Goodbye 2017…

So how was 2017 for you? Did you achieve goals, fulfil your resolutions, make a fortune and experience satisfactory or heart-warming life events? Or were you mired in failure, misery and crashes and burns?
Most years, of course are a mixture of these experiences, both in our personal lives and out in the wider world.
In our own little bubble 2017 was mostly a great year. We had adventures, travelling first to Mexico [underwhelming], later to Italy in an extensive and audacious camper-van journey involving numerous ferries and taking in a number of different countries en route; we made our familiar late summer trip to South West France.
Then our family was expanded by a new member, an event that few could consider anything but joyous.
The negative aspects of 2017 consist mainly of those health issues which come to be such a feature of ageing and which [of we are not careful] become the mainstay of discussions between ourselves and friends of a similar age. Even Husband, who, in his typical male way likes to brush ill-health under a proverbial rug has succumbed to medical intervention. Matters of corporal dysfunction must be accepted, acted upon and then shrugged off.
In 2017 events in the world arena were disquieting. Despite progress against extremists the world became a more brooding, xenophobic and intolerant planet as global threats, hatred and prejudice jostled with polluted atmospheres, floating ocean debris and catastrophic weather events.
World problems often seem too huge to contemplate. We re-post information about beach clean-ups and re-using plastic bottles. We add our digital signatures to campaigns about famines. We make contributions to crisis funds like homelessness. And yet the problems persist, reminding us of how insignificant we all are, how helpless.
But it is always best to look forward and to be optimistic. I’ve long ago given up making resolutions, although I am determined to complete a project I began two years ago and to get it out into the public domain in some respect. I’ve high hopes for a return to my gym regime once a certain foot issue has been resolved and in the meantime we are busy planning 2018’s round of expeditions, the first of which takes place next week. We’ll be without access to internet for a couple of weeks, conditions which will certainly do us a power of good!
The next two blog posts will consist of a brand new two-part story. This is my new year gift to you, readers. If you enjoy it, please let me know in the comments [and share it with others]. If you don’t, please let me know that, too-and why. After that we will have returned and hopefully with more traveller tales! Happy New Year to all my readers, old and new!

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2016? Sleep on it…

Christmas-yes it’s lovely, yes it’s festive. There is a warm, fuzzy glow everywhere-in the shops, in the pubs, in the cafes, along the streets and in the homes. We decorate, we shop, we cook. We send cards and receive them, exclaim over seldom contacted friends’ messages, speak to long-distance relatives. We deck the halls. We peel, chop and baste. We make table decorations, lay out crackers, pass things around, pour drinks, make toasts, watch the Queen/don’t watch the Queen,  play games, hand out gifts, open gifts, watch TV’s lack-lustre, festive offerings, crash out, wake, get up and begin again.

We eat too much, drink too much, feel bloated. In the mornings there is a swathe of last night’s glasses bearing dregs, demanding to be washed; and chocolate wrappers festooning the surfaces along with crumbs and pieces of nut shell. The dishwasher groans as you heave open its door, its bulging contents demanding to be dispersed.

I look forward to Christmas as much as the next person, preparing and anticipating but then when it comes all I really want is for it to be over. It belongs to children, this winter celebration with its pretence of magic and if you’ve access to a small child there is pleasure to be got from their enjoyment-otherwise there is a tendency towards anti-climax.

Nobody should wish their life away, especially when what remains is dwindling but 2016 needs to be behind us. It has been the year the world turned grim, forgetting any lessons history should have taught and returning instead to crude, emotions-led political decisions, territorial feuds and downright bestiality.

I’ve said before that I don’t do resolutions but planet earth needs to do some. There is an alarming deficiency of concern over climate change as we are about to be plunged back into over-reliance on fossil fuels. Genocide and brutality abound within and outside of conflict zones and how on earth is any of this to be tackled if we exacerbate hostility to foreigners and visitors by cutting ourselves off?

