Friday, December 29, 2006

My birthday!

The Yuletide holidays fell midweek in 1973 with Christmas Day being on the Tuesday.
Thursday the 27th was my birthday and the kids were still in a festive mood. They wanted a treat so Barbara and I took them to a matinee at the cinema. Looking back in my diary, I found it was “Where eagles dare.” It was a very good film and we all enjoyed it.
That evening, I had a booking at a club about 15 miles away. I said that there would most likely be a party afterwards so I’d kip down at a friend’s place who lived nearby.
I picked Iris up around
7pm and we went to the venue. It was a lively night and we got back home around midnight. This was the first time we had managed to have to ourselves since Christmas Day. Two whole days had elapsed since then! It was my birthday and Iris made sure it was a very happy one!!!
Iris had, as I’ve already mentioned, made plans for a party for me and had invited our friends round on the Saturday evening.
Once again, she had come up trumps. Although she had never put on a large party before, she had provided sandwiches, sausage rolls, vol-au-vents, pork pie, mince pies and other delicacies for a cold buffet. We had got a goodly stock of drinks in ready for the evening. There were around a dozen or more who turned up and the party went on until the early hours!

Iris was marvellous over the holidays. She had known she would have to share me with my family but she understood and I loved her for it! Some readers may think it strange that I should want to leave my family at Christmas time but although we were a happy family, they were used to my sudden departures, as my work and my club venues often dictated that I had to be away. Nobody thought it was unusual for me to be absent quite a lot of the time. The next step would be how to get round similar problems for the New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Two Christmas dinners!

Iris knew, of course, of my commitments to my family on Christmas Day. She knew we had a traditional dinner in the evening so she put on a meal at lunchtime. It was absolutely superb. I told my family that I had a lunchtime invitation with friends from work. This would guarantee my being away until mid-afternoon. The kids had opened their presents underneath the Christmas tree after breakfast as usual and around 11am, I left to join Iris at her home.

We really enjoyed our roast turkey; Iris had never cooked one before but it turned out fine! She had even steamed a Christmas pud as well!
After lunch we unwrapped our presents. She had bought me a new dressing-gown, some after-shave and an electric razor. I had bought her a gold necklace, a pure silk blouse, a box of liqueur chocolates and some of her favourite perfume. (Ma Griffe by Carven.)
The afternoon passed so very quickly and I had to take my leave. I dropped Iris off at her sister’s where she would be spending the rest of the day and evening. It was a tearful parting but at least we had celebrated Christmas together as best as we could.
That evening saw me sitting down to another Christmas dinner; this time at home. Much as it was a very enjoyable meal surrounded by my family, I couldn’t help thinking of Iris and I knew she would be thinking of me!

By tradition, Boxing Day, at home, was ‘Open house’ when everyone was welcome. Old friends would come round in the evening for drinks and a buffet. I had invited Andrea and Iris. Andrea had been to us before on past Boxing Days and was no stranger there. Iris had met my wife a couple of times when I had been ill a few weeks previously. My wife and Andrea were old friends and Barbara took to Iris straight away. Iris was a little embarrassed about this but she didn’t show it.
Barbara put Andrea under the mistletoe and got me to kiss her. She did the same with Iris as she thought it would help her to mix in. I kissed Iris very perfunctorily under the mistletoe. I was aching to take her in my arms then and there but it was impossible. It was a party night with friends and relatives and, as hosts, Barbara and I had to mix with everyone. There were drinks galore so there was no way I could drive Iris home afterwards.
She and Andrea had arrived by taxi and went home the same way. By this time, I was suffering from Iris withdrawal symptoms and, for the first time in my life, was looking forward to the end of the festive holidays.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I just want to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Thanks to all of you who left comments;
they are always appreciated.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Our very first Christmas

Yuletide at home was always a very big affair. Ever since I was a small child, it was a time for family reunions and parties.
My cousin and I grew up together; we were more like brother and sister. We lived next door but one to each other and although we went to different schools we were always very close. It was a great time for us at Christmas. Aunts and uncles would descend on us and we were one big happy family.
There was always a huge turkey on Christmas Day and a roast loin of pork for Boxing Day. With my birthday falling on the 27th, we always had an extra day to celebrate! As kids, my cousin and I would invite our friends to my birthday party and, living in a large house, we could indulge in party games like ‘Murder’ and ‘Sardines’ etc.

