pay the deposit for our Christmas Dinner on the 25th. Like everything this year it has increased in price, but they always serve a very nice meal, with good portions.

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Ollie was shaking his head a lot yesterday, and we feared he was going to get another ear infection just in time for Christmas. But he stopped after a while, and hasn’t done it since. Fingers crossed he just had something in his ear that he managed to dislodge.

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Julie has finished buying the gifts for family and friends. I have also bought her gifts, and I am awaiting delivery of one that is supposed to arrive in December. With the postal workers striking on various days, parcels and mail are going to be delayed. But I support their cause, so will not be upset if things don’t arrive on time.

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I tried reading a book in bed this week, but only managed two pages. I have not been able to complete a book for so long now, I don’t even remember the last one I read all the way through. Something happened to me during the pandemic period, and I just stopped being able to concentrate on books. I have tried on a few occasions during the last two years, with no success.

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My Shingles vaccination is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Julie will be on reception duty at the doctor’s, so will probably be the one who books me in when I arrive.

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Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you have a happy Sunday.

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An Alphabet Of My Life: Y

Y=Yearning.

I looked up this word to make sure I was using it correctly. I was.

yearning
/ˈjəːnɪŋ/
noun
a feeling of intense longing for something.
“he felt a yearning for the mountains”

I have definitely yearned for many things in my life. But nothing comes close to how much I discovered yearning when my mum got her Winter shopping catalogue from the Catalogue Lady who lived nearby. The catalogue was bigger than a telephone directory, and so heavy I could hardly lift it. It was like a Bible of consumerism, lavishly illustrated with photos, and containing everything a family might ever want to purchase.

The most popular companies in 1960 were Freemans and Littlewoods, both competing for an eager market of shoppers who wanted to have everything in the post war boom. And they could, because those companies offered credit with a simple and affordable system. Each item had a price next to it of course. If you could afford it, you could pay the catalogue agent outright when it was delivered. But there was also an easy payments system that went something like this.

Say you spent £50 on an assortment of items. (£50 was a lot of money then, my dad earned less than £20 a week at the time.) You could pay just £1 a week for those items, over a set period. That was usually 60 weeks, so ensured the company received £8 in interest. The Catalogue Lady would call at your house each week, take the £1 payment, and mark it off on your payment card. You could see the debt decreasing, and you were also able to order more items if you so wished, the card being altered accordingly.

Yes, this was something of a ‘Debt Trap’ for working people before the age of credit cards, and when bank loans were hard to get for anyone on a weekly wage. But working-class people no longer had to save up to buy something. From a new tea-set to a girdle, a vacuum cleaner to a pair of slippers, they could have what they wanted or needed, and it almost always cost just £1 a week.

The catalogues included toys, and the Winter edition included dozens of pages of toys, usually at the back of the catalogue. As soon as I was left alone with the catalogue, I immediately turned to that section, and began yearning for many of the toys shown in the photos.

It was real yearning, believe me.

Not allowed to mark the items on the page using a pen or pencil, I would turn down the corners of the pages I was interested in, then add scraps of paper sticking up from those pages with the stock number of the toy I liked best on that page. Then I left the catalogue for my mum to look through, and yearned.

Waiting for Christmas morning to open my presents and see if the intense research had worked.

Most years, it had.

Normality returns

From tomorrow, the 4th of January, life goes back to normal in Beetley. Other than some different days for bin collections, the local kids go back to school, people who still go out to work (including Julie) start work again, and all shop-opening hours return to pre-Christmas times.

One of the things about geting old, at least for me, is comfort in familiarity. I don’t embrace change as I once did, (if I ever did) and like to know my routine is not disrupted. Just like my beloved dog, Ollie, I am happy with what I know.

Because of the Christmas holidays, I had to write down the bin-collection revisions on my new 2022 Sharpei calendar. I always have a calendar on my desk, and write everything I need to remember in the large box provided for each day. When you are retired, so many days merge into a blur, so I also get a lot of comfort from my calendar.

(Tech wizards please note*, I am too old to rely on a mobile phone to tell me all this stuff.)

