Thursday, 31 December 2009

More New Year's Eve

Peter Jones was chocca with infants in prams being dragged around the sale. Seems there has been a sudden population explosion in Chelsea and au pairs are out of fashion. It was rather vile so we escaped into Patisserie Valerie and enjoyed a cream tea. Am becoming a very grumpy old woman.

Cabbed back home - the cabbie used to live in Perronet House and had a chance to buy his flat, but bought a pokey place in Tooting and has regretted it ever since. Had a quick sparkling wine in Lye Torng and came home.

No sooner than I had tucked into some leftovers and started soap watching than Dorothy rang to invite me out to Arbutus for dinner. By this time I had eaten far too much and the effort of staggering about in Chelsea had exhausted me.

I shall have to put my spare crackers away until next year unless I can rapidly invent a single person cracker-pulling mechanism. Closing a door on one half while pulling the other half? Tragic, really. I am tempted to dismantle the tree tomorrow, in advance of Twelfth Night.

I never managed to change the sofa covers, which are decidedly grubby, before Christmas. I am also inclined to take the arm off the sofa and put it on the other end. I could then slide the sofa back into a corner to the left of the doorway. Then the table would fit in where the sofa now is. Might make the room look larger. The curtains need to come down for washing and alteration too. but cannot get them down.

The retirement home beckons.

New Year's Eve


Here's the brooches. Those on the right are pinchbeck and the middle one on the left. I think the top one is 9ct and the bottom one, both with buckles, is 18ct. There are some very cheap ones due to arrive - one gold but modern, an enormous paste vintage one, and a collection of three pinchbeck from Ireland. Then that's it for the brooches. I always remember my mother's amethyst pinchbeck brooch which I coveted, and which disappeared without trace. She probably sold it or gave it away.

I will either meet Madeleine in Chelsea or she will come around here for a catch-up today. She always spends New Years Eve night at home, and will set off again tomorrow for the weekend.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Wednesday

I have been confined to barracks again. By the rain, which has been pelting down all day. Also sheer laziness.

The 'highlight' of the day was, after I had reheated some curry, the plate (vintage and obviously cracked) fell from my hand broke onto the floor, shards of china and heaps of hot curry spread all over. Realising that curry stains would not benefit my pale oak floor I did move rather faster than usual to sweep up the awful mess with a good result, but necessitating some new lunch. Good thing I had some roasted remnants in the fridge. I must remember to throw away those plates before there's another mishap.

Kook is very disgruntled - he has ventured out once or twice for a couple of minutes, but spent most of the day sleeping and being bored, poor thing. I am hoping for better weather tomorrow, but will have to wait in for redelivery of a parcel, which I hope will arrive early.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

New Year Soon

Thate was a bad snap of my brooch. In reality it is huge: about two and a half inches across, and very impressive. Will take more snaps.

I have purchased a few more brooches, some expensive and some cheap, but all large and fairly noticeable. The only ones I have avoided are mourning brooches, with bits of hair inside and dates and names engraved on the back. These seem a bit creepy as jewellery unless worn by a loving relation. Actually, maybe they should come back into fashion. I have to say I would not mind having a lock of my dear mother's hair in a locket or brooch in memory of her - a way of keeping some part of her close with me always. Ah well. Perhaps this trend is unlikely to return.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Tuesday


Yesterday disappeared rapidly without any help from me. Watching TV and eating some food from Morley the evening vanished too.

I have not been outside since Christmas Eve. However I shall attempt to get out, if only to bank Pierre's very welcome Christmas cheque and purchase a newspaper and coffee.

Just heard there's no congestion charge until 4 January - they kept that quiet!

Just tweeted about throwing pips away. Hoping for a palm forest in the garden. I have thrown away olive and cherry pips, date stones and avocado stones. So far, only two avocado plants have appeared, though I live in hope. I do fancy an oasis in my garden.

Seems my spotty face is not just from eating chocs - appears to be yet another form of psoriasis, pustular psoriasis. I do feel rather afflicted by psoriasis, but am in good company - apparently Quentin Crisp had it all over, poor thing.

My TV says we are in for another cold spell - my fire is on in anticipation.

Stuffed cheque in bank and had some soup at Lye torng. It is totally vile outside. But I have ventured out once more, wearing my large amethyst Victorian brooch. I have decided that these, and old citrines and cameos will be my fashion statement for the time being.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Sunday

I have been spectacularly lazy today. A little dishwashing, a little clothes washing, but never out of PJs all day and no newspaper. Strange. Have been watching iplayer programmes and TV and making a huge thing of soup by whizzing chicken and vegetables and gravy plus wine in the Magimix. Chestnuts have added a festive touch, and smoked paprika for a bit of a kick. Put about half in the freezer. I shall continue reading the Oldie annual in bed tonight. May have an early night.

Currently watching a Come Dine where they are bitching away in a satisfactory manner.

Dorothy and Julian have just rung and are turning up from shopping in town.

Boxing Day

Yesterday was Boxing Day, spent in solitary splendour, lying about, occasionally doing washing and a little clearing up, eating and drinking and mainly, watching TV. Purchased a biscuit tin on Ebay with tartan sides and a photograph of Eilean Donan on top. This is a very spooky place where people used to be buried. On my one visit to Scotland in the nineteen seventies I saw this place, and it struck me as rather sinister at the time.
It was a great trip to the Highlands and Skye. Apart from staying in a tent and being bitten badly by midges, we were lucky with the hottest summer for years, I think it was 1976. Scotland was hotter than London. For some reason, when we spent hours driving the huge distances between one town and another in the Highlands, the experience of being able to see for miles ahead was very relaxing.

God, the recycling people have turned up unannounced. Lugged my stuff upstairs. Julian keeps squashing things for me to recycle. I have tried to explain that if I were to seriously recycle I would need a skip outside the flat,so I have been doing token recycling. This is because the containers are so heavy and awkward for me that I am in danger of falling while carrying them up from the kitchen to take outside, so I don't put too much in them. Julian suggested I left them outside the front door, but this just would look dreadful and annoy all my neighbours. The hall, of course is too narrow to leave anything there. It would be better if I lived in a block of flats - they just have one large bag for all recycling, rather than these large ungainly plastic containers and separate bags for paper as well. I am quite glad they have come - different company of course because it is a Sunday!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Great Christmas Day

Best Christmas in ages.

Julian and Dorothy arrived and we started with a pandoro breakfast, as planned. Julian prepared the chicken, garlic, potatoes and onions and put them in the cooker - cooked with fresh rosemary, olive oil and masses of garlic.

We then relaxed with a drink and Julian prepared some snacky things: jamon, thinly sliced sausage, special goat's cheese with kind of quince, and two kinds of olives including my favourite Catalan arbequinas.

Later came the usual ceremony of opening presents - I did rather well with a painted Chinese stool/storage canister from Liberty's, a white pashmina and gorgeous scent from Romy, an Oldie Annual and some great DVDs from Madeleine, etc.etc. Dorothy had some fun with the fake drumsticks, which will prove huge irritation value. He was delighted with some specialty balsamic vinegars by Carluccio from Madeleine and Julian was very excited with everything. She had a very beautiful silk scarf from Madeleine, some Victorian silver bits from me, and a lovely Liberty's purse and some trendy Vivienne Westwood slipper things and other accessories.

We then settled down to dinner, followed by cake and tea. We were quite unChristmassy, in that we didn't have a conventional lunch, the pudding didn't get a look-in, and our drinking was very restrained. I felt somewhat OK today as a result, but the place is full of remaining food and drink. Hurrah for the freezer.

Dorothy and Julian will set off for the sales today, and Julian and I will take a trip to Gray's for a jewel hunt in the near future. Gordon Brown should be proud of us.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Have a Kooky Christmas


Well, here's the reprobate, looking for a fat bird and guarding his territory.

Julian and Dorothy will be late, but I have been instructed to prick the wrapper on the jamon and take the sausage out of the fridge. A bit peckish so have devoured the pigs in blankets. 3.30pm and not a single drink taken - time I started - first, methinks, a small snifter of Romy's present of Dos Pasos PX - my Christmas in a glass.

Christmases Past- Ou sont les neiges d'Antan etc.


Had a bit of toast and marmalade with Lapsang for breakfast. Did a fruit tray to put on the table. Julian and Dorothy are due at about 4pm for their breakfast so laid the table and placed the Pandoro on it - they will be having Pandoro and coffee, and perhaps some fruit.

Thinking about earlier and childhood Christmases, I always remember the lead-up to my childhood Christmas starting a week or so beforehand when, lying in bed, I would hear the carol singers going from house to house at night - very exciting. As a teenager I would go carol singing with the local church group. We were often invited inside larger houses to stand around the piano and sing before the family and guests, and were rewarded with drinks and mince pies. The strangest time for Christmas carol singing was in Trinidad, under the tropical sun and being offered glasses of non alcoholic eggnogg.

