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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



Today is the day before my birthday, always known by me as my ‘Pre-Birthday’. At the supermarket yesterday, I bought a ‘special meal’ as a pre-birthday treat. A ready-to-cook pork belly with honey glaze complete meal, with black pudding, vegetables, and mashed potato. Enough for two, in ‘gift-box’ packaging.

So it is a ‘bung-it-in-the-oven-and-no preparation’ dinner, quick to cook when we return from the Bird Park later. (Weather permitting.) I will accompany that with a glass or two of Lindemann’s Australian Shiraz, then relax and watch something on TV later.

Three birthday cards have arrived already, along with a ‘mystery parcel’. Being a stickler for such things, nothing will be opened until tomorrow morning.

Getting a head start on your birthday is to be recommended, believe me. If you have never had a ‘Pre-Birthday Day’, you should try it.

Delightful Dining

Yesterday was my wife Julie’s 61st birthday. She took the day off work, and enjoyed opening her presents and cards, chatting to family and friends on the phone, and replying to the hundreds of messages she received on Facebook.

I cooked her a late breakfast of traditional English fare. Lincolnshire herb sausages, unsmoked bacon, black pudding, mushrooms, and two fried eggs. The bonus was that the eggs had ‘double-yolks’, so you could argue she had four eggs.

I had already booked a restuarant for her evening birthday meal. We chose the pub The Brisley Bell, in the village of Brisley, four miles from Beetley. This well-known establishment has two big bars, room accommodation, and a large award-winning restaurant in a huge space at the rear. It is extremely popular, but I managed to secure a table from 18:30 until 21:00. As we had never eaten there previously, we had both checked out the menu online. However, I didn’t want to get too excited, as menus can change on the day.

After the short drive in very thick fog, we managed to get the last space in a very crowded car park. The bars were busy, but when we were shown to our table in the Library Room at the back, it was peaceful there, and very nicely lit and decorated. Over a drink, we perused the menu, unusually deciding we would both have the same first two courses.

The chosen starter was Pheasant Broth. This came with assorted wild mushrooms, and delicious small dumplings in a flavoursome broth that was served piping hot.

For main course we had Monkfish wrapped in thin smoky bacon, served with spinach and fresh gnocchi on a smooth white garlic sauce.

Both were absolutely delicious!

After a short interval, we agreed we would also have a dessert. Julie chose the Mango Pavlova, with mango ice cream on the meringue, and slices of mango surrounding it in a mango juice. I had something different, a home-made warm Bakewell tart, topped with a small scoop of pistachio ice cream.

They were good choices, and we were both very satisfied.

Driving home in even thicker fog, we both said it was one of the best meals we had ever eaten, and believe me we have eaten some good meals over the years.

I am not one to take photos of my meal, (Julie did, and posted them on Facebook) but here is a link to The Brisley Bell. If you ever find yourself in this area, you will not find a better place to eat. If you allow the header photos to scroll, you will see the ‘Library Room’ where we ate.

Boxing Day Sunday Musings

I hope everyone had an enjoyable 25th. It was a relaxed day here in Beetley, with present opening for me, followed by a very quiet (and cold) dog walk with Ollie. Hardly anyone was out and about at lunchtime, and we only saw one other dog being walked. It has still been raining, so the mud was bad.


Remember when Christmas morning we would see excited children out on the street? Riding new bikes or scooters, falling over as they tried out new skates, or walking in family groups in their best new clothes on their way to visit family or friends.
Well that never seems to happen anymore, certainly not in Beetley.


Ollie loved getting his wrapped presents. He was so excited, running in circles, jumping up and smelling the parcels. It was easy to forget he is almost 10 now, as he was like a small puppy again. He got a plush grey squirrel, a cow that squeaks and crackles, a ‘Nemo’ type stuffed fish, a hedgehog in a spiky ball, a squeaky hot dog in a bun, and a rubber squeaky Christmas Tree. Later on he was so worn out, he slept soundly all evening.


I did well too. A lovely heavy plush dressing gown and real sheepskin ankle-boot slippers. (Both being worn as I type this.) Three different bottles of red wine. (I had the Malbec last night.) Two boxes of chocolate-covered Brazil Nuts and two packets of pistachios. A pair of very nice stemless wine goblets, and a paperback book.


We went out to the restaurant for our Christmas meal at 2:30 pm. It was great food, and served piping hot. There were three courses, and Julie couldn’t finish her cheese board selection at the end, asking for it to be boxed up to bring home. We were the last to leave, and got home just before 4:30.