So from tomorrow, I will be able to ring the Vet to get Ollie sorted, and ring the car mechanics to get my car sorted. I will be able to make a booking for Julie’s birthday meal on the 14th, and every service normally used will be back to normal.

That makes me very relieved.

Since Christmas Eve, I have felt as if I was in limbo. Every day was the same, just different levels of housework or cooking required. Once Julie’s birthday is celebrated on the 14th, (I have already bought the card and presents) we can relax until my birthday in March.

I have eleven months until the Christmas madness starts all over again, and I will enjoy every one of them.

The Blame Game

Earlier this afternoon, I made the weekly trip to the huge Tesco on the edge of the local town. With all the leftovers to eat, I didn’t exactly have a long shopping list, but we needed a few everyday essentials. On top of those, we decided to have a ‘Tapas’ buffet on New Year’s Eve, so there was an extra list to see what I could get to add to that.

The shop was busy, something to be expected on its first full day of trading after the seasonal closures.

I headed to the aisle where you can get boring things you need, like bin-liners.
They were in stock.

In the same area is tinfoil. The shelves were bare. Well, not exactly bare as the usual long boxes of assorted sizes of tinfoil had been replaced by rows of ‘tinfoil containers’. Despite suspecting the answer in advance, I approached a young man who was removing empty cardboard from the shelf. I asked if there was any tinfoil in the stockroom. “We have these”, he said pointing out some takeaway-style tinfoil boxes with paper lids. I told him I couldn’t spread those on the inside of a roasting tin, or wrap up opened cheese in them. His reply was boringly predictable.

“Sorry, it’s Covid. Oh, and Christmas. We are short of drivers and are waiting on deliveries”.

I headed to the deli counter, to buy some fresh anchovies in oil, Spanish-style, to add to our Tapas buffet. There were none visible. I asked a man at the fish counter, his beard reminiscent of that sported by the famous W.G. Grace, and strangely contorted by his face mask. He looked perplexed, and went to get someone. He returned with a lady who looked very confident. “She’s the fish-buyer”, he told me, his beard moving like a furry glove puppet under the mask.

The lady knew her stuff.

“Anchovies? I can tell you we don’t have an anchovy left in the shop, not even in jars or tins, let alone fresh. Sorry, it’s the Covid, and Brexit. A shortage of drivers, and they are imported too of course. We haven’t had an anchovy in this shop since Christmas Eve, and no idea when they will be back in stock”.

I thanked her for her efforts.

Having decided to cook a Chinese stir fry at the weekend, I was pleased to find Pak Choi, Fresh Noodles in boxes, and a nice mix of Chinese vegetables, also fresh in a box. I added two duck breasts in plum sauce to my trolley, and the went in search of some Shiitake mushrooms. There were only white mushrooms on the shelf, so I asked a man who was loading spring onions into a section.

He didn’t actually laugh, but I could tell he wanted to.

“Shiitake mushrooms? Nah, none left. They are imported you know, and we have problems with drivers ’cause of Covid and Brexit. And it’s Christmas, don’t forget that. They get time off, like anyone else. Sorry”.

I smiled back at him, under my mask. I think he could tell I was smiling as I asked him who he was going to blame once there was no Covid, it wasn’t Christmas, and Brexit was ‘normal’. He shrugged as he replied.

“They will find something to blame it on, I’m sure”.

The Fat Lady Has Sung

As the old saying goes, “It’s not all over until the fat lady sings”.

Well, it’s the 28th of December, and I can hear her. It is finally all over for another year, despite today being a public holiday in England.

Yesterday was a very long day. Up early to get everything ready, then five adults and three children arrived for a buffet meal that lasted from two in the afternoon until nine at night. Piles of presents handed out, and some fun games played. Noise levels that could drown out an F-15 jet fighter from nearby Lakenheath Air Base, and just enough places for everyone to take a turn in sitting down.

Ollie was so stressed out by all the comings and goings, he got grumpy and started growling at people. That was a first for him. He must be becoming a party-pooper in his old age, despite receiving a gift of a stuffed snowman almost as big as him.