We decorated the house in England with holly and mistletoe after foraging in the woods, then put holly branches all around the house behind pictures and mirrors. Mistletoe was always hung in the hall to encourage kissing, and I do recall avoiding being dragged into the dangerous area of the hall. My grandmother also used to purchase rather boring coloured gummed paper strips which we would lick and link together to form paper chains, transformed into bold decorations when hung diagonally across the room, forming loops, also across the walls.

A Christmas tree would appear on Christmas Eve, and the evening was spent by the family decorating the tree. We would hang old-fashioned ladies stockings by our beds. Our Christmas lists had previously been written and held gingerly over the fire until they flew up the chimney then off to Father Christmas.

Like millions of other children, we tried to stay awake to see Father Christmas but the mystery of the large, knobbly stocking laying across the bottom of the bed in the morning remained. Bursting with excitement we opened these at a fairly ungodly hour, usually five or six in the morning. I always searched these small gifts of chocolate coins, sugar mice, jack-in-a-box, and various other toys, always with nuts and mandarins in the toes and topped with a cracker, looking for evidence of brand names, but never found any proof that they had been purchased locally. We then rushed to our parents room to show them our booty.

After that, sometimes we children went to church,then spent Christmas at home with my parents and sister. There were just the four of us, and my mother was extremely well organised. The decorations and tree were very elegant, quite a ceremony of passing and unwrapping gifts around the tree with a glass of sherry. Lunch was always perfect - usually very traditional and followed by the Queen's speech. We were encouraged to take a brisk walk after lunch, then it was back for tea with Christmas cake, and as I remember it, a pretty early night. Quiet, but very enjoyable.

The most jolly Christmases I remember were when, as a young married woman with a small child, I would spend Christmas with my parents-in-law. They had four children and Christmas day there was a very jolly, if chaotic event, with best dresses and lots of champagne. Visitors would call in the day and be offered a drink. Despite a late start to the day, somehow, with different people doing various tasks, between ten and fifteen people managed to fit in around the table for a very festive late luncheon.
After that, many drinks were consumed and quite often very silly games, such as Twister were played, where those old enough to know better became very competitive and the game was usually won by my mother-in-law, the most competitive of all. Oddly, even after my first husband became estranged from his family, I spent many Christmases there with my second husband, and this became a tradition for many years until my ex in-laws divorced and moved away. I do miss those times.

Crappy Christmas Morning


I awoke to the sound of a radio 4 programme about poets reading their poetry, and Kooky bleating to be fed. I struggled to ignore it all, but Kook became insistent, so checked the time: 6.45am. Staggered upstairs to feed the Kook, let him out and in again several times, for which he rewarded me by doing a huge poo in his tray which he thoughtfully left uncovered for my benefit. Maybe he thinks it is dirty to poo outside in the garden, or perhaps it is a Christmas present. I rapidly covered it with litter to dispose of later. Happy Christmas to you, too, Kook!

I then went to tidy the living room and move the table about a bit, before putting on my new colourful Danish cloth. Kook immediately realised that this was done for his benefit. He climbed up and ran around it a few times, clawing it up a bit, before reclining, sprawled out. He is giving me rather a baleful stare now.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas Eve

Apart from keeping until the next day, I think the Amarena cherries are the real secret to that tart. Must get some more. They are Amarena Fabbri cherries from Italy which I get from Ocado. However, I shall experiment with other fruit. I have some fresh blackberries. I am thinking of doing what I do for tarte Tatin, i.e. leave some large pieces of chopped apple about exposed to the air so that they dry up a bit, then making the tart with blackberry and apple. I only have dessert apples so I shall use those.

Done pigs in blankets, stuffing and made two tarts. Having a well deserved cup of soup. Not that it is very nice - described as 'spicy bean' or something.

Just about to watch the Tsarina's Slippers free on BBC2. Bugger, could have saved £100 if I had known. I would rather see it at home anyway. I suppose it can be seen on I-player as well.

Madeleine came around bearing gifts, and we enjoyed coffee, mince pies and cava before she had to venture forth into the evening. Then Dorothy and Julian turned up, bearing even more gifts and stuff for tomorrow. Having discovered that their fave restaurant was closed, and all a bit peckish, Julian first prepared some very good nibbly things before we ordered some stuff from Morley Tandoori, which was delicious. Rather a late night for me.

Wednesday 23 December

Successfully purchased a few last bits and pieces of groceries this morning. Had some Tom Ka followed by a Famous Five at Lye Torng. Read in The Times that Craigie Aitchison has died. I saw him a few times because we used the same framer but did not know him. I discovered the Bedlington terrier through his work. I have to say they are very cute, like lambs.

I shall make some stuffing tomorrow morning. I may well combine sage and onion with a little sausagemeat and some whole chestnuts. If there's enough I shall give some to Madeleine. Dorothy tells me that the experimental tart I made tasted much better on the second day.

Dorothy turned up, bearing yet more gifts and showed me how (I instantly forgot) to put vids from u-tube and single tracks on my blog so I have put one of Concha Buika's on my recent blog. Trouble is, it sounds dead tinny on the computer. Oh well.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Tuesday

Decidedly difficult morning, distinctly unwell but felt too ill to return home. As a result the achievement level was virtually zero, apart from a bit of envelope stuffing, chocolate stuffing from a huge box inconsiderately left in the main office and a couple of phone calls. On the other hand, Romy beavered away and by the end of the day had arranged another outing and sent out three lots of invitations to about 150 people before departing for a well-earned Christmas and New Year break. I slunk home in a cab, much relieved to be home again.

Kooky turned up to welcome me. Made soup with carrots cooked in chicken stock and smoked paprika with a little pasta. Fell asleep in front of the TV missing most of the soaps. I do hope I will be sufficiently recovered by Christmas. Tomorrow I must purchase some bread, tinfoil, custard, nutcrackers and sprouts. Then I shall clean the silver candelabras.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Last Workday Before Christmas

Julian came around in the evening, bearing gifts and special Christmas stuff. Fortunately I had just 'made' an experimental tart. I had bought a sweet butter pastry case from Waitrose, drained a bottle of cherries and chucked in, adding a drained little bottle of Amareno cherries which are so delicious, then beat two eggs into some waitrose custard and poured on top. I cooked for about an hour until brown on top. I let it cool a bit before serving. It was surprisingly good and Julian took the rest back for Dorothy who is not very well. I shall make this again. I think using less squashy fruit does help a bit. We had a cup of tea and Julian had a play with Kook before disappearing home carrying a huge bag of rubbish I had been intending to empty.

I bought myself a Christmas present on Ebay last night: a set of silver demitasse spoons, enamelled in bright colours, to complement my new coloured cutlery and coffee from my wonderful coffeemaker provided by Dorothy. Finally, I found a cuphook to screw into the front door and fix my pine wreath in place.

Work today, last before Christmas.

Monday Again

I am trying to force myself to go out. Not only is it bitterly cold (v. cold even inside wearing a cashmere jumper and with electric fire) but it is also raining in a desultory manner.

I cooked a turkey crown and have sliced it and put it in the freezer. Next I shall make some stuffing. No luck with getting wreath put on door, may search for an old cup hook and screw it in. We shall see.

For some reason I am very tired today and have done practically nothing, just huddled around trying to get warm. Fortunately three granny blankets have arrived today and this has helped a bit.

Tummy a bit dubious - I thought the sprouts at Roast were a tiny bit offish and it seems I was right. However, since I am rather starving I shall chance some cheese on toast and a mug of lapsang.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Great Music

Concha Buika and Chucho Valdes 'El Ultimo Trago' sound so fantastic. Such genius in a minor key, and what a voice! Having heard a track on the World Service I purchased the CD but have only just started listening to it. So far, the first two tracks - soledad, and sombras are my favourites. To me, she sounds like an older woman, but in fact she was born in 1972. The last track - Vamonos - which I first heard on the radio, is superb.



Today, I may venture up to Borough Market. I shall try and purchase a newspaper on the way, then find somewhere warm to have a coffee and a read. I may try and buy some greenery. We shall see.

Papers bought. Lunch (starting with coffee) at Roast. Very good roast beef etc, and excellent apple crumble for pud. Then purchased two half-price pine wreaths - asking Dorothy to fix one to front door. We shall see.

Nibby had the bright idea of covering the moth holes in my shawl by appliqueing things over them. Brilliant. Now just have to find suitable things, presumably flowers etc.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Freezing, Russian Shawls and Good Evening


The Russian shawls arrived today. Predictably, not as good as the shawl I had from Julian, but quite pretty. Was given a present of some mint chocs today. Had some more Tom Ka soup for lunch in Lye Torng.

Dragged the old electric fire up and this has warmed the place up a bit, in combination with keeping the bathroom door closed.

It has been icy cold all day, so I only got as far as Lye Torng and the postbox. Unfortunately I have to go out tonight to Ennio Marchetto at Queen Elizabeth hall. I am sure South Bank will be absolutely freezing. A Russian shawl over my coat may be de rigueur.

