Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas, everyone!...

Another busy year draws to a close.  I’m unlikely to have access to the internet again before January (& if anyone is thinking “poor you”, don’t! – I could do with some peace and quiet and one less technological temptation is no bad thing).  So as far as blogging is concerned, this is the last post of 2011.  And an odd old year it’s been, too.

Work has been busy and rather over-pressured a lot of the time.  On the creative front it’s been rather an uneventful year, with several things ticking over and progressing quietly, but nothing spectacular happening.  The garden has been a blessing as usual, and is beginning to look more like a proper garden as the shrubs I planted in 2009 settle in and put on growth.  My vegetable growing was a bit of a mess this year; slug-shredded chard, blighted tomatoes, beetroots that never germinated, but  climbing French beans that cropped extremely heavily, although in bursts rather than evenly, and rampaged everywhere, trying to escape over the fence and feed next door as well...

And now it is almost Christmas.  Ten days off.  In the Gardens, Father Christmas is seeing his last families today, and the carousel is playing a tootling pipe-organ cover of Slade's "So here it is, Merry Christmas" (one year we had one that played Sousa marches, which I liked but everyone else thought was very peculiar).  The first snowdrops are out in the Rock Garden, and Juno irises are flowering in the Alpine House, and a fine winter drizzle is falling everywhere in the misty dusk.

Tomorrow my elder brother is giving me a lift down to Kent.  Tonight I will have to have a takeaway for supper, because I have wound-down my supply of perishables so successfully that it’s that or a tin of baked beans (& much though I baked beans, they aren’t very celebratory).  Tomorrow we slip off to the countryside. 

So Merry Christmas to one and all, and may the new year bring you prosperity and happiness, success and good health! 

Friday, 16 December 2011

Trying to catch up with everything that's gone on...

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I wrote...

Life has been hectic; it’s the run-up to Christmas, after all, but being a chump I went away on holiday and have now got dreadfully behind on everything.  I have just managed to post my UK Christmas cards, on the last safe posting day for second-class stamps – but I missed the last safe posting dates for parcels and for international post – by miles, in the latter case.  And I still haven’t finished dealing with the problem of Christmas presents.

I remind myself that Christmas isn’t about presents.  Or cards, for that matter.  The problem is, when you are not a churchgoer, and can’t really call yourself more than a fellow-traveller of Christianity, it becomes ridiculous to say “Christmas is about Christ”.  But the capitalist subtext (“Christmas is about spending and consuming as much as you humanly can!”) is thoroughly sick-making in every sense. 

So for me, Christmas is about the people I love; seeing friends and family, catching up on news from people I don’t see much of (because they have done outrageous things like going to live in another country); it’s about sending greetings cards to say “I am thinking of you and I hope life is going well & hope you and yours really do all have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year”.  So giving gifts (which needn’t be anything fancy - I am doing a strong line in socks and home-made jam this year) becomes a tongue-tied-and-terribly-British way of saying “Um er, and I love you”- mumble mumble turn-pink-and-look-at-your-shoes...  So I want to buy and send cards, and buy and/or make presents, because they are my annual “Um er I love you”s.

I’m off down to Kent tonight to do something practical and, hopefully, helpful; my mother always has a big, real tree, and lots of greenery and decorations all over the house, and really appreciates a hand getting this all done.  She also appreciates a hand with some of the grocery shopping.  She is 79, after all.  So that is my weekend sorted; lugging a wheely basket of bottles and biscuits back up the hill from Sainsburys; dragging the tree in and setting it up; cutting and gathering armfuls of evergreen from the garden; and decorating the lot.  With the final of “Strictly Come Dancing thrown in for good measure on Saturday night.  And, you know what? – I’m really looking forward to it.  Maybe this is one of the signs of adulthood - good heavens, did I get there at last?  Instead of regarding a weekend spent helping my mum as drudgery I am thinking “Great – this will be a lot of fun!”

In a week’s time I will be heading down to Kent again, for ten whole days off.  Ten days of peace and quiet with my family; eating decent homemade food, playing board games, walking by the sea.  It’s a time I always look forward to, and this year more than most, as I feel in serious need of recharging my metaphorical batteries.  The week in Cornwall, though it was lovely, didn’t give me as much of an energy boost as I had hoped for.   The picture at the top is one of my holiday photos and makes me feel very nostalgic - wintry afternoon sun over the sea, with the Trinity House daymark on Gribben Head in the distance. 

Part of the problem has been stress at work.  Things here have been over-stretched and understaffed for quite some time now, and everyone has got more tired and frazzled as the months wore on.  Then in late November we were told that the team I work in is being restructured.  In the end this has turned out less horrendous than some restructures I’ve heard about elsewhere, but it has still led to a very uncomfortable few weeks of uncertainty, not to mention the hassle of filling out all the forms to apply for new roles, or in some cases our own existing roles, again.  For me, matters were not helped by the fact I can’t find a copy of my CV (being as I am a nitwit), so I had to do it all from scratch.   I found myself earlier this week laboriously working back through my entire employment history, listing all my jobs and my duties in each, in order to fill in an application form.  Given that I’ve done some fairly odd things in my time, the end result does look a bit as if I’m taking the mickey.  They can’t see many cvs that include a degree in Fine Art preceded by being a chef, an actor in street theatre, an artists’ model, a cleaner and a furniture restorer.  Plus a lot of retail work.  I even know how to clean vellum book-bindings, courtesy of my first-ever job in Canterbury Cathedral Library...

Anyway, off for my weekend of hauling and decorating duties.  By Sunday evening Mum’s place should be bursting with good things to eat and looking like Christmas at Dingley Dell.