Archive for December, 2012

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….

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…and the Festive Lunch menu promised to be fantastic…

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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.

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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Post-lunch, we had espressos…

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…and were brought a dish of sweeties…

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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!

Hair

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.

*silence*

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.

*silence*

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

*silence*

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!

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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

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Written by a future Booker Prize winner. Sort of.

Last week, I went to Liverpool to visit friends and family and thought I’d follow one of Rambler5319’s walks as the recent one, around Woolton, looked really interesting.

I set out in the morning, the threatening drizzle making me worry slightly but I kept going, hopeful despite the obvious. By the time I reached John Lennon’s house, my view through the car window was this….

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Still I continued to Woolton and thankfully, by the time I wanted a photograph of me at the highest point in Liverpool, the rain had stopped….

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I then got out and visited the church graveyard where two gravestones bear the names which gave inspiration to the Beatles song, Eleanor Rigby.

Over the road from here was, what looked like, a community centre which was part of the church and I realised in a flash, I came to Weight Watchers here when I was 17! I had been a teenager with some extra ‘puppy fat’, I would like to call it. And my friend Nicki and I came to Weight Watchers together. We would drive into the car park and in front of it was the entrance to the Weight Watchers group while behind it was the hall where John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met! And I’d had no idea all that time. I was big into The Beatles as well. That is a fact I would have liked to know.

There is so much interesting history at your fingertips in Woolton. For example, just the little hall where I went to Weight Watchers had been there for almost two hundred years…

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(I don’t know if you can see but it was built in 1823.)

There was also, at the furthest point on this walk, a little school which was build in 1610….

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I also realised, with fond memories, that as I walked along a small path with two quarries falling away either side of it, I had walked this way many times before when my brother and my Dad and I used to walk to my Nanna’s house every Sunday for lunch. I remembered my brother and I having nettle stings and finding some really good dock leaves at the end of the path to rub on the stings to stop the pain.

As an aside, I checked in the window of a small shop which had been on Rambler5319’s walk and, sure enough, they’re still looking for a paper boy/girl, if anyone’s interested.

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I walked back to my starting point through Woolton Woods, from where there is a fantastically clear view over Liverpool, (it’s hard to see it on a photograph though).

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On my way back from this walk, I stopped off at 192 Booker Avenue, where the Liverpudlian writer of a book I’m currently reading grew up.

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Her name is Linda Grant and her novel, The Clothes On Their Backs was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. And no, it not just a coincidence that the name of Booker is the road where she grew up and the prize – it’s the same man! He was a business man based in the area who, among many things, had spent time in Demerara in the West Indies and was responsible for bringing Demerara sugar to England.

I grew up in a little cul-de-sac off Booker Avenue and spent eight years of my life attending Booker Avenue Infants and Junior school. I think that means, by default, that I will have a Booker Prize-winning novel out soon?

P.S. Due to my slight telling off by a fellow blogger, for not having any Christmas decorations up, I asked my favourite 5 year old to make me a Christmas tree, which is now in living room. See?

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Things I once believed

That rottweiler was pronounced ‘rock-weiler’

That my mum was telling the truth when she said, “O, Laura, you’ve got to eat your sprouts, I got them especially for you.”

When a planes flies over and you stop and wave to it, the red light that flashes on its under carriage is the pilot waving back.

Sausage dogs just hadn’t grown up yet.

One day I would marry Michael Jackson.

I also believed that Lisa Marie Presley had ‘stolen’ him from me.

That I would grow my hair until it wad the longest in the world and get into the Guiness Book of Records.

I had a singing range similar to Mariah Carey’s.

My diary would one day be published, like Anne Frank’s.

There was a boy living in my attic like a fugitive.

That my Dad was saying “Whitey Ess” when he talked about a work training programme called YTS.

There was a possibility that I might well be stolen by monsters who could make my bed sink into the floor and into a pit where children were kept as slaves.

Life was like Famous Five books. I was always looking for adventures and was puzzled by the lack of smugglers and baddies.

Of COURSE there won’t be snow in Africa!

I just have to say something which has been on my mind for a while now. That song, Feed The World, which I thought was Free The World until really recently. It’s ridiculous.

“And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime.”
Duuuuh! Of course there won’t. What that got to do with anything? Is that fact supposed to evoke pity in me?

O no, they won’t have snow, they must be soooo gutted. I bet all that sunshine and warm weather is really bugging them and that they wish, in their hardship, that they had snow. It’s so hard living in a sunny country.

It’s the worst thing ever. If, as we are led to believe by the song, everyone in Africa is sitting around starving and poverty-stricken, do you really think SNOW, of all things, is going to help the situation? Now they’re starving, poverty-stricken and dying of pneumonia.

As an aside, there also “won’t be snow” in Australia this Christmastime but they can think again if they’re expecting a load of food parcels because of it!

The next bit, “The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.” Talk about talking down to people! Like we’re whispering with a doctor about a cancer ridden old lady. Africa isn’t one massive country unable to do anything for itself or work out how to get food. If you’d have told any of the people in the town in Namibia where I lived that the greatest gift they could expect was to not die, I’m pretty sure they would have found it hilarious. They were people like you or I and they were doing ok. Of course there are places of extreme poverty in many countries in Africa but as a whole, it’s just not possible to write one song, applicable to all, about how everyone is starving. It’s really offensive.

And lastly, “Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?” To be honest, I don’t think it’s very high on the priority list. A lot of African countries aren’t Christian. It makes absolutely no sense to say, ‘O, isn’t it awful? They don’t have any celebrations at Christmas.’ It’s like a Muslim country singing a song about how awful it is for us in Britain and “Do they know it’s Ramadan time at all?” Well, no, I don’t know when Ramadan is, not because I’m terribly unfortunate and you must raise money for me. Just because it’s not something I celebrate anyway. So to say about Africa, do they know it’s Christmas – probably some of them don’t. What on earth has that got to do with how poor they are or aren’t?

