iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
I wish you a hopeful Christmas,
I wish you a brave New Year,
All anguish, pain and sadness,
Leave your heart and let your road be clear.

I Believe in Father Christmas (Greg Lake)

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
We're done, that's it, the fat lady has sung, the stapler has stapled its last. No more work in 2008.

We visited my family in Yorkshire at the weekend and spent a very good time surrounded by lots of people, many of whom are unlucky enough to be related to me. We had a nice meal in Beverley, the place of my birth (not that this was relevant to the meal) and came home laden down with presents.

All presents are now bought, the meal is planned, and the house is in a state vaguely resembling neatness. We did the big food run to the supermarket yesterday and survived unscathed1. Although my brother's poncy southern palate2 is now so refined he only has a chicken in case of "emergency" (i.e. failure to buy a goose) we've settled on a nice fresh free range chicken (or "happy chicken" as Janet calls chickens that have been allowed to gambol with the lambs and roam in vast herds across the serengeti.)

We're doing the quiet thing again this year, so just my brother-in-law over for the big day. With Janet's diabetes we have to be a bit careful about Christmas snacking, but the meal itself should be fine with judicious application of wholemeal bread and a bit of common sense3. I did sit and watch both Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver cooking Christmas things the other day, and aside from an overwhelming desire to slap both of them hard around the face I was amazed at how unhealthy their Christmas dishes were. Apparently Nigella believes that you have to coat all vegetables so liberally with maple syrup that they must emerge from the oven tasting like toffee apples4. I'm currently researching recipes for roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic as the amount of sugar in the supermarket toppings you can buy is ridiculous. Janet is currently making her surprisingly tasty sugar-free chocolate cake (using Splenda).

Then it's Chr2stmas on Boxing Day when my parents-in-law are doing us a meal.

To get you in the mood -- for what is unclear -- you can hear Tom McRae doing a version of White Christmas over at his myspace page. Nowhere near as depressing as the suicidal version of Wonderful Christmastime I posted last year, but acceptably mopey Christmas fare.

--
1 Barring a large hole where my wallet used to be.
2 :-P
3 Sadly our common sense is stored at the back of the cupboard and went out of date in 2006.
4 Also she was flirting with me quite embarrassingly. I think she has a crush on me, poor thing.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
By popular request (okay, [livejournal.com profile] ajp): our Christmas tree, looking rather more magenta than usual due to a new set of fairy lights this year. As usual it's a smörgåsbord of elements randomly flung together in the hopes that it will all look beautiful in the end. It's nothing special, but I love having all the lights off and just a Christmas tree for illumination.



While I'm at it, here's a picture of our garden taken in the hard frost just before last week's snow. Everything was white, wintry and crisp with several days' worth of frost. This windfallen apple had been feeding the birds for weeks.



Bigger versions behind the click.

Engage

Dec. 7th, 2008 05:00 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
Today we pressed the big red button marked Engage Christmas! Infernal Christmas Engines thrummed into life. Somewhere, deep within the bowels of the earth, Elves stirred from their slumbers.

Our Christmas Tree looks very pretty. We vary from year to year on whether to put the tree up this early, but we do enjoy the build-up to Christmas far more than the wind-down so we want our hit of Christmas reasonably early -- particularly since we don't have any time off work before the main event this year. An impromptu drive down our street showed that a reasonable proportion of houses already had a tree up in their front room or porch. The research is in: it's Christmas.

Most but not all of our pressies are bought and wrapped, and we're slowly accumulating festive foodstuffs to tide us over the long hard winter a day or two of intensive snacking. As always given my wife's diet-controlled diabetes this involves much research into low-sugar alternatives to things like mulled wine, Christmas pud and other desserts. We have a reasonable selection of these, including a spicy sugar-free cake made with Splenda that Janet really likes. She's researching custard tarts at the moment.

Mmm... Christmas...

By 'eck

Nov. 22nd, 2008 10:23 am
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Default)
By 'eck, it's bloody freezing outside. We just went for a walk in our local park to kick through the Autumn leaves, and my ears are now cold enough to conduct high energy physics experiments. It was very pretty though. It would have been even prettier with a dusting of snow, but despite some nasty sleet yesterday the Met Office have otherwise failed to deliver on their promise of heavy snow this weekend. I try not to meddle in the affairs of the Met Office, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

Pixie was found at the bottom of the bed this morning in a bemused state with her cat collar hooked under one armpit. Quite how she got onto the bed while hobbled is anyone's guess. I dutifully rescued her, and she seems none the worse for wear. Our other cat Charcoal has one of those break-away collars, but Pixie still has the elasticated kind which was barely long enough at full stretch to cope with this latest escapade. We may have to remedy that. Also at some point I'd like to see documentary footage of a cat inserting its leg under its collar as it appears to both violate the known laws of physics and constitute an impressive stage act.

