Archive for December, 2012

Christmas Eve

I have just eaten my last advent calendar chocolate. I am about to go to work for the last time before having a little Christmas break. I am going to spend ten minutes before work reading Narnia. I am just up to the bit where Digory and Polly go exploring in other worlds and find Charn, and Digory rings the bell in the long room, like an idiot. I always get really irritated when he does that. I am looking at the pile of presents under the mini Christmas tree…


….and I am thinking about how lovely tomorrow promises to be. In a minute, I will eat some breakfast and try to decide what to wear with my fabulous Christmas jumper.

In the meantime, here are some pictures from last Christmas to get us feeling all festive.




Christmas dinner – an amazing three bird roast


Yaya’s little sister, ignoring her presents and playing excitedly with some cardboard.


                Christmas pasta!


                     Mince pies


        Last year’s Christmas tree


Narnia and I

Our relationship goes way back. Anyone who knows me well, knows about my Narnia-love.

I had probably read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at some point as a child but then my dad got me the box set in my teens and I read all seven chronicles. It took over my existence for a while. I rejoiced when they defeated the White Witch, when Caspian beat his uncle and reigned over Narnia, when Jill and Eustace broke Prince Rilian free from his spell and when Peter triumphed in the last battle. I despaired when Aslan was killed on the ancient table, when Nikabrik tried to overthrow Caspian and when Edmund and Lucy were told they had to leave Narnia. And I wept for the second half of the last book because I knew the end was nigh.

When in the Narnia zone, it becomes a very real place to me. It is the pleasant background to my normal day. Things are just generally nicer and more storybook, even when I’m just at work.

Right before going on our gap years, my friend Joe and I had walked from his house into Reading, which had taken about four hours. We had talked about Narnia a lot. It was one of those lovely days, early in our friendship when everything we said or did became a nice memory, stored up to take away with me. He left for his gap year before me so I sent him all seven books in the post to China and, miraculously, nothing happened to them along the way. I took a copy of the books with me to Africa and we started to read them on the 16th December, countries and oceans apart, to prepare for Christmas.

In fact, one day, whilst discussing Narnia with a bit of alcohol in our systems, two friends and I jumped into the rather big wardrobe we had in our room in Namibia, and searched around in the back for some snow or trees. We found neither.

Every year since then, I’ve started reading them on the 16th so I’m usually on book 4 or 5 by Christmas Day, and I keep reading till I finish them.

When my friend, Jay, started basically living on our sofa when we were at uni, I had started reading them as usual and I would always stay in the front room with her, on the other sofa. And we used to read the books to each other, a chapter each, until she got tired and I would keep reading until she had fallen asleep.

So last night, a few days later than usual, I picked up The Magician’s Nephew and started to read. All the lovely feelings of being on familiar ground and being in for a great read were ignited and I sipped my cup of tea and smiled.

“This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. It is a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our world and the land of Narnia first began….”

Yaya’s magic trick

A few days ago, I went to see Yaya and his little sister. Yaya was very eager to show everyone something.

“I’m going to do magich,” he said, as that’s what he says instead of ‘magic.’

“Ok,” we said. He brought us all into the front room; Danda, his parents and myself. We sat down and he brought out two small chairs and put four cuddly toys on the chairs.

“Close your eyes,” he told us. We heard some noises and the curtains being moved.

“Open them!” he said and we all opened them and gasped in amazement when the toys were no longer there.

“Now, who wants to go first?”

He hadn’t explained what we would be doing when we ‘went first’ but I put my hand up anyway.

“Ok. Everyone close your eyes. Lauwa, come here.”

I stood up and he pointed behind the curtains to the pile of toys which had once been on the chairs.

“Bring one,” he whispered. So I did. He put it on the chair and told everyone to open their eyes. There were exclamations and shocked expressions of wonderment at this David-Blaine-esque magich trick. How could it possibly have been done?!

A different person was picked each time and everybody else told to close their eyes while that person was instructed to bring a toy from behind the curtains.

Until, eventually, all the toys were out and we were all sitting down feigning surprise.

The finale was Yaya spreading his arms out, hands facing upward, a mysterious smile on his face, saying, ominously…. “How did I do it? You’ll never know.”

And that was Yaya’s magic trick.

Pre-Christmas lunching

Yesterday, Danda and I decided we would have fancy lunch as a kind of pre-Christmas lunchy thing. It was amazing, obviously. I was also trying out the dress I had bought for Christmas day, to see if it was possibly too outrageous as it has bright pink on it. The weather was quite grubby but we had a nice view of the river….


…and the Festive Lunch menu promised to be fantastic…


I chose the other option to Danda on each course so we had one of everything. A sore throat threatened to ruin the occasion so I got a fresh mint tea, which helped things.


It was also very pretty to look at, so I was happy.

Before starting, we were brought some freshly baked bread and butter and a small thingy in a glass that was parmesan custard, butternut mousse and pine nut sprinkles….


My starter was the mackerel tartare and fresh mackerel with cucumber and apple which was surprisingly light. Mackerel is usually quite a strong flavour, I guess because it is often smoked. But this was quite mild and didn’t drown out the other tastes at all.


