Tuesday 27 December 2022

Our Christmas stockings

This year providing each other with a Christmas stocking of gifts costing no more than £5 total was really challenging but we were determined not to up the budget. 

I didn’t do very well with my purchases for MrFF, some organic dark chocolate, two spf lip balms to take to Italy where he is prone to cold sores from the sun, a geology book and a rather lovely landscape book on water gardens costing 50p in the charity shop. It has beautiful illustrations and detailed plans, In case he ever runs out of projects in Italy I would like this one.

My stocking contained all these, he found some lovely things. 

The mini battenburgs were on their expiry in the bargain bucket, I don’t mind that at all.  

The little wooden sphere is a yo-yo, he thought the picture of the badger would remind me of our Italian garden, though not in a good way. 

My favourite item is in the white paper bag, it’s liquorice from Skipton market, where he travelled for free with his bus pass.   The disc shaped ones are Pontefract cakes, which are soft and delicious, the tiny little cats are Dutch liquorice, they are so lovely I cannot bring myself to eat them.  

Slightly less delightful is the grater for taking hard skin off your feet, MrFF thought it might be quite aggressive but it isn’t.   Finally there is a collagen face mask that might get passed on, I am not convinced such a product also containing glitter and costing less than £1 is what my 74 year old skin needs.

Of course we had gorgeous gifts from family to open later in the day but opening our stockings on Christmas morning is always great fun and cheap fun at that which is what we like.

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Light at Christmas

am wondering how I feel this year about outdoor Christmas lights.  Living in our penthouse we don’t have the option of an outdoor display but when we lived in houses we generally had white lights in a tree near our front door at Christmas. I think there is a natural desire for increased light during the cold of winter and the long dark nights but this year feels different.

We were invited by our energy supplier to take part in a savings exercise that we happily agreed to join.  Basically at specified peak usage times we must try to  reduce our normal power consumption by turning off what we can.  In return we receive a small credit and help reduce demand.  The first time we did this, turning off tv, computers, anything on standby and using only one light we did well and earned a credit of £2.99 in one hour.  We were invited the next week to do the same for one hour on two consecutive days. We took the same action but our total saving was disappointingly about £1.50, twice the time half the return, maybe we missed something.  The latest request was to save for two hours between 5 and 7 pm which seemed a bit daunting but in fact wasn’t, again the saving was only £1.50.   

Of course it’s no great financial benefit given the enormous rises in fuel prices but we like to think it’s one in the eye for Putin as we reduce consumption and demand,  also it reminds us not to take power for granted or waste it.

So I am finding it hard to accept some of the lavish outdoor light displays we see around us. We look down onto this terrace of smart townhouses, almost every one is illuminated from dusk, most until late at night and one all night long.  I feel this is rather ostentatious, not because I dislike excessive displays (I do) but as more and more people are struggling to cope with financial pressures it seems insensitive.  It’s a tricky one, I love the lights in our town and everyone has the right to spend their money as they wish but with a worst case scenario that we could in future face power cuts shouldn’t we all be thinking about how we use this commodity.  Besides being from Yorkshire I would be inclined to have no lights, enjoy my neighbours to save my money and demand.

Friday 16 December 2022

An early Christmas surprise

Proud great aunty moment.  This is my eldest grand niece Amelia, 13 years old.  I sent to her and her younger sister Esme 10 years old via their grandparents, my brother and sister in law, kits to knit their own Christmas wreaths.  3 balls of chunky white wool, a pair of lovely large wooden needles,  a circular metal frame, a red ribbon and full instructions.  It’s quite a while since I taught the girls to knit so I cast on for both of them and knitted the first couple of rows to get them started.

Imagine my delight to receive an email from their mum thanking me for the gifts and saying that within a day of receiving hers Amelia had finished.  

Amelia looks so cosy and calm knitting, I am beyond being proud and the finished article is beautiful. The little socks were some I made and gave my sister in law to distribute as she wished or keep for herself, I must make more.  I can’t wait to see Esme's wreath and I cannot say how happy this post makes me.  The knitting genes might have missed a generation, neither of my nieces is interested. This feels like a lovely and lasting Christmas gift for me and I am hoping the chunky needles might next be used for scarves.

Monday 12 December 2022

Christmas countdown

Obviously we haven’t put up our Christmas decorations yet, it’s only the 12 December so they are still in the loft.  However we have done our present exchange as my brother and his wife were able to come over at the weekend.  It was fairly short notice for us all but fortunately I had decided the day before we arranged this to tackle the present wrapping and with a few last minute purchases we were ready.  

It’s so nice to have all these parcels in our hall, a neighbour called in and said it looked lovely that I shall leave them there.

