Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cold Turkey at Christmas

This Christmas I have been cruelly yet consensually denied three of my favourite things: my mum, cigarettes, and sharing a double bed with my partner. Nothing sinister at work, I just spent my second Christmas ever at my boyfriend’s parents’ place.

Thankfully, his parents are pretty much my fantasy mum and dad. His mum insists on no television - just parlour games and conversation - and makes the gravy from the giblets. His dad gently teases everyone including his wife who he still loves dearly after nearly fifty years of marriage. Bliss.

I even went to a carol service and if anyone does then surely God knows I love belting out a few songs about mangers and virgins' wombs. It also provided the absolute highlight of my Christmas when a riot nearly broke out over an indestructible piñata presented by an earnest Sunday School teacher to the family service.

After informing us of the story of the piñata's origins (something to do with Marco Polo and the devil - Christmas relevance lost on all of us) she asked the children thronged on the front pews salivating for more chocolate and Skittles, "Can you see what it is?" and they, having built the thing apparently with Araldite and gaffer tape, wetly chanted "a star" only to have the vicar (who had fallen off his chair barely ten minutes previous to this), retort "It's a chicken!", to which it did bear a closer resemblance, to be fair.

Unfortunately, this was not a chicken ready to become an ex-chicken. Even after about twenty children had, in turn, had a go at bashing the hell out of the thing with what looked like Captain Caveman's club, it was still gleefully bouncing around the sixteenth century wood-carved chapel. It got a bit frightening when eventually some of the older kids started really going at it whilst the other ones shouted "Get it! Kill the Chicken!" A perhaps not-so-rare Lord of the Flies moment in a Devonian village.

Local Jennifer Saunders was in the congregation, can't help but wonder if it might turn up in Jam and Jerusalem (Rob's mum, a member of the local WI on which it is no doubt based, underwhelmed by it so far, I think it's pretty good in places).

And we were housed in the bungalow of a fellow kind lady of the village (not sure if she's another WI-er) who was whooping it up in a Saga hotel in Winchester over the festive period and had kindly offered two single rooms for us. Again, I could complain but it was preferable to the living room floor alternative which would have no doubt involved Rob’s dad tiptoeing over me to refill his mum's sherry glass in time for the Queen’s speech (that country air really knocks me out).

As for the fags, well it’s a dull but ongoing fight against these oppressors, my lungs the Middle East of my now-aging battleground of a body. I think the UN are probably about as effective as the grubby (nicotine) patch now affixed to my soft underbelly, but it keeps my baser instincts at bay.

Thankfully whilst denied my maternal fix for the most part, I did manage to see Mother Brown on Boxing Day evening for an enormous squeeze and lots of kisses on kitchen-ruddy cheeks. Truth be told, I do actually like cold turkey - alongside an enormous pile of my mum's bubble and squeak, stained with pickled walnut juice, of course.

Back to work tomorrow. Ah well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Let's Have Some New Cliches

I was going to title this post "All I Want for Christmas" then realised it would be the same title of a million other entries simultaneously saved to blogger which may have caused the Internet to explode.

Anyway, what I wanted was the Internet back. And I just got it. Gawd bless BT. I also want one of those USB LP converter thingies for anyone who's interested. I realise I will, however, be getting a couple of varieties of unction, a stinky candle and possibly a not-quite-right book, same as I've bought for everyone else.

Have a smashing winterval.


P.S. Is Internet still upper case or am I showing my age?

Friday, December 08, 2006

One Cold Pontiff and Three Warm Old Ladies

As well as working on and at the fringes of various exciting projects, interspersed with whines about my lack of time (Balls It's F*cking Friday, I say) and my lack of broadband at home (dull poor customer experience post may be with you soon), I have managed to squeeze in a long weekend in Rome since I last wrote.

Without the time and materials, I have failed to get some nice pics onto Flickr, or my video of the inside of the Pantheon onto Youtube as planned, but here are some highlights to be getting on with:

  1. The emotional intensity of seeing St Peters and the Pope
    We saw Benedict XVI speaking to the crowd on Sunday, and whilst a lapsed Catholic it did seem pretty astounding (and to be fair, my travelling companion Tracy is Jewish and she was pretty impressed too).

    I was also moved wondering whether religious members of my family had ever been to Rome or seen a Pope speak, and was pleased/relieved to find out from Mother Brown that my nan had actually been to Rome although the pope she saw was nicer, the current one "not being what I call a warm pope" on Mother's popeometer. (Incidentally, have only just realised where the word pontificate comes from.)

    St Peters as a whole is awe-inspiring due to the beauty of its sculpture, art and architecture, humbling for the piety of some of the characters in the building past and present, but ultimately for me a little nauseating for the amount of decoration, ostentation and glamour.

  2. Food
    Includes: spaghetti cacio e pepe (goats cheese and black pepper); fig and walnut ice cream; deep-fried artichokes Roman-Jewish style; squid in a spicy tomato sauce; fritto misto (Italian tempura); coffee; sesame and honey ice cream; some sort of delicious tuna thing; linguine with lemon and sea bass.

    My favourite of all was a dense almondy cake rich with dry fruit and fresh from an oven from an unmarked bakery we'd been tipped off about by the Time Out guide. We nearly gave up on the place until I spotted two old dears feverishly scratching at the paper bag containing whatever they'd just bought - which I found out was this heavenly stuff. Now known by me as "old lady crack", if anyone can hazard a guess at what it's actually called, I'd love to find out. It tasted Christmassy and had lots of whole almonds in it as well.

  3. The Pride of Romans in their City
    We paused for a few moments in a (by Roman standards) non-descript piazza to admire the intense blue sky against the amber rooftops, and a little old lady walking across the square strode past us beaming and waving her hands in our direction, saying something along the lines of "Bella! It is beautiful, Rome, yes?" I'm not convinced it would happen in another city.

Wish me luck getting Tiscali to get our broadband up and running, I need my virtual life back.