Happy Christmas

The hyperactive child is asleep. The wife is wrapping presents. Monty is in his basket. Treacle is sitting next to me.

Me? I’ve just signed my Corporation Tax return and written a fat cheque to the Revenue.

Ho ho and, indeed, ho. Merry Christmas.


Last night saw a high powered meeting of the village elders here in Ruralville. The Ruralville village hall was converted at short notice and with remarkable speed into a centre for politicking and debate to rival anything that goes on in that other village, Westminster. Speakers passionately debated the matters of the day with argument meeting counter argument on the contentious issue of parking and yellow lines. Amusingly, there were attempts to press-gang attendees into becoming parish councillors, a dangerous path if ever I saw one. Thankfully, I seemed to escape by promising only to give the matter some consideration (a fine cop out, if ever I saw one).

Thereafter, everyone retired to the pub, where we were joined by Monty and our near-neighbour’s cat, Oscar. Oscar is only six months old and is similarly coloured to Monty. Monty seems to regard him as a mini-me. I suspect that he might receive some training and end up as Monty’s henchcat, sent out to deal with the marauding, food-stealing tabby and white that thinks he rules the neighbourhood. In any case, both seemed happy to wander into the pub to see where the hands that feed them had gone, but thought better of it once confronted with two dozing dogs under the table.

Thorny situation

  • 2.15pm – Monty walks into the house, limping
  • 2.16pm – I get scratched as I try to see what the problem is
  • 2.20pm – arrange 2.50pm appointment with the vet
  • 2.23pm – phone Hels
  • 2.25pm – dig cat carrier out of the shed
  • 2.30pm – phone childminder to arrange collecting Tom early
  • 2.32pm – leave home
  • 2.40pm – collect Tom
  • 2.50pm – arrive at vet
  • 3.00pm – go into examination room, juggling cat, son and Miffy toy
  • 3.02pm – vet extracts thorn from Monty’s paw, advising that if it had been left there would have been an abcess and general nastiness, and administers antibiotic
  • 3.05pm – nurse agrees that Miffy is suffering from Dirty Ear Disease and needs a bath
  • 3.06pm – nurse relieves yours truly of £32.41
  • 3.15pm – arrive home. Release disgruntled cat. Monty licks his wounds on his paw. I lick the wound on my wallet.


In case you thought I’d disappeared completely, we’ve been away in the Netherlands with no internet connection – which is a good thing, sometimes.

On our return, we appear to have been reduced to a single cat – Monty is nowhere to be seen, which is worrying. We asked a neighbour to pop round and feed them each day, which he has done superbly. Treacle is here and content, but there is no trace of Monty. He’s gone AWOL before when we’ve been away, but has usually turned up within 12 hours of our return – we’ve now been home for 14 hours and he has still to show himself. You can mark me down as “concerned”.

UPDATE: Ten hours after posting the above, Monty ambled in and demanded food with a "where the hell have you been?!" miaow. Much relief all-round, particularly as I’d already walked around Ruralville checking hedges, ditches and verges.

Not quite normal

This is going to be a not-quite-normal Christmas. Firstly, it’s our first Christmas as a threesome, although Tom doesn’t really have an inkling as to what it is all about. I’m sure that he will be more excited by the wrapping paper, ribbon and boxes than by the gifts themselves, although I suspect that the maracas, tambourine and glockenspiel will all be hits as they all make a good noise. Shopping for Tom is remarkably easy (the problem is knowing when to stop) and we’ve worked particularly hard to buy only a moderate number of presents and to aim for quality over cheap tat.

However, this Christmas will also be not-quite-normal as we all fight illness. Tom has a stomach bug which has resulted in vomiting and diarrhoea, although he has remained remarkably cheerful in spite of it all. I took him to the out-of-hours clinic last night for a little medical reassurance (“plenty fluids, a little Calpol, lay off rich food – call back if anything changes”) and he sat on my knee smiling broadly at the doctor (but then he is a bit of a flirt, so I shouldn’t be surprised). Hels has sinusitis, which is causing her to be nauseous and dizzy as well as taking all the flavour and fun out of food. She spent much of today in bed and seems a little better this evening. As for me, I’m pretty tired out by caring for them both and tonight I feel a little flaky – I’m hoping that is a symptom of fatigue and not a harbinger of Tom’s tummy bug (having been around unpleasant nappies for the last two days, nothing would surprise me).