South Bank was freezing but there was a very good food market going on, so took a few snaps. Met Chris and Vic - really enjoyed Ennio Marchetto who has added several new characters to his performance and some Christmas characters, too. Afterwards we had dinner at Cotto. Victoria particularly liked Cotto as the proprietor apparently has to eat gluten-free food so she was able to have special bread and pasta. Home around 12.30 after a very pleasant evening.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Friday


Just made myself a fab coffee made using the Nespresso which Dorothy gave me. I used the Ristretto pod which is a very powerful espresso, but made it lungo with plenty of milk. Served in my pretty little china 1937 Coronation mug with a Waitrose organic ginger nut, I feel very content.

Have now purchased at least three granny crochet throws and probably about to purchase another. I may have to call a halt to these particular purchases soon, before my tiny flat is overwhelmed with granny blankets and Russian woollen shawls. Although not someone who is at all fond of soft toys, I do remember with affection some knitted teddy bears which we used to sell a while ago. I kept a bright yellow one, which looked really cool, combining a very traditional toy with brilliant modern colours. I rather fancy a Missoni kind of one. Shall search my favourite source, Ebay.

Although I have broken off communications with my ex, decided to send him a card with a couple of notes in for Christmas, since I know no-one else will. I just hope he doesn't mistake this for a resumption of frequent communication. Once a year is fine for me, at least.

Call last night from Romy, who is not feeling great. She had a very nasty sting while on holiday and is on powerful antibiotics for this, with significant side-effects. She may come into work next Tuesday, but I hope she will find time to rest and recover.

Revisited M & S, and purchased some odds and ends for Christmas: small stocking fillers and tealights. Also found a couple of cheap jolly hats in Claire's on the way back. Tom Ka soup followed by banana cake and ice cream at Lye Torng. An office party in there. Overheard: 'Well, I don't see what's wrong with sex in the toilet' and 'he was photocopying his dick'. Bon appetit.

Here's the Christmas lights over the road. A bit fuzzy, might try again some time.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Cold Thursday

Dear me, there was a bit of snow and some big hailstones today at one point. Went to Marks in Walworth Road. They were doing three for two on crackers, so bought them. Unfortunately they are making them so large that I was completely laden and didn't buy anything else there, which is a pity as there was so much to see. Never mind, I shall send one pack down to Brighton and keep the rest for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Back on the bus to Lye Torng, picking up a newspaper on the way. Had a very warming Tom Ka (chicken and coconut with mushrooms) soup, eventually followed by a chicken Pad Thai. I subsided on the sofa for the afternoon. I may go back tomorrow. Depending on the weather. I shall veg in front of the telly today. Have purchased two more granny blankets/throws from Ebay. More planned. I shall have a house full soon. But I will be warm, warm, warm!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Snowy Day


Weakened a bit and chucked a few decs on the tree. Managed to get to the shopping centre. Back and hips being annoying again, maybe the cold is the problem. Anyway visited the bank, had a coffee and purchased some wrapping paper. Spent some time wrapping parcels for Brighton. I shall do a separate container for the pudding, wine, chocs and pate.

Had a brainwave and invited Chris and Vic to Ennio Marchetto. Fortunately they are free on Saturday, and keen to go. It will be good to see them again before Christmas.

It has been snowing a bit today and is very cold. Vic just rang me up. Seems there is a similar act called Arturo Brachetti at another theatre. Sounds like someone much younger. I think Ennio is the only one who uses only paper and is called the 'living cartoon.'

Tomorrow I may venture to Marks in case Ocado forget the crackers. You can never have too many decent crackers. Still seeking a couple of lavender pillows/sachets.

Wednesday Morning - Damn Cold

I have to say I did not achieve much yesterday. Partly to blame was the enormous Christmas lunch provided by the Royal Oak in Tabard Street. I had melon, almost a kilo of lamb with masses of vegetables, and finished off with a huge amount of cheese. Romy had asparagus, turkey and pavlova. We could hardly stagger back to the office.

Predictably, neither Julian nor Dorothy want to go to Ennio Marchetto so I now have two spare tickets which I shall attempt to dispose of. I bought them only because Dorothy missed out through illness last time and Julian had quite enjoyed the show, but also there were so few tickets I did not have time to consult. At least they were not terribly expensive. I never learn. I would have dragged Madeleine along, but she is out of London for the weekend.

Since I am so cold in the flat I assume it is freezing outside. Must wrap up warmly today. I now hear there may be rain or snow. Great.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Monday

Staggered into Elephant & Castle. Forgot to post cards, remembered to buy make-up. Had a coffee and bought a newspaper. Downstairs, in a vacant shopfront, artists were painting elephants, each the size of a smallish cow, for an exhibition around London next year - unexpected bonus find at the Elephant. Had a chicken green curry at Lye Torng. Back home awaiting a delivery due today. It has arrived. There are tasting notes for all the wines, most of which will sit around for ages. I see that the prices for a case are about £7 - £8 per bottle and I have paid around £3.50 per bottle which seems like a fairly good deal. Mixed case of 8 reds and 4 whites. And there's another case 'free' which is where the deal comes in.

It started to rain a bit just as I left for the concert at Southwark Cathedral. I arrived rather early as I was concerned about all the roadworks, in fact one performer was very late, too. The cathedral looked lovely, with a pretty tree just outside. Saw some SE1 posters: Nomad and family, whose husband was signing with one of the choirs, and Plum.The concert, to raise money for Guy's and St. Thomas' was a success, though I felt very tired by the end, and ready for bed. It was much colder outside so I was glad to see my taxi arrive.

Monday Morning

There are so many rather irritating figures of speech and jargon today, such as 'blue sky thinking', 'glass ceiling', 'step up to the plate', 'bring to the table', 'take a view' etc. The latest I have come across is 'scope out'. The people using these seem in the main to be either business people or political apparatchiks. They seem to be trying to impress the listener or reader that the speaker/writer actually is familiar with those expressions and thus somehow rather 'au fait' or 'up with the times', rather than making their meaning clear. I don't know why I am 'rabbiting on' about this. Rant over.

I shall have to purchase some wrapping paper and tape today. And get some more money.

I recently found that a lovely Russian shawl Julia brought me years ago has been attacked badly by moths, despite all my efforts. I have purchased two more on Ebay, but they aren't nearly as nice. They will come in handy with the cold weather we are now expecting. I may bring my electric fire upstairs soon as the house is becoming a little chilly. I was doing a charity bid on Ebay for a Henry Holland Christmas stocking but was pipped at the post, which was probably just as well, financially speaking. The Gavin Turk one went for just short of £900, which, considering it was full of nice arty things was probably a bargain, in that the stocking itself was probably worth more than that amount.

Shopping for wrapping paper and so on today. Tonight concert at Southwark Cathedral. Tomorrow, work.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Sunday Later

haven't heard it called 'Brekkers @ Tiffers' before. Quite funny by Stephen Fry on Twitter. Kind of cuts it down to size a bit.

Great. The driver forgot to pick me up. Romy is diverting another driver taking a disabled theatre fan, but I don't hold out great hopes. I knew I should have taken a normal cab. Now it is pissing with rain. Ugh. Total cock-up - the driver picked up someone else, then me, then proceeded to try and find the last address. The show started at 3pm and it was twenty to. I told the driver to give up or we would be late. Called Romy to make sure we could get in the disabled entrance and made it just a few minutes after the show began.

Actually it was quite light and funny, very good singing and dancing and sets with masses of changes. Just the sort of frothy feel-good thing for the Christmas season and everyone seemed to enjoy it. The whole audience was very enthusiastic.

Hammersmith Birthday Dinner


Chris's birthday at Les Amis. We were amused. There were seven of us in the end: Chris and Victoria, Peter and Bunny,Caroline and Richard and of course, moi. We exchanged prezzies, wallet from Osprey for me and wallet from Versace for Chris, who also received some excellent wine and a wooden duck. We started well with a bottle of Bolly, then proceeded to an evening of general excess at Les Amis. How James manages to cook for about 21 - 30 people from a small counter and what looks like a domestic cooker I shall never know. The guy from Sensational in the Elephant & Castle was there with his family celebrating his daughter's birthday. After a most satisfactory evening I arrived home and went to bed around 2a.m., feeling rather weary. Caroline was due in the West End this morning to guide French punters around town. Fortunately she finished around lunchtime.

Long chat with Nibby about her projected visit in May.

I am trying to get organised to meet the punters at the Savoy Theatre today for Legally Blonde which I hope is OK since it was my suggestion. Oh well.

I do keep worrying about Madeleine's goings-on. Must give her a ring tomorrow. Then it's Southwark Cathedral tomorrow night.

Friday, 11 December 2009

SE1 Christmas Dinner


Kooky back on to Kit-E-Kat which he is a bit sniffy about. I am pretty sure though that the milk drops were the cause of his problems.

