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Delights in December

Rather belatedly as I have had that hacking cough for what seems like forever and I’ve had a very severe case of self pity as a result. However here are the things that cheered the last month of 2016 for me.

I am always delighted when the Pullman is in Victoria Station in the mornings. I saw it three times in December because they run special trips. I’m even more delighted when they use a steam train but that is a very rare treat. I dream of one day  going on a trip myself but I’d need to save. You can often fly to New York for less. But it makes me think of Poirot and those lovely Mabel Esther Allan travelogues and the Chalet girls heading for Innsbruck.

December is the only time it is socially acceptable to eat chocolate before breakfast so I love my Advent calendar especially as it was a glorious German chocolate marzipan one. I’m clearly ageing though as I found I preferred my small treat after dinner rather than before breakfast. My smallest niece who happily rose ar 5:30am for her choccie would be disgusted with her Auntie.

I love visiting the Christmas market at Southbank it makes me feel properly festive. This year I went there three times to meet people and enjoyed the atmosphere.

Then there’s all the special Christmas reading. This year I saved Christmas books especially for December. There was the lovely PD James Christmas compilation which new. A Christmas cosy crime and the old favourites like Christmas with the Chrystals.

I had a splendid afternoon and evening wandering in Oxford with L. I adore the covered markets. The old fashioned fruit and veg stalls never fail to delight me.

Then we met H for cocktails and our annual dinner at El Shami. I have developed a taste for Singapore Sling cocktails.

Vladvent a one off special event held by another H. It involved the delights of pizza, gossip and a glorious Tarte Tatin. 

I took big niece to the Southbank Christmas market and let her choose a Christmas book in Foyles. This was obviously a serious business.

I attended my friend S’s choir Christmas Concert.

My parents returned from sunning themselves in Florida and we celebrated with a delicious family curry at the Star

Mum and I watched White Christmas, ate pizza and drank sparkling pink wine.

The American Christmas magazines my mother brought back filled me with joy. I do enjoy a North American lifestyle magazine.

I watched the KS1 nativity at the school where I’m a governor. It was an excellent performance and once again helped me to feel festive.

My Nanna was 93. We held a small celebration in her nursing home. She knew it was her birthday and was delighted with her cake. It was only a small thing but it is nice to see her happy.

I attended my Godparents annual Christmas Do and caught up with my cousins and their children.

My Book club met for Christmas at the Festival Hall, there was gossip, wine and the Christmas market.

I know many people despise the Office Christmas Party but ours was a low key Thai lunch and it was really quite enjoyable. The following day we all went to the staff restaurant for a more traditional Christmas lunch and concluded the week with drinks. 

There was a splendid coffee with the girls and plenty of moral support.

I held a Christmas At Home to entertain as many of my friends as I could. It was so nice to see them all.

I received a beautiful new Emma Bridgwater Labrador mug as a gift. It makes me happy everytime I drink my tea from it.

You may have guessed I like a Christmas decoration or two. So here are mine.

We have a family tradition to attend a Christmas concert at the Albert Hall. The Jingle Bells concert is far from highbrow its more like a big party with singing and it’s always such fun. People wear Christmas jumpers decorate their seat with lights and generally enjoy themselves. The atmosphere is amazing. Afterwards we headed off to the Spaghetti House for a lovely dinner.

I had a pre Christmas cut and colour which as always had a good effect on my mood and self esteem. A good hairdresser is frankly one of the best morale booster there is.

Then there was a truly delightful Christmas Party at Fan Girl Towers with L’s delicious Brandy Cake.

I was on leave and able to spend a day playing with small niece. We don’t get much 1-1 time and it was nice to be able to interact with her in peace.

My big niece came for a sleepover – we watched Eloise at Christmas and ate chip shop chips in front of the TV. For big niece this is a huge treat. The next day we headed off for her Christmas gift a trip to the Harry Potter Studios. We both had a glorious day. I enjoyed seeing it dressed for Christmas and she was fascinated.