Though not a fan of cold weather I’m feeling introspective at this, the dormant part of the year. Yesterday the frost painted a stunning picture of a tree on our bedroom window, reminding me that there is still a lot to love about the world around us if we choose to preserve it. In winter nature reins in, hibernates, repairs and prepares. We should do the same, appreciate and cherish what matters the most. So I’m not going to feel guilty for spending time doing very little; for watching the garden birds or staring at a view or sitting quietly and thinking-because it’s just me doing what the season dictates and having a dormant spell until spring rushes in and stirs everything up!

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Happy New Year, Anecdotage readers-here’s to better things in 2017!

 

Lower Your Expectations still Further

So now all that Christmas malarkey, with its mountains of sprouts, wrapping up, decking the halls, washing the pots, preparing yet another meal, watching tedious re-runs of ancient ‘Christmas specials’ on TV, picking up sweet wrappers, smiling while you unwrap Aunty Mabel’s hand-knitted tea-cosy, being endlessly nice, hoovering up pine needles, opening yet another bottle of fizz, putting on your indulgent face while some teeny tot trashes your tasteful decorations, discovering the dog has eaten your hand-cooked ham with its special glaze you saw on Nigella, clearing up said dog’s vomited up ham….is now done.

You can relax. But what will you be doing to see 2016 through the year’s portals? Set off to sunny climes, smug in the satisfaction of having booked it months ago? Get scrubbed up and enjoy a swish hotel dinner that you cunningly arranged last January? Drink yourself into a post-Christmas trauma-mitigating stupor in front of TV’s Hogmanay offerings? Or will you retire early with a cup of cocoa and any literary offering that was not a] a biography of last year’s winner of ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me out of Here’ b] the latest ‘must-have’ cookery book or c] some lame attempt at humour?

Or will you, perhaps settle for drinks in the convivial, comfortable company of old friends, those who you’ve chosen to be a part of your life, rather than your relatives, who, whilst having ‘blood thicker than water’ may nevertheless be hard work over a prolonged period. So-friends then. But which friends? Your childhood bosom buddies from the village where you were born? Your uni friends whose lives you’ve followed on Facebook and met at reunions? Those who you met at the ante-natal classes, parent-first-timers like you? Your fellow five-a-side footballers? The blokes down the pub? The neighbours?

Maybe the answer is to host your own New Year’s bash and invite them all. Then the dilemma is solved; or is it? In my experience any kind of celebratory party that includes everyone you’ve ever known is never an unmitigated success. This is because these polarised factions are likely to have very little in common with the exception of YOU. I’d follow the example of Husband’s friend who recently had his 60th bash. He held a different event for each group of friends or relations [a restaurant, drinks at home etc], negating the need to attempt to get strangers to talk to each other-always a soul destroying task.

Perhaps, however you will do what Husband and I have done on occasions, go to your local pub/bar/café and throw yourself into any New Year’s do that’s going, the more 60s hits, karaoke and chronic DJ jokes the more riotous and cheesier the better. Leap about with anyone and everyone. They may not be ‘auld acquaintances’ or even new ones, but who cares? It’s all ‘best forgot’ anyway…

And so that was Christmas- [sorry JL]

We have now had the feverish consumer-fest that is Christmas 2014. All of that deliberating, researching, stressing, purchasing, sending back, re-purchasing, stressing again, decking the halls, stressing, preparing, wrapping, adapting, teeth-gritting, cooking, overeating, unwrapping, lying around, overeating again-all of that was about one day.

I do it all. I do the researching, purchasing, wrapping, preparing and the stressing. I also do the overeating, the lying around and the regretting. Then I look forward with a lover’s yearning for it all to be over and done with. I wait until the very last moment to festoon the house with gaudy tat and I am more than ready, by the end of Boxing Day, to tear it all down and stow it away for next time. What an extraordinary waste of time, energy and resources it all is!

But nothing beats the heady euphoria that the smooth, clean nakedness of the unadorned house presents. It induces [in me, at least] a gargantuan sigh of relief-so much so that it is almost worth the effort involved in all the preparations and clearing away to achieve the feeling.

Of course I don’t clear it all away the day after Christmas day. Don’t get me wrong-I do wait a decent interval before blitzing everything; until the last mince pie is consumed and the last guest has shuffled off to the station. But I can never stand to wait for that traditional ’12 day’ period to elapse. Nothing is more depressing than the sight of tired, dusty tinsel flapping in the drizzle and gales of a shiny new year.