Dolled myself up and wore my red wig for the first time to the SE1 dinner. Hardly anyone recognised me and then people said how young I looked. In fact everyone looked great - Plum making a dramatic late entry in a very sexy red number, and Jac in a very glam top. The dinner was great fun, masses of food as usual at the Royal Oak and plenty to drink, though I was rather careful on both fronts due to previous dietary indiscretions. It was good to see everyone again. Boss St. Bloke on excellent form as was SaneJames.

Got home around midnight. Chris and Vic's dinner in Hammersmith tonight - onward and upward!

Friday

Friday morning. New incumbents turned up early and are upstairs.

Kooky vanished after his first breakfast snack. Hope he will come back.

A small present came by special delivery this morning. I have to say that Firebox are better than Iwantoneofthose in that their stuff is rapidly delivered. Also on sending an email to Iwant my laptop crashed. I ordered stuff six days ago and they haven't despatched yet. Hopeless at this time of year.

Oh dear, Kooky came back.I noticed he stank a bit - had a look and he obviously has awful diarrhoea. I called him into the bathroom and managed to clean him up a bit. He has obviously been pooing outside since his litter tray is clean. Back to dry food, then his old food KitEKat for a while.

For people who weren't moving in until the weekend, the new neighbours have been conspicuous by their presence. Currently in residence, new bed and GPO people having been.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

More Kookster

Kooky became a bit frisky again later. This time it was a stand-off with an entire tuxedo male at the top of the fence. I fired the waterpistol at the tux, who fled, hotly pursued by Kooky.

He's getting so bold.

Kooky Monster

Woke up at 9am. No sign of Kooky despite calling him. Put out his breakfast and went outside to hear him crying piteously. Thinking he might be injured, feverishly pulled down Julian's makeshift fence and knocked the nails flat with a stone in order to try and coax him through - no result. Sticky feeling in slipper - had stepped in crap - great - then Kooky appeared atop another fence, unable to jump down so grabbed him forcefully. Kooky fine, my slipper covered in crap. Score: me 0 Kooky 1.

I don't mind him becoming adventurous providing he can get back where he set off from, i.e. my garden. I can see years of cat rescue ahead.

On the plus side, purchased a very pretty and subtle English Eccentrics silk square on Ebay.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Wednesday Evening


It was considered that the bike rack should be removed before it could be used so Dorian dashed over and had it off in a jiffy. Just as well because less than two hours later one of the new incumbents were heard in the hall, later to be joined by the other. I somehow felt slightly under siege. However they did not ring my bell but wandered around upstairs, probably considering where to put their furniture.

Had a long chat with Madeleine, and agreed to meet before Christmas. I have a few other bits and pieces beside the pudding for her to take down to Brighton. We pledged to make a visit to Tate Britain in the New Year.

Kooky has taken to lying on the floor in the corner behind the tree, like a little black fox, one yellow eye staring out at me. He occasionally plays with a branch, but mainly lies there having a wash.

Watching a programme about Russian art. Had not realised that Peter the Great stayed at the diarist John Evelyn's house in Deptford. And basically wrecked the joint, vomiting into the flowerbeds and having drunken wheelbarrow races, shooting the locks off the doors etc. Such larks!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Moving Neighbour

After glancing at my last post, I feel I should be investigating care homes for my next move, but I saw a programme last night about these and decided to forego that particular thrill for the time being.

My neighbour is moving today. Yesterday they were packing and the hall is full of boxes. One of the men complained to me about being hit by the bicycle, which is still in the hall.

8am. The men are here thundering up and down the stairs. I hope the bicycle doesn't injure them too much.

He has finally moved. Had lunch in Lye Torng where I met another neighbour. Nice guy. Came back in a bit of a hurry with Delhi belly, and my cleaner has been. I had better starve for 24 hours since I have to go out to dinner on both Friday and Saturday nights. Not to mention sit through Legally Blonde on Sunday. Ah, and the office lunch on Tuesday.

The Opera Experience

Well I tried. Not helped by my not wanting to go to the theatre. But I put on a black velvet dress and pearls and set forth. I went to the loo before wandering around the champagne bar area, deciding I didn't fancy champagne.

As I walked away toward the lift I became uncomfortably aware that my skirt was hitched up on one side, rather less becomingly than the girl in the TV ad, but hauled it back down with one hand in a nonchalant way.

I later reflected that being 17 stone and 68 years old, and even worse, wearing knee-highs did not help the situation, particularly since I had wandered around for some time, unaware of any 'looks' from the assembled opera-goers. Years before, I would have rushed home in embarrassment. Toughing it out, I took my place in the audience.

It was at this point I discovered that wearing a velvet dress with a cross-over tie front and sitting on a velvet seat is a total no-no. I became somehow stuck to the seat in an uncomfortable position. The opera was quite amusing, but I was deeply uncomfortable, my dress somehow glued to the chair. I sighed with relief when the interval came, and getting up to leave, I realised that my dress had slightly come apart revealing the right-hand bra cup (fortunately black like the dress). I rapidly tied the dress up as I left and decided to go home at once, rather than tempt fate further, particularly since I had been forced to take liberal quantities of Imodium that morning.

Pouring rain outside but I managed to get a cab. I have never been so glad to get home. Deary me.

I bet the second act was absolutely brilliant.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Tuesday

Further disaster in that I have been up half the night feeling quite unwell. I shall struggle into the office this morning, but my evening out at the Royal Opera House is in peril. I am desperately trying to think of anyone who could use the ticket. Julian probably wouldn't fancy it. Since I have the ticket at home it might be difficult to get it to anyone. Bad reviews haven't helped. Oh well, I shall take it into the office with me just in case anyone there can use it. I was really looking forward to it, but it is a long performance and I don't think I could sit through it. Things may improve during the day. I shall stuff myself with medication and hope for the best.

Kooky is being a little strange. He appears not to have used his poo station for a couple of days. I can only hope he is pooing outside. It is rather unfortunate that he is venturing outside the garden because he is in more danger of being attacked or run over now. Still, it is his natural instinct to wander.

Monday


Here's another snap of the tree taken with flash. The base definitely needs attention. But there's plenty of time for that.

Kooky disappeared over the fence climbing along the plants on the other side of the fence by an empty property. I called him and he climbed along, but not far enough for me to grab him. I saw him in that garden about an hour ago but when I called him he walked away. Texted Julian and Dorothy. Trouble is that the weather may become much worse and he won't be able to get back. He is such a monster!

Spent an hour or two trying to coax him in then gave up. It was raining a bit, and beginning to get dark so went out once more. After abandoning that attempt I went downstairs and found him laid out on my bed. I picked a couple of nasty thorn things out of his long fur, otherwise he seems no worse for his experience, if a bit tired.

Made another banana cake today to use up some bananas and froze most of it. Kept a little for Julian and Dorothy. Dorothy may pop in for a few minutes later.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Surprise Present and Fake Tree



A wonderful surprise - a beautiful white orchid arrived via Interflora from Catriona for my birthday this morning. Had lunch at Lye Torng and Louise came with me to the framers and carried back my paintings to the house. People are so kind.

I don't know what possessed me, but I dragged the huge box containing the fake tree upstairs. I had quite forgotten that it was a huge six foot job, or that fake snow drops off everywhere. It came in three pieces with a stand. I spent ages unfolding the branches, spraying 'snow' everywhere. When I finally stuffed it into a corner I got the huge set of lights out and draped them over it. Unfortunately the tree had less fake snow on by this time, so I should have purchased lights with green rather than clear wires. Oh well. It looks quite pretty lit up. The main problem is that the plug is hidden well behind the tree, low on the wall. For quite a while after I first turned the switch on, I had frightful pains on the left side of my chest, a bit alarming, but presumably caused by twisting myself up to do this. To turn them off I managed to use a stick. I think what I actually need is a short extension lead which I should purchase today. I still have to tidy the base up a bit and perhaps find a star or fairy for the top.

It really is a bit early for a tree, but it is all part of the effort to generate some enthusiasm about Christmas despite the depressing goings-on with my old and new neighbours. I am quite cheery about the puddings at least.

The Chorizo Phenomenon

Merguez was the spicy and delicious sausage we ate, grilled, in Algeria in the nineteen sixties. Although you can buy this in England, much more common is chorizo, the Spanish sausage. Chorizo can be hot or mild, the distinctive flavour coming from smoked paprika. I had always known it as a cold meat, thinly sliced, but today's preferred chorizo is like an ordinary British sausage, sliced and fried.

I have noticed recently that not only I, in my casseroles, make liberal use of chorizo, but that chefs seem not to be able to avoid it, particularly when making starters. This morning on the cooking programme on BBC, someone suggested fried chicken livers with salad and chorizo. It is frequently served with scallops, but its use is spreading like mad. We shall see if it soon takes over the world as a cooking ingredient. I foresee chorizo salad, chorizo soup, chorizo stew (I claim this one) and maybe a rather disgusting chorizo ice cream. Not to mention numerous combinations of chorizo with everything else. I dread finding some in my Eton mess, though it may prove an interesting addition to the traditional English breakfast. Hmmm.

