The Big Fat Christmas Blog

Pardon my lack of activity recently.  The festivities have been a fairly busy time, despite being off work since the 19th!!

Since xmas day I’m afraid most of my time has been absorbed by….

Call of Duty 6

Sweet Addiction

However I jump ahead of myself.  Let us return to the pre xmas madness of the 23rd of December.  Despite having literally twelve months to prepare, we found ourselves needing to buy stuff.  So for reasons I cannot now explain we headed into Manchester.  This act of insanity wasn’t actually that bad to be honest, apart from the ludicrous parking fees, massive crowds, freezing cold weather and aching feet.

Manchester Eye

Wheely nice

Having lunched at Pizza Hut, wandered endless shops, darkness had fallen by the time we left.  We still hadn’t got all we needed!!

One thing I did encounter was the abounding panic that comes over everyone as the hours count down to the big day.  No matter how much we had told ourselves that this year would be suitably frugal to reflect the crunchiness of the times, those last 48 hours induce a “Supermarket Sweep” style fever which means you dash around buying all sorts of stuff you hadn’t planned to.  This for us, ranged from extra (expensive) presents for the girls, to all sorts of culinary delights that will no doubt still be in the cupboard next July.

It seems it is futile to resist these urges, and I fell under its spell as did everyone else I shopped alongside.  The shops are really only closed for 24 hours, however, the stockpile fever still kicks in as if we are hunkering down for the entire winter.

To be fair I think the panic is mainly driven by the fear of being without something vital, like say Olives on the big day, and therefore all your efforts being worth naught due to this heinous oversight.  This is silly….everyone knows the local mini mart at the petrol station is open 24 hours a day all through xmas, and what they don’t stock isn’t worth having!!!

Christmas Eve was a quiet affair at my brother’s house, and we were home and in bed by 11pm!!  I think I had all of two beers, but I am not a big drinker to be honest.

So after setting the alarm for 3am, so that Louise could “supervise” Santa dropping off the presents, we both returned to bed around 4am.  Having kids of a more sleepy age meant that we avoided the old days of being awoken pre 5am, and it was a very civilised 8.30am before Rebecca appeared, rejecting all of her pre teen coolness, and instead being an excited kid all over again.

No dolls and big plastic toys these days.  It is clothes and major gadgets all round, which makes the piles of pressies smaller, which in turn makes Louise paranoid that the kids will be dissappointed!!  They weren’t.  They got what they wanted, and few things they didn’t know they wanted as usual.

Rebecca opening presents

Henry helping Rebecca open presents

Henry was his usual helpful self, and so he wasn’t left out we bought him a little something which I think he liked!!

Henry

Merry Xmas Henry

Henry with toy

I think he likes it

The thing you need to know about xmas day though is that I discovered a new life skill.  I discovered that I make the best Eggs Benedict on the planet.  Having had this dish a few times on our Florida jaunts, (Vero Beach had the best!), I thought I’d give it a go.  We had my parents over for xmas breakfast so I had six to prepare.  My masterful timing and culinary ability shone through, and being immodest for a second, they were superb.  So much so that Louise made me make them again on Boxing Day morning!!

The rest of the big day was spent at home, with just Louise’s Mum joining us for “the meal” which Louise made almost single handedly, and it was, again, superb.  The evening was spent, as tradition dictates, in front of the telly nursing a full belly.  We watched the National Lampoon’s Christmas film with Chevy Chase.  I’ve seen it dozens of times, but laugh every time still.

Boxing Day was at our house, but to be fair was only a small family gathering consisting of my Mum & Dad and my brother and his family (Paula, Sarah, Jack and George).  I was on food duty today, and it was a festive buffet affair, supplemented by pasties.  For those from London or overseas, this might help.  We don’t do the Cornish ones, but you’ll get the idea…meat and potatoes in pastry!!

Since Boxing Day, to be honest we’ve pretty much done nothing.  I have of course taken part in one of the great xmas traditions, the rubbish tip run.  Here, men of all ages gather just after xmas, black bags in boots (trunks for the Yanks), disposing of what looks like seven weeks rubbish, created in just two short festive days.

I have been to the gym a couple of times too, as my body’s frankly quite stunning ablity to absorb fat has been in overdrive, and I appeared to have gained four pounds in two days!!  I am back to almost pre xmas weight now, and I am trying not to gorge myself on all that stuff we panic bought that sits in cupboards screaming my name…..roasted peanuts, I’m talking about you!!!

