Thursday, 29 December 2011

Happy Christmas! Remember .... it was Jesus' birthday .... not yours

Happy Christmas Dahlink! I hope that yours was peaceful and you got loads of expensive presents. I know that I am a little late and all, but I don't seem to have had any computer time in ages.

Anyway, I digress.

Christmas is normally quite a complicated affair - definitely because I am involved, and probably because I celebrate Christmas twice.

Not that I am greedy or anything (even though I am), but I celebrate my first Christmas on the 25th where I visit one of my best friends in Leeds (Sarah), and then I have my second Christmas with Izzy and her Dad at my house around the 28th.

It all works marvellously - Izzy's Dad and Grandparents get to spend quality time with her on the 25th whilst I am away partying my head off. And then, when Christmas is over and most people are facing an anti-climatic descent into murky nothingness and desperate despair, I have a whole, entire second Christmas on the 28th to look forward to ...... complete with turkey, presents, crackers ..... the whole shebang.

No flies on me ..... although you can see where they've been.

And because I am kinder than Mother Theresa, but with more sculpted eyebrows, I have got some pictures of my Christmas 'oop north'.

Pic.No.1 Before I set off, I loaded all my gifts into the boot ('trunk' if you are American) of my car. And I also threw in my wellies so that I could walk through emergency mud if the need arose (now there's a thought - do Americans / Canadians have wellington boots?)

What you need to understand before going up North, is that it is bloody cold up there. Everyone walks with a stoop because they have been battling the wind and sleet for so long. And apparently they feed their children coal and twigs, and dress them in sackcloth. It's quite like being in a real-life Lowry painting.

The journey didn't go well. After having a bit of a tussle with the Sat Nav in my new car, I eventually arrived in Leeds two hours late (the total journey took 5 hours instead of 3).

"You're always bloody late," said Sarah in a berating way as she opened the front door to me.

"It's my Sat Nav's fault," I said, "I'd accidentally set it to 'avoid motorways' [note to reader: no idea how I did that - even now], so I drove up on all the tiny roads."

"You are a berluddy div," Sarah exclaimed, before adding, "hurry up and get ready, we are off into Leeds city to meet some mates."

Welcome to Christmas Eve in Leeds .......... here we are in a big pub in the city .................

Pic.No. 2 The first thing we saw was lots of beer and stuff. After the initial shock we decided that it would be rude not to join in. This is a picture of Sarah's real ale

Pic.No. 3 Once the beer was flowing, I got my camera out and quickly realised that the chaps were a little camera shy. That is Louise on the right (Sarah's sister), with her friend Lisa on the left

Pic.No. 4 I tried to demonstrate that you don't have to be scared of the camera. So I pulled a 'Zoolander' pose and shouted 'everybody look at me!'. 

Everyone looked at me ..... with a bemused expression on their face, so I pulled my backup trick out of the bag, and believe me, all the ladies love it. 

"Hey chaps, if you want to take a good photograph every time, always put your hand under your chin to hide the sagging!" ...... before hastily adding ...."not that you are saggy." 

The girls looked at each other like cavemen who had just killed their first zebra - nodding with mouths slightly agape. We weren't getting anywhere fast, so I decided to try out the 'chin technique' with Sarah .......

Pic.No.5 This is me and one of my bessie mates, Sarah. I don't know how she does it, but she has always been resolutely un-photogenic ...... but no, not here .... that's because she deployed the killer 'hand under the chin' trick

Pic.No.6 The rest of the northerners quickly saw the potential of the 'hand under the chin trick' and before I could say 'no underwear shots ladies', Louise had dived in front of the lens .... to try out my new technique. Not that she needs it, mind .... she is nearly 40 and looks about 12. And she has a sharp wit that makes me laugh my head off

Pic.No.7 And then at the end of the evening, we met these two chaps who firmly demonstrated that the phenomena of 'Christmas Jumpers' are totally the 2011 Christmas scene. And they were a good laugh to boot - the chaps, not the jumpers that is

So what a marvellous Christmas Eve that was, and we still had Christmas day to come ..... bravo!

Chrismas Day (25th December 2011)

Christmas morning arrived ....... the morning alarm sounded and I lifted my weary, but not hungover, head from the pilllow.

[Arrrrggghhhh, my kingdom for an extra hour in bed .... aw crap, that only happens in fairytales].