Bike Saga, Puddings and Paintings


I replied and told them that I would be very unhappy to have a bike in the hall, even temporarily, and that health and safety was important to me etc. No reply yet. Dorothy felt I should consider litigation, but I don't think it has yet come to that.

I am quite proud of the puddings. They are much paler than most Christmas puds, but smell absolutely delicious. I probably chucked some extra whole almonds and glace cherries in, and added the juice of half an orange as well as the brandy.

Had a call from the framers. The paintings have now all been gathered together and are ready for collection. I am looking forward to seeing them, though I shall have to store them for a while. After Christmas I shall continue with my clear-out, then decide where to hang them.

Friday, 4 December 2009

More Friday

Contacted Dorian, who felt that I should send a short reply emphasizing the health and safety aspect and saying that I was unwilling to have a bike in the hall for any length of time. I said I was sorry they appeared to have been misled since somewhere to park the bike had been a major reason they had purchased the flat. So I sent the reply. During all this I finished cooking the Christmas puddings and made a loaf of walnut bread.

I am now cooking a stew. Chopped up onions and bacon and fried, then added chorizo, then stock, tomato puree and chopped carrots and mushrooms. Will add some celery salt and later, some brown lentils.

The Christmas puddings are very pale because I forgot to add some treacle, but smell fantastic.

Difficult New Neighbours - Before They Move In!


I am extremely annoyed. It looks as though my neighbours are going to be at least as troublesome as the one moving out. Now I get a weaselly reply to my email, suggesting 'we talk about it when they move in' and asking to use the bike rack for the time being. Apparently somewhere to put a bike had been a major part of their decision to purchase my neighbour's flat. Here's a snap of the hall, just over 36" wide, with the bike in situ. I know it was my fault for letting my neighbour use it (supposedly temporarily) in the first place, but it has never stopped causing problems for me.

My original neighbours were so nice - considerate and kept themselves to themselves - plus the husband mended my bath taps when broken.

I am far too easygoing as a rule. This rule must now be broken, and I shall have to tell these people that their suggestion is totally unacceptable.

Friday Morning


Julian and Dorothy arrived, bearing gifts: some gorgeous Chanel eau de toilette spray, some nut and toffee turron, which I shall keep for Christmas, and two very cute little fairy toadstools covered in felt from a very trendy Barcelona shop (above, with my flowers from Sharon and Alan). These will be placed under the Christmas tree.

We had a very good dinner at Applebees, complete with puddings and coffee before coming back to my place for a while and playing with Kooky.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

More Birthday

Can't remember if I mentioned my embarrassment yesterday when Romy announced my forthcoming birthday to around 80 punters yesterday - followed by singing and applause and cards and gifts handed to me as we rejoined the coach later!

Dear me. Well I have finally succeeded in turning the mattress with some difficulty. I have removed the mattress topper which is huge and ungainly. Anyone want one of these memory foam things? I don't think it will cram into a black bag. We shall see.

The charity shop people have removed everything except the memory foam thing. The man said his van needed some work but he will collect the mattress topper when it is ready and will contact me - great!

Had to send a rather shirty email to my prospective new neighbours. My current neighbour, rather than removing his bike rack from the hall, used it as a selling point and promised to leave it for them without telling me! I have pointed out to them that bikes in the hall were only ever a temporary arrangement with my current neighbour, that their storage even with the rack had caused problems for me, that it would invalidate the house insurance and was a definite fire hazard. Not quite the way I was hoping to start with new neighbours.I really blame my current neighbour for all this. He must have been desperate to sell! Romy saw the bike in the hall yesterday and said it was definitely out of order. Both Julian and Dorothy agree. In fact Julian tells me that when my neighbour replaced the hall lights (and I paid half) he put fittings in which are practically impossible to obtain bulbs for, which I had not realised as Julian had been seeking out the bulbs. Just as well he's leaving. I hope the new incumbents are not going to be difficult.

Amazing - a huge bouquet has arrived from Sharon and Alan. Sharon is my 'new' sister in Newton Abbot. What a lovely surprise! I must say I am more accustomed to sending flowers than receiving them. Fabulous.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Birthday Today

Hmm, I don't feel more than a day older than yesterday. Opened Romy's present: a fab calendar with shoes. These calendars are such fun - last year's one was bags. Romy has given me these kind of diaries before, and I keep them at the office - it is quite exciting to see the next day's bag. Shoes will be fab, as they have shoes from every period, and some of the most modern-looking turn out to be from the nineteen twenties.

Going to Applebee's tonight. Meanwhile I shall have a busy day tidying up and doing washing etc. I may even get down to doing the puds. I shall ring the charity people to see if I can get rid of the boxes, to leave the room clear for my tree. I bought some new lights for this at Polhill.

The Polhill trip was very successful. Two coachloads of people. We purchased another wheelchair while down there which came into immediate use. I bought an electric fly zapper shaped like a tennis racquet and a cat alarm thing recommended by Romy, which I hope will see foreign cats off before Kooky starts chasing them. The lunch was very good indeed and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. The weather which had started well became pretty awful with torrential rain and lightning, but happily we were indoors, and the rain kept off while we piled back into the coaches. Just before, we discovered there were some real reindeer, and Romy dashed off to snap them. Very Christmassy.

Romy off to Spain for a little while and me back to the office for a short day next Tuesday. Otherwise we will meet again at the Savoy theatre for Legally Blonde.

Told Kooky it was my birthday today. He was completely unimpressed and just demanded more breakfast.

Naughty Kooky

Day in the office yesterday, but managed to purchase basins and the rest of the pudding ingredients so shall make the puddings in the next few days. Off to Polhill today. Kooky has been causing trouble this morning by leaping about on the fence seeing foreign cats off but is finally back safely inside the house. Must see if I can find him some catnip drops today at Polhill. Might also find an amaryllis. Dorothy rang to say they had been unable to book a table at either Wild Honey or Arbutus. After some discussion we plumped on a choice of either Roast or ?Applebees (the fish place) in Borough Market. We shall see.

Dear me, I shall be 68 tomorrow - how very OLD. Never mind, as Dorothy says, I shall only be a day older than I am today.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Better Night - Kooky Confused

Slept at the other end of the bed and consequently slept much better last night. But Kooky was very confused: he kept jumping on and off the bed and could not decide where to sleep. Finally he settled down at the top of the bed on the other side.

Made another clove orange while watching TV last night, and the cloves are all over the floor this morning where I spilled them. What a 'sloven', as my grandmother used to say. I have four boxes full of charity shop stuff, and five black bags full of packing rubbish from my many purchases on the floor. Since people will be moving in and out over the next couple of weeks I shall stop my charity shop collecting and ring the people to take my boxes away, and meanwhile get rid of the black bags so that I can concentrate on Christmas matters for a while.

In the office today, and tomorrow Polhill Garden Centre with the punters for a Christmas lunch and a bit of shopping.

Bad Night and Good Card


Bit of a bad night tossing and turning. Slept very little. Pain is so boring. On the plus side I heard Charlie Gillett's world music on the World Service, and as a result have purchased a couple of CDs: Concha Buika's El Ultimo Trago from which they played Vamonos, and Yasmin Levy's Sentir. Lovely music. Anyway must somehow get the mattress turned which may well help, since my bed in Hayling was much better. If that fails, i shall have to purchase a new mattress light enough for me to turn over.

Received a most amusing card for my forthcoming birthday from my brother Michel. It looks like the cover of an art magazine with my photograph put in - another Moonpig special - clever boy!

Still no pudding basin because of the pouring rain. Every intention of getting one today but looked outside and it is still pouring. Kooky is very cross with me, having had to stay in for so long.

This is a painting taken from a snap of Annabel at the wedding last year.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Rainy Weather, Bananas, Ham and New Shoes


Absolutely hissing down outside. Kooky is very cross with me. He still thinks I am controlling the weather and wants to go outside. He sneezed five times a couple of days ago which worried me, but seems fine otherwise and has not sneezed since. Whatever he had I now have as I have been sneezing a bit this morning. Feels slightly like a mild cold, or the beginning of something worse.

Opened a kitchen drawer yesterday to be confronted by a large bunch of terribly overripe bananas, almost worth throwing away. However, I made a sponge mix and added about six of the mashed bananas. Put them in a loaf tin in the oven at 170, turned down to 150 and cooked for an hour or so. The resulting banana loaf was very good, so ate a couple of slices and cut up the rest for freezing. I also boiled a joint of bacon and sliced for dinner last night with broad beans and potatoes, then sliced the rest and froze for Christmas. Bought a pair of 'granny' shoes - lace-ups with little heels from a granny shoe supplier called Hotter (above). They are a great success and remind me of the shoes my great-aunt Joan wore in the forties when she worked in the city. Of course Joan was as thin as a whippet and dressed like a 'fashion plate' as they used to call it, but never mind, my feet will look good anyway!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Deary Me!