At the end of it all, it looked as if the house had been burgled. We were too tired to do anything except flop on the sofa in the sudden quiet, and then have an early night. That means that we have to face a mountain of washing up this morning, followed by storing away folding chairs, closing up the extended dining table into a more manageable size, then have a good look under all the furniture to find what was dropped during the evening.

There is enough leftover food to provide dinners for today and tomorrow. On Thursday, we have our last Christmas present arriving. The delivery of a traditional English High Tea, ordered by one of my step-daughters. The uneaten snacks, crips, nuts, and chocolate should see us through until March.

At least I don’t have to go out today, except to walk Ollie later. It has been raining heavily for over twelve hours now, and everything is damp and dismal.

Next up is New Year’s Eve. Just the two of us, and hopefully still awake at midnight.

Christmas Blogging

Only a few days to go before the three-day Christmas break, and some bloggers are already disappearing from their blogs to make trips to family or preparations to receive them.

This is always a quiet time of year in the blogging community, something to be expected.

With this in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to wish a happy and peaceful Christmas to anyone who will not be around for the next week or so.

And at this time of year, let us not forget those who will not be in the mood to celebrate the festivities. Those who have lost loved ones in 2021, or are living alone without family or close friends. Widows and widowers, orphans, those suffering from depression or debilitating medical disabilities, and the many who are ill from the symptoms of Covid-19.

As we eat too much, drink a little too much, and exchange gifts, we have to remember those who have nothing to look forward to, and keep them in our thoughts.

Sunday Before Christmas Musings

I lose track of the days at this time of year. By the time January 2nd is upon us, I will finally be able to stop having to look at my desk calendar to know what day it is. Things break my routine during the Chriistmas season. Dustbin days are changed, shops have different opening hours, many not opening at all. The kids are not at school, and new faces appear in the group of dog-walkers.

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If you saw my post ‘The Bird Has Flown’, you will know the pigeon has finally left the garden, its wing healed.

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We have our first seasonal visitors today. One of my stepsons and his girlfriend, travelling from Bedfordshire to deliver and collect presents. There will probably be no other visitors until the 27th, so we anticipate a very quiet Christmas.

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The TV shows are appearing. Those usually dull ‘Specials’, reviews of the past year, the same old familiar films. As a rule, the TV season at this time of year provides little worth watching after the autumn drama series have all concluded until 2022.

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Blogging is different at this time of year too. People are busy, some travelling on visits, many not blogging at all. On that subject, I need to mention Mary Smith. She is facing her last days in a hospice, dying of terminal cancer. She is unlikely to see Christmas 2021. So just for her, I am determined to make the best of it, as a tribute to one of the best bloggers, authors, and genuinely nicest people I ever met online. Please read her incredibly moving post. It will make you grateful for whatever you are doing this Christmas.
https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com/2021/12/18/marysmithsplace-cancerdiary45-finishinglineinsight/

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Christmas ‘Jobs’

It’s the tenth today, and things are starting to ramp up for the three-day Christmas season.

Julie wants the tree and its decorations brought down from the loft this afternoon, and I really must write some cards!

On Sunday, we are travelling down to Essex to see some of my family, staying overnight with one cousin so another cousin nearby can come and see us. I have a big box of presents to take to them, mainly for the children. Ollie will enjoy seeing the two small Spaniels she has, and having some stairs in the house to run up and down.

The following week, we will have an extra clean up in the house, and Ollie goes for his ‘Christmas Bath’ at the groomer. I then have to try to keep him out of the river for a while. (Good luck with that, I tell myself)

Not that we are doing much on the 25th, or the 26th. We are going to a restaurant on Christmas Day afternoon for a traditional turkey meal, and have nothing planned at all for Boxing Day on the 26th.

The 27th is another matter. Julie has invited all of her children here for a seasonal buffet, including their partners, and their children. We are not sure who can make it yet, but if they all do show up we will have ten guests, plus us two.

At this time of year, I can usually be heard saying “Roll on the 27th”. This year I am changing that to the 28th.

