Thursday, 11 December 2014

I'm dreaming of a serene Christmas

I love Christmas, I really do. I'm not one of these people that starts putting up decorations in mid-November, but I do love the build up, the preparation and the twinkly lights.

This year, however, Christmas has me seriously stressed. Stressed in the sense of waking at odd times of the night unable to go back to sleep because my mind is in overdrive. Stressed about the food. Stressed about the presents (or current lack thereof). Stressed about family demands.

It doesn't help that work is about to go through a ridiculously busy period that sees me scheduled to work right up to Christmas Eve (for only the second time in my entire life). Add to that the fact that we have to pack for a ski holiday and for having our hall ceiling replaced as soon as we get back, and my to do list is permanently smouldering around the edges.

I'm partly reassured by conversations with others who are feeling similarly frazzled (is this year really different to others, or is it just a coincidence that I'm not alone in feeling like this?).

Part of the problem of course is that this year contrasts markedly with last year, when I was unemployed and had copious amounts of time to make wreaths, contemplate gifts and prepare food.

Thank goodness, then, for a rare half day off and the (now annual) trip to Bath Christmas market with the lovely Chris. She knows how to do Christmas properly, that's for sure. So, thank you Chris for reminding me that Christmas can also be about slowing down and enjoying what's around you.

Merry Christmas....

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A magic carpet ride?

First off-whilst this is technically a review, it's not sponsored in any way. No sir - I voluntarily paid £150 of my very own money to spend an hour on a glorified travelator in an industrial unit somewhere east of Reading.

Let me explain...

You see, we're going skiing again. Soon. Very soon.It's been two years since we last went, and frankly, my husband and I are worried that this is the year the kids outdo us and leave us for dust. Well, powder. We're therefore Doing Something About It.This involves a strenuous and tedious exercise regime to get a vague semblance of ski fitness into those over-40-and-feeling-it legs of ours. Jillian Michaels - we hate and salute you and your 30 Day Shred equally.

Jumping up and down in your living room three times a week is one thing, but it doesn't really help with the real ski practice. Which is why we found ourselves driving down the M4 on a wet Sunday afternoon last week.

They've tried their best to bring the Alpine spirit into a somewhat un-Alpine space:

...but really, we weren't here for the decor. We'd booked an hour's "family time" on the basis it would let all four of us have a go unfettered by other people. Whilst £150 sounds like a lot, on a per person basis it works out roughly the same as a half-hour lesson each. (Have I mentioned skiing ain't cheap yet?).

We arrived about 20 minutes before our session, as instructed, and were pretty much left to our own devices - the kids made the most of the trampoline that was set up in the corner and we mooched about the ski shop. With 5 minutes to go, and no sign of anyone giving us any instruction, we picked out what we thought were the right size ski boots for the kids, and got them to put them on, as well as donning our own. Five minutes after our allocated start time, we had to remind someone that we were waiting, and we were finally given some guidance as to which skis we needed. In the end, the previous people using our "slope" finally vacated it, and we were good to go around 10 minutes later than booked. Not a great start.

Each slope can only take 3 people at a time, so adults and kids had two alternating fifteen minute slots each.

I have to say I found it the most bizarre experience, and it certainly took a lot of getting used to the idea of standing still while the ground did all the moving. The general idea is that you turn side to side, effectively skiing on the spot, but this is easier said than done. Despite all being able to ski more or less parallel, none of us managed to get much beyond a basic snow plough position - even Mr Tin, who has been skiing for 30 years... As our instructor said; "If you can ski on this, you can ski on snow", and I'm certainly hoping that we'll have moved on once we do get on the powdery stuff!

Having said this, we all found it to a worthwhile session, which really helped focus on technique and general fitness. While it is expensive, we are seriously thinking about doing it again before we hit the slopes, as Skiplex are running a special offer on family sessions in December. Whether we will or not remains to be seen, as it is still a LOT of money. Anything that helps with a bit of confidence and technique to get the best out of our actual week's skiing has to be a good thing though.

Friday, 7 November 2014

25 years ago today

There are certain events in history that turn out to be those "where were you when" times. They are the events so momentous that you can almost feel the world shifting on its axis.

For example, I always remember my mother telling me she could remember exactly where she was when she heard that JFK had been killed, or when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon.

I was always slightly jealous about this collective memory of the older generation- an instant talking point that bound people of a certain age together.

