Birthday Bounty

Even though it is something of a special birthday today, I didn’t want to receive a lot of ‘stuff’ as gifts. Stuff that a place has to be found for, and in a house with little remaining space. With that in mind, Julie’s main present to me is taking me out for two different birthday meals. One tonight, and again on Saturday. But she also bought me gifts, and all of them are useful.

A new windproof umbrella to replace the one I had been using for over 20 years.
A new PC keyboard to replace this one, because of some letters refusing to register and having to be re-typed.
A new wine glass engraved with the words, ‘Vintage 1952′.
New black socks with the same printed legend.
A straw hat for the summer to protect my head from insect bites.

In the post, I had already received a parcel from my cousin containing a nice hamper. Inside were special crunchy snacks, a Pâté to eat them with, and a lovely bottle of Merlot. My next door neighbour arrived an hour ago with a gift of a very smart ’70’ tea mug, and a card.

Now my cards are displayed on the window-sill, 12 in all. With no more post until tomorrow, I presume that is it for cards. But I am very happy with that, and grateful for all my gifts, and for the birthday wishes from the WordPress community.

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.


Christmas Bounty

Despite agreeing to cut back on present-buying this year, I did give and receive quite a few nice gifts. Now Boxing day has passed, I gather them all from around the base of the Christmas tree, and examine them.

This year, many were edible.

Chocolate-covered pumpkin seeds.
Gingerbread cookies.
A large tin of Scottish Shortbread.
A box of ‘Stollen Bites’. Juicy little cakes!
Two boxes of delicious Baklava cakes.
Two boxes of chocolate-covered Brazil Nuts.
A large bag of salted Pistachio Nuts in their shells.

Others could be consumed by the glass.

Red wine of course, my favourite tipple.
I received five bottles, one enjoyed on Christmas Day, and another yesterday.
(Three left!)

Things to watch.

Two films on DVD.
‘Official Secrets’, recommended by Fraggle.
‘JoJo Rabbit’, which received rave reviews all year.

Useful items.

A large calendar, with photos of Sharpei dogs for every month of the year.
A Dog’s Trust calendar, sold to provide homes for abandoned dogs.
A Weekly Planner with ‘Born to be a Sharpei dad’ on the cover.
‘Obsession’ by Calvin Klein after-shave balm. My ‘signature fragrance’.

And last but not least, a new pair of my favourite sheepskin slippers, which I am wearing as I type. This year, I chose ‘Dove Grey’ instead of tan.

We went into Stage 4 lockdown yesterday. It is supposed to last until Easter. No restaurants or bars open, no ‘non-essential’ services like hairdressers or dog-groomers allowed to open. All charity shops and clothing shops closed until further notice, and no non-essential travel allowed.

Not much of a start to 2021, but we all have to make the best of it.

Christmas Past

I didn’t always dislike Christmas.

As a child, I would ask to go to bed early on the 24th, so I could wake up and get all my presents when it was still dark. I am an only child, and though not spoiled, I was never short of a pile of presents from my mum and dad, as well as my extended family of uncles and aunts.

By the time my parents were awake, I had already read my Christmas Annuals books, and all of my toys and other gifts would have been opened and examined. Like most kids then, I dreaded receiving ‘sensible presents’, like clothing. But I will never complain about my childhood Christmases, as I can still remember the thrill of them. And I appreciated every gift, however small.

Then it was off to my maternal grandmother’s house, for a massive family Christmas lunch at 2 pm. Everyone would be there, and trestles would have been set up for a huge table top to rest on. Then every chair in the house, mismatched or not, would be crowded around so that everyone had a seat at the table. Before that happened, all the men would set off for the lunchtime drinking session in the nearby pub, while the women and older girls took on the mammoth task of preparing all the vegetables, and laying the table.

And all of this cooked in a single small gas oven, with a three-ring hob above.

The men would return just in time to sit and eat, still merry from too much beer and whisky. Then in the afternoon, they slept off the booze, while the exhausted women washed up and cleared away, ready to serve up the ‘Christmas Tea’. Assorted shellfish, bread and butter, lots of cakes, and anything sweet.