My favourite house guest Millie cat came to stay for Christmas. We kept each other company particularly when I had a sofa day nursing my cold. She was a great comfort although if I was cynical I’d say she was attracted to my blanket and heat pack.

My parents, godparents and I went to Westminster Abbey for the service of lessons and carols. I always enjoy being in the Abbey I like knowing that people have worshiped there for generations. They were there long before I was born and will be there long after I’ve gone. It gets Christmas off to a good start. Afterwards I entertained everyone to supper.

 On Christmas Eve we enjoyed our new tradition of dinner at Ziyafet the Turkish restaurant. It was delicious and they kindly sent me home with a doggy bag of Turkish lamb for Millie. She loved it.

I was lucky enough to receive some lovely Christmas presents. Some of them were delightfully wrapped to which just added to their charm. We also still have stockings. It may be childish but I always enjoy emptying my stocking.

As always I enjoyed my Christmas dinner. As a vegetarian I have a splendid vegetarian Wellington with all the trimmings. 

There was Boxing Day dinner at my sister’s with the traditional delight of bubble and squeak, pickles and cold meet or in my case the rest of my Wellington. Afterwards we played ridiculous games.

My washing machine died. This was not pleasing in fact I was very distressed about it but it was ten years old and owed me nothing. I wasn’t at all keen on learning to use a new one but I was fortunate enough to buy a new washing machine in the sales and acquired a £550 washing machine for £229. Now I’ve got used to it I am compelled to acknowledge that the new machine is a good thing it is much more efficient and the laundry is so much cleaner. I suspect the old one hadn’t been working well for sometime.

I enjoyed the time between Christmas and new year it was a week of quiet peaceful time to read and watch TV.

My grandmother’s nursing home had reindeer visiting before Christmas and they sent us a photo. It was so nice to see her happy and engaged. Animals clearly still get through to her.

I had a glorious walk on a crisp frosty but still sunny late December morning

There was a beautiful journey through Kent and Sussex on a winter afternoon to see my Australian cousins. It was nice to catch up with them and see baby C whom I’d never met.

I was able to catch up on some life admin in preparation for 2017.

Farewell 2016

2016 has drawn to its close and I know many people are pleased to see the back of it. I’m refusing to label it the worst year ever or anything of the sort. It is just a date on the calendar. Things have happened which I might have preferred not to happen (Brexit for example) and for some of my friends the year has brought serious even life threatening illness which I wish they had been spared. There have been some truly heartbreaking world events but the year isn’t to blame for those things. Dare I say it in most cases people are to blame not an arbitrary date – it was ever thus. The other events were caused by that nebulous thing – bad luck which is always random and undeserved.

In the same way a year cannot really take the credit for the good things which have been many and are still there underneath it all. This year has brought weddings, new babies, new jobs, promotion – mine included and many other smaller delights.

Personally it has also given me slow steady improvement in my mobility because the major surgery I had eleven months ago has relieved my pain and restored function in my ankle in a way even the surgeon didn’t think was possible. I have a year of slow rehabilitation to go but even if I stop improving completely it has been life changing and life enhancing surgery. I’m grateful for the surgeon’s immense skill and the team of specialists who surrounded me to help me get me better – Thank you NHS. I’m glad that from somewhere I managed to find the courage and resources to face surgery a second time. I am also so very thankful to my family, friends and even colleagues who supported me through those first difficult weeks and months. I have my life back.

Nifty November

It is the last day of November and I’m actually blogging promptly. I hope the shock does not make anyone faint. I’m determined to improve my time management. It has been a very busy month. At times I thought I might not get to the end of the month but I have and there were plenty of nice diversions along the way.

Jo March said November was the most disagreeable month in the whole year and there’s a big part of me that is inclined to agree with her. There’s no denying that it tends to be both dark and cold and after Guy Fawkes Night there’s not much to look forward to. I’ve tried hard to find things to enjoy this month and also to practice plenty of self care.