 So I dragged myself out of bed, studiously avoided everyone, and headed straight into the shower.

Not being a morning person, for the first hour of every day I am like a slug with a personality by-pass. Actually, thinking about it, slugs don't have personalities, so that makes me more of an amoeba.

But luckily, after the initial blip, things started looking up because I was spending the day with Sarah's family - her mum Margaret (who calls herself  'my surrogate mum' awwwww), and Louise (her sister), and obviously with Sarah herself.

And here's what we got up to ....

Pic.No.8 That is the lovely Margaret on the left, with Louise on the right. We had Christmas lunch at a place called Haleys Hotel - in Headingly, Leeds

Pic.No.9 Despite the fact that Sarah was getting into the spirit of our Christmas lunch, she still cunningly remembered my 'hands under the chin' trick ..... you see, I am insidious but without the bad connotations .... what's the word for that?

Pic.No.10 My starter (entree if you are from across the pond) nom nom nom

Pic.No.11 My first presents were 'table presents' and here I am with my booty - a car demister and some hand cream

I have to say that our lunch was lovely and the service was great. Definitely a place to go back to for Christmas lunch. And because it was a carvery rather than table service, I was able to have 8 roast potatoes and more gravy than you could ever imagine feasible. I looked like a bloody weeble when I had finished. 

After lunch, we went back to Sarah's mum's house, and it was at this point that I got a bit rubbish at taking pictures because I was too weak from overeating to pick up my camera.

But I can give you a summary of some of the marvellous booty that I accumulated ......

Pic.No.12 L'Occitaine hand cream which is very useful for keeping my hands soft after changing a head gasket or digging in mulch (into the ground not the head gasket). I also got some toffee to propel me along the road of replacing my amalgam fillings with composite resin. Bloody ace

Pic.No.13 Maragaret bought me this fantabulous snow shovel

As soon as I had opened the present, Margaret started apologising profusely; "Eh up, I am sorry love .... I bought this before you bought your big four-wheel-drive car thingy."

"No, you have it all wrong, the snow shovel is perfect," I exclaimed.

"But I thought that 4x4 cars were designed to be good in the snow?" asked Margaret perplexedly.

"Ah - mine might have been good in the snow if I hadn't have put low-profile sports alloys on it," I replied, "so now I desperately need a shovel if it snows."

Louise had witnessed the whole conversation, "So," she said, turning to face me, "you bought a car that was specially designed to handle adverse conditions, and then rendered it unable to cope with adverse conditions by putting sports tyres on it?"

"You got it!" I exclaimed, before adding; "but it wouldn't have looked as nice with the smaller alloys eh?"

Louise shook her head and adopted an now familiar expression that can only be translated as: 'nothing speaks wanker louder than a Ranger Rover.'

Anyway, nobody properly understands ..... uh hum...... cough ...... back to my booty ................

Pic.No.14 I got a new pair of pyjamas. I tell you now - James McAvoy is gonna be beating down my door

Pic.No.15 In case you were wondering, this is James McAvoy. He is the only idol I have. He has blue eyes that can strike a killer blow to men and women throughout the land alike

And finally, we have the grand finale of all my Christmas presents ...... a mug that Louise had made especially for me!

Pic.No.16 Aha, methinks Louise might have been taking the mick about my lack of common sense

Pic.No.17 And then on the other side was a picture of me trying to spear food with a twig in Shotover Park. Aw, man alive how I laughed .... that Louise is a loon bag

So all, in all, it was a bloody marvellous Christmas day. And without downloading all the pictures from my camera, I am not sure what happened next. I will found out, but in the meantime enjoy yourselves with this picture of 'Bear Grylls' that I bizarrely found on my computer desktop ..... I must have been going through another 'weird humour' phase.

So dahlink, let's embrace the spirit of Christmas! It is now your time to tell me what your favourite present was, and guess how much it was worth ....... bring it on!

Monday, 26 December 2011

The countdown to Christmas

'Where in the blazes have you been?' I hear you cry, 'you don't call me, you don't send me flowers .....'

I know, I know. I have been utterly crap at blogging the last few weeks, but that is because the crazy red mist that is Christmas has descended upon me. One minute I was bumbling along quite happily, surviving on Pot Noodles, takeaway pizza, and marmite on toast, and then BOOM, Christmas arrived and everything turned to rat shit.