Today is called Boxing Day in England. This explains why.

The name comes from a time when the rich used to box up gifts to give to the poor. Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants – a day when they received a special Christmas box from their masters.The servants would also go home on Boxing Day to give Christmas boxes to their families.

I will be cooking a traditional roast Sunday dinner later, and we have a lot to do to prepare for a long day tomorrow with guests coming from around 2pm.


Life returns to normal on the 28th.


Ollie Changes The Rules

Last week, for the first time in eight years, Ollie started to refuse to eat his dinner at the usual time of 5 pm. Every day since the spring of 2012, he knew it was dinnertime around five, and would be ready and waiting to gulp it down.

But not anymore.

At first, we were worried that he might be unwell. But he still enjoyed his midday treat, and his late evening Bonio biscuit. After throwing away his dinner on three occasions, I decided to try something.

When we get back from his walk at around 3 pm, he often eats some of the dry pellets left over from the previous evening. The exercise and fresh air obviously gives him an appetite when he gets home.

So I gave him his dinner at 2:45 the next day, and he ate the lot as if he had never seen food before. So now he is fed as soon as we get back from his walk, and he has been eating everything.

By changing his behaviour, Ollie changed the rules to suit himself.

Serial Delay

Today’s episode of Runs In The Family is not appearing.

An early outing to the supermarket followed by a longer than usual dog-walk left me with no time to write the post and prepare a delicious evening meal of roast chicken with all the trimmings.

My dinner won the contest…

It will be back soon. Sorry!

(Blame the virus!)

Pheasant for dinner (Almost…)

The weather changed yesterday, and not for the better. We went from nice sunny and relatively warm days, back to what feels like the end of winter again. Cold, rain, and fresh mud.

But as you know, Ollie has to go out, and today was no exception. So from 1:15 until 3:15, I set off walking around his usual favourite spots, wrapped up against the cold showers, and big boots on for the mud. On the third, or perhaps fourth, circuit of Hoe Rough, I spotted a plump male pheasant ahead of us, on the smaller side path. His vibrant plumage stood out magnificently in the gloom, and he seemed to be about some very important pheasant business, strutting purposefully along the path.

Ollie spotted him too, and without a heartbeat’s hesitation, took off at speed, his approach muffled by the soggy ground. I had no fear for Mr Pheasant. They usually fly off long before Ollie gets to within three feet of them, and I suspect my dog sees it as a game that he never wins. But on this occasion, whatever was preoccupying the stout game bird had diverted his attention long enough for Ollie to suddenly be upon him. With a loud fluttering of wings, and a characteristic pheasant squawk, the bird barely escaped from between Ollie’s paws, colliding with some small branches as he took off vertically into a nearby tree.

I was left lamenting the fact that we almost had pheasant for dinner tonight, and the bird lived to fight another day.

So it’s back to my planned meal of chicken and chorizo paella instead.

I’m sure it will be tasty enough.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday


I could hardly avoid thinking about Christmas today. There is a big decorated tree in the corner of the living room, surrounded by a huge pile of wrapped presents. Cards received adorn the doors, and we have one of those ‘candle bridges’ (electric) on the window ledge too. The main door onto the street has a wreath hanging on the outside of it which may be very wet now, but survived the storm-force winds.

Nine days to go, until what I like to call, ‘Tuesday’.

OK, so I am not a big Christmas person. I was at one time, until I woke up one night and spied my Dad stacking presents at the end of my bed. That clinched it, Santa didn’t exist after all. That didn’t worry me unduly, as I realised that I could now hint directly to my parents, instead of worrying that Santa might not have had time to read my note.

There were fond memories to follow. Parties at my Nan’s house, dressed in my best new clothes. Extra gifts from men I called ‘Uncle’, or ladies I called ‘Auntie’, usually some well-received money. Lots to eat, staying up later than ever, and sweets, lots of sweets. Long before I had got around to getting married, the age-old argument began. I had to be at my parents’ place, or my grandmother’s, if they were going there. But my girlfriend had to do the same with her family, so we could never actually see each other on the day in question. When you are married, that debate starts early in the year, usually just after the Christmas you have just argued about. Do you split the day? Morning at one, evening at the other? Perhaps have two Christmas Dinners, one at lunchtime, another in the evening? (Yes, I have done that)

Then there were the presents. In the absence of any list, most of the stuff given to us was either unwanted, or downright awful. If people stuck with reliable standbys like cartons of cigarettes, or vouchers, it was a relief. Buy jewellery for my wife, and I could guarantee that the chain wouldn’t be long enough, the stone the ‘wrong’ colour, or it was just something that she would never wear. Such gifts ended their days still in their boxes, at the back of a drawer. Dare to buy something useful back then, like kitchen utensils, and be left open to accusations of male chauvinism. And supposedly ‘sexy’ underwear? Never go there. Ever.