But the presents are wrapped (I’m just tying ribbon on the last few), the cards are delivered (save for three to be dropped through neighbours’ doors in a moment) and the fire is burning (although we can’t get near it for cats). I’m just about to break open the Bristol Cream and Hels is browsing the TV guide. Tomorrow we begin the round of parental visits with my parents, followed by my in-laws on Boxing Day.

All we need now is a holiday. Merry Christmas.

UPDATE: I was struck down on the evening of Christmas Day by Norwalk virus – look it up if you want to know the symptoms, but I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say that I’m a few pounds lighter now. Tom is better but Hels is still not well.
And, as if anticipating my holiday sentiment, my brother and his fiancée gave us a bunch of hotel vouchers so that we can take a break.

Why we are not exactly leaping around at the moment

This week has included:

  • learning that a friend and client is very unwell
  • literally dozens of phone conversations with two different sets of lawyers and two different sets of surveyors
  • realising that I’ve cocked up my plan to go to a trade show in Poland (note to self: VIII means August, not September – d’oh!)
  • dropping a client because he is really not on my wavelength and I can’t be bothered to struggle for what would be a potentially small reward
  • getting a very long document from the Borough Council
  • not getting a whole bunch of things sorted out that I planned to do this week
  • cleaning up purple projectile vomit after Tom had blackberries for tea (he’s fine now, but I’ve got to redecorate a wall)
  • having to clean the cat litter tray every day after one or other of them decided that the garden was too cold and wet to use now that the weather has turned.

And that is just what I’ve had to do – Hels has had just as much. 

But there are positive things too:

  • Sussex beat Durham in the cricket
  • it rained (very good news in this part of the world)
  • we caught up with some people in the pub
  • it’s Friday
  • we’re going on holiday soon
  • Tom “pulled” a waitress in the place we went to today for lunch (very funny – you had to be there)

So it’s not all bad. It just feels that way.

Childminder run

This morning, I think I became truly middle class. I achieved this by putting Tom in his seat in the back of my car and driving the mile-and-a-half to his childminder’s house (I have considered pushing Tom in his buggy, but it’s a very dangerous lane). There were two other parents there dropping off their children and, on the way home, I had to fight my way through the congestion around Ruralville school where dozens of parents were delivering offspring.

Tom, like the rest of us, is struggling with the current heatwave. We reached 36 Celsius yesterday here and the poor lad was wilting a bit. He sleeps in the afternoon more than usual and then is awake in the evening when he would normally be in bed. So life is all a bit upside down.

Today the temperature is a little lower, but the humidity is up so it is no less comfortable. I’ve struggling to keep going, my PC fan is going mad and the cats can barely drag themselves around. Typical English – never satisfied by the weather.

Lacking fruit

What a fruitless day. A large chunk of it was spent trying to track down the correct brake parts for Hels’s car – ultimately I gave up searching the interwebnet and went to my local garage where they, helpfully, assured me that they were as confused as I am and suggested that the best thing to do was to take the old ones off and take them as patterns to a motor factor. Hmm.

After that, I went seeking some transparency film. Call me old-fashioned, call me a luddite, but don’t call me late for tea (very old family joke – sorry). "Why do I want transparency film?" I hear you ask. Well, the answer is that you don’t want it, I do. The reason is that I need to update my slide collection that I use when I’m giving presentations, particularly with new pictures of some of the plants that I look after in my work. But does anyone sell transparency film any more? Nope. Finally, I tracked down a particularly obscure old-fashioned photographic shop in a particularly obscure corner of NearbyTown (which is obscure in itself) and purchased two rolls of Konico-Minolta 100ASA film – not my preferred brand (always been a FujiFilm kind of guy), but given a choice of that or nothing, that will do.

I’ve also purchased a new (25 year old) lens for my (equally old) Olympus OM2N – my current one is not in the best of health and, for the sake of ten quid, the new one might just be better. Of course, the camera is not technically mine, as it really belongs to my brother, but as it has been in my possession for a considerable number of years now and he hasn’t asked for it back, I’m claiming squatter’s rights.

Subsequently, I’ve discovered that the camera had a part-exposed roll of film inside. So I’ve squandered the remaining frames on pictures of plants, of Tom and of the cats (Monty is so much better at posing than Treacle) and dropped it into Boots. I’ll be able to collect it on Saturday and, as I’ve asked for a CD of scans, you might get to see some pictures from it too. Of course, since it must be at least three years old, there is no telling what is on the first 23 frames of film. I suspect that it may well feature ex-girlfriends, which could make it, um, interesting. Hels has already said that she will delight in destroying any such photos as soon as possible. I’ll keep you posted.