So without further ado what did I do!

I finally watched the end of GBBO with a yummy picky supper and I was pleased by the eventual winner. 

I met R for dinner. I’ve not seen her since I had my surgery so there was so much to catch up on. 

I went to K’s to watch the Fireworks at Crystal Palace. I had a delicious dinner and cuddled Millie cat. We will draw a discreet veil over my extreme lateness because I got totally lost in a diversion. 

My cosy crochet rainbow blanket it’s been coming into its own since the chill set in. Either draped across my bed or wrapped round my on the sofa it’s been keeping me cosy.

L came to stay for a few days. We gossiped and tried to put the world to rights.

I had to go to Newcastle and back in a day for work. Catching the first train at 05:39 was deeply unpleasant but I saw snow from the train – somewhere between Doncaster and Darlington.

There was also a Rocket Snow Dog on Newcastle station

I had a delicious dinner with the girls at the Diner with a simply marvellous stress relieving alcoholic chocolate milkshake.

Day out with H including super cocktails

Tea at Pattiserie Valerie

Hugs from my lovely nieces

Family adults only Dinner at the Star of India.

I finished my epic Chalet School reread.

And I began rereading another series – the familiar and comforting Miss Read books and I am now immersed in Fairacre.

I met B for a post work chat and wander in the Christmas market on the Southbank.

The delicious German Cake B bought me.

I had a big asthma attack which obviously was not nice but they were very kind and efficient in the Urgent Care Centre.

A pink sunrise on a winter morning.

I met K and L for dinner.

Then K and I went to see the long awaited Fantastic beasts and Where to Find Them. I happily escaped into Potterverse.

A morning spent pampering me. I woke one Sunday morning looked in the mirror and realised I needed an MOT. I looked and felt so much better after a long hot soak, a hairwash, manicure, pedicure, home facial and actually applying all my emollients.

There was a joyous lunchtime walk in the park. My new Directorate has weekly mental health walks and I always feel better for them. 

I cooked myself Bubble and squeak one freezing evening. It’s too good to only eat on Boxing Day.

A lovely lunch with former colleagues – good food and gossip what more could I ask?

Our Director bought doughnuts in because it was Friday. Morale soared.

I was lucky enough to see Cursed Child for the second time. It improves with a second view. The first time I was caught up in the story and totally involved in Potterverse. This time I could appreciate the clever staging and highly visual nature of the play. It makes really clever use of lights and scenery.

I received a cheque with nice refund from E.on.

Finally managed to sort out my temperamental mobile with help from the O2 Guru

L came to visit and I now have Anna-Charlotte in my hot sticky hands.

I went to see Austentatious – a hilarious improvised show in the style of Austen.

Dinner with H

A quiet evening of pottering while listening to Miss Read

Finished my Goodreads challenge

Snailmail from L

October Optimism

I really should post about October before November ends. I think my new year’s resolution needs to be around time management.

On the first day of October we made a whistle stop trip to Calais. Five of us packed into the parental car to pick up Prosecco for the wedding of the year. As I am a skilled shopper I managed a rapid trip to Sephora and Maisons du Monde too.

The next day I spent some time snuggled on the sofa with both nieces reading together this made all three of us happy.

After some distressing false starts I found the perfect dress to wear to the wedding. With grateful thanks to my friend H for acting as personal shopper, stylist and cheerleader.

My six monthly check up at the Dentist did not involve anything unpleasant or expensive.

Dahlias from Mum’s garden

One of those lovely picky dinners with Mum which we ate while watching Bake Off.

I went to a talk given by the author of The Long Weekend at the Fashion and Textile Museum and then explored the Jazz age exhibition. L and I wondered if the gold wedding dress is similar to Harriet Vane’s cloth of gold wedding dress.