Found these in a catalogue - seems they are now known as 'nostalgic characters'. Another thing not to purchase for Christmas.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Flood part III

Not yet purchased pudding basins. Three plumbers arrived: Dom the boss and his two henchmen. Dom issued instructions and explained he had managed to find a very solid-looking metal drain thingy. They fitted this and all should (cross fingers) be well. Just in case I made them put a biscuit tin underneath so I would hear if the water came out and rapidly put the plug back in the bath. Things airing out downstairs nicely and I shall wash all the towels.

Had a very good lamb shank Massaman at Lye Torng for lunch which forced me to lie unconscious on the sofa for an hour or two this afternoon. A quiet evening vegging out in front of the telly beckons.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Bath Saga part 2

Plumber finally appeared this evening. After a while he discovered that a kind of black thing which has a screw through and is supposed to go between the drainpipe and the hole has come apart. It is made of some kind of rubber or plastic and is supposed to stay rigid but is broken. The parts seem to be very inferior, but apparently it is some kind of standard thing no doubt designed by a plumber to go wrong and keep them employed. God knows when it will be fixed.

Julian emailed to say it was a cake they had purchased, not a pudding. They are taking me out on my birthday to Arbutus - something to look forward to. Ordered pudding ingredients from Ocado so will make puddings probably on Sunday, but must purchase a couple of pudding basins.

Dull Day

Noticed that these days, when I get a nasty shock such as water pouring through the ceiling etc., I become very breathless and feel very faint for a considerable time. Must be old age.

Had a chicken green curry at Lye Torng. The place was crowded with students and tutors from LCP. Gave Louise some liquorice fudge, a candle in a glass and a book which I thought she would like.

Julian rang yesterday to say Dorothy had some kind of 'flu. Also to say they were purchasing a Christmas pudding. Will save me making one.

Plumber may or may not turn up later. We shall see.

Three hours later. Plumber is avoiding my calls. Not optimistic. May not have a bathor shower for weeks, so avoid.

Third Bath Disaster

Took today off - trying to catch up on my leave. Disaster - had just got up the courage to have a bath a few weeks ago, put the side back on the bath, and lo! this morning heard water raining down into the studio. Again. This is the third major leak. Have tried to mop up a bit in a desultory fashion but the drip continues. I had put a plastic dish under the previous leak area and taking the side off the bath, this is completely full and dripping into an adjacently place plate as well as going through the ceiling. If only I had placed a biscuit tin there instead I would have heard the water coming through. I now wish I had never had the bathroom redone. I spend more time worrying about it than using it. Under normal circumstances I would just buy an old fashioned bath with old fashioned taps and drainage but all the piping has been redone for this modern bath with central drain which just keeps breaking. I give up. No reply from the plumber - probably gone skiing.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Tuesday At Home

Nobody could accuse me of doing too much today. Have spent a totally indolent day finishing my latest Marie Corelli novel 'The Sorrows of Satan' written very melodramatically - so Victorian, but a real page turner for an oldie like me. Done two loads of washing and tidied up a bit but masses still to do However, I have ordered most of my Christmas cards, personalised and to be sent in the next couple of days, so even earlier than usual. A couple of address changes need to be checked on, but most of this is now done, so less to worry about. I just need to carry on decluttering over the next few days.

Have been thinking about the funeral Romy attended today. Someone everybody will miss badly. A sad day.

Dorothy and Julian back from Spain and I am back to work tomorrow, but just for a day, since I am owed so much leave and need to take some of it by the end of the year. I hope the cleaner, who is due tomorrow, doesn't leave the flat in such chaos as last week, with her glasses left behind, lights left on and the internet disconnected. Fingers crossed.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Personality Test - You Should Try It!

Just done the BBC personality test thingy. Seems I am very high on openness and slightly high on neuroticism (surprise, surprise). I have medium likeability (oops) and extroversion and low conscientiousness (dead lazy). Surprised by the open bit as I am often quite suspicious about people I don't know, and some of those I do. Note: must try harder to be conscientious and likeable. Hmmm. Tall order with both.

Well, I am enjoying being dead lazy this morning, so there. However, I have done two loads of washing and made some bread.

Just reading about a famous philosopher ?Greek ?Roman, who only had two chairs in his house: 'one for me, and one for a friend, when I find one'. Might have been Socrates. Answers on a postcard or comment, please.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Mince Pies

Not keen on these either, but saw a recipe by Richard Bertinet in the Times mag today which involved making sweet shortcrust pastry cups, making a frangipane topping with 200g butter,200g caster sugar,200g ground almonds,2 eggs and 50g flour, rum or brandy. Half fill the pie bases with mincemeat and top with a teaspoon of frangipane and finally some flaked almonds and bake for 25 minutes or till golden brown. Allow to cool in the tin, then on a rack and dust with icing sugar when cold. Sounds like my kind of mince pie, i.e. not too much pastry. In fact I would put a little less mincemeat in as well.

Christmas Pudding Recipe

(just in case I can't find it again).

2 eggs
brandy
grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
2 oz warmed Golden Syrup
4oz hard butter grated
4oz self raising flour
4oz demerara sugar
2oz grated carrot
4oz fresh breadcrumbs
8oz sultanas
8oz raisins
2oz peeled almonds
2oz glace cherries
half teaspoon mixed spice
half teaspoon cinnamon

mix all dry ingredients then butter then everything else, stir well put in greased pudding bowls cover well and steam for at least four and a half hours. Then another hour before serving.

I sometimes replace the raisins with more sultanas and leave the cherries and almonds whole which give the puds an attractive look when eating. The syrup can be halved and mixed with a bit of blackstrap molasses or black treacle to darken the pudding. This can be made and used immediately but equally well kept for a year or so. Oh, and the sugar can be halved and the other half replaced by Barbados sugar.

I may have put this recipe in last year. It has always proved an extremely successful Christmas pudding, and tends to appeal to people (like me) who normally can't stand Christmas pudding.

I serve it with brandy butter and cream. It is my mother's wartime recipe. She used to make a frothy warm sauce involving cream and sherry to pour over it.

Frog and Devil Bath Hats



'Nuff said.

If I plough desperately through the dozens of catalogues which fall through my door, apart from never finding a suitable present for anyone, I can only ever find about one thing, at most, in each catalogue that I would like or could use. Somehow though, there are masses of absolutely vile and useless things, unless I am just particularly picky.

Elephant Watering Can


Dear me.

Tennis Racquet Photo Frame


Another daft design.

Dorothy and What I don't Want for Christmas


Couple of texts from Dorothy - late for the plane, Easyjet vile and difficult so paid a fortune to go via Ryanair to Girona then bus to Barcelona. BA in future, says Dorothy. Then another text thanking me for my text which had urged them to try and relax for the weekend. Unfortunately Julian flew out a couple of days before. I think Dorothy needs Julian to manage to get to the airport in time. Do hope they are flying back together. Nightmare.

Above is a policeman's helmet teapot. I know no one is giving me a present, but in any event this is a definite no-no.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Friday

Dorothy was a bit crabby on the telephone and seems awfully touchy, so hopefully this will improve as they are having a weekend in Barcelona, where the weather is much better than here, apparently.

Bought some new warming pad things at Bluewater which get very hot. When they cool down you have to boil them up again in a pan of water to make the gel go totally transparent,and then you can use them again. Bought three little handwarmer sizes for a tenner on an introductory offer.

Cooked a warming lamb stew with chorizo and sweet potato. Chucked in a few sweet potatoes, onions, tomatoes, garlic, seasoning, and served it with a cauli I cooked separately.

Success at Bluewater

I was dreading this a bit. In the event we were fifteen less on the coach, which seemed to make it all more manageable, so Romy and I staggered off and it was quite enjoyable. As Romy said, the secret to not getting exhausted seems to be to take frequent rests on the way round. We had two breaks at the food bar at John Lewis - the first for seafood and wine, and the second for cheese and wine. We shared a platter which was sustaining without being excessive. Some success for both of us in Evans, we both purchased some excellent toffee vodka - this sounds vile but is actually delicious. Apparently one can pour it over ice cream or serve it with apple juice, which makes it taste like a toffee apple, which definitely appeals to me. Romy rounded the last few stragglers up and kindly made a couple of purchases for me which I had failed to achieve, for which I must repay her.

My Christmas and birthday treat this year will be to go to the Tsarina's Slippers at the ROH. I think it is really a children's show, but visually very spectacular which is what appeals to me. It was difficult to get a ticket online but finally found one for the last night. Very expensive, which is why it is my Christmas and birthday etc. so something to look forward to. The price and dearth of tickets have made me sensible and only purchase one ticket this time. The only alternative was a box - and even when feeling at my most extravagant, £500 seems rather a lot to pay for an evening's entertainment.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Tuesday



Fireworks at Hayling.