And that is my rant over and done with. I’ve been needing to let that out for years over this stupid stupid song.

Thank you.

PS I’ve just remembered that there was a town further inland from Luderitz, where I lived, which did get snow! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Bob Geldof. Was it Bob Geldof?

There’s a Secret Santa party…. And I’m invited!

The Waiting

christmas-badgeI could write an introduction, but who would read it?

No one. Because…..

THIS IS THE PRESENTS POST! Goodies for all! Remember that Ashley and I invite you to write your own Festivus-inspired post on your blog. You can drop hints on who you gifted, muse over who gave you your gift, or air your grievances about anything! Just let me know if you write a post so I can link to it on my Facebook page*.

*And what the what? You haven’t “liked” The Waiting on Facebook yet? Get with it, homes.

Secret Santas will be unveiled right here on Friday, December 21.

Now, let’s get right down to it.

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1. Gift for & Squatch Makes Three:

Season tickets for the SF Giants and a proper brick pizza oven so Squatch can sample the exquisiteness of his father’s deep-dish pies as they were meant to be.

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Distraction techniques!

When travelling, I often used (what to thought to be) a clever technique for distracting potential burglars. I would be using a big backpack and worried that someone might easily zip it open so I put, all the way around in a line, some *ahem* lady things. You know. So that it would be the first thing someone saw when they opened the bag. Hopefully they would be male and horrified by this sight and rapidly rethink his plan to steal from me.

That was the plan. I’ve never been stolen from while travelling but I’m not sure whether it was my clever distraction technique or luck.

Anyway, this one time, my friend and I were off backpacking around South East Asia for five weeks but we had different flights. He had had a stopover in Sri Lanka, been wined and dined and a beautiful hotel, swum in their beautiful pool and had a little nap. I, however, was changing in Kuwait and had a long eight hours in Kuwait Airport, with lots of massive duty free shops selling Toblerones and alcohol, neither of which I wanted.

For some reason, although I definitely wasn’t keen on staying in Kuwait longer than necessary, the announcement for my connecting flight wasn’t being made in the area I was sitting in. So I realised a bit late and had to make a dash for it. As I was running, I heard the announcements that they were waiting for one more passenger to board. That was me!

Desperately embarrassed, I arrived at the gate, panting and sweating and a stern faced lady said they were just about to close the gate and I had held everything up. I apologised profusely and handed over my backpack for her to search.

She zipped it open at double speed, her face a picture of grumpiness….

And all my *ahem* lady things spilled out all over her little desk.

She looked at me like she hated me.

I did a nervous little laugh and vaguely tried to explain how I did it to deter thieves.

“Well maybe you should have repacked it when you knew you were getting it searched,” she said, very very unamused….

Woops.

The time I got my nose pierced

When I was 20, I worked in a job for a few months where I had to travel around the UK a lot. It was a slightly mad time in my life. I was fresh back from my second stint in Namibia and such a gap year casualty. You could spot me a mile off, with my colourful skirts and millions of bracelets. My hair was really short and would stick out at crazy angles when I took my hat off. I always had a hat. That’s another thing. I always wore hats. I had a massive collection of them.

Anyway, this one day, I was working with three other girls in Leicester (I think). I had initially thought I wouldn’t get on with one of them but we hit it off pretty soon and I thought she was fab. I had pretty much made up my mind I wanted to be her. And she had her nose pierced. In fact, all three of the other girls had their noses pierced.

After a particularly successful working day, we were all feeling a bit high and excitable. We had spotted a tattoo and piercing place and decided that we would go en masse, and I would get my nose pierced.

Off we went and I entered and announced that I would like my nose pierced please. Not having any foreknowledge of how these things are done, I offered up my nose to this complete stranger, wielding what I now know to be an ear piercing device and let him pierce me.

I wandered off, the others all admiring my pretty nose stud, feeling way cool. I left it for the a few weeks but started to feel something wasn’t right when my nostril swelled up around the stud and went red. I decided to change it sooner than recommended because I just wanted to get the stud out, in case that was the problem.

I took hold of the front bit and the back bit and pulled. And pulled. And pulled. Nothing. It was stuck! I couldn’t get enough of my finger into my nostril to give the back a good tug. I started to worry. I was back home by this point so my uncle got involved, tugging and twisting and doing whatever he could think of. Eventually, he came up with a plan. He would use plyers (that’s right, plyers) to force it open.

That’s exactly what happened. He grabbed hold of the bit on the front of my nostril with one pair of plyers and wedged another pair up my nose to hold onto the back. Very rarely have I felt less dignified. He pulled, I winced, he tugged, I made ow noises… And finally it gave way and came off. I whipped another stud straight in and the swelling and redness subsided immediately.

I showed a friend the offending nose stud and she just laughed and told me it was an earring and that I’d been pierced with an earring gun. Great.

So anyway, I was then happy. Life went back to normal. Until six months later I got a new job and was told I couldn’t wear jewelry. I took out the nose stud reluctantly and, eight hours later, I went home, clutching my nose stud, intending to put it back in.

I felt the place where my piercing had been and tried pushing the stud in. Nothing doing. I checked in a mirror but couldn’t see a hole anymore. I pushed, I squeezed and I almost wept. It had closed. I would have to try re-piercing. So I got an ice cube, melted it with my fingers so it would fit up my nostril then tried pushing on the front of my nostril with the stud again.

And that’s when it hit me. I wouldn’t be able to re-pierce it. And actually, if something requires me to have plyers and moulded ice cubes stuck up my nose … I think maybe I should let it go…

And so I did. I became one of the non-pierced masses. I was sad. But my life was easier.