In my lifetime, those two events of life-changing proportion happened on a sunny September in 2001, and 12 years earlier on a grey November.

I was on a trip back from Finland when the first inklings came. A group of 20 or so teenagers from the town I was living in visiting our twin town in the frozen North. For cost reasons we made the trip from West Germany to northern Finland by train. Leverkusen, Cologne, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Oulu, and back again.

A discarded copy of USA Today at Copenhagen train station while we waited for our connection home - "East Germans flood foreign embassies". Prague and Budapest, that was where they were congregating.

By the time we reached home, momentum was building every day. German TV channels seemed to have turned into rolling news channels when this was a concept previously only known to CNN. My history teacher threw out all mention of a curriculum and wheeled a TV into the classroom. " Das, Kinder, DAS ist Geschichte!"

I confess I had to look up what day of the week that 9th November eventually was. A Thursday, apparently.

Ask my husband, and he'll tell you he was hungover on a sofa in an Israeli Kibbutz when the wall eventually came down. I'm afraid my moment isn't quite as glamorous as it too was a sofa, but just that of my parents, at home in what was still West Germany. Now it's just Germany of course, and the cold war seems to have been replaced by another menace. It's easy to be slightly depressed by mankind's apparent inability to learn from history.

Today, therefore I'm remembering a time when peace seemed possible. Here's to hope.

Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Deutschland.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Random holiday rambling, August 2014

Things I have learnt on holiday;

1) Cockroach poo looks remarkably like mouse poo. It's also weirdly crunchy.
2) An upset stomach is still the best bikini diet, but it doesn't help shake off that pale and pasty, 'just arrived' look
3) Either "Jingle Bell Rock" is no longer classed as a Christmas record, or Paphos, 3rd August 2014 sets a new record for inappropriate festive cheer on the radio...
4) No matter what age the children, parenting is spending 99% of your time trying to keep them quiet to avoid annoying other people.
5) In a classic tale of middle class woes, my children do not know how to work a simple pop-up toaster. After all, everyone we know has a Dualit. Oh, the shame.
6) Speaking of shame, I can't help thinking that if you are going to have a large tattoo of what appears to be a bull with giant horns in between and over your breasts, and then sunbathe topless, it looks a bit odd if you suddenly go all shy and start walking around with you hands covering your boobs. No. Not talking about myself, for the avoidance of doubt.

Things that I already knew, but have been reinforced;

7) I'm really, really not built for tanning or sunbathing, and never will be.
8) A "meze" platter always seems like a good idea when contemplating a menu with an empty stomach, but it will only inevitably end in wasted food and the knowledge of what a Christmas turkey must feel like. A bit like the Mediterranean equivalent of a"meal for two " at a Chinese takeaway.

9) Nice as it is to go "offline" for a period of time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to live without internet access, especially when life necessitates the researching of cockroach poo.
10) It's always good to be reminded that swimwear is a great leveller. (See also 6, above)

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Dear Carol...

Dear Carol,

I think my husband may be on to me. Since having my hair cut on Saturday, he has twice remarked on the resemblance of my style to yours – to quote him “Your hair has definitely got that woman from Episodes things going on. You know the one I mean”. This is serious. For all his positive qualities, he is not normally well known for his powers of observation.

The thing is, I am now at a stage where I am ready to take things a step further. I blame the weather. You see, living in a relatively temperate climate, where temperatures do not normally fluctuate too wildly, I have never really had a great need for different seasonal wardrobes. This year, however, our unusually hot summer means I am no longer able to just wear what I wear all year round, and I need to adapt.

I know I’ll never quite manage the perfect six-pack or brilliant white teeth of a single American career gal, but I feel I need to be more aspirational in my business dress. For it’s true, my work wardrobe is looking dated, and I am wishing to import your brand of easy-yet-formal-hot weather-LA-chic to darkest Wiltshire. The whole slightly-harassed-and-sweaty-working-mother look is one, which, quite frankly, I feel I am starting to tire of.

Therefore, while there are certain elements of your lifestyle I have no wish to emulate (recreational drug use has never been my thing, and, nice as he is, I have never felt any desire to sleep with my boss), I find myself more and more frequently asking myself WHAT WOULD CAROL WEAR.

The problem is, I know you’d probably wear this:


And, as we all know, there is NO WAY sensible to me will ever wear a jumpsuit. I'm therefore thankful that you're off my screen for a while. I will miss you though.

But I'll miss your wardrobe more.

Yours infatuatedly,


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