In empathetic reflection, the post-Christmas news broadcasts are undergoing their own detox. There may well have been terrorist attacks, beheadings, invasions, tsunamis or Biblical-style famines but we are spared any intelligence of such events. The number one spot for news items is that of the Boxing Day sales. Whoopee! For those suffering sale-scrum withdrawal after Black Friday there is a chance to rise at 2.00am and stand in a queue for six hours with the possibility that they may purchase five or six handbags at a price of £500-a mere half of the [alleged] £1000 presale price.

Reader, I cannot think of a single item I want enough to queue up through the night in the damp and cold then plunge into a screeching, tearing pack of sale hounds for. Besides the fact that I am not a handbag person [this has been addressed in a previous post] I understand that the over-hyped prices of August are merely set lower and termed ’sale’ prices. In addition I actually want less stuff, not more[this was also addressed in a previous post]. On Black Friday one triumphant woman, flushed with the success of having snatched two flat screen, HD televisions proclaimed ‘I got two and I don’t even know if I want one’. Others were injured by falling TVs or trampled in the stampede. I’m betting these same people are in the queue for the next sale ruck. Happy Christmas one and all!

January revisited

                It is unreasonable to expect much to change within a one year time frame. When I look back at the first three posts of last year the immediate thing that strikes is that they were much shorter-by about half! So either I could not think of much to say at the time, and have become more practised at writing dross, or I have become even more verbose; or a combination of the two.

                The beginning posts were somewhat grumpy. I set out my case for disliking musicals, citing ‘Les Mis’ as a prime example of everything I did not like. This is still true; although following this diatribe I did download the novel [gloriously free for classics] and made a worthy attempt to read it. I have to say now that having tried several times to wade through this famous and admirable classic novel the musical comes across as a little less awful. Never let it be said I cannot climb down a rung or two when proved wrong. You have to admire the makers of said musical, to have constructed a universally popular, understandable tearjerker from such an incomprehensible narrative.

                The Christmas and New Year season is the only holiday period which features [for us in the Northern hemisphere, at least] reliably ghastly weather, no more so in the UK than this year, when we have been battered by gale force winds and squally downpours consisting of rain, sleet and hailstones for about a month now. It is not conducive to going out, for taking bracing walks or winter bike rides. Unless your heart’s desire is to while away the hours in the sales [see previous post, ‘Boxing Day-a Daft Party or a Bun Fight?’] you are stuck with a choice of a good book, getting on with a project [Novel 2 for me] or the dismal TV schedules. The TV planners appear to save all of their dross for the winter months, as if their only objective was to make viewers as miserable as possible. The screen guide is peppered with reality shows, manically overwrought ‘comedy’, ancient movies from the year dot [trotted out every year] and re-runs. I found the only viewable items-‘Death Comes to Pemberley’-a barmy idea but a good romp, and ‘Jane Eyre’-a new adaptation of a reliable yarn. These I recorded, only to discover that Jane Eyre’s recording had been interrupted by a signal failure fifteen minutes before the end [and was no longer available on i-player]. Great…

                It’s not all depressing. We made an overnight trip to Gloucestershire for a birthday party, travelling back through the gloomy rain and the cold today. There are already catkins covering the hazel trees and fluffy buds on the willows, the first signs that the year is turning. Light at the end of the January tunnel! Happy New Year!

Grace’s Christmas Crackers

                Some of my most memorable Christmases are from a time when I was single and sharing them with a similarly placed friend. They did, of course feature alcoholic consumption [which you would have thought might have obliterated the memories], but we felt we could let our hair down and break the rules.

                Christmas is time most people look forward to, for its break from work and for its fun and festivities, although it also has a reputation for wreaking havoc on marriages and family relationships in general. Large family gatherings can be a time of great joy, but can be a source of conflict as well. Fuelled by an excess of alcohol, rich food, inactivity, gift disappointment and puerile TV programmes, I suppose long held resentments boil up and burst their lids like a neglected pan of sprouts.

