Monday, 31 December 2012

December's chitchatting

I forgot to mention in November when we were toing and froing to the post office with Ebay stuff to post that, over here, you can get free packing boxes and envelopes from the post offices. You pack in these and the weight doesn't matter. They have a fixed price for mailing so, sometimes, it is much better value than boxing and mailing stuff the usual way.
Sadly for teeny tiny stuff with low value like doll house stuff they aren't much use.

December for us seemed crazy busy as I suspect it does for most other folk.The first of the month and still in Naples we were doing the usual running around finding gifts and ordering on line and loads of trips to join the ever-extending post office queues. We were also squeezing in pick-ups from the library as I had ordered a stack of books for researching the new dolls house project. I have a lot to learn about American history. Fortunately the North v. South fracas is well documented. Domestic life at that time also got recorded almost by default but proved useful to me as there was a lot of primary evidence such as photos and diaries from that era.

Part of our library pick ups was the three versions of the Little Women movies - the 1949 one always being my favourite, I think. I did weaken and bought the 1994 version for the iPad as I thought it looked a bit more accurate in terms of house and clothes etc and actually had some scenes in the kitchen which the others seemed to lack. With an iPad it is easy to watch the movie and take screen shots as it goes along so I collected a lot of visual references for the project.

On the 6th we visited what purported to be a refurbished cinema. This was our old local when we lived in Queens Park and it was always fondly known by us as the flea pit and that was twelve years ago! We have been there off and on many times since so we were excited at the prospect of seeing its new face. The bits we saw hadn't changed an iota. I guess they have added in larger and 3D screens but not in the theatre we were in - same old slightly smelly arena. It was fine though and the movie - White Christmas - was a joy. When I saw it advertised I realised that I have seen this movie for countless Christmases here and in the UK, but I had never seen it in a cinema. So here it was in all its 1954 glory. We ended up nattering to the a very nice couple in front of us in the theatre and came out to discover we were parked next to each other, so more nattering ensued.

I have come to the end of my series for Wentworth for the DH&MS magazine but I submitted another piece on our California trip that Lucie says she will be using. She has also offered me a lot of future work which is very pleasing in all sorts of ways. I love dollhousing and love writing about it and certainly love getting paid for it.

The permanent saga of my hair and how I hate it continues. On the 10th I had it permed, having sworn three years ago (the last perm I had) never again. I do think the result is a cross between my mother and the queen but even when I don't like it, I do like it better than not liking my straight hair! No-one has commented about it, not even my daughter, so either it is too hellish to be able to say anything about it, or it just looks the same to them or, perhaps perish the thought, they just aren't interested in what my hair looks like.

I started our UK packing to go home by completely filling a 50 lb, 28'' suitcase with Christmas decorations. It is unlikely we will ever be in Naples for Christmas as we now have to flit back and forth every 90 days to comply with visa restrictions. All the indoor stuff we have accumulated here duly crossed the Atlantic to join the three trees and all the stuff we already have in the UK. We live in a tiny house and I like subtle, not OTT so when I came to do the decorating it was like going round a store the size of Lewis's and trying to select the few bits and pieces I wanted. Hard to stop yourself....

We have been talking about getting new sofas here in Naples for three years now and we saw an advert for what looked like the right one at the right price. Off we trotted to Rooms to Go and bought two sofas. Our old ones were picked up by our neighbour's nephew which was great - hopefully it was good for them and it saved us scrabbling around trying to get some charity to do it PDQ. The new ones arrived a couple of days later and I don't like them. I have always found buying furniture a nightmare - what you see in the store is never what arrives in your home. The size is perfect; we measured every inch of the old ones and knew what we wanted - that's why it has taken three years to find something to do the job. The colour just isn't right and the fabric surface flattens when you sit on it and doesn't recover. Hopefully RTG will be taking it back - not a lot of hope, but we'll see.

I hope the same two guys pick them up.  It was the best free entertainment we've had in ages.  There was one huge guy and one really skinny guy.  Skinny did nothing but mess with his electronic gizmo.  Big chap hauled each wrapped sofa, complete with cushions, in turn off the back of the truck and up-ended it over his head and carted it from the car park and up the stairs into the apartment.  This photo looks as though two of them are working on it but I assure you this was just a bit of a wriggle to get it round the bend of the stairs.  Big chap is the pale blue blob UNDER the sofa.

Mid-month and the next of our regular Christmas markers fell into place, we were off to the excellent (free) Orchestra and Chorus Christmas concert at the high school. As it says we get an orchestra, a huge chorus and some remarkable hand bells thrown in for good measure. It is always a good evening and lifts the spirits and implants more festive thoughts.

A couple of days later and we were winging our way home. We had a bit of an interesting trip in that there was a medical emergency on the first plane and a peanut allergy warning on the second. We did wonder if it was the same lady. She was just across the aisle from me. It began with her buzzing a cabin steward and saying something about not having her oxygen with her (?!) She did look a tad blue - they gave her an oxygen cylinder, did the movie thing over the tannoy about is there a medical person on board? She seemed fine. We then speeded up and went straight into Atlanta, no flying round in circles waiting to land for us. We were asked to stay in our seats so that paramedics could get on board to assist the lady. Three of the hugest men you ever saw were there as soon as the doors opened, kitted out like something from ghost busters. If it is any comfort to nervy fliers all I can say is I have never seen so many staff move so fast up and down the aisles - not actually doing much, but fussing a lot.

Our second leg of the journey was uneventful, just crucially boring. Believe me on overnighters I crave a medical emergency - preferably mine. We got into Manchester at half eight in the morning as usual. This for me means no sleep for a day and some. I went straight to bed and slept from ten until three but then I got up fighting fit. Besides the chores that cried out for doing, such as opening three month's mail (!), finishing the Tesco food order, unpacking etc. I also managed to put up all the Christmas decorations.