All of a sudden, you have to find time to do things for other people, like buy them food and presents, which is nowhere near as much fun as buying stuff for yourself.

Plus, I detest shopping, so that part of Christmas (and a part that increasing year on year) is a bit of a chore. However, after finishing the shopping for my friends, it became clear that I needed to tackle Izzy's presents. Luckly, she had written a letter to Santa to help me out. But it wasn't long before I realised that it looked nothing like the lists that I would write to Santa in my youth, for example  ...........

1 Orange
1 Walnut
Some Marbles
A Wooden Spinning Top 

Whereas Izzy's list contained bizarre things like ...................

Fur Real Cookie Pup
Harry Potter School
Light Up Zooble
Ice Cream Maker

Trying to figure out exactly what it was that she wanted, was like decipering bloody Latin. Luckily I had arranged to go shopping with Steve (we buy all her presents together - it's easier), so at least I had back up when it came to selecting the right items.

We had arranged to go to the store of doom - Toys R Us - most hideous place on the planet. Everything within its confines is made from garish plastic, and the staff have all been recruited from Apathetic R Us, and look slightly grubby.

And because I am kind, I have got some photographs for you .......

 Pic.No.1 That's me shopping that is. Seeing me shopping is like encountering a Yeti

Pic.No.2 This is Steve ...... we were dazed and confused

Pic.No.3 And flailing around in the 'girls aisle' like an Octopus on a slab of concrete

Pic.No.3 But then we found a comedy toy - can you believe that people would actually buy their child plastic 'chicken nuggets and fries' for Christmas? So much for promoting healthy living

Pic.No.4 You will be pleased to hear that after several hours of scouring the shelves, we finally concluded that we had successfully acquired the items on Izzy's letter to Santa. Look you can see a princess dress in the trolley .... sssssshhhhh don't tell her what we have bought

Pic.No. 5 Then after a strenuous day of shopping, we decided to celebtate by picking Izzy up from her friends house and eating out at a new Turkish restaurant on the Cowley Road. It was called 'Oxford's Grill'

Pic.No.6 Look! It's me and Izzy looking natural in the Oxford's Grill

Pic.No. 7 Steve stuck a toothpick up his nose for comedy effect

Pic.No.8 And here is a picture of my meal - it was a lamb dish and it was super tasty

So all in all, it was a very successful day preparing for Christmas. How about you dahlink - did you hit the big day on top of all the preparations?

Thursday, 15 December 2011

A Wintery Walk Through Oxfordshire - What Ho!

I bloody love exploring I do. One of my favourite hobbies is driving somewhere I haven't been before, armed with an Ordnance Survey map and a compass that I don't know how to use (I just flap it about a bit until it points in the direction that looks the most interesting), and then I walk.

I usually do my exploring with Naughty George and Steve because they like it too, and in an average afternoon, we will normally cover between 8-9 miles.

To the untrained eye, you may liken us to Bear Grylls, but rest assured, no matter how far we venture into the Oxfordshire countryside, we are never more than three miles from a gastropub. So to date, I have never had to sleep in the carcass of a dead camel, drink my own urine, or bite into a raw fish that I caught with my bare hands.

Anyway, I digress. Today's exploration started from a village called Hampton Poyle, deep in the Oxfordshire countryside, and because I am kinder than Mother Theresa (but with a better skincare routine), I have got some pictures for you ....... enjoy dahlink ................

Pic.No.1 This is my car parked down a country lane in Hampton Poyle. Today was the first time that I had off-roaded it. Well not so much off-roaded, as driven up onto a small muddy kerb

Pic.No.2 After getting out of the car, we noticed that we were parked next to a church called St Mary the Virgin. The bloody thing was built 800 years ago in the 13th century. That's older than the bacon in my fridge

Pic.No.3 Then I found this interesting gravestone in the church-yard. This chap had been a Burmese prisoner of war before he snuffed it

Pic.No.4 After doing the dead people, we headed out over open countryside, and it didn't take long before we found some bizarre house ruins in a field 

Pic.No.5 It turns out that the ruins were of an old Manor House situated in the village of Hampton Gay (yep the UK has the best village names). It was built in the 16th century and burnt down in 1887

Pic.No.6 This was REALLY interesting (click to enlarge). One of the villagers had put a sign up to inform everyone about Hampton Gay's history. Apparently it was the site of a huge train crash at the turn of the 20th century, and the householders dragged the victims into their houses to save them from the snow. And another interesting thing - there are only four families who live in the village

