Thursday, 29 December 2011

...And then she returned.

Do not fear, it was only another disappearing act. For most of December.
I could blame it on a malfunctioning computer, manic (and desperate)build up to Christmas, leaving the country, Christmas with Frank’s family, complete and utter tiredness and so much going on that I wouldn’t know where to start.
I could blame it on all of the above. So I will. That and… I was a little bit lazy and out of the habit. See? Honesty for you! Could it be any better?
So.
1)      The malfunctioning computer.
It doesn’t work. Okay - It does a bit. But it’s slow. And the backspace key is broken (still). It’s too big and impractical (almost the size of a desktop but for your lap). To be honest (there it is again)– I just don’t like it. I think the time is near for me to enter the world of the netbook/notebook/small computer:- Much more convenient. Would anyone like to donate funds to a worthy cause?
Look at it this way friends, a new computer thingy-ma-bob means that you have more material to read more often, and I will have a shiny new tool for writing. It’s a win/win situation. Yes?
2)      The manic (and desperate) build up to Christmas
Usually, I’m game for a little festiveness. But this year ? Well it was just so difficult to find my inner ‘Ho Ho Ho’. I think I’m broken. We have a severe lack of little people and their Christmassy imagination in our home at the moment. (And no, I will not be getting pregnant to fill this void!) My sisters desperation to convince my parents that Father Christmas should still come and visit them doesn’t quite generate the same levels of excitement. There are no high pitched squeals as we count down the days to till the man in the red suit jumps down the chim-bley (I was never able to pronounce that word as a small child).  We don’t even leave food as a ‘just in case’. Unless mini-est Dodd leaves a glass of water and a packet of polo’s like she did one year – “ Everyone gives Father Christmas sherry and mince pies”, she said so innocently.
No more midnight visits from the Big Man and his sleigh, and Mumma Dodd’s decision to smash up our kitchen two weeks before Christmas which delayed our Christmas dec’s. Very unhappy.
Christmas scrooge 1 – 0 Christmas spirit.
But there’s always a way to be Christmassy - I had to rely upon the radio to help find my Christmas spirit.
Christmas scrooge 1 – 1 Christmas spirit.
But, there’s only so many times you can listen to Band Aid, Slade, Wham, Mariah Carey and The Pogues before you begin to resent them. 
Christmas scrooge 2 – 1 Christmas spirit.
I thought Christmas shopping might help. Mulled wine, festive songs, salvation army playing Christmas carols, sweeties…
Christmas scrooge 2 – 2 Christmas spirit.
But I hated the crowds, the aching feet, and the severe lack of ideas for the perfect Christmas gifts.
Christmas scrooge 3 – 2 Christmas spirit.
Never one for the ‘…that will do’ attitude, I continued my quest.
Christmas scrooge 3 – 3 Christmas spirit.
 I queued in traffic, to queue for parking spaces, to manoeuvre round shops like sheep, only to queue again to pay, and then to queue to leaving the car park.
Christmas scrooge 4 – 3 Christmas spirit.
 Sometimes I thought it was a good idea to break the mould and to walk the opposite way round the shopping area…
Christmas scrooge 4 – 4 Christmas spirit.
….I ended up with black and blue shins from being bashed with everyone else’s shopping, feeling dejected from the scowls of angry shoppers and being totally exhausted from fighting my way through.  (Never try to break the mould in your car – shoppers are even more angry when trying to get home and do not appreciate blocked roads!)
Christmas scrooge 5 – 4 Christmas spirit.
It took me weeks to eventually find something for all my nearest and dearest. I took great care over the wrapping: Traditional brown paper packaging and coloured tissue paper with bright ribbons that were expertly tied. It looked quite pretty
Christmas scrooge 5 – 5 Christmas spirit.
….but I knew that it was purely aesthetic and would be completely destroyed on Christmas morning.
Christmas scrooge 6 – 5 Christmas spirit.
However, Frank did take to me the school carol service, and I heard the whole of the nativity story – something I haven’t heard since I was at school, I’d definitely forgotten bits. I was taken to Berlin for some pre-Christmas fun. I drank lots of mulled wine, and ate roasted cashew nuts. It snowed (albeit VERY briefly and not heavy enough to be called snow). I listened to Michael Buble’s Christmas album. I sat by open fires at Frank’s house. I helped make an assortment of Christmassy nibbles with Mrs Frank . And drank a lot.
Christmas scrooge 6 – 20 Christmas spirit.
Hooray (finally!)
3)      Leaving the country
We weren’t extradited. Or fleeing the mafia. We didn’t elope. Or run away. Frank and I decided back in February that by December we would need a casual city break to escape the madness. What a fantastic decision. It was definitely my idea.
It was the most stress-free trip I think I have ever taken (apart from the excessive packing – we were off to Essex when we arrived home to spend Christmas at Chez Frank…I needed a week’s worth of stuff!!!)
The German capital is a fantastic city, and whether it was the festive spirit or just general welcome-ness, everyone was so friendly. We used the tram, and the underground, wandered the streets, visited the sites, found the Christmas markets, drank Gl├╝hwein and ate currywurst. We went in an underground bunker, built specifically for 3,000 people to survive a nuclear bomb.  Even spoke a little appalling German, “Sprechen sie Englisch bitte?” was about as much as I could manage. Oh dear.
But, when in Rome… you must attempt to be true Berliner’s.