Danda’s starter was a chestnut soup with a warm duck’s egg and glazed wild mushrooms. The duck’s egg had a lovely rich flavour, far stronger than a hen’s egg.


My main was a risotto with parmesan mousse, mushrooms and garlic crisps which, by the way, were amazing. The whole thing had hints of sweetness throughout, which surprised me, as I’m not big on sweet tastes in a savoury meal but this was lovely.


Danda’s main was pheasant with mashed potato, baby carrots and a crostini with pig’s trotter. The crostini was so tasty, despite its rather unattractive description.


By the time we got to dessert, I was on the wrong side of stuffed but soldiered through, ordering the trifle with vanilla biscuits…


….while Danda ordered the warm eccles cake with cheese, walnuts and chicory on the side


Post-lunch, we had espressos…


…and were brought a dish of sweeties…


The macaroon was vanilla and mince pie flavour! It was fabulous. All in all, it was a lovely getting-ready-for-Christmas lunch. It was also my last day off until Christmas Day so it was nice to dress up and pretend to be a laaaaady for a while.

Later in the evening, a neighbour had invited everyone over for mulled wine and mince pies so I ended the evening nibbling my way through the offerings and discussing whether the world would end the following day. Which, by the way, is today. I hope I live to write another post!


Yesterday I did some stuff for Christmas. You know, all the obligatory stuff, getting a new dress, beautifying etc. Of course I didn’t pre-book anything, I just walked into a few hairdressers and said, “Can I get my hair done? Like, now?” Obviously most places didn’t have any appointments but I found one eventually.

The woman doing my hair was called Katy. She seemed nice enough but a few things were going on yesterday to prevent me becoming best friends with her:

1. I had quite a sore throat.
2. I had just hurriedly purchased a Christmas dress which had the potential to be totally the wrong thing for me, given that I imagine myself to be a tall stylish supermodel when I am actually small, non-descript and possessing rather large thighs.
3. I’m very aware of the forced nature of conversations in hairdressers and thus, find them quite uncomfortable. It’s like chaining a bear up and making it dance.
4. Becoming best friends takes time, something I did not have on my side.

And so, because of all these things, the conversation with Katy The Hairdresser went like this:

Katy: Hiya, I’m Katy. I’ll be doing your hair today. What type of thing are you looking for?
Me: It just needs a trim really, to get all the dry ends off.
Katy: O yeh, I can see the split ends. When did you last get your hair done?
Me: Ummm. Don’t remember.
Katy: So do you want me to put the layers on after I’ve cut it?
Me: I don’t mind. It’s just hair, isn’t it? Do what you think will look nice.
Katy: Ok. Shall I…?
Me: Just do whatever you think is best. I trust you.
Katy: What about if I…?
Me: Anything. Whatever you’d like.

*we walk to the sinks and she starts washing my hair*

Katy: Is the water warm enough?
Me: Yeh thanks.


Katy: So are you local to the area?
Me: Yeh, I just work up the road.

*she finishes and we walk to a chair, where I sit*

Katy: What are you up to today? Christmas shopping?
Me: Just getting a dress for Christmas day.


Katy: Shall I put some layers in around the front?
Me: Yeh, go for it.


Katy: Ok, are you happy with that?
Me: It’s great. Thanks so much.

Because this conversation was all that filled the hour it took to get my hair done, I had plenty of time to think. To think about my hair. Every so often I pay attention to my hair but I mainly just kind of let it get on with its own thing. Yesterday’s thought process went something like this:

Maybe I should cut all my long hair off next year? Who has long hair anymore? You can’t do anything with it. Look at all these people getting their hair done, it’s all short and funky. Mine’s just long and boring. Yeh, I’ll definitely get it cut all off next year. I remember when I got it cut really really short. That was fun. Maybe I’ll do that? Have a boy cut? Maybe I’ll get a colour? My hair’s not brown or blonde. It’s just inbetweeny. Boring. O wait, there’s a girl with long hair which looks really lovely. Maybe I’ll keep my long hair then? Yeh, I’ve got to think about how I’ll tie it up for work if it’s really short. But colour. That woman’s hair over there is a nice dark brown. Or perhaps something outrageous like bright red? Omygodomygod, there’s soooo much to think about!

And so my hair, which has previously just been ‘that stuff on top of my head,’ dominated most of my thoughts yesterday! I still haven’t decided what I will do about it.

In other news, look what arrived in the post!


10 words

Rambler5319 is taking over for a bit of Wondrous Words Wednesday… Enjoy…


I’m a bit like the person who drives along a road and sees a sign to somewhere (or something) off to the left or to the right and, if I have time, I just have to go and investigate. If I come across a building with something interesting on the outside (a date stone or design feature) I just want to know more about it: When was it built? Why was it built? Who built it? And so on.

This week I thought I’d take a brief delve into my “word” book. I’ve mentioned before that when I’m reading and I come across a word I don’t know I write it down in a notebook and then go and look it up (31.10.12).