The evening would see a huge Christmas party. Crates of beer lined up in my grandmother’s parlour, the ‘good rug’ rolled up and stored away, and my aunt Edie exercising her skill on the piano as my dad and my uncle sang popular songs of the day, as well as wartime melodies. Everyone over the age of sixteen smoked, so the blue haze in the room would sting my young eyes as I sat enjoying the seasonal show.

When it got too late for me, I would sneak into my grandmother’s bedroom, and creep under the pile of coats laid on her bed. They included ancient furs that smelled of mothballs, and huge wool overcoats that had the aroma of tobacco.

I never really remembered my dad lifting me up to take me out to the car.

But I always woke up in my own bed on Boxing Day.

The Seasonal Rollercoaster

All the presents were bought and wrapped long before the end of November. Though we send few cards now, they are written, ready for posting.

The restaurant is booked for the 25th, and the relaxation of the restrictions means we will actually be able to go.

Ollie’s gifts are also bought and wrapped. Three new soft toys.

Because the 25th is a Friday this year, the following Monday will be a holiday. That extends the ‘celebrations’ by an extra day.

Next Wednesday, I have to get the tree and decorations down from the loft. So by the 12th, it will be sitting decorated in its usual place at the back corner of the living room.

Despite obvious differences because of the Coronavirus, that sense of seasonal deja-vu is well and truly consuming me.

The rollercoaster has started, and I am already on board. So far, it has only started its climb to the first big drop.

Roll on the 27th!

Christmas Bounty

Now the dust has settled on the festive season, I spent some time going over my pile of ‘bounty’, the gifts I received this year. Having made the decision not to just get more ‘stuff’ that we don’t need, it was nice to open my pile of presents and discover that everything I had was something I wanted and could use.

So without boasting, or rubbing it in for anyone who didn’t get anything, this is a list of what I found under the tree on the 25th.

The Phantom Atlas.
This is a sumptuous hardback book featuring detailed reproductions of antique maps.
Most of them are wildly inaccurate, or deliberately misleading, and that makes the book all the more enjoyable.

A new keyboard for my PC.
I have the desired replacement for the one I am using now that is almost worn out.
It is a Geemarc brand, ‘big key’ keyboard, with black letters on a yellow background.
Perfect for not straining my eyesight after long hours at the computer.

Two long nightshirts.
Looking like very long T-shirts, I like to wear these under a dressing gown when I am mooching around the house.
It has to be extra cold for me to wear them in bed.

Four bottles of red wine.
This included one ‘special reserve’ in a fancy box.
I have only drunk one of them so far.

A tin of Scottish Butter Shortbread.
The best biscuits (cookies) you can get, in my opinion.

DVD films.
First Reformed, starring Ethan Hawke.
The Guilty.
A German film a about a police emergency operator.

Chocolate-covered Brazil Nuts. (Two bags)
I don’t eat much chocolate, but these are in dark chocolate, which I prefer.

A selection of Baklava.
Those Greek/Turkish pastries full of chopped nut and honey syrup are a big favourite of mine.

Chocolate-covered fruits and nuts.
This mixed box included Pecans and cranberries. All delicious.

One was a Sharpei calendar, with a different dog for each month.
The other a Dogs Trust charity calendar.

Joint presents for Juie and I from two of her children.
One is for a meal for two in an Italian restaurant, Prezzo.
The other for a special afternoon high tea, in a well-know Norwich restaurant, Bourgee.

I think you will agree that this was a very good selection of gifts. They came from Julie, her children, my cousin, and some of our neighbours in Beetley.
More importantly, they will all be used, read, watched, worn, or eaten.

I hope all of you had an enjoyable time.


One of my earliest memories of writing is of compiling lists. Ever since I wrote my first present list for Santa, and watched as it came out of the chimney after being burned on the fire, I have been a person who makes lists.