Emily opening presents

Emily is in there somewhere

Why am I showing Emily’s xmas morning photo here, much later than Rebecca?  Well, this is how it happened.  Despite threats of actual violence she could not be roused so we three went downstairs and we started without her!!  She arrived half an hour later, demonstrating once again that she doesn’t do mornings.

She opened presents in a zombie like state, and it wasn’t until much later that she found her stride.  One of her gifts was Lips for the Xbox…bascially DIY Karaoke.  Once they discovered they could upload songs from their iPods we had two full days of angst ridden teen Emo songs, with our two adding their dulcit tones over the top.  I love my girls, I really do, but it had to be stopped for my sanity.

Girls playing Lips

Lip Action

Having a little time on my hands I have finally made a DVD from our Florida holiday video from….2001.  Yes I know….but better late than never.  It was lovely to see it again, and the girls look like totally different beings!!  If technology allows I shall upload it so you can take a look.  I will be working through the other year’s videos as time allows too!

So now I sit in Chrimbo Limbo, that period of nothingness between xmas and New Year, with another day almost slipped away in a blur of doing not a lot, with no real plans for New Years Eve either.  Party people we ain’t it seems.

We shall perhaps go for a meal somewhere, but no doubt be tucked up in bed well before the early hours show up.

Well, writing all this down has worn me out.  After so long away from work I am not used to all this brain activity.  This picture sort of sums it up I think.

Henry Asleep

All this excitement has worn me out

Till the next time….

Snowbound

I haven’t seen snow like this since….oooh, two days ago.  For years we have been relegated to watching the snow sufferings of others on the news, a sort of vicarious viewing of gridlocks and closed schools, however we are now in snow central.

The girls are gutted as they are off school anyway, so this snow is sort of wasted.  Until today we have been able to get around pretty much OK, but I had a list of errands as long as my long thing this morning, and only managed to get one done (my haircut, which to be fair doesn’t take too long) before realising that the conditions were getting serious, and I headed for home.

We live at the top of a hill, which is great as a flood defence, but tends to be an issue when the white stuff hits.  So after a few failed attempts at the hill, a fellow struggler helped me salt the road, and push the car up the hill, and I returned the favour.  We have never spoken before, so the spirit of the Blitz reappears.  Who said global warming was a bad thing?

I would like to pass on my thanks and appreciation to my boring Ford Mondeo for its handling of the dreadful road conditions.  I did enjoy sailing past the Merc drivers as they slid and spun trying to make progress.  Being not quite as succesfull as others sometimes has its merits.

My Mondeo

The New Ford Reindeer

So being snow bound now, myself and the kids have hunkered down for the day.  My failed errands sneer at me from the back of my mind.  The gym, the rubbish tip and food shopping shall have to wait for clearer roads I’m afraid.

We are watching Bandslam on DVD now.  Well, technically I am half watching it as I’m typing at the same time.  Louise is at work and it is a serious concern that she may not be able to get home.  The snow hasn’t stopped all morning, and the roads are going to be horrific for her journey home.  As he works in a hospital, they can’t exactly close early and send everyone home, particularly as she is attending an operation today!!

At least there should be a bed for the night if she needs it, I’m guessing the hospital has a couple of thousand!

Having missed the gym today I shall have to restrict my calorie intake to single digit (thousands) I think.  A test of will power if ever there was one.  I can hear all the xmas goodies screaming my name from the kitchen cupboards.

Oh look, it approaches midday, and that means I am allowed to have lunch.  Eating lunch prior to 12.00pm is a big no-no, and I see it as abject failure.  At 12.01, all is good.

I hope the snow abates tomorrow as I have promised the family a sumptious breakfast on Christmas Day of Eggs Benedict.  Having never made this before that should be interesting….particularly if I don’t have things like eggs.  So a journey to the market which us super is required, or it is stale bread and cereal all round.

Till the next time…..

Snot Christmas yet…

However, I have now finished work for the festive period!!  It was timed perfectly that on my last day in the office I was visited by the snot fairy, and I have a full blown case of man flu (which I guess is different to a half blown case…isn’t our language funny sometimes?).

I won’t talk you through my working week as once again I was down south, a fully fledged member of the death squad for our Surbiton office, with Wednesday being a full day of shifting crap from the office and then on Thursday, more meetings with the poor sods now looking for work.