So long story short, if you’ve never been, pack your comfiest shoes, layers (for the cold), sonnenbrille (for the summer time) and be prepared to learn lots. If you need reading glasses, take them. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on, so you need to act like a sponge and absorb.



4)      Christmas with Frank’s family
We arrived bearing gifts for the tree and a pot of Christmas pumpkin seeds that Frank had bought impulsively from a stall at the Weihnachtsmarkt. And we got heavily involved with decorating the house. A really Christmas tree decorated by yours truly (a first for me and very exciting). I made mince pies, sausage rolls and a christmas ham. Surprising since my baked goods turn out awful and the Christmas Ham is a Family Frank speciality – if I got it wrong I’d be sleeping outside with the goose.
But all’s well that end’s well – (I even made one yesterday at home to surprise Family Dodd, not sure if there is any left!)
Mr and Mrs Frank spoilt me with new Christmas jammies and lots of lovely treats, and Frank made a lovely collage of all our photos from Dublin. Oh and he encouraged my inner  child by purchasing a couple of Disney films. So exciting! I was drunk by 9am after consuming my Cosmopolitan (courtesy of Miss Hendo) unusually quickly, followed by a champagne chaser and sloe gin! Let’s face it, everyone drinks and mixes at Christmas – its only fair. And I didn’t even have the slightest hangover. Perhaps that’s what Santa gave me for Christmas!!
It was a shame to leave them all on Boxing day. But I promised to return to Chez Dodd for the post-festive madness that ensues.

5)       The complete and utter tiredness
So the Chris Rea song evokes a pain-free, exciting and merry drive home for Christmas. Mine was the opposite. It seems that Boxing day morning, the world and his wife go to visit his brothers and their wives. So there’s  no one to open a petrol station and the roads were madness. And there was I praying for a quick drive home. Already tired from a late night – it was made worse by guessing how far I could get with my fuel light on (and if the garage would even be open),sitting in traffic, peering through sheets of rain and navigating down narrow country roads and avoiding rabbits that ran out in front of me.
I wouldn’t have been on the country roads if I hadn’t decided to take a detour. And I wouldn’t have had to take a detour if the M25 hadn’t been solid. And the M25 wouldn’t have been solid if everyone drove correctly, left enough space between each other and stopped hogging the middle lane and causing accidents. [Rant complete. Thank you]
So I used my incredible geographical and homing skills and decided to aim for Hastings and the drive along the south coast via Brighton and pop out at home… eventually. I quickly realised that this was an insane detour and would take much longer than the original route. So I reset my friend, TomTom (who I rarely use) so he could escort me along a route that avoided the M25 and would rejoin the A3 and finish my normal journey.
Herman (the new ford) and I had a lovely little road trip, a scenic route, through lots of lovely little Christmassy villages in Kent.  And then I drove underneath the M25 and saw that it was moving at normal speed and rather than drive all the way to Croydon as TomTom suggested, I would set it to rejoin the M25 as soon as possible.
Outsmarting your friends who are helping to navigate you through unknown territory is a bad idea.
I drove up and over mountains in thick fog and sat behind tractors, only to rejoin the motorway just as it was slowing down for another accident.

