I am one of those sad people that late one evening had to make an emergency trip to the garden centre, to bail my husband out. He was off to a birthday party and needed a present that would appeal to his gardening loving colleague. So off I hopped, in January, to see what would inspire me. Despite if being very dark in the outdoor plant section, I managed to procure a rather lovely plant and went into a mercifully empty store. There was a lad behind the till, who looked about 17. I smiled as he scanned the plant. ‘Beep’. I looked up, it didn’t sound like an electronic beep. ‘Did you just say beep?’ I asked. He nodded and laughed. ‘Yes, you’ve been the only customer for the last 3 hours, I have to do something to get job satisfaction’ And then there is the silly question brigade. I recently went to the post office with a parcel that I wanted to send. Whilst I placed it on the scales, the sour-faced lady behind the counter asked me and I quote ‘In the interests of Health and Safety, I have to ask you what is in the package.’ I have to admit to an overwhelming urge to say something totally inappropriate, which could have caused complete chaos. However, she didn’t look like she had a sense of humour. But it did leave me with the question, ‘How is it in the interests of health and safety to just ask, surely if you were up to no good you wouldn’t admit what was in the parcel?’ And then there is the lady in the newsagent. I needed 12 first calss stamps and she told me that she couldn’t help me because they only sold them in packets of 6!
It is a while since I last blogged, as life has got in the way. However, at last Christmas has come and I have had a chance to stop. Yes, I am one of the few people who has stopped this Christmas! I took delight in getting my shopping done early and I decided that I was not going to strive for the perfect Christmas. The result….. a perfect Christmas! We stayed at home this year and no, we didn’t have the whole family round. No offence, but I wanted to stay in my pyjamas, drink wine and eat cheese on toast if I wanted to. We all put our favourite dish on the menu, got up at about 10am and rolled downstairs. Turkey was ditched in favour of duck. The boys wanted to try plum sauce. Did I have a trial run, to ensure that it was perfect for Christmas day. Did I heck! I had the wrong plums, the wrong sugar, the wrong stock, even the wrong onions. I popped it all in a pot and it tasted great. Did I moan about peeling potatoes on Christmas Day. Nope! I peeled to Classic FM carols and sang along heartily. My eldest refused to get out of his pyjamas. No problem. My mother-in-law wanted to go for a walk. Great. The neighbours wanted to sing us carols. Fantastic (we joined in) We had had quite a bit to drink by then. So…..? Strive for the Christmas you want. I highly recommend it and what is best of all. It is entirely stress free.
This weekend was the Lord Mayor’s Show in London. We did not make it down, due to a ridiculously complicated morning of activities. However, we arranged to meet my nephews and brother to see the fireworks on the Thames. We wouldn’t normally be so silly as to go to something incredibly popular in London, but it seemed like a good plan. If it was too busy, we would do something else. To our surprise, it was fairly straight forward. We joined the masses at Charing Cross and headed up on to the bridge. It was a little bit pathetic, that some people behind us stared to push, almost sending my son head first. I did ask one large man what the rush was, and if he got there ten seconds later, would the world really end? He seemed to get the hint. My rbother and nephews had a prime standing spot overlooking the Thames. I half-expected a complaint when our boys joined them at the front. Everyone seemed so good humoured though. And so at 5pm on the dot, the first firework raced up into the sky, with a beautiful backdrop of St Paul’s Cathedral. They were beautiful. The sky was filled with glitter. Ten minutes of oohs and ahhs followed and then it finished. ‘Is that it?’ asked one person, after we had seen tens of thousands of pounds worth of fireworks go up in smoke. ‘What a waste of the taxpayer’s money.’ grumbled a woman nearby. Well I don’t care, what these miserable, over-demanding people say. What a sad world we live in, when we can’t enjoy something so beautiful. To me, the best part was how many people we laughed and bantered with whilst we standing on the bridge waiting for it to start!