Afterwards L and I had a delicious dinner at Taz.
K’s belated birthday do at Barbur

Drinkies at H’s afterwards

Walk around the Pleasance

My sister’s wedding dress fitting

I went to New Covent Garden Flower Market with my Mum and sister very early one morning to choose the flowers for my sister’s wedding. I was stunned by the beauty and quality of the flowers and it was absolutely worth the early start. We were particularly taken by the beautiful flowers on the table of the greasy spoon type cafe.

I bought some beautiful Amaryllis at the flower market but for some reason I didn’t take a photo.

Lovely Dinner with K after work.

H’s Birthday Do at Pizza Union

Clearing out my wardrobe and finally gaining some space

I managed to wear my favourite boots for a short time

Pink wine and cheese fondue with friends on a Saturday night.

I made a superb dinner from leftovers

A splendid cut and colour which as always made me feel so much better.

Meeting the girls for a post work coffee and gossip.

I had my eyebrows threaded. It’s an instant ego boost for very little time, effort and money.

My book friend K got married

Dinner with K, L, H and H. H made an amazing healthy cheesecake.

Managing to wear heels for a whole evening for the first time in more than 2 years.

The Victorian skittle alley at the Naval College

I bought a lovely black velvet jacket to wear at the wedding.

Cracked a difficult work thing

Dinner with L at The Diner

My sparkly manicure for the wedding.

The night before the wedding we all went to the Old Post Office for dinner and drinks.

My Sister’s wedding – it went very well and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. They were too polite to say if they didn’t.  I’m not putting any photos of the event online but these are the lovely flowers I brought home.

K came to stay.

Prestat champagne truffles from Liberty – Thanks K

Autumn colours

It took my mother and I two days to clear up the wedding debris but by way of reward my Dad treated us to dinner at Ziyafet.

Super September

I’m awfully behind with this blog somehow real life has this way of inexorably taking over and if I’m honest I’ve never really got to grips with good time management. However September brought its own kind of joy this year.

There was better news on several fronts. My friend’s badly injured son continued to improve and another unwell friend made progress.

I went out for a delightful dinner with H

Playing in the garden with my nieces

K’s birthday party a simple but very enjoyable curry in good company.

Being organised before going away for once. I’m always very stressed before going away but this time everything fell easily into place and I was glad.

Dinner at Ziyafet trying out the new Kaspas in the high st. Ziyafet our local friendly Turkish  was as always lovely. If I’m honest I doubt we’ll bother with Kaspas again. It was an experience but there’s much better ice cream.

Lovely post from D

Lunch at Alberts in De Panne. This is becoming a family tradition and a good one in my opinion. Big niece is already asked not when can she go back.

Walking on the beach also in De Panne

Dinner at Le Detroit again it’s becoming a regular haunt but our meal is always delicious.

Joy of a calm, clean uncluttered hotel room

Shopping in France. I particularly like the beauties of Calais market. Those Dhalias fill me with joy.

A walk in Calais:

How can you beat a Dragon on a roundabout?

The Last night of the Proms
Seeing my fairy godmother and making a fuss of her dogs

Belated afternoon tea

A quiet half an hour reading in the park

Farewell dinner with K, L and S before K’s trip down under

The rain when it finally came


A huge email clearout at work – so very thereaupeutic.

Grown ups Sunday dinner

I managed to mend my much loved crochet cushion cover. It had stretched outrageously but it is now lined and filled with a huge French Pillow and in pride of place on the sofa.

Goodbye lunch at work 

Splendid goodbye gifts

Sister’s hen do

D the podiatrist sorted out my sore foot

A Cheese and wine party very retro with side order of excellent gossip

I have a shiny new job involving a promotion and a pay rise!