More Sunday Musings From Beetley

It’s dark before 3:30pm now, and once the early morning sun goes in by mid-afternoon, we have had some very heavy rain every day. Regular readers will know what that means for me on the dog-walks. MUD! Yes, the mud is back, so wellington boots are the only footwear option when out with Ollie.

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Fuel prices are increasing dramatically in England. They seem to be going up by a few pence a litre every day, and the last time I filled up, I had to pay £8.01p for each gallon. At this rate, using the car will soon become a luxury.

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It’s that time of year when you can’t find anything in the supermarkets. They change the aisles around to feature seasonal Christmas products, and stop stocking a lot of regular food items to replace them with fancy seasonal delicacies. They seem to forget that I cannot really make a nourishing evening meal out of a varied cheese selection, some shortbread biscuits, and pigs in blankets.

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Large areas of Britain were devastated by Storm Arwen eight days ago. Over a million homes lost power in northern England and parts of eastern Scotland. Many also had no water, due to the supply needing to be pumped by the water companies. The government reaction has been appalling. Struggling local authorities have been trying to help by opening community centres, and sending families to hotels where possible. But the power companies have so far only managed to restore power to a quarter of those affected, and the government took over five days to send just one hundred troops to the area to help.

If this had happened in some rich commuter belt just outside London, you can bet Boris and his cronies would have had it sorted in twenty-four hours. As it stands, some people in north-east England and Scotland still have no idea when they will get power back. Shameful!

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Those of you who were concerned about the injured pigeon in our back garden might like to know that as of yesterday at least, it is still alive. It has ‘moved house’ from the big shrub, and relocated to living under the leylandii hedges at the end of the garden. I am still feeding it, and making sure it has water, but it shows no signs of being able to fly yet.

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As it is the fifth of December today, I really should get around to writing some Christmas cards. Maybe next week…

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Season Of The SAD Lamp: Sunday Musings

The clocks went back one hour here last night, so we got an extra hour in bed. The downside of that is that it will be dark by around 4 pm now, and the evenings will feel long and dull. My SAD lamp is already turned on as I write this, and it’s only 9:30 am. The rain is hammering against the window, and the grey skies look to have settled in for the day. Ollie was reluctant to venture out into the garden earlier, and I suspect he just hid in the side alley after I closed the kitchen door.

I don’t blame him.

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Today is Halloween Sunday. At least it is for those who celebrate it. That doesn’t include me of course. There was a party last night that went on until just after midnight. It must have been some distance away, but I could still hear the ‘thump’ of the sound system all evening.

In a quiet village like Beetley, that event was enough to get residents taking to the local Facebook forum by 9pm, (suitably called Beetley Busybodies) to complain about the noise and ask the people hosting the party to turn down the music. I am not on Facebook, my wife told me. But it did occur to me (though obviously not to those complaining) that anyone enjoying a party at their house was unlikely to be checking Facebook to see if anyone was complaining.

If this awful weather continues, I am wondering how many ‘trick or treaters’ will be venturing out later. We don’t put a pumpkin outside on the driveway, which is the signal to knock on doors in Beetley. That means we will hopefully not be bothered by anyone.

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My 35-part serial ‘Outside’ concluded yesterday. I have a new one in notes, and you can have a rest from fiction until I structure it. I will be posting an overview of ‘Outside’ soon.

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Many bloggers have had Christmas Countdowns on their blogs for some time now. A few of them started that in early September, before I had even taken my summer holiday. I don’t want to know how many days it is to Christmas thanks. It will come when it comes, and that always seems to be faster every year I grow older.

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We accepted the quote from the landscape gardener to do the front of the property, and we are just waiting for him to give us a start date. That will hopefully be before the end of December, but will presumably depend on weather conditions. No doubt contractors have to get used to working outside in all conditions. I remember having to do something similar when I was an EMT. Kneeling in pools of rainwater, or tramping through snow in unsuitable uniform, feet freezing, and trousers soaked.

So happy I don’t have to that any longer. Except on the daily dog walks of course. 🙂

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I hope you all have a great Sunday, and better weather where you live. And for those of you living in the in the far east, where it is almost Monday, I hope you have already had a great day.
Best wishes, Pete.