I made it home , in one piece – almost four hours after I’d left. (that’s longer than it takes to drive to Ipswich and I was 40 minutes closer). Stupid Christmas traffic.
Christmas scrooge 10 – 20 Christmas spirit.
So here we are. It’s now the three days between Christmas and New Year. The big day is over. The hype is gone. The presents are open and broken. The turkey is almost finished. Families are starting to drive each other barmy. And it’s skeletal staff in the office because most people had the forethought to book this off as extended leave.
I, was not one of them. But Frank is driving down for NYE,( the biggest excuse for a party that never quite meets expectation) and will be meeting a few more of my family and crazy family friends.
Poor man.

And it’s time to write those dreaded resolutions of course. The ones that last little more than a week, and anyone who gets past a month is clearly exaggerating [a nice word for ‘lying’.]Regularly feature words are:-  ‘blog’, ‘more’ and ‘gym’.

Monday, 5 December 2011

...And then cinema tickets became suitable currency.

Alas, another Monday is almost over.
I am tired and achy. But oh it was worth it...

So Friday I was poorly.
Poorly like you've never known it before. Left work infact, only to spend the entire day sleeping like a baby - restless, grouchy and unable to get comfortable.
A poker hot feeling in my tummy and a clammy feeling left me unable to attend an unofficial Christmas do (the official palava is next week).

So I lay in bed, cursing the day I'd chosen to eat rice in a very nice restaurant. Who knew rice could cause problems.

And so I ate only one piece of dry toast over the course of twenty four hours.
Delightful.

Then the panic began to set in...

What if I had to cancel my plans for the weekend?
Now this was a big deal. These specific plans had been pen-ed (not even pencilled) in my little black book months previously.
My delightful London friends were leaving the familiarity of the city and joining me in the suburbs of the south coast.
I had no idea what to do with them - they didn't know that though.

By the powers that be, on Saturday morning I was feeling much better. A bit wobbly but alive enough to leave the comfort of my bedroom. And I needed to. Cabin fever sets in very quickly.


So they arrived.
Dumped bags and assorted sleeping materials.
We did the standard love-y greetings and air kisses.
Drank a quick cuppa and jumped in Herman for a little drive.

By the time we got in the car, I'd made up for my lack of planning and had made some slightly spontaneous, 'not set in stone' plans.
We went to a city of great Naval history. Not that we were there for the boats. We did see that one that the bloke with one eye and the funny hat sailed for a bit.
So we parked (finally) using an amazing system of lights (green = vacant) that you could only see when you drove the right way round the carpark (aka. following the arrows). We had a fairly quick mooch around some outlet stores (not too quick for Charlotte though) and paid for a few games of ten-pin bowling.

Nothting like a bit of the old Flintstone moves to inspire a little friendly rivalry. Competition brings out the best in everyone.
It is worth noting that whilst the boys won the first game, the tables turned for the second and the girls stormed ahead.
Apparently this was the result of the football being on too, "heads not in the game..blah blah blah". Sorry lads, the scores said it all.

Oh and then, because after beer and bowling you must have pizza, we found a very chic pizzeria. Who knew you could have curry on a pizza?
Obviously it was described a little more delicately than that, otherwise no-one would buy it. Or would they?

Bellies full (and a detour via a supermarket where 'every little helps' for more of the evening's sustinence) we arrived back at Chez Dodd for more frivolities and booze.
Next thing you know its 3am, and you're crawling into bed with Carrie.

Carrie and I have to share a bed, its an unwritten rule.
That's why Mr BMW (two wheels not four) had to have mini Dodd's bed. Only it cost me.

In order for mini Dodd to vacate her bed for one night - ONE - I have to take her to see the next installment in that vampire series.

I tell you what, Mr BMW had better have had a good kip.

And