Simon is still selling stuff, but now mainly theatrical ephemera. I remember our days when I was his shopgirl at Ally Pally where we had huge fun. Simon would slope off to do some buying, and I would man the stall. Then I would go and look around - found a wonderful fake Hermes scarf there which I adore - and we would sell stuff and share snacks all day. I really enjoyed selling there. Simon had some collectors who would tell him what they wanted and he would scout it out in his travels around the country. He specialised in 20th century ceramics. I remember plenty of very stylish sixties Fornasetti, some lovely glass, some Poole, and basically lots of great stuff.

Just back from meeting Madeleine in Chelsea. She certainly has a lot to deal with at the moment. We shall have to try doing something diverting some time soon. The Builder's Arms is a very pleasant pub and quiet early in the evening.

Had some pea and ham soup with home-made bread. Shall watch a programme about Nicky Haslam which will probably irritate me beyond belief. We shall see.

I hate to say this, but I did rather like Nicky Haslam. He was a cute little guy, and with the most enormous energy. I had always thought he was about 100, but seems he was born in 1939, making him about 69 or so.

Bed time.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Good News from Old Friend

Had a chirpy email from my old friend Simon (actually quite young - but then anyone is, compared with me). He sold his London flat just at the right time and now lives on the outskirts of Stroud with wonderful views, he tells me. He is keen for me to go and stay there. He seems to be involved in masses of G & S productions. I do remember going with him to a wonderful Mikado production on London some years ago, set in the 30s which was just fantastic. He is acting, but keen to direct, so I hope this happens.

Mortality and Triviality

Rather sad to read about the death of Winifred Tumim, who used to be a member of the Community Health Council in Hammersmith many years ago, when I ran this. I have obviously reached that time of life now when I read of people's deaths. That is the third in so many weeks. I remember Winifred as very cheerful,smart, and a very effective member of the CHC.

It is very dull today. I am taking tomorrow off and will meet Madeleine in Chelsea in the early evening for a quick drink. She is bearing up despite very negative pressures at the moment. Have been collecting some family snaps for her.

I have been very badly darning some mothy kind of holes in a patchwork blanket - one of my less successful ebay purchases. It looks as though it belongs in a gypsy caravan, along with two other crochet square blankets I also bought. Fortunately the other two are made of some synthetic wool so haven't attracted moths in the same way. I don't really know why, but I verge between absolute minimalism, everything all white or beige,plain silver cutler, and absolute maximalist kitsch, Laguiole cutlery, etc etc etc. What I need is an absolutely enormous house to play with, instead of a two bedroomed flat.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sunday Evening

put a whole lot of snaps on my iphoto. Can't find them now! pity, but that's the mystery of iphoto. Actually, they are physically there, but don't seem to come under any of the roll titles.

Call from my friend Vic who wants me to dine out at her favourite place on 12 December to celebrate her husband's and my birthdays. I shall ask Dorothy and Julian, but I somehow doubt if they will fancy it. We shall see. Seems the place is so popular at this time of year it needs to be booked now. It is actually quite good fun. I shall be going to Legally Blonde at the Savoy for the matinee on the Sunday, so won't be able to drink too much or stay out too late.

Having rather a quiet time so haven't got much further with decluttering. I shall be taking Tuesday off, which hopefully will help. I am owed 19 days leave at the moment and shall attempt to take some of this before Christmas. I have been feeling very tired indeed, and need to catch up on my rest. I may have overdone the decluttering and staying up late at Hayling Island. Also, more importantly, I have neglected my painting altogether, and need to do some more.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Sunday - Better Weather


After making a clove orange, which I shall dry out on the windowsill,(above, next to another orange covered in beads) had lunch at Lye Torng: chicken green curry followed by banana cake with ice cream, delicious. I shall doze away at home for a while then see if I can do a little more in the house.

Not Very Caturday


Pool of water just inside back door where the wind has blown it through the dog flap. Just had a hailstorm complete with thunder. Kooky is most distressed at being kept in by the weather and wants me to do something about it, occasionally mewing at me in a hopeless kind of way, then flopping out on the floor, disgruntled at my lack of cooperation.

I stayed in all day yesterday, and looking out, may do the same today. I need to have the sleeves shortened on a couple of coats, but will take them in on Monday.

Braved the stormy day to collect a paper and have some strawberry Pago at Lye Torng. Ordered some stuff from Ocado which will arrive tomorrow. Making bread, tidying up a bit and doing washing. May make an orange cake for Christmas. Have boiled the oranges anyway. Kooky most put out about the weather, which shows no signs of improving. So far. Watched some of the Lord Mayor's Show on TV. Above is the mayor and his wife, Mrs. Anstee.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Caturday

Absolutely pissing down with lots of wind all night. Even got a little cold in bed once or twice. Which made the rain seem closer and quite exciting.

Less exciting was the touch of postural hypotension caused by getting up when I staggered about rather insanely for a few seconds before steadying myself. Kooky took some interest in this spectacle and crawled to the edge of the bed to observe the show.

Madeleine rang last night having read of my mishap and offering to accompany me to hospital if necessary in future. She too is having a bad time, as is the whole family, with her sister's very serious illness. She is travelling down to see her today. I hope she is careful, driving in this awful weather. We are all very worried just now, and trying to find ways of coping and helping. I do wish I had a car at times like this, though since I have not been in touch much over the past few years, feel reluctant to appear intrusive at this stage, and it is probably better to communicate through Madeleine, who is keeping me posted.

Unwelcome A & E Visit and Friday 13th.

After a normal day at work I arrived home, fed the cat, and rather early, reheated some coq au vin and started eating this while watching TV. Suddenly I started to feel very dizzy, my sight became a bit odd with a slightly cross-eyed effect and I had a feeling of numbness inside my head. Panicked a bit, before gingerly turning to locate my bag with my mobile in it. Carefully and rather unsteadily walked to sofa and phoned 999. Felt very nauseous and rang Dorothy, who arrived in about ten minutes at the same time as the ambulance. Some tests were done, all normal apart from a fast heart rate but the men persuaded me to go to Tommy's.

Big mistake. On the plus side, sat next to Dorothy for the longest time in ages. 'Good to have some quality time' Dorothy said, which made me laugh. It was carnage in there - but eventually managed to have an ECG, blood tests etc. Persuaded Dorothy to go home after four hours to have dinner. Immediately someone sat next to me and commenced farting which was not great, and just after he left was replaced by a poor old man who had shat himself. Dear me.

Then the drunks started arriving. At one point there were almost as many police as hospital staff. Eventually seen by an exhausted young doctor who did all the physical tests and said I should go home and take it very easy and rest up for a few days and see my doctor if anything recurred. Of course by this time the nausea which had been quite bad, and the dizziness etc. had all worn off so I felt a bit of a fraud. I suppose it was six hours later.

Julian collected me in a cab and went home, so I was glad to drop into bed. I think that if I feel very ill, next time I shall just lie down at home and hope for the best!

Had an excessively long lie-in after feeding Kooky at 7.30. Listening to radio 4, then surfaced for tea and toast at 10am. Feeling very decadent. Have not missed much since it is peeing with rain outside.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Wednesday and Thursday Morning

Very odd. It has happened a couple of times. The water suddenly stops flowing when I am running a bath. If I turn the tap off, and go and turn the kitchen tap on then off, then turn the bath tap on again, it starts again. Since I have the heating on at this time of morning I wonder whether it is related somehow? strange.

Dreaded meeting tonight. Stayed awake half the night drifting in and out of sleep listening to the World Service. Seem to remember some interesting programme about art.

Thursday morning - Julian forgot to feed Kooky so he was somewhat ravenous when I turned up at 11pm. Meeting rather better than I had anticipated. Very tired this morning though. The cleaner had been yesterday: when I arrived home a light had been left on, there was a pair of her specs in the bathroom, my computer was disconnected and for some reason the washing machine, with the door open, had been turned on ????????? I think she is on another planet.

Tuesday

Funeral of old friend today. Very sad. Fortunately not invited, so not too bad.

Back to work again and got stuck in slightly, but did not overdo it. Working is not ladylike, a friend assures me. I have never been considered to be ladylike in any way apart from this one. Oh well.

The two cabbage serving dishes supported by lobsters arrived today. Julian turned up last night and was somewhat bemused by the asparagus serving dish. Julian changed several light bulbs so I can see more clearly.

There's a meeting tomorrow night, so Julian will feed Kooky. I am dreading the meeting. I can't stand them but fortunately they are only once every two months. The cleaner is coming here tomorrow so I am trying to clear up beforehand a bit. Changed Kooky's litter box so he immediately christened it with a gigantic poo, the little monster.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Fun and Frolics at Hayling


'New Year's Eve' at Hayling. A good time was had by all.