I see that after saying I wouldn’t talk you through it I seem to be doing exactly that now….anyway, the journey home started in a full blown (there I go again) blizzard, and ending about seven hours later with a full blown sense of humour failure.

Whilst I was away Emily & Rebecca went to see Paramore (supported by Youmeatsix) at the MEN.  They loved it just a lot.  I like Paramore too, mainly as I am an utterly cool Dad.

Paramore

Paramore all dressed up

So on my return to the frozen North, I popped into the house for all of ten minutes before setting off out again in the snow to attend a team xmas meal, at a lovely curry house in Whitefield.  The Forts of India was very good, and I could just eat my Saag Chicken all over again right now.

Forts of India Interior

Saag Chicken please....

So despite feeling the onset of my gruesome illness I had a nice night with good company and tremendous food.  I do find it odd that the chaps who work for me forget I am sort of a normal person, and it does take a little while for them to relax when out of the office.  I am only the boss as I have a mortgage to pay…not through choice!!

However, after the two days I had down south, as soon as the last forkful was consumed, the cash was left with the guys and I was off to bed.

A frustrating drive home, as it had been on the way there, as three flakes of snow means that everyone drives as if we lived in the frozen wastes of Alaska.

Friday started badly, with the man flu having me in it’s full grip by now.  I struggled out of bed, and through the snow, arriving at work around 10am.  It was OK though, I was forgiven by my team as I had brought them last day chocolates!!

I sort of limped through Friday to be honest, and was very glad to put work behind me around 5pm.  After a very busy last few weeks, the official finish for xmas sort of snuck up on me, and there wasn’t the usual feeling of it being an event.

I do not darken work’s door again until Jan the 4th, so you have been warned, I may post more often, and the content may get a little repetitive!!  It has not escaped my notice that my illness has arrived just in time to eat into my holiday, rather than preventing me from working.

Right now I am sat on the couch in a house resembling a sauna, as I can’t bring myself to turn the heating off.  I have around twelve layers on, and Enchanted on the telly.  The house is peaceful as Louise is out with Emily and Ben (boyfriend of Emily) at her drum lesson.

Ben

The first boyfriend!

On the subject of Ben/boyfriends, I am a little put out that I actually like him.  I had always hoped to make any boyfriend’s life an outright misery, with over bearing/oppressive/embarassing behaviour.

Instead, I find myself encouraging Emily to see more of him, be nice to him, and not to be moody!!!

Rebecca is out at a friend’s house, after a sleep over last night, so I type away, the dog snoring at my feet, hoping Louise brings back something good to eat.  I have to feed a cold…it is the law!!

We are forecast lots of snow tonight, and yep, right on cue it has started.  So once the family are back we shall barricade the front door, crank the heating up to eleven, and find something unchallenging to watch on the telly.

Drat, the extraction of snot from the nasal area is becoming a pressing requirement so I shall sign off…..till the next time.

Easy like a Sunday morning

I have wrestled with my conscience since waking this morning, and have come to the conclusion that not going to the gym today would be the better option.  I feel absolutely knackered, not helped by my lovely daughter and her friend talking and giggling until almost 2am this morning.  They were one giggle from me walking into their room, in naught but my underwear to tell them off.  However, giggling in the dark is no real reason to inflict that level of mental scarring onto two young girls.

Once they finally went to sleep, the rest of us could follow, only to be woken up by them at 8am, with more of the same giggling and talking in whispered tones that could be heard next door.  So I was up earlyish.

With a very busy last week at work looming, I know I will have little chance to visit the gym at lunch, as is my usual routine, so I really should go today.  But to be honest the “can’t be arsed” factor has been victorious for once.

With Liverpool on the telly later, and Louise out shopping with her Mum, (she must be insane to do this through choice….the shopping bit I mean, not going out with her Mum!!), I have decided to have a day full of nothing.

We watched the X Factor last night, and I always do so with mixed emotions.  Ever since I read Chart Idol by Ben Elton, my already cynical view of these shows, has moved to one of complete disdain.

Chart Throb

Only read this if you want to ruin X Factor forever

I have enjoyed every Ben Elton book I have ever read, and he has a great knack of taking a current media phenom…phenomme…funom…craze, analysing it, and showing it for what it really is.  A clever guy indeed.

