22 December 2009

O Come all ye Faithful

I went to the local supermarket this morning to get all the Christmas food I can only buy at the last minute such as vegetables, cream, cheese, bacon for the turkey and pigs-in-blankets. I always try to avoid going out on Christmas Eve as it is always so busy and in any case I like to spend the time at home getting organised, preparing and cooking. I thought I was being extra clever this year by going not only the day before Christmas Eve, as I usually do, but TWO days before. I have arranged to collect my mother from her home and bring her here tomorrow (I have been dithering about when best to do it as I was waiting to see what the weather was going to do and whether we would get snowed in), so today was really my last chance to get the last-minute food in.

Despite the fresh fall of snow last night, on top of the snow still lying around from last week, the main roads were clear and I only needed to slip and slither the car out of our cul-de-sac. When I arrived at the supermarket car park about a mile away, I encountered my first exposure to pandemonium. There was hardly a space available in the enormous car park. We are talking upwards of about 800 parking bays and nearly every one full. The ground was awash with slushy snow and huge puddles full of floating ice. I drove around and around until I found the last parking bay in England! This should of course have let off alarm bells but I valiantly sailed through the icy air into the oasis of the store with my trolley expecting the usual number of customers. What met my eyes once I was already cocooned in the warmth was utter chaos. I could not believe my eyes. Was there a war on? A lorry drivers' strike maybe? Armageddon on the way? The crowds were pushing and shoving (I have the bruises to prove it); there were trolley jams in every aisle; there appeared to be impromptu coffee-morning meetings being held in the middle of some aisles; they were four deep picking over the clementines and brussel sprouts. While I was waiting my turn hoping to have some contact with the tubs of custard, I had a trolley pushed up my back, as if I were invisible and not myself waiting for some large person with a trolley in front of me to budge. The staff looked just as fed up as they tried to stock up the depleted items with replenishments. To start with I politely hung back to let others through narrow bottlenecks (caused by huge pyramids newly-stacked in mid aisle of exciting offers like mince pies or turkey foil) but after it became apparent that it was every man for himself, I sharpened my elbows and battled forwards with a blank I'm-not-to- be-messed-with look. The touble was, a few others had that same sort of look too and carried it off far more menacingly than me.

I am pleased to say I made it to the checkout with only a few bruises and most of my sanity vaguely intact, though to be honest I was that stressed I might have had a bit of trouble remembering my own name if pushed. As I left there were more people adding to the throng. There were several cars eyeing up my car bay as I backed out of it. I suspect they might have had to call in the local constabulary to deal with the fights. I was glad to be out of there. On unloading it all at home again, I realised I had forgotten the gravy. I'm certainly not going back there again. Do you think I can get away with turkey in a custard sauce instead?

16 December 2009

Happy Christmas

Things start to get busy over the days leading up to Christmas. For a start, tomorrow, I have to have my boobs squashed flat as a pancake in one of those medieval torture-chamber mammogram machines. It's a routine three-yearly check-up that we poor old fifty-somethings have to go through and I don't much relish it. It always hurts and the whole procedure can only have been invented by a man. If men had to have their genitalia pincered paper-thin in a similar fashion, they would have invented an alternative pretty damn quickly.

Snow permitting (and we have had a fair bit of sleet/snow in London today) I hope to collect my mother by car after the weekend and bring her back to the alcoholic daze madhouse for the Christmas period. She did say she wouldn't mind if she spent Christmas on her own. I was not sure whether that was code for "please don't make me endure yet another Christmas with Greg" or whether she was just being considerate, trying to spare me the drive in both directions, as she hates to see me chasing my tail, which I invariably do. Anyhow, I have said there is no way I would see her spend Christmas on her own with a solitary chicken leg for her lunch, so she will be with us, whether she likes it or not. Greg spends most of his time asleep on a dining chair downstairs anyway, so my mum, Kay and I will be separate from him in the lounge upstairs. We'll try our best to eat as much chocolate as we can and fall asleep during the films.

Kay is already back from uni and we have been having lots of girlie chats and catch-up conversations. She seems so mature after just one term and is fascinating to listen to.

I leave you with the following carol to get you in the Christmas mood. Many thanks to all of you who over the past year have offered advice, a shoulder to cry on, or have just been there for me. I appreciate it very much.