I passed the 800 mark recently and so I’m going to have a look at 10 of the more recent words that have gone into the book. See what you make of them; ask yourself whether you think you’re ever likely to use them. The meanings given below come from my Chambers Dictionary and may not always tally exactly with the way the writer uses them.

Here goes:

1. SCROFULOUS – (This is from p.242 in a book called Map Addict by Mike Parker.)

It means: Tuberculosis of the lymph nodes in the neck (also called King’s Evil).

And here’s how it’s used:

“In scrofulous slums around Cheapside, for centuries the capital’s main commercial thoroughfare, one of the Maiden Lanes sat bang opposite Lad Lane: left for a girl, right for a boy”.

2. SAPONIFYING – (This is from p.722 in a book called The Land of Painted Caves by Jean Auel.)

It means: Turning into or forming soap.

And here’s how it’s used:

“She found a flattish rock, carried it closer to the pool in the small river and then with another round stone, she pounded the foamy saponifying ingredients from the soaproots on it, mixed with a little water.”

3. MANTICORA – (This is from p.210 a book called Map Addict by Mike Parker.)

It means: A fabulous animal – it has the body of lion, tail of a scorpion, porcupine quills and human head.

And here’s how it’s used:

“Nearby are a manticora with the body of a lion, face of a man, and tail of a scorpion, a Minotaur, dragons, giants & pygmies.”

Good that the book explains the term. However it doesn’t mention the porcupine quills which the dictionary does so not sure which is the definitive. Anyone out there an expert on manticoras? (Is that actually the correct plural form? Does it follow the data/data or gala/galas sing/plural forms?)

4. NUTATION – (This is from p.150 in a book called Atlantis Found by Clive Cussler.)

It has a few meanings: 1. A nodding 2. A fluctuation in the precessional movement of the Earth’s pole about the pole of the ecliptic 3. The sweeping out of a curve by the tip of a growing axis or 4. The periodic variation of the inclination of the axis of a spinning top to the vertical.

And here’s how it’s used:

“Yes, the scientific terms are precession and nutation, Max lectured.” The author then goes on to explain the term himself but it’s one I’d not come across before. The book is another Dirk Pitt novel and a great story.

5. COSTIVE – (This is from p.45 in a book called The Elizabethans by A.N. Wilson.)

It means: Constipated, stingy

And here’s how it’s used:

Costive, devious, patient, the master of detail, all but humourless, and dependably sensible, William Cecil was the lynchpin of Elizabeth’s administration.”

6. Smörgåsbord – (This is from the cover notes for the 2012 CD by Van Morrison Born To Sing: No Plan B on Exile Records.) I’ve left this one lower case as it’s easier to see the Swedish accents on the letters that way.

It means: A Swedish style table assortment of hors d’oeuvres and many other dishes to which you can help yourself

And here’s how it’s used:

Quoted in Alan Light’s review of the CD quoting Van Morrison himself: “I don’t think in terms of labels,” he says. “It’s a mix of all of it, a smörgåsbord of all music and all my influences, and you hope that it comes out as something new.”

7.PANEMONE – (This is from p255 in a book called Bring Me Sunshine by Charlie Connelly)

It means: A windmill device where the blades move in the same direction as the wind as opposed to 90 degrees on an ordinary windmill. (I suppose you could liken it to the way a waterwheel is turned by a river or stream where the stream is the wind and the sails on the mill stick out rather than being flat on the arms which hold them.)

And here’s how it’s used:

“They are called panemone windmills and were originally used for pumping water and eventually to help grind corn.”

8.LEITMOTIV (or LEITMOTIF) – (This is from p12 in a book called And Now On Radio 4 by Simon Elmes)

It means: 1. (In opera, etc) a musical theme associated with a person or a thought, recurring when the person appears on the stage or the thought becomes prominent in the action. Or 2. A recurring theme in literature

And here’s how it’s used:

“It’s a paradox that will run like a leitmotivthroughout this book, but there’s another refrain which it’s also worth singing out loud right from the start:……”

9.RHABDOMANCY – (This is from p45 in a book called God Delivers by Derek Thomas)

It means: Throwing sticks in the air to see how they fall; divination by rod, wand or staff.

And here’s how it’s used:

“Three types are mentioned in Ezekial (Ch) 21:rhabdomancy throwing sticks or bones in the air to see which way they fell; hepatoscopy: examining the markings on the liver of a sacrifice and idolatry: consulting images.” It’s good the author explains the term which is helpful but one I’d never come across before.

10. SCRIMSHAW – (This is from p184 in a book called The Wreckers by Bella Bathurst)

It means: A form of engraving

And here’s how it’s used:

“Teeth could be decorated with scrimshaw (a form of engraving considered no more than an old whaler’s novelty until recently, but now beginning to command high prices among collectors).” In this particular case the writer actually explains what the word means in the text and provides more info than the dictionary. Well done Bella!

So there you go, just 10 of the 800+ words in my book.

Why not let me know if you already knew any of these or if you manage to use any of them over the next week or so?

Christmas dinner with friends