Although we weren’t a snobbish family, it was traditional for us to dress for dinner on special occasions; Christmas and New Year being two examples. I remember at the age of 14, being measured for my first dinner suit. It wasn’t so much of a rarity in those days as it would have been now. A dinner suit also came in handy when my cousin and I entered ballroom dancing competitions. In actual fact, we were pretty good as under-sixteen competitors.

Christmas 1973 was, I remember, a cold but dry one. Iris, being on her own, had decided to surprise me by cooking a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings! She so very much wanted this Christmas to be special. In years past, she usually spent it with her stupid sister and her stodge of a husband whose only idea of festivities was to pull a cracker, wear a silly hat and sleep his lunch off listening to the Queen’s speech!
Iris was determined to make this Christmas a different one and she told me she was going to enjoy it in her own home with me beside her. She said she was going to invite our friends over on my birthday and throw a party for me. Dearest Iris; she’d never done this before and she was so enthusiastic about it. I could see the pleasure she was getting from thinking about the holidays and I didn’t want to dampen her zeal. I could see that some period over Christmas, I would have to choose between spending it with her or with my family as usual. I wondered just how I was going to manage being in two places at the same time!
More later.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas shopping

The other day, I did something I never thought I would ever do. That is, to take someone shopping in a super-complex at Christmas rush season.
I must have been bloody stupid even to think about it but she is a good friend and needed transport to get to and from the place. I made a token protest at the crass inanity of venturing into a hell-hole of a shopping mall at this time of year but the words fell on deaf ears. Never try arguing with a female shopaholic!
The first problem was to find a parking space. Not easy in a crowded car-park with everyone trying to get in at the same time! Eventually I got a slot and off we went into the mall.
Women are strange creatures where shopping is concerned. A man will see what he wants, get it and that’s it. A woman will see what she thinks she wants and then scours the place looking for similar alternatives. At the end of the search, she’ll decide to go for the first choice!
The one redeeming feature about this is that we did find a place to have a decent lunch and afterwards, when I took her back home, I was rewarded with a cup of tea. I did, however, say that I'd already done my shopping a few days before thus avoiding a last-minute chase through a packed supermart. I suggested she should have done likewise. The advice wasn't altogether appreciated.
I wonder though, if she was trying to tell me something?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dinner party #2

The guests came around 6.30pm and we settled down to a few pre-prandial drinks. Sherry for the ladies and malt for the men. Our guests were a couple of friends; one of whom was no stranger to us. He had recently met a young lady and it had been a case of ‘instant attraction’! His very charming companion hadn’t been before and had been wondering what she was letting herself in for! Although I had only known the lady for a few weeks, we had become good friends. My wife, however, had never met her but she was soon invited into the kitchen where Barbara explained the finer points of haute cuisine to her and they took to each other straight away.
Dinner was served at 7.30pm and although there were only four of us, we all enjoyed it. After the meal, we were back in the drawing room where we spent the rest of the evening with drinks and lively conversation.
Parties are not necessarily an excuse for the playing of head-banging music nor are they a licence to get as ratted as possible. This little soirée was a quiet but very pleasant affair. I took quite a few photographs of the occasion but ‘R’ asked me not to post them in my blog just yet, as she was rather shy and the said she wasn’t photogenic.How very wrong she was! Both her companion and I told her how attractive she looked and she received the compliment gracefully. It’s a pity I’m not able to show the photographs as ‘R’ is a very beautiful woman. My old mate is a bloody lucky man and there are all indications that their relationship will blossom into something more permanent.
It was a very convivial evening all round and we are looking forward to the next time we meet.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dinner party #1