Cocktails with H & L

Dinner/ Cocktails with the girls

A peaceful work lunch in the park

Amazing August

If I am honest this month has reminded me of a Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times and the worst of times. August is often like that. It is the month I passed my driving test, one of my nieces was born in August, I received A level results which surpassed my wildest dreams in August. However it is also the month my beloved Grampy died, the month in which I realised that I would not after all be spending my life with the person I thought I would. It’s the month I collapsed with physical and nervous exhaustion but it is also a month where I picked myself up and put myself back together.

This month was no exception. The bad tales are not really mine to tell – the stories belong to others and they can tell them or not as they choose. I was saddened for them because they matter and did not deserve the things that have befallen them and upset because I could do nothing to help.

I can tell you that a former colleague died much too soon. I liked her, I respected her and she taught me so much about understanding the technical detail behind the legislation. I don’t think I ever said thank you properly. I thought so was indestructible if not immortal I was wrong. I am sure that somewhere up there J is busy telling the Angels how they could better organise their lives.

I can also tell you I managed to blow two job interviews one after the other…
But I have dwelt enough on the worst times. It’s time to move on to the best times:

Mum and I had a lovely picky dinner in front of the TV we rewatched My Big Fat Greek Wedding and it is still amusing.
I needed distraction so I went to the pub Quiz with K. We lost spectacularly.

My parents knew I needed distraction so they took me out for a Harvester Lunch on pensioners day. It helped.

For reasons I won’t go into I suddenly lost my nerve about driving. This lead to me being pressed to drive my mother to the coast on the grounds that the best thing to do if you’re scared about driving is to face it and drive. So we went for a delicious lunch at the Marine Hotel then wandered on the beach at Tankerton.

We spent the afternoon shopping in Canterbury, always a pleasant experience.

I found a tiny oasis of calm in the City. Actually found is the wrong word I’ve known Postman’s Park since I was a little girl. I’ve just not been there for years. The memorials for heroes are strangely poignant. I found the 2007 one especially moving because I remember the incident. It was the first new plaque for about 80 years too. I wonder why there was such a long gap.

I love this tranquil pond by the Guildhall too.

I found a BFG jar next to it.

Day out with H – ice cream at Caffe Concerto

After our ice cream we wandered  along the Southbank then had dinner at Gabriel’s Wharf with a wonderful view of the river.

The day was finished off with very Tipsy drinks at the Star.

I saw S for the first time in years. Possibly 5.

A friend’s surgery was successful.

I had an ego boosting cut and colour.

Then I braved having my eyebrows threaded. I always look better when I ge it down. Somehow I forget the transformative effect it has.

I spent a whole evening on the sofa devoted to reading

Waitrose make a knock off of my favourite Burts Bees bath stuff and it is around 80% cheaper. Little things you know.

L’s birthday dinner and cocktails. How’s this for a Gin and Tea?

Sunday roast dinner

Amazing parcel from L

They were doing some renovation work in my grandmother’s house and found scraps of the wallpaper I had in the little bedroom there as a toddler. I remember that clown wallpaper so clearly.

I had to go to Cardiff for work. It was hard work and I had lots of meetings but I managed my work life balance well so played hard too.

I was lucky and stayed in a fabby hotel. The Cardiff Hilton was splendid especially the pool and the bathroom was at least twice the size of my own at home. While swimming a small boy looked at the scarring on on my ankle and asked if I’d been bitten by a shark. He was clearly deeply disappointed when I told him it was just an operation.

I had dinner with M I’ve not seen her for years and it was so nice to catch up.

A colleague took me for  lunch in the Norweigan church on Cardiff Bay. There were guide dog puppies being puppy walked.

The second evening I met E for dinner and a gossip.

L’s birthday dinner at the ever delightful Annies

A 30th birthday party

A friend’s very poorly son is recovering 

Dinner at Ziyafet

Dinner at the Chinese Buffet

I’ve been promoted

Great British Bake Off is back. Watching with my big niece was a joy.

Meat market with the girls a tasty and economical dinner. The Halloumi and Mushroom burger was sublime.