In 1980, I had to work on Christmas Day, for the first time ever. I was 28 years old, and felt liberated by having a genuine reason not to have to eat a dinner cooked to extinction by my Mum, whilst pretending I was alright with having a paper hat on my head. Ambulances must be available every day of the year, and it was my turn, I told them. For the first time I could remember, my Mum left her house on the morning of the 25th. She went to eat dinner with my wife and her family, twelve miles across London. She was collected, made welcome, and taken home after. But for her, it was unacceptable, and was certainly never going to happen again.

That left me in a dilemma. My Dad had left home when I was twenty-four. So Mum was on her own, and I had no brothers or sisters to spend Christmas Day with her. She made me promise to try to never work on Christmas Day again, so she didn’t have to leave her house for any reason. That started thirty-two years of always trying to get the day off, if I was scheduled for a shift on the 25th. A lot of the time I was lucky, if I applied to be off by January 1st, at the latest. Sometimes, I would be on night duty, so spend the day half-asleep, before having to go back into work exhausted, after shovelling down the meal Mum prepared for me. On a few occasions, she was in hospital on Christmas Day, rushed in by ambulance. So we spent our seasonal celebration in the relatives’ room, waiting to hear if she would pull through.

By the time I arrived in Norfolk, in 2012, I had well and truly had enough of the Christmas merry-go-round to last me a lifetime.

In fact, it has almost been my lifetime.

A Beetley Christmas Eve

Well, it is now only four hours until Christmas Day in Beetley. It is characteristically peaceful, not a sound to be heard.  A few houses have slightly overdone the exterior decorations, but that is forgiven, at this seasonal time. Traffic is non-existent, local children excitedly abed. Our dinner is digesting, and the house is prepared, to receive that certain day.

I was at the Vet’s early today, for Ollie’s tail to be re-dressed. There was a decidedly non-seasonal fee, and he has to return on Saturday, to provide more income for the Vet. She did admit that healing was visible, and cautiously declared that amputation may be off the agenda. For now, at least. Presents wrapped, dinner prepared, I thought it appropriate to light the wood burner early. Bad idea. The recent torrential rain and winds had affected it, yet again, and we got smoke in the living room, and a fire refusing to catch. The spirit of Christmas had deserted us, at least where flames and comfort are concerned. Another reminder, of wasted thousands, seemingly set to haunt us through life. I fought anger and frustration, and took Ollie to the meadow.

He was better today; less reluctant to run, and pleased to see some of his old friends, at least for a while. There were comments about his tail, sympathy, and encouragement. After an hour, he stood by the exit, obviously ready for home. The tail had become too irritating, for him to continue. We had to resort to the central heating, to achieve a decidedly non-seasonal warmth. I cleared away the cardboard rubbish, that had contained various gifts, and settled to an evening of bad TV, and quiet reflection. Ollie slept after his dinner, and we also felt that tiredness that results from days of preparation, and entertainment.

I find myself anticipating sleep, followed by a Christmas breakfast, and a short period of present opening. It was a quiet Beetley Christmas Eve, and I am sure that it will be followed by a quiet Beetley Christmas Day. Sweet dreams, all of you, and I hope that Santa brings you a wonderful surprise.

Reasons to feel perky

I have decided to try to liven myself up, and to find some reasons to be more positive. So, here goes.

It has stopped raining, and the forecast is for cold and dry weather.

I don’t have to get up and go to work tomorrow. Or ever again.

I enjoyed a delicious dinner tonight, Spatchcock Poussin, with roasted vegetables. Yum.

My dog thinks I am great, and can do no wrong.

Despite having very little hair left, it has stopped falling out.

I have 33 followers on my blog, and lots of others by e mail, so I must be writing something remotely interesting.

We are debt free, and have no mortgage to worry about, so we are better off than many people.

That’s it, I am officially perky!

Now I just have to get past the Mayan Apocalypse…