My sister in law made for beautiful festive arrangement for us, it’s on the hall console.  They also brought us 

pink hyacinths 

and a white amaryllis in a decorated glass vase.  Already we look so festive, by my standards, there can’t be much more to do.

It’s unlike me to be so organised, just the usual exchange of gifts to the value of £5 between MrFF and I.  That’s proving this year to be quite a challenge given the rising cost of living, we thought about upping the budget but decided not to break with tradition. 

Sunday 4 December 2022

Kindness costs nothing

MrFF listens a lot to the singer Neil Young, mostly the album Comes a Time and a line of the track Human Highway always resonates with me

          How could people get so unkind 

Kindness costs nothing and changes everything, yet it seems to be sadly missing in today's world.  

Harry and Meghan with their promised revelations about the royal family immediately springs to mind.  I cannot help thinking if The Queen was still alive the couple might have been more reticent to speak out.  They delayed publication of their tell all book after her death but I saw in our local independent and much loved bookshop that it’s now available to order.  I’d love our bookshop more if they refused to stock it and I might have some respect for the Sussexes if they just concentrated on doing something decent with their lives rather than this self promotion that rakes in more money to maintain their extravagant home and lifestyle.  I’m sure the royal family are greatly feeling the loss of the Queen as a dear family member but also as their mentor, Harry does her a great disservice whatever his perceived grievances and he probably know that.  If he has suffered so much at the hands of the royals its surprising he and Meghan were so keen that their children have royal titles and be part of the firm they abhor. 

The recent resignation of Lady Susan Hussey a member of the royal household after allegations of racist abuse towards Ngozi Fulani CEO of a charity that supports abused black and caribbean women is another example, why not all women is another matter.   We are talking about an 83 year old woman with many life experiences, years of devoted (unpaid) service and until this event still working.    There is no kindness in the apparent victim immediately going public about the exchange via social media talking about feeling trapped and violated. Surely better to have explained she wasn’t comfortable being questioned about her ethnicity, that despite their obvious visible differences both women were equally British and she didn't wish to discuss her families heritage.  As it is one woman is hurt and angry which doesn’t stop her seeking publicity and throwing out her allegations,  one forced to resign from the role that has been her life for the last 60 years.    

Thursday 1 December 2022

Move over Marie Kondo

I am basically a tidy person, not in the league of Marie Kondo the decluttering guru who recommends disposing of anything that doesn't spark joy in your life but I am neat enough.  MrFF is different, he likes his life to be visible around him witness the many piles of papers on his desk, he finds it hard to let go of things that might just come in useful one day.  

We have lived in our little penthouse now for 8 years, we downsized quite drastically and storage is always an issue for us.  For example, until we sold my yellow car we often kept our vegetables, wine and oil in it.    

Call me unreasonable I think if you haven't used something for 8 years you don't really need it, MrFF disagrees.  He has in his wardrobe a Corby trouser press from his long gone days of business suits, its never been connected to the power supply in Yorkshire.  

However, lets be fair here, he has recently made some effort.  We have since we moved here stored behind the back of a sofa a surplus 32" tv encased in bubble wrap.  MrFF wanted it on the wall of our spare bedroom, I can think of nothing worse.  We have a large tv in our lounge and small tv in our bedroom which is bad enough, the bedroom is for sleeping preceeded by some reading not watching tv.  Last week he finally admitted defeat and put the tv on ebay, it sold immediately which is fine but I have spent the last 8 years hating the bloomin thing, as often the case the more I complain the less happens.   Someone could have had the benefit of said tv for many years, it was bought as a Christmas present, likewise all the other stuff, it seems quite mean spirited to me.

Another example.  MrFF brought when we moved at least 8 suits, two black tie.  I don't think he has worn a suit since he retired, apart for a funeral once, in fact some of them have never been worn at all.  We had friends over a while back, they were going to a smart wedding and the wife said she was dreading dragging her husband round the shops to find him something to wear.  MrFF quickly produced an array of options, one suit fit almost perfectly, they had it altered for less than £50 and sent us photos of them looking smart at the wedding. They also took one of the dinner jackets in case they are ever invited to an appropriately formal function though I imagine that was us cluttering their house instead of ours.

And finally MrFF brought back from Italy various bits of kit that over the years have enable us to watch UK tv, don't ask me what they are I can barely operate the tv in Italy.  They sold too.  

Progress indeed, of course the discussion goes on.  Looking for ink for my fountain pen I recently came across about 50 blank CDs, who uses them nowadays.  MrFF wasn't up for discussion about then so I felt it inappropriate to remind him of the 50,000 staples he still has in stock, though I did use one this week, slow and steady wins the race but at our age we may not have that much race left in us.