One of the many pleasures in life is to throw a dinner party. My wife is exceptionally good at this sort of thing and she always rises to the occasion in the way of a very delectable menu. It is planned with all the care of a military manoeuvre!
Normally it is a straightforward affair, only requiring a trip to the local butchers and delicatessen to pick up the makings of the meal. At this time of year, however, even going to the supermarket is a major operation with queues to checkouts miles long!
The preparation starts the day before with the marinade and sauce-mixing. Then there is the job of ensuring we have the appropriate wine for the dishes we are putting on. However much we try to make sure everything is ready, there is always the last-minute rush to get something we have forgotten. This time, it was cocktail sticks!
A few hours before the dinner, things get moving! Table adornment is high on her list, whether it be candles or flowers. Glasses have to be selected and cutlery is meticulously laid out.
An interesting observation here is that cutlery only refers to knives; the forks and spoons are known as flatware and hollow ware.
Red wine is allowed to ‘breathe’ at room temperature while white wine is usually served cooler. Champagne is chilled and placed in an ice-bucket before being opened. The dinner is a leisurely affair and usually takes around an hour from start to finish, after which, we repair to the drawing room for coffee. Barbara ensures that the coffee beans are freshly ground in order to extract the full flavour. There is always a goodly selection of drinks available both before, during and after the meal.
Bon appetite!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A slight problem solved

I have rambled on at length recently about Yule presents and the various recipients of them.I have just about got most of the gifts I’m dishing out this year but there was a slight problem. That is, what to get for my wife!
Over the years, Barbara has amassed a large collection of silver and crystal. There are several cabinets full of the stuff and additions of this nature are no longer a surprise. There is very little room left for more books as my bookshelves are overflowing at the moment. There isn’t much space left on the walls for more paintings so we were faced with a problem as to what to buy for each other. A bottle of good malt whisky, while very enjoyable, isn’t a lasting gift, as indeed neither are perfume, chocolates nor liqueurs.
We were thinking about this the other evening and we decided to buy something we could both enjoy. We don’t need a new TV or a DVD player etc. so what is there? We toyed with the idea of a winter holiday (wouldn’t last) or a new settee. (No, Sid might call round!)
We eventually decided on a Sat-Nav. This, we thought would be ideal. Instead of Barbara following a road map and getting us hopelessly lost in the foothills of Scotland or the junctions on the M25, we could rely on a Sat-Nav to louse it up instead! The more we thought about it, the more attractive the idea became. I reckon we’ll get one.
I dread to think what the overall cost of Yuletide will be. I’m afraid I tend to go over the top at this time of the year and my bank balance will take a bit of a thump! Not to worry; it’s just about sorted apart from the turkey and the booze. (ouch!)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas party Dec. 1973

Every year, my firm would throw a big Christmas party for the staff and workforce. It was held at a large hotel and around 80-100 would be invited.
The Company Chairman would make a speech, sit down and then make himself scarce for the rest of the evening. The party consisted of a formal dinner and dance. Everything was free including the drinks for the first hour until the dancing started.
Andrea, my secretary, was very prominent in organising the event with one or two other senior female staff. Together, they always made it a very enjoyable occasion and this year was no exception.
Naturally, I took Iris and by this time, she was getting to be well-known among my work colleagues. She looked heavenly that night and I was so very proud of her. What a difference she looked compared with last Christmas. What a transformation had taken place! Gone were the skirt and top, gone was the mousy look, gone was the shy demure girl. In her place was the sophisticated Iris; self-assured and everything a man could ever dream of. As I danced with her, I remembered the very first dance I had taken her to. That was way back to January when she was unsure of how she felt. (See blog Jan 7th & 8th 2006) Tonight, everyone recognised us as a couple and we couldn’t have been happier.
Later that night, as we returned home, I remember Iris saying that she was really looking forward to our first Christmas together. I resolved then that I would try to make it a memorable one for both of us in spite of my having family commitments. I was determined to make sure that it would be the happiest Christmas she ever had!
Iris was the very best thing that had ever happened to me. I never regretted one single minute in all the eight short years we were together.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I survived!!!