When I was old enough to realise that there was no Santa, I would still make a list, for the attention of my parents. I would turn down the corners of pages in my Mum’s catalogue, then leave a list in the front with my toys of preference listed in order.

Then when I was at senior school, and started to get home-work, I would write myself a list of what needed to be done by Sunday night, and tick off each subject as it was completed.

Becoming a shopper resulted in the making of numerous lists too. I would research things like cars, and make a list of my chosen models, intending to test drive each one before deciding which to buy. For everyday grocery shopping, I wrote out a paper list, and stuck to it as I wandered around the shop. That is something I still do to this day. In fact, I wrote out a shopping list for the supermarket shop tomorrow, earlier today.

Buying presents for others meant making lists. I would add the name, and write next to that what I intended to get them, or had already bought. Once the things had been purchased, I would strike through the name, to remind myself it had been done. The same applied to Christmas cards, with incredibly long lists of names in the days when I used to send out well over one hundred cards.

The advance of technology means that not so many people write lists anymore. But there are millions of them online. Lists of Top Tens, lists of things people hate, and just as many about what they love. I have an Amazon Wish list, something to remind me of films or books I might want to purchase someday, although I have not yet succumbed to having lists on my mobile phone, or on memo pages on the computer..

Sixty years of making lists, and sticking to them, may make me sound very organised, and rather obsessive. The truth is, the opposite is true. If I don’t have lists, I forget things, it’s as easy as that. I found myself in a shop last week with a tiny list, jotted down on a small post-it-note. All that was on it were the words ‘Milk’, Bread’, and ‘Wine’. Surely, anyone could remember just three things?

I promise you, without that list, I would have forgotten something.

Let me know if you make lists. You can even list your lists, if you want to. 🙂

Favourite Presents Of My Childhood

Christmas is coming on fast. Too fast.
That got me thinking about Christmas presents of my youth, and the fond memories I still have of them.

I was luckier than most. As an only child I got more than my fair share, and on birthdays too.

Sometimes, I even got a present ‘just because’.
I might have won a prize at school, helped out at home, or recovered from an illness.

Thanks once again to the Internet, I can find images of the identical toys that I received.

Fuzzy Felt was a wonderful toy, if you had the imagination to make the best of it. Pre-cut felt shapes could be stuck to the base, creating anything from a flower, to a wild animal.

My Dad made me a wooden castle when I was very young. When it got broken, I got a new plastic one for Christmas.
The great thing about such toys was that you would get the ‘extras’ to use to play with them.
I accumulated a large collection of Knights in Armour, and weapons like medieval catapults that actually fired stones.
The drawbridge and portcullis both went up and down too!

Around the same time, I also got a Farm Set for my birthday.
Within a few months, I had farm animals, tractors, and even a combine harvester!
(The camels and elephant seem rather out of place in this set though)

Along the same lines, there was a Wild West Fort.
This became home to US Cavalry soldiers and cowboys.
They fought great battles against marauding tribes of Indians on horseback.

Being a boy in the late 1950s meant I was given guns as presents.
I loved my ‘Davy Crockett’ pistol.
This was given to me for being ‘brave at the dentist’!
As well as ‘defending The Alamo’, this was also used when I wanted to be a Pirate, or Highwayman.

I later ‘upgraded’, to a Colt 45 Peacemaker that fired caps.
This was give to me in a cowboy holster, and I used to practice my ‘fast draw’.

Summer holidays meant playing outside, and along came the ‘Spud Gun’
Push the end into an ordinary potato, and you could fire a small plug of the vegetable at anyone.
We had some legendary Spud Gun battles, using large baking potatoes ‘borrowed’ from home.
(This image is American, but my one was identical)

Electronics arrived in the form of a Train Set connected to a transformer.
This was my first set, which was added to over time.
I had more track, a turntable, signal box, and a small station too.
Trouble was, my Dad used to take it over, and I ended up watching him.

The racing-car game Scalextric was a real luxury. My set was like the one shown, with contemporary Vanwall cars.
Extras were numerous, including a Pit Lane with buildings, and a Grandstand full of miniature spectators.
Sadly, as with the train set, my Dad usually ended up commandeering both cars!