Now back from Hayling. Kooky pleased to see me and is rather more capable of getting in and out on his own. Done piles of washing, opened mountains of post, including a large parcel containing a rather strange thing. It consists of a long ceramic tray with painted asparagus, then a dish with lid shaped like a large bundle of asparagus. A small serving spoon. I ordered this from Ebay because it looked so curious. Not absolutely sure what it can be used for. It might make a vegetable dish at dinner or a not very large container for asparagus soup. Dear me, I just don't know where to stop. Maybe after I have purchased the serving bowl on Ebay shaped like a large square green cabbage held up by four lobsters in the corners. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Sunday before Hayling

Packing and unpacking. Can't decide what to wear.Pissing with rain and very windy outside. Absolutely vile. Hope it improves during the week. Large bruise on my arm following 'flu jab.

Kooky keeps falling asleep on the windowsill, then suddenly dropping off onto the floor with a huge thud. I have now put a table with a cushion in front of the windowsill, hoping this will break his fall next time.

I do hope he will remember how to get in the catflap while I am away. He seems to get out when he wants to, but somehow he doesn't find it easy getting back, so sometimes he stays out all day, mewing pitifully to be let in when I get back from work. Let's hope he will be OK, especially with all this bad weather. Perhaps Julian will look in on him a few times. I still feel guilty going away and leaving him.

The Chairman rang up this morning to say that our previous chairman had sadly died. He thought we should send a bunch of flowers to the funeral on behalf of the trustees. He is going to discuss this tomorrow morning.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Household Trivia

Freezer appears fine this morning. Just put my fake orange,lemon and lime slices back in to refreeze. Had scrambled egg with a lot of cheese on toast for breakfast with a Queen's golden jubilee mug of Lapsang.

I need to buy some bleach and do more washing, then I shall tackle the prawn dish later on.

Kooky still hasn't got the hang of the new hours and started torturing me at 5.15am. Must feed him later at night.

Well, I have now cooked the prawns - not very exciting, and attempted to bleach the tops, a partial success, now washing them ready to hang up.

Had a chicken green curry at Lye Torng. It is Hallowe'en, and the shops are full of masks, skulls, ghoulish make-up etc. I may well be the only one at home watching the X-factor tonight. We shall see. Perhaps Simon Cowell's fangs will be showing.

Pre-departure Panic

Family Britain is proving to be a bit of a hit. Having quotes from so many sources certainly brings history to life - so it is a bit of a page-turner. Definitely a good buy. I must not let it prevent me from getting ready to go away. I need to sort out the catfeeding note and putting the food and bowls handy, find a case and pack it etc etc trying not to leave the flat in a complete mess before I go.

Today, I shall tackle some washing, which will be a good start. I may also defrost the freezer. We shall see.

Hmm. Since the freezer door won't close decided to defrost it. But I have lost the instructions and the top drawer is frozen solid and iced up. So I turned it all off and am hoping for the best. Propped door open and taken two drawers out. What a ghastly mess it is. Have managed to get the top drawer out and put some towels inside to start soaking up the water. Now finished and turned on again. Had some excellent chicken soup from it. There's a huge thing of prawns which I shall cook tomorrow with butter, garlic and onions and maybe some tomato puree before refreezing.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Finished work for the week and funny CD

last day at work this week fortunately - the hotel kept ringing up about the rooms - they thought we had too many - then the hamper company wanted money upfront - then my bank told me I had too many accounts (2) and should not use my debit card to purchase goods online. I am waiting for them to publish this advice. I may have to change my bank from Lloyd's TSB to a less nosey bank.

To cap it all, my Bob Dylan Christmas CD arrived. True he does sound like an old drunk, but I quite like it, seems rather appropriate to the season. I think that the problem is that Dylan fans are a bit po-faced and lacking in humour, which is why it seems to have upset them. I suspect this CD is a bit of a send-up judging by the colour and the snap of the backing musicians inside. Not to mention the pin-up Christmas girl on the interior.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

'Flu Jab Day

'One of those days' at work. Several odd calls including one from the Charity Commission whingeing about not having received our Annual Report which is not due until the end of the month and which we emailed on 21st - they are both hopelessly inefficient and excessively bureaucratic. Romy forwarded them yet another copy. I was glad to leave early to have my 'flu jab. Surprisingly no long queues in the surgery. A history 'lite' book arrived today. Family Britain 1951-1957 by David Kynaston. Not normally interested in history, but this is peppered with commentary by ordinary and well-known figures of the times. It's a couple of inches thick, so will keep me quiet for a while.

Romy thinks my Midwinter 'riverside' design china is vile. She prefers the rather jazzy Zambesi design we had at home, but it costs a lot and is very hard to find now. I remember also rather loathing the riverside, but I do love the 'fashion' shape, and have grown rather fonder of riverside recently. It looks very good on my white table. I suspect it would also look good on a brown linen cloth. We shall see.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Back to Work in the Rain Today

Medical matters: using Etrivex shampoo for the first time today. Reading the leaflet has put me off using it for a couple of weeks, but the psoriasis has become so bad I have decided to take the plunge. Strange stuff. You have to put it on dry hair thinly, then wash your hands carefully before leaving for up to 15 minutes then washing the hair. Apparently you should not let it get anywhere else on the skin in case it is absorbed. Perhaps because it contains loads of steroids. A bit worrying. Still, needs must.

Decluttering has slowed down a bit, but still continues. The good news is that I found my hairdryer after several years.

Seems I shall be going to Hayling Island since my neighbour can feed Kooky. I shall see if I have any clothes left to pack.

Saw Julian last night, who came to play with Kooky and is thinking of going to the Damien Hirst thing at the Wallace Collection. Helpfully, she changed the clocks which I can't reach so I now have the right time everywhere.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Vanity, etc.


Just wrote to the 'Dear Mavis' column in the Oldie with some advice for a foolish old dame contemplating eyelash extensions. Basically, don't. I had some done quite a few years ago when less overripe, but despite asking them to put shorter ones on, I ended up looking like Barbara Cartland with spiders around my eyes. I had to wear sunglasses for a week. These are definitely for drag queens or young women.

These days I just use mascara which dries very quickly so you can layer it a bit and thicken the sparse eyelashes that way. For the oldie, best use brown rather than black. Less obvious. I still recommend drag queen glasses in black with diamante from Opera Opera (as above). Though slightly Dame Edna, they are fun to wear to parties with a black dress.

New Week

Dear me - the Government is going to give careers advice to seven year olds. Mr Gradgrind comes to mind. Maybe it is a well intentioned effort to indoctrinate children whose parents and grandparents have never worked with the idea that they might one day have a job. Hmmmm.

Last night on X-factor the Cheeky Boys triumphed again. A not too bad girl group were ejected. They didn't perform well under the pressure, poor things. Louis is a crafty cove, but a pity he didn't make more effort with the girls and less with the boys. That wasn't going to happen, though.

Either Julian or my neighbour will be feeding the Kookster the week after next when I go to Hayling Island. The term 'dumb animal' might have been invented for him. He keeps getting stuck outside, but can in fact get back in again. If my neighbour looks after him I shall ask Julian to come and check on him now and then. If he stays in Julian's flat that particular problem will be avoided.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Wonder of Google



I found this among some old rubbish in a flat in Spain. I use it on a key ring. On Googling it I discover that it is American, patented in February 1903, and probably intended as a souvenir of the World's Fair in 1904. They are real coins with pushed out heads. Known as a 'pop out' coin watch fob consisting of a quarter dollar and two dimes from 1903. Designed by Charles Barber in the 1890's and made of silver. Worth over $100. A Barber dime from the first year they were circulated is worth thousands of dollars and is the most expensive coin in America, since only a few were made. However, a quarter and two dimes from 1903 as above, if not popped out, would be worth up to $400. We live and learn. Would make a good key ring fob for an American numismatist.

and this:



My back wall. The Virginia Creeper will soon fall off now.

I always feel a bit sorry for myself at this time of year. Thank goodness for Kooky who keeps me amused and wakes me early every day. Fortunately the sun is out this morning which might cheer me up a bit. Nibby wasn't there when I rang this morning. A shame because I do look forward to having a long chat with her on Sundays. I shall have a long, luxurious bath, and contemplate doing very little today. Kippers with toast and marmalade and Lapsang for breakfast. I shall also await the X-factor with bated breath, though I have a sinking feeling that the Irish twins will remain.


Nibby rang me. She had been chatting with Ru. She is now only working four days a week instead of five as she is so exhausted all the time. She has sold another little painting and is still working on her commission.

- and this

Autumn Arrives



Like this

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Very Quiet Saturday

Very quiet day packing up more bits and pieces. Lunch at Lye torng - this time I had chicken Massaman - very good too. Watched episode 1 of Star Wars, the Phantom Menace.Excellent.

Shall veg out and watch telly all evening as usual. I can't bring myself to get back to painting. I am hoping that this will happen soon. I may have to force myself at first.

It's strange. The phone hardly ever rings, but when it does it is someone trying to sell something. I would get rid of it but I think I need the land line for the internet. And I suppose it is cheaper to ring my sister once a week in Oz than on a mobile.

The weather was awfully drizzly this morning but improved in the afternoon in time for my delivery from Ocado. I had forgotten they were coming and bought the Times, then a free copy arrived with the shopping.