Another super Parcel from L

Dinner at a new Italian to celebrate my new job

Finally booked a weekend away it was effortful at one point it seemed as if every hotel everywhere was fully booked but we got there

Playing with small niece

Making pizza with big niece

Big nieces sleepover

I have reimmersed my self in Elinor Brent Dyer’s Chalet School. They are an excellent antidote both to awful things I can’t change and the iniquities of SouthEastern trains. The Tyrol books really are superb.

Joy in July

July has been a lovely month

I went to the Christening of one of my oldest friend’s children and while there I caught up with an old friend and met her baby.

I went for Dinner at S’s to plan our adventure. She served the most amazing Cherry ice cream.

Mum and I had a TV Evening. We finished watching The Durrells and consumed a takeaway from Ziyafet.

There were homegrown Sweet Peas.

And Peonies this time from Waitrose.

My friend K held the first ‘Gather’ in years. I saw old friends and made some new ones.

I was invited to Dinner at FGT where we dined on L’s sublime homemade quiche.

I managed to swim 50 lengths of hydro pool

Wonderful fan girl moment. I do not intend to embarrass myself by elaborating but I was full of squee.

Lovely Snail mail from K.

Some delightful belated birthday gifts from D, from H and L and K.

I attended our annual conference Civil Service Live. There were some fantastic sessions and I remembered again why I do what I do and why it matters. Then there was the view from the conference centre. Admire this. Even in the rain it is stunning.

I wandered around St Katherine’s Dock after work

I had dinner at Bodeens with my parents, sister and my sister’s fiancé.

Then we headed off to the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. Photos aren’t allowed so there aren’t any. There was something just perfect about watching the ritual of locking up the tower for the night knowing it has taken place every night for 700 years. 

We were so lucky because as we left a tall ship passed us and Tower Bridge opened. We were in absolutely the right place at the right time.

The final delight of the evening was getting the River Bus home. It was glorious sipping white wine watching the lighted up river banks fly by.

I went to the Pub Quiz, had dinner at K’s, we may not have won but I won a glass of Pimms.

I managed five full days in the office and two evenings out my energy levels are going up and I think I’m getting better.

There was Dinner at my godparents

D came to stay

I had a little adventure with S. We went to Paris on the Eurostar.

I was finally brave enough to go right to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was worth it. On K’s advice we went first thing and had breakfast up there. The hot chocolate was delicious.

When it gets dark it lights up and sparkles. We made a special trip to see it.

We stayed near Montmartre which I love especially in the dark. I know it’s a tourist trap but I don’t care. I also feel I owe it to Mabel Esther Allan aka Jean Estoril to like Montmartre.  We explored once during the day and once at night.

The Galeries La Fayette ceiling

Made a Chalet School Pilgrimage to the Luxembourg Gardens, where small children can still sail boats on the lake. That was very gratifying.

 Specialist dolls house shop in a Parisienne Arcade

CityPharma I spent entirely too much here but French pharmacy brands genuinely are deeply discounted and it is such fun to watch elegant Parisienne ladies squabble over the bargains.

The Garden behind Notre Dame. This was a little oasis of peace and tranquillity in the middle of a hot bustling city. I loved it.

Eating Bertillion’s Ice cream on the Ile St Louis. Truly fabulous.

My ceiling fan in my bedroom – it remains one of the best investments I have ever made.

Unexpected good news

Rereading Joey Goes to the Oberland. It’s a weird book nothing really happens and yet it is one of my favourite Chalet School books. It a fantastic cosy comfort read.

Whiskers has come to stay. I do like visiting cats although this one behaved like a mischievous middle. He’s not meant to be an indoor cat.

Reading My Naughty little Sister with big niece

New sandals I can walk in. I also managed to wear my favourite blue sandals with heels for a short while. This is real progress.

In partnership with my mother we baked these for my nieces birthday cakes.

The joint nieces’ birthday party