                My parents harboured an anxiety over Christmas-that they would be spending it on their own without a gathering of their adult children and their families around them. There would be a delicate juggling act to perform in the approach to the festive season, when in-laws would vie for their offspring’s attendance at the Yuletide table; the major prize being Christmas lunch. As in many aspects of child rearing, I learned from these occasions and vowed I would never exert pressure on my own adult children. Nevertheless, the Christmas predicament became critical once my father was left on his own. Then he needed to be supported in the warm grip of his family-the nearest geographically being favourite-in other words-us!

                I tell my children they must go to whomever they would like. They are welcome to visit at any time during the holiday [provided we are at home!] and we will kill the proverbial fatted calf whenever they arrive. Hence, this year we will be cooking roast turkey on Christmas day for one lot, and roast beef on Boxing Day for another set. Another has disappeared and will return in the New Year.

                Having said all that, this Christmas is just a bit special for a very particular reason which I will explain later.

                Thursday’s post is suspended due to the impending festivities, so the next pile of drivel will be next Sunday-

                Wishing all followers an extremely Merry Christmas without family strife, over-boiled sprouts, hand knitted sweaters, major bust-ups, indigestion or hangovers! 

Happy New Year, Brian Meadon! [part 5]

Brian swallows. His lips have become dry and numb, his voice a timorous squeak.

“The party. The New Year’s do.”

“Party?” Rob’s eyes widen as he stares at him. The moment is interrupted by a woman’s voice.

“What’s going on? Who is it Rob?” and Shelley appears, swathed in a white toweling bathrobe and a bewildered expression. Rob half turns to speak over his shoulder.

“It’s Brian. From skiing. He’s come for a party, apparently.”

It is Shelley’s turn to squint at him, looking closely from behind Rob’s shoulder. Brian dangles the wine bottle, nervous snicker hovering on his lips. Shelley appears to rally, declaring,

“Well we can’t all stand here letting cold into the house. You’d better come in, er, Brian.”

He steps over the threshold, still clutching the wine bottle and continuing to sport what he hopes is his most affable and charming smile despite the ambiguous welcome.

“I seem to have got you up, don’t I? Was the party cancelled at the last minute? Only I’ve got a slight problem with my car. The recovery vehicle has had to leave it at the end of your driveway. I can probably get it moved tomorrow. Do you think there’ll be any taxis tonight?”

Their confused frowns lead him to pause as he glances from one to the other.

Fifteen minutes later he is plumping up a cushion on the sofa in their lounge and unzipping the side of a threadbare sleeping bag that is most likely a relic of Rob’s past travels. At last the dog has lapsed into merciful silence. He takes a sip of the tea he’s been given and moves stealthily to the living room door, the better to hear what is being shouted in the kitchen.

“What the Hell were you playing at, inviting that bloke here?” Rob’s anger has broken out now that he is no longer in the room with Brian.

“We were all pissed, Rob, if you recall and we came up with the idea of getting together at New Year. He wasn’t asked specifically. He was just there. He was always hanging around. Don’t you remember? We couldn’t shake him off; odious little man! We must have overlooked him when we decided to cancel.”

Brian listens in for a few more minutes until the recriminations and accusations begin to be repeated, then he pads quietly back to the sofa to insinuate himself into the moth-eaten sleeping bag. He lifts the remnants of the wine to his lips, whispering ‘Happy New Year’ before knocking it back in two mouthfuls. In the morning he will have to phone up and get his car taken home and with luck, scrounge a lift for himself. Once he is home he will ring Jackie. If she is feeling magnanimous he might get invited round there, especially if he says he’d like to see the kids on New Year’s Day. She might ask about the party. He will tell her all the details. How the champagne flowed like water, the house was a mansion lavishly decked out, the women gorgeous. He will name drop a few minor celebrities and hints about not sleeping alone. Yes. She will be impressed. The bickering voices seem further away now. Brian sighs. The bottle slips from his hand on to the carpet where it leaves a blood red dribble. A gentle snore escapes him. ‘Happy New Year’. Well it didn’t turn out so bad.