Pic.No.7 After Hampton Gay, we headed out to open fields ....... Look! It's me ..... everybody come and look at me ....... I am just about to harvest the 'stick crop'

Pic.No.8 Naughty George. Ten minutes before this photo was taken, I thought he was going to die. He tried to jump over a fence, got his leg caught in the wire, and landed heavily (3 foot drop), onto his face and shoulder. Bear in mind that he is 16 years old and the sound that he made was a gut-wrenching thud. I thought he would be horribly injured but he just got up, shook himself off, and carried on as normal. Awful

Pic.No.9 The Oxfordshire countryside is full of wildlife like dobbins

Pic.No.10 But then we stumbled across these furry-camelly-type-things-without-a-hump at Greenhill Leisure Park, Bletchingdon
Pic.No.11 They were very curious and kept inching forward ..................

Pic.No.12 And then I nearly wet myself when I posed for a photograph and turned round to find one of the camelly things not more than 30cms (16") from my face (Naughty George was not happy to be in close proximity with them)

Pic.No.13 And then the landscape of the walk changed drastically as we turned onto the banks of the River Cherwell

Pic.No.14 I found a bench on the river bank, and we sat and ate our lunch, watching the river gently winding by. The scenery was all brown, gold and green

Pic.No.15 This was a picture of a tree reflected in the river. What made it cool was that simultaneously, the sun was shining and the dark clouds were brewing. I managed to capture it before one eclisped the other

Pic.No.16 This is the juncture where the River Cherwell met Oxford canal. It was called Shipton Weir Lock and Turnover Bridge

Pic.No.17 Looky here! It's me on Turnover Bridge (out of interest, do Americans and Canadians have canals? I don't remember seeing any whilst I was there)

Pic.No.18 Naughty George had a face-off with one of the dogs living on the canal boats. To be fair the enemy did have a lot of fur and looked slightly like a lion (yes that actually was a dog)

Pic.No.19 This was a bridge over the canal. It was called Shipton Bridge and was located in a village called Thrupp (I would bet my life on the fact that UK villages have the most eccentric names worldwide)

Pic.No.20 The village of Thrupp was centred around a canal basin called 'The Wharf'. One half was all watery where the boats were moored ...................... 

Pic.No.21 And the second half had a landed selection of boutique shops and cafes, including 'Annie's Tearooms' (shown above - I didn't take that picture - I nicked it from the internet)

Pic.No22 But Steve, Naughty George, and I did enter the establishment (i.e. Annie's Tearooms) and treated ourselves to a surreptitious cup of cofffe (but not NG, he had water of course). Marvellous

Pic.No.23 After leaving the cafe, it transpired (after looking at the map), that we were on our final two miles of the journey ...... and as we headed out of Thrupp, we passed these cottages. I took a picture because they were the archetypal Oxfordshire house - built from a rich yellow stone with a thatched roof

Pic.No.24 This is Steve and Naughty George walking through a large farmers's field which took us to a village called Kidlington

Pic.No.25 The first building we saw after emerging from the fields was a church. It was the dead centre of Kidlington, and people were dying to get in there (ha ha ha!)

Pic.No.26 The sign outside of Kidlington Church. Why were such large churches built for such small communities? It is a common phenomena throughout the UK

Pic.No.27 These cottages overlooked the church ... they seemed to be quite old, so I did a bit of investigation ........ 

Pic.No.28 And above the door was a stone inscription confirming that the cottages were built in 1671 AD, which isn't that old in terms of Oxfordshire housing. In fact, that is probably marginally older than the cheese that I found in the back of my fridge

Pic.No.29 This is the view of the church from the cottages. We passed four churches on the duration of our walk. Surely that makes me more religious than Mother Theresa?

So I have to say ..... my winter walk was bloody good fun. Just the tonic to get me in the mood for Christmas. And after a long walk in the bracing cold, what better to way to spend the evening than ..........

Pic.No.30 Lighting the wood-burner and chilling out in the warmth? Bliss (but a bastard getting the thing going - I need tips from someone who knows how wood-burners work).

 Map 1 - Click to enlarge and print (so you can recreate my walk - huzzar!)

So dahlink, what have you got planned this weekend? What, with it being the last weekend before Christmas and all ........................

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