So to last night’s show.  I always seem to be out of step with public opinion, and through the years very few of the ones I think deserve it have won, all the way back to the classic Young vs Gates Pop Idol show.  This year seems no different, as I am quite bewildered by the adulation of Olly.  He is a half decent singer, who would make a good living in pubs and clubs, but a pop star he ain’t.  I think the gulf in class showed last night, as he looked like an average karaoke version of Robbie.

As for the Buble, the man is incredible.  I have an affinity for him, as there are so many similarities between him and I.  Good looking, great singer, suave, charasmatic and from Bolton.  Ok, I made the last one up.

George Michael has, in my eyes, long held the legend status, and he oozes class (not Class B drugs, although…), every time I see him.

So my mixed emotions are based on the following

1.  I get frustrated that the wrong person usually wins (Leona and Alexander apart)

2.  Simon Cowell keeps getting richer from it

3.  I have some small sense of wishing I had made more of my brief daliance with pop stardom, which to be fair, peaked with an appearance on Key 103 in the early 90s, but still, it was my dream, and it was only a lack of drive, hair, dietary control and a big chunk of luck that thwarted my ambitions.

4.  I also feel like I should rebel against the force feeding of this dumbed down TV fodder that we are being brain washed into accepting as the highlight of our week.  There is a line in a Del Amitri song about people sleeping like doped white mice in a college lab, and I think we resemble this concept more and more.  Keep the masses obsessed with this tat and they won’t think about anything else.

Anyway, that’s a bit deep for a Sunday morning.

I have housework to do now it seems, before the arrival of Emily’s boyfriend.  He is a recent addition to our lives, and Emily’s first boyfriend.  I always thought I would be the typical grouchy over bearing Dad, but to be honest, I find myself really liking him.  Best laid plans and all that.

Till the next time…..

The good life was based in Surbiton….

However, my experience of that town this week wasn’t too good to be honest.

We have had a satellite office there for a few years, and I won’t bore anyone with the back story, but this week I was part of the management team that had to go and close it down.  Nice!!

So at 10am on Tuesday we arrived at site looking like a cross between Resevoir Dogs and the Keystone Cops, and broke the news to the poor souls who would be affected.  Yep, I’ve had better days.

We then spent the next couple of days meeting with the chaps from that office, explaining what we could do to help etc, and of course starting to dismantle the office.  A heartbreaking job.

This two day fun parade meant staying over nearby, and this was at the Monkey Puzzle.  A Beefeater.  You can see that budget is obviously a concern in these trying times.  To be fair, it was fine, and the meals were perfectly acceptable.  The company  on this mission was a real mix, and spending time with a range of colleagues, most for the first time, threw up a few challenges.

There is indeed “nowt stranger than folk”, but still we got through, and the worst of it is over.  We are back down there next week to meet with the guys again, and continue the dismantle and emptying operation.  It will be a lovely way to end before xmas!!

TFT monitors in a row

TFT anyone?

After two stressful, tiring and weird days we headed back up north, myself in a Ford Puma.  Never before, and probably never again, although I was grateful for the lift!!  Back to the office on Thursday to be straight into a round of “can you impress these visitors from head office please”.  I was asked to take them through what I did, and make it “really slick”.

So, I sat in front of the TV, ate my own body weight in junk food, blew off a few times, and played on my xbox.  Job done.  Turns out they meant what I do at work, rather than in my spare time.  I think I recovered the situation to their satisfaction.

So here we are at Friday again, and I left work early today so the girls might remember what I look like, before I have to drop them off in town to go and watch the local production of Oliver with their guide group.

Louise is also out tonight, at her xmas do.  Now that could get messy, and it may well be a good thing that she is staying over at the hotel.  Luckily she works in a hospital, so she will have all the medical help she might need once she has downed four bottles of wine, seven brandies and two pork pies.  Is there a doctor in the house?  Yes, and about seventy nurses too.

So what should I do with myself tonight?  Well, I could do that yes, but frankly I will probably get myself something stupidly calorific to eat and play the xbox for a bit.  I also have a couple of DVDs just arrived, from my friends at the Tesco DVD club, so The Hangover, looks tempting.

Hangover DVD cover

Tonight's viewing

I think I could handle Vegas.

The weekend ahead is set to be one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year.  Thankfully, one of the benefits of being skint is that we don’t have to partake in that too much.  We are pretty much sorted present wise, and have a plan that involves online buying for the ones we haven’t yet got, so that is a relief.