Yes, it’s that time of year again and we were off to the atmospheric city of Edinburgh and this time we would be there on Halloween! After a relatively easy journey, we started off in Greyfriars Kirkyard. It never ceases to get to me. It always feels so sinister. I don’t think that it is the design of the graves, but more, the feeling of cold and desolation. There doesn’t ever seem to be much wildlife. We visited it again at midnight on Halloween, where we trekked round in the dark and ended up in the Covenanter’s prison, where there is a mausoleum, reputed to be the home of a very unfriendly poltergeist, but I think it was too cold for even it to be out haunting.
We visited Holyrood Palace this time. It was a beautiful palace set around a courtyard. We saw Mary Queen of Scot’s bedroom and the place where David Rizzio’s body was placed after he had been murdered. He was the private secretary of Mray Queen of Scots. I don’t think that I would have been too happy to spend a night alone in the palace. There is also the ruins of an abbey next to the palace which looked beautiful.
The highlight for me, however, was Mary King Close. Edinburgh consists of tiny, narrow streets. The buildings used to be around 12 storeys high, however, some of the older closes have been built over, resulting in an underground network of old streets and houses. We went down and visited them. It really gave you an insight into how people lived. Even when the closes were not covered over, the houses only got an hour of daylight and were knee deep in sewage. There is one room in the underground network of houses, where there is a pile of toys. It is said that a medium went down Mary Kings Close and could not sense any presences apart from that of a small child. The little girl was very upset as she had been abandoned by her parents because she had the plague. She had lost her doll. The medium was so upset that she went out immediately and bought the ghost a doll. Since then the story has spread, and dolls and toys have been sent from around the world. So if you want a very atmospheric place to visit, I highly recommend Edinburgh, with its dark twisting wynds, it’s old haunted pubs and its sinister history.
What a month! I feel like I’ve been running at full pelt, but not actually getting any where. But today is my most favourite day of the year. It is the day the clocks go back an hour. I can stay in bed an hour later and I don’t lose out on any hours in the day. I get the hour back that disappeared sometime in early spring, when the clocks went forward. Yes I do grudge the hour going forward. I lose and hour of MY day and already 24 hours is not enough. It is like they (whoever they are) take an hour of my life. My husband reckons I’m over reacting slightly. So this morning when I woke up at 7am. I was delighted to look at my alarm clock and say ‘You’re wrong. It’s 6am and I am going to go back to sleep.’ What a wonderful, fantastic feeling. I have to confess that I squandered my extra hour today. I was decadent and very bad and stayed in bed for that extra hour!
I have to admit that our motives were not pure when we went to visit Highgate Cemetery. We had read in a ‘Walking Haunted London’ book, that the place was haunted. There were rumours of vampires and so, as dedicated ghost hunters, we were so there. Highgate Cemetery West can only be visited by guided tour. All I can say is, that if you ever visit London, it HAS to go on your places to visit list. Not because it is ghostly, or scary, simply because it is fascinating. Our tour guide was John Waite, who has regular slots on Radio 4. He was brilliant.
He informed us that the the cemetery was designed so that you could never see where you were going. It was a trip into the unknown. The cemetery is overgrown with trees and the smell of ferns is gorgeous. There are about 100,000 people buried there, including Alexander Litvinenko, who has been buried about 12 feet down in a lead-lined coffin, due to his being poisoned by polonium 210. Other dead residents include: the architect for Buckingham Palace, the man who built Big Ben and Faraday. The highlight for me was the Circle of Lebanon, which consisted of tombs around a large tree. The tree used to be the only one in the graveyard. Then we went to the Terrace Catacombs. Here some of the coffins could be seen. Some had been stolen. Apparently back in the 60s, children used to bunk off school and go and play with the dead bodies. The very strange part of the cemetery’s history, was that back in the 70s, a corner of it was sold off to build a house! The house is built on the graves of paupers and babies. The residents then sold off the garden and 10 years ago a new house was built, mostly of glass. I could go on and on about all the things I learned and this wouldn’t even include the east cemetery. However, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. You have to go. When you get there. Ask about the tunnel.