After the Yuletide shopping trip in town the other day, I was very lucky to come out unscathed.
I survived prams and push-chairs being erratically steered by doting mothers. I avoided umbrellas wielded by aged grannies and I evaded Big Isssue sellers who were bawling in my ears.
On the good side, I managed to get a parking space by sliding into a slot that was being vacated as I got there and we found a table in a department store café when we repaired for a coffee break.
The visit to a jeweller’s was comparatively painless. Fran, my daughter, spotted something she wanted almost straight away. I poked around the place and got a couple of other items and from there, we went for a coffee.
I’ve just about finished shopping for Christmas; I’ve only a few more things to get and I can forget about it for another year!
I’m off to Retford next Saturday to the Farmers’ Market. One can get very good quality beef and pork at a reasonable price so I’ll be stocking up for the holidays.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bloody traffic!

Why is it that as soon as the Yuletide holidays approach, there seems to be twice as many cars on the road as usual? The streets leading into and out of town are virtually gridlocked. I’m used to the rush hour traffic from 4pm to 6pm but right now, it’s a hell of a job moving even at mid-day. Incidentally, whoever conjured up the name, rush hour, when nothing moves, needs his bumps feeling!
Where, I wonder, does all the extra traffic come from? People are still working in the Christmas run-up so obviously it’s a case of housewives with acute shopaholic tendencies!
As for parking, forget it! A parking-space in an urban thoroughfare is as rare as rocking-horse s**t! Traffic wardens are constantly on the prowl and the City Council urges everyone to use public transport. That’s a laugh!
Whenever does a bus take you from where you live to where you want to go without either a wide detour or an infrequent service? Most shops in the city are in pedestrian zones so unless you want to traipse from one end of the shopping centre to the other, you’re licked before you start!
Never mind, once Christmas is over, you can look forward to another snarl-up when the January sales start!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Getting nearer to Yuletide

I was sitting at home musing over the Telegraph crossword when my daughter paid us a flying visit.
She’d been into town shopping for last-minute presents and was full of the joys of Christmas.
Last-minute presents? I haven’t even begun to think about it yet! I usually do my shopping on Christmas Eve like most other men!
The conversation turned to me and she asked me what I would like for my birthday. She explained that she’d already got me a Chrissie present. (My birthday is December 27th… Hint, hint!)
I really didn’t know what I wanted; I suggested a Sat-nav, a new laptop, a 19” monitor, a case of Bollinger champers and a couple of other things. Frances held up a hand and said “Pick a finger!”
Seriously, I didn’t know what I wanted, so being Fran, she suggested I took her into town early next week to choose something. Very thoughtful is Fran!
“At the same time,” she said, “we can look out for something for me. Oh,” she continued, “We can get some earrings for Emma (Granddaughter) at the same time.”
I cringed inwardly… Shopping with Fran is like going out and watching one’s wallet get thinner and thinner by the minute! I think she wants either a necklace or a bracelet. You can bet your life it won’t be from Woollies, knowing her! Emma is fast taking after her mum in this respect. The days of washing my car for a quid are long gone. I could get the most expensive hot wash, wax and interior clean-out for what Emma wants! Not to worry; they’re good kids and I’m only glad I can spoil ‘em rotten!
The trouble with me and shopping is that I see something that takes my eye; I buy it and then have to decide who would like it. It’s a sort of backwards approach to the problem! For instance, I have seen some beautiful jet jewellery and I’m very tempted to buy some. It isn’t cheap but it looks really great! Jet, by tradition is set in silver and not gold in order to provide a greater contrast. I got some earrings last year for a friend and this time, perhaps, I might get her a matching pendant or something. Men are much easier to please; a bottle of decent malt or a box of cigars and they’re well satisfied!
As for me? Well, I know how very generous my readers are so I’ll leave it to you to choose!