I finish work for two weeks next weekend, so I am looking forward to that.  A break full of films, chocolate and rest beckons.  I’ve spotted quite a few films I would like to see at the cinema, so they had better restock that Pick n Mix bar before I get there.

So there it is, a crap week, in terms of what had to be done at work, and my best wishes go to all the guys on the receiving end of that particular decision.  Same again next week really, but with less of the SAS style raid on the office, and more removal man/counsellor required on this visit.

Oh, and by the way, how utterly shite is the M25…..but let’s not go there, I’ve waffled on enough for one post.

Not sure what a blog is supposed to be or do, so you are getting random drivvle at the moment.  Till the next time…..

This may turn into a rant.

Sunday saw us attempt a “family day out”.  We don’t do enough of them, so it was a good idea.  By the end of the day, no strike that, by about 11am on the day we realised why.

The reason why is that this country is absolutely hopeless at days out.

We had got ourselves tickets for the Good Food Show in Birmingham, so had endured the pain of ripping both girls from their beds pre 7am on a Sunday morning.  A risky business.  We hit road around 8.30, and then the M6 happened.

The M6 between Warrington and Birmingham seems to be a constant stream of 50mph zones, interrupted by a couple of miles of national speed limit zones.  Incredibly frustrating.

As we neared the NEC I thought we’d arrive at a reasonable time.  However from five miles out the queues started, first on the motorway, and then for about another hour through the endless maze of NEC car parks.  It was utterly ridiculous.  Why is it that in the UK any event which attracts more than ten cars results in a three hour queue?

I remember the tales of those leaving the big Knebworth gigs, and having to sleep in their cars.

It would be predictable of me to start asking why it is that Disney can take, and then release hundreds of thousands of visitors, every day, without so much as a hiccup.  However, why is it that Disney can take, and then release hundreds of thousands of visitors, every day, without so much as a hiccup?????

Girls good food

The girls pass the time in the queues.

So we eventually get there, paid the ludicrous £8 car park fee to leave the Mondeo in a muddy field three miles from the actual event, and made the best of it.

We got ourselves a £25 lunch, (three jacket spuds and a sandwich) and then wandered the stalls, scooping some nice free samples of Carte Dor and various alcohols.

There was a distinct lack of freebies to be honest, based on my assumptions that we would be wandering around stuffing belgian chocolates and all sorts of edible frippery down on our necks all day.

On our wanders we did stumble across a few celebs though.  Well, it was Andi Peters and the two blokes off of Master Chef, but celebs nontheless.  Louise spent about ten minutes cooing over how “ripped” Mr Peters was.  Pardon the photo quality, I only had the phone with me.

It is Andi Peters, honest

It is Andi Peters....honest!

So we lasted around three hours, and the kids got bored and tired, so we headed for home around 3.35, a little dissapointed with the whole affair really.  We had sort of boycotted UK theme parks after ten years of Florida, and this day sort of reaffirmed my Meldrewesque assumption that a day out over here is over priced, badly organised and logistically poor.

We arrived home on Sunday evening tired, a bit poorer, and as ever a little wiser.

Then the week (so far…it is only Wednesday!!) got a whole lot worse as our central heating died…just as we entered December, so instead of having Christmas, we are keeping warm.  Our plumber is in for a bumper festive period though.  A ludicurous sum of money!!

I haven’t mentioned work yet.  It is probably best that I don’t to be honest.  My boss left the business this week, under a bit of a cloud.  This wasn’t a bad thing really as his specialist subject was making my life a  misery.  However, same shit different boss will no doubt apply from here on in.  Work is crazily busy, which made it very easy of course to co-ordinate plumbers, bank balances and domestic disasters…NOT!

An eventful week then so far.  I hope the girls enjoy their satsuma and cashew nuts on xmas morning.

Then, just as I am feeling at my most Meldrew, Louise calls me at work to tell me that she had just heard that our next door neighbour had just passed away!!  This is truly tragic, as she was only 45, and has two kids about the same age as mine.  She has been suffering with cancer for the past few years, and we have literally seen her wither away and die before our eyes.

As Louise was rightly quick to remind me, our neighbour would love to have the problem of a new boiler to contend with, no matter how large her credit card bill would be as a result.  My heart goes out to her husband and especially her two kids.  It breaks my heart to think about what they have already been through, and will have to contend with in the future.

Sobering times, and I promise to moan less….a bit.