Happy (or should that be merry) Christmas ....from Rosiero

14 December 2009

Easy Christmas cake

There is still time to make a cake before Christmas and I thought I'd share this highly unusual
recipe with you.


1 bottle of whisky

250 gm butter
1 cup plain flour
4 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup brown sugar
1 teasp. baking powder
2 cups dried fruit
1 tablesp. lemon juice


1. Sample whisky to check for quality.

2. Take a large bowl. Check the whisky again to make sure that it is of the highest quality.

3. Turn on the mixer. Beat the butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one spoontea of sugar and beat again.

4. Make sure the whisky is still OK. Cry another cup.

5. Turn off the mixer. Break two leggs, add to the bowl and chuck in the dried fruit. If the fruit gets stuck to the beaters, pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the whisky again to check for tonsisticity.

6. Add two cups of salt, or something - who cares? Check the whisky.

7. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one handful of brown sugar, or whatever colour you can find. Wix mel. Grease the oven. Turn the cake tin to 180 degrees centi-thingy.

8. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Throw the bowl out of the window. Check the whisky.

9. Stagger down to the local supermarket and buy one of their cakes. Pretend you made it yourself. Drink the remaining whisky.

Please do not try this at home!! You have been warned.

04 December 2009

The Christmas letter

Every year, for some considerable time now, when I write my Christmas cards, I include a computer-written round-robin letter in them, telling people what we have been doing during the past year. First, it saves having to hand-write a letter to every one of the hundred or so we send cards to, secondly it keeps people we haven't seen for a while up to date and thirdly I actually love receiving similar kinds of letters from other people at Christmas. If I have been unable to see them for two, three, four, ten years, it is a nice way of catching up with their news. I also keep copies of my own letters, so over a period of time, I can look back and see what we did in any given year. One of our acquaintances has said in the past that they felt insulted receiving the same printed newsletter from us sent to all and sundry, but apart from that one person, most have said they look forward to receiving them and hearing our news.

Over the last few years I have had increasing trouble knowing what to write about Greg. Only a small handful of people know there is anything wrong with Greg apart from his diabetes and heart trouble. They know nothing whatsoever about the alcoholism. The first person I ever shared the problem with, about four years ago, was Greg's sister and for a long time she was the only other person who knew. Then my mother witnessed things at first hand when she stayed over with us one Christmas. Then a year or so further on, Greg's mother (who is sadly no longer with us) found out. Gradually I felt brave enough to share my dilemma with my two closest friends and finally, eighteen months ago, Kay's teacher, who needed to know in case Kay's school work suffered. In fact, it was the telling of the teacher that finally pushed me into writing my blog, because that was the first (and only) person outside close friends and family whom I had told and that seemed to give me courage to get things off my chest into cyberspace. However, apart from those six people, the rest of our circle of friends, neighbours and family know absolutely nothing at all. Some might have guessed (certainly neighbours in recent months), but most have no idea at all. I have often had to make excuses to others about Greg's absence from social gatherings, about why he doesn't drive anywhere these days or about his hospitalisations. The usual excuse is that he has problems resulting from diabetes and the poor circulation in his legs. It is true he has those complaints but they are not of course solely the reasons for his absences, inability to drive or hospitalisations. I have even blamed his absences on the fact that he has to babysit for the dog. I sometimes wonder if I should just come clean and tell everyone the truth as the situation arises, but then I feel I might somehow be disloyal to Greg, doing the dirty on him, washing our linen in public. (I suppose the same could be said of this blog, but then I do try to cover up our real identity, so Greg's privacy is protected.)

Up until this year there was always equal news in our newsletters about all three of us. However, my Christmas letter this year contains lots of news about Kay and myself. There is a very small paragraph buried in the middle just to say Greg had been ill in hospital again and was now housebound. He read my draft through a few days ago and commented "there's not much about me in it". What more could I write? That he drinks all day? Watches TV from morning till the following early morning and naps on the dining chair at odd times of the day? That he has all sorts of illnesses building up from the excess of alcohol? That his hygiene has gone to seed? That he never goes anywhere or does anything? Perhaps I could make up something, such as he is planning to climb Killimanjaro or has taken up stamp-collecting? I asked him what he would like me to write instead. He thought for a minute and then said my draft was fine.