The next morning was an early rise which was lucky as our cleaner and our Tesco grocery order both arrived early ... and together. This was fine for us and we were soon in fine fettle for being home again. I was so happy. I can't tell you how nice it feels to be back with all your proper 'stuff', looking out of your kitchen window at your wintery garden. Delicious.

We did a quick flit round the shops the next day to complete our Christmas prep - four red candles - you would not believe how hard they were to find - could have smelly ones, tea lights, pillar candles up to my armpits - four red candlestick candles....not so much. Well done the ever wonderful and ever cheap, Wilko! Sometimes I get the feeling I am straight out of Dickens.

We met our secret seven plus one for lunch the next day at The Lounge, Ramsbottom. I had made eight crackers with M and M's in them along with a dollar shop gift, plus banger, motto and hat. I took these with me to make the table festive. I needn't have bothered as they were a bit upstaged by the real McCoy already being provided. It was one of our nice busy days with chums; my friend came over pre-lunch, someone Ken helps with his computer dropped by for a session and Phil and Sue came back to ours for a while after the meal.

Next day was a two minute walk across the road to the Community allotment - known to me from now on as the lotty - to choose my plots and pick up my key. That was really pleasing and I can't wait to get stuck in next year. We celebrated with another meal out, this time at Summerseat so I could also spend my one pound voucher. We are pensioners, you know! The truth is that cheese pie was calling Ken - loud and clear.

Yet another meal out the following day at Smiths; one of my favourite eateries. Ken and I had been to see White Christmas at the Lowry that my little friend had arranged for us. She also then gave us a lift to the theatre from her flat to save us the trouble of parking and then collected us after the show to go to Smith's. All this in the pouring rain - she is a trouper and a great mate. Almost forgot to mention the 
for-the-interval bag of choccies tied up with ribbon that she gave us.

We decided in our infinite wisdom to food shop early on the 23rd; my theory being most folk are too idle to get up early on a Sunday and it would be frantic on the 24th. How wrong can anyone be? Tesco was just heaving. I had seriously had enough in under ten minutes and was furiously ringing Ken (no chance of actually finding him in the melee) to say enough is enough. Not picking up??? By the time I found him he had done a chunk of his list, so we were committed to finish the chore. I know I bone on about wanting to be back home but at times like that and then in the ensuing traffic chaos, it makes me understand Ken's point of view. We have NEVER been grocery shopping in Naples in a rugby scrum, not even on Christmas Eve, and a two minute traffic delay there is considered untenable.

Then it was Christmas Eve and all was calm. We popped over to Phil and Sue's for tea and home-made mince pies and picked up some cardboard!

Christmas morning and our first job of the day after breakfast was to take the cardboard to the lotty to lay it on the beds. Merry Christmas lotty. Back home, unwrap gifts and a choice of stuff for lunch. No Christmas dinner in our house - first time ever in my life! We opted for chilli - first time ever in my life! which I promptly burned - first time ever in my life! I always cook for four so there was enough to salvage a meal and we both found it funny and were happy with our lot. We had a delightful totally stress free day - first time in my life! How can you have a better Christmas?

Boxing Day was equally relaxed and, like a return to childhood in my case, it was a play day. I spent all day messing around with doll's house stuff.

The next day made up for the quiet. We met Ken's daughter and his son and wife at noon at The Eagle and Child for a very pleasant lunch. Richard and Charlotte came back to our house for a while and quite literally as soon as they left Phil and Sue stopped by. Then, amazingly we said goodbye to them only to see Stuart and Sally arriving.

Ken and I were up for a second meal (big surprise) and we four had a terrific curry for dinner.

The next day the 'kids' went off to the Trafford Centre leaving us oldies to our peace and quiet. I suppose it is quite a building and worth seeing - truly a cathedral to retail - cherubs and all.

We had a zillion plans for the following day and we all agreed to ditch them all in favour of a wander (drive not walk!) over the moors and see what we could see. We ended up lunching in the newly refurbished Fleece Inn at Ripponden. Absolutely great - nice place, good food.

The next day my daughter's visit was, as always, too soon over - it is even worse when we are about to decamp back here for three months at a time. We had a good brunch at home and off they went. I filled the rest of the day with distractions like putting away Christmas. There is a ritual to this which must be obeyed. A couple of days before putting it all away I swear I will do it carefully and properly so I don't have to untangle lights and garlands next year. The other part of the taking an oath ceremony is that I will make absolutely sure I don't discover the bit I forgot just after all the boxes have gone back in the loft. Do I need to type any more? I shoved everything into any box they would go in any old how but I did very carefully check every room for a sign of a malingering decoration as I do every year. I gave Ken the all-clear and the minute the loft door closed I discovered the very dainty little garland I had hung from a dresser handle. I married a superstar - back he went....

The carpets were hoovered and we looked all spic-and-span for the new year.

The decoration suitcase got filled (literally) with stuff for working on Hillside in Naples - no way am I doubling up on tools and kit I already have even if it means lugging one case full of stuff back and forth each trip. Ah, the joys of our peripatetic lifestyle.

New Year's Eve was as social and party-filled as our Christmas Day which was more than OK with us. We did have lunch with our good chums P and S back at the Eagle and Child. We had set off for our regular stomping ground - Park Farm - but it was closed. Ken and I returned to the last of the packing and getting ready for an early start back to Naples the next day. We saw the New Year in on the telly like old folks do.

Can't believe nineteen something has disappeared let alone manage to have reached the thirteen of the the twenty. Do you remember how odd twenty sounded at the millennium, now nineteen something sounds like 'history'.

I truly hope anyone reading this has a wonderful 2013 and it becomes a year to remember for all the right reasons.