Over the years, I had hundreds of toy soldiers. But my favourites were the sets of tiny soldiers sold by Airfix.
They were cheap to buy, so I could even add to them with my pocket money.
I think I must have had every set they sold, including US Civil War, Romans and Greeks, and French Foreign Legion and Arabs.
But when I got the Desert Rats and Afrika Corps duo, I built a sandpit in my bedroom, to recreate the battles of the 1940s.

Let me now about your favourite toys, in the comments.

A Christmas message

I noticed today that the only visitors to my blog are from countries other than the UK. Time differences make it more suitable for those who live in zones where Christmas has already been, or has yet to start.

To all readers and followers, I would like to send the beetleypete compliments of the season. Whatever your faith, or lack of it, and however you intend to (or have already) celebrate the season, I wish you well, and hope that you have an enjoyable time. Thinking of those spending this time alone, or those in difficulties, also made me think of those bloggers who have disappeared from the scene. I miss being able to read the thoughts and activities of so many fellow bloggers. Once part of this community, and no doubt many others too, they have chosen to no longer publish their writing, their photos, recipes, or marvellous stories. Some have simply decided to stop following my blog, and I respect that wish.

On the off-chance that they are still reading this blog occasionally, I send my regards to A, The Witch of Endor, Sophie, The British Chick Across The Pond, Tracey of Food and Forage Hebrides, A of needjustice, HJS7777 a busy student, Sue of sparaszczuster, and a good dozen more. They will know who they are. I hope that life is treating you all well, and that your desire to blog will return one day. To those new followers who have replaced them, I say not only ‘thank you’, but also send my appreciation for your likes and comments over the past year.

It has been a quiet and peaceful day in Beetley so far. After some early present opening, we enjoyed a traditional English breakfast. A few phone calls followed, and then I took Ollie out for a walk. He was fortunate to find one of his pals, Big Rocky, also enjoying a seasonal stroll. They had a good-natured tussle, which Rocky won. As Rocky is a Newfoundland, Ollie stood little chance of victory. We continued on to Gingerbread Corner, before a chill wind drove me home. Later this evening we will enjoy a roast duck, some wine, and perhaps a dessert. If we have room for it.

A pretty good Christmas Day, by my reckoning.

An early start

We have something of an early start to our Christmas season today. Julie’s children are coming to see us, some with their partners. Because of work and social commitments, this was the only day that everyone could make it together. Unfortunately, as we both have heavy colds and coughs, it has been decided that the new grandson will not be coming along, so we will have to visit mum and baby on one of the other days, once the worst has passed. When you are feeling unwell, even a modest gathering seems like a lot of effort, but it will be worth it all, to have a nice family day.

It will be like having Christmas Day three days early, as we give them their presents, and enjoy a traditional turkey, with all the associated goodies. As with most things, although we don’t really feel up to it at the moment, I am certain that we will all enjoy ourselves once it gets under way, later this afternoon. Although it is dull today, it is unusually warm, so we will not need the log fire. That is ironic, after all the effort expended in getting it up and working, so it would be ready for Christmas. Despite a lot of time spent shifting and clearing leaves, very strong winds over the last three days have blown fresh piles all over. They have a life of their own, and we can hear them swirling and rustling outside.

Ollie is aware that something is going on. Julie is not working this week, and he is not used to having two of us around during the day. Constant trips to and from the outside shed to collect things make him think that he is about to go somewhere, so he is finding it hard to settle. He will be beside himself when everyone arrives, as he loves nothing more than to have lots of guests to play with. I will still have to take him out later of course, as he cannot miss his daily excursion. I could do without it today, but he doesn’t understand feeling ill, or having to get a lot of vegetables prepared.

For many of you, this is just a normal Monday. I hope that work isn’t too demanding, and that you have got all your food and presents ready in time for Thursday. I will be back on the blog soon, to wish you all a Merry Christmas.