I haven't been posting or commenting much this week as lots of busy Things are going on, but I'm still here, honest. Now that we're back in the warm my main plan for the weekend is to do some Christmas shopping. I know it's a few weeks yet, but this time last year we'd nearly finished. This year we've barely begun. We've opted not to take the week before Christmas off as holiday this year, but take the week after New Year off instead. Working in HE we're fortunate to get the Christmas and New Year period off anyway, so with an extra week that'll add up to a good long break. Our first in quite a while.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
Had a fantastic trip back home to Yorkshire on Saturday and Sunday. We had a fine pub meal, chatted lots, and then went for a country walk on the Sunday. Said walk turned out to be considerably longer and colder than anticipated, especially when the low sun didn't reach our little valley and a freezing fog descended, but we did survive long enough to reach the cars. It did afford an opportunity to see some beautiful frosty scenery, take endless photos, and feel Christmassy. Some pictures via my facebook here.

This was nothing compared to my brother-in-law John's canoeing trip down the River Tweed on Saturday, however, which looks more or less like he was ice-breaking through the Northwest Passage. He's posted some spectacular icy photos here.

All of which does make me feel slightly better about the lack of snow for the festive season.

Last night we boozed and played the not-at-all-festive Unreal Tournament 3 with John and another friend of ours, and today we cooked our finest Christmas meal to date, i.e. nothing went disastrously wrong and it was all more or less ready and warm at the same time. I was given plenty of cool presents including a big trilobyte fossil, Absolute Sandman Vol 2, and a Wii light sabre. More importantly I got to watch everyone else open cool presents too.

Now we're Wii bowling the afternoon way before Doctor Who, and feeling slightly too full of food, chocolate, wine and coffee.

Burp.

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
Today Christmas officially began. We're on holiday until 2nd January, we have all our presents bought (or at least ordered), the house is decorated, and several batches of cards have been sent. I even managed to get a proper holly wreath for the front door. Phear my l33t Christmas skillz.

It helps that while snow is notably lacking, today our garden was in the grip of a hard white frost of the kind that leaves the blackbirds pecking fruitlessly at soil which has the consistency of concrete. Our little pond was entirely frozen over, as was the bird bath, and everything looked very beautiful and very wintry. I felt so sorry for the small birds hopping around this desolation that I went out to break the ice and add some new fat-feeders to the ever growing number of peanut and seed feeders and hanging bird tables that festoon our apple tree. Fortunately for the birds we've been very lax this year in tidying up the windfall apples and the birds seem to be making a feast of them--either that or they're benefitting from the various insects and worms that are making a feast of them.

In fact it's been absolutely freezing for the last few days, with the kind of wind that makes it difficult to stand still at pedestrian crossings or bus stops without fidgeting from foot to foot. I know this because we went out for a christmas drink with Janet's office last night and the walk there and back was bloody nithering.

Anyway, to get you in the mood here's a little festive tune. Because nothing says Christmas like Tom McRae being a miserable drunk. I'm currently downloading carols from iTunes, something I've been meaning to do for a couple of years. Janet's enquiry desk at work has been playing Christmas pop tunes on endless repeat, and so to preserve her sanity the house has been declared free of any hint of Band Aid, Aled Jones, Wham or Slade. Carols however can be tolerated. Although I'm an atheist there's something about the sound of church choirs singing traditional carols that really gets me in the mood for Christmas. I'm sure it's partly the result of all those Midnight Masses at our local Catholic church when I was growing up. When you get right down to it what is that fuzzy Christmas glow if not nostalgia for all those childhood Christmasses?

iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
Christmas dinner good. Not as stuffed as normal. More room for snacks. Mmmmm.

Presents also good. About fifteen new DVDs plus books about language and other cool stuff. (Including whisky that's 61.5% proof! I keep expecting it to spontaneously combust.) Me happy. Lots of lying around vegging with christmassy music and telly, and even time for a quick Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes which was excellent.

Doctor Who really rather enjoyable. David Tennant splendid and the right side of OTT. No plot to speak of but a nice second series pilot, and some pleasingly dark bits in amongst the running gags. Preview of season 2 = cool.

Now, must return to guests. And beer.

Randomness

Dec. 7th, 2005 10:07 pm
iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Christmas)
Some random things floating through my brain today:

I've just joined the 21st centurybought a USB cable to connect my Motorola mobile phone to my PC. I know it's nearly Christmas but, er, it was cheap and I wanted it now. (Now, dammit!) Am very impressed at its coolness and entirely frivolous ability to transfer photos on and off my phone. So very shiny. Now I just need to find a way to use the opening of the Firefly theme as my ringtone.

Seen on Sunderland newstand today: "DEFENDER RETURNS FOR CATS". Sadly the story does not, as I'd gleefully imagined, concern a footballer hurriedly running off the pitch having forgotten to feed his cats.

I'm not saying standards have fallen at the BBC in recent years, but tonight's episode of Rome was described by the (female) continuity announcer as "...girl-on-girl action in Rome here on BBC2".

David Cameron may have out-Blaired Tony Blair at the ballot box, but it appears to have caused Maggie Thatcher to actually turn in her gravehairdresser's. She's "feeling faint", apparently.

The Radio Times have foregone their typical Christmas cover of nostalgic bygone days of yore in favour of, yes, a nostalgic Tardis in a snow globe. Plus there's a competition where you can own an actual Dalek. (Until it commits suicide because the Christmas turkey has tainted its racial purity.) It must signify something that Doctor Who merits higher billing than Christmas, I'm just not sure what. At least it wasn't an Eastenders cover.

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