Monday, 31 December 2007

Secret Santa

hmmmmmm, I am still waiting for my LibraryThing Secret Santa book. I was expecting it to be either at home or with my neighbours when I got home last night, but no, much to my disappointment there wasn't even a delivery card saying that they would try again later!

So where it is...I do not quite know, but I am still waiting!! I expect that the courier service being used may well have backlogs or simply closed for Christmas - who knows!!

If you have a look on the LibraryThing website in the Talk section, there is clear evidence of other people receiving their books and being very happy with them. In fact, I have had a nice message from my Secret Santa person saying that she had not read the two books that I chose for her and she is very pleased and very thankful - so that was nice to know! BUT I still want my book!!! ;-)

Ghost town

I am at work this morning (New Year's Eve) and there are very few people about!! At this very moment there is one person (besides me of course!) in the Library and she is quite happily studying away in the corner, needing no interference from me!!

And it's a good job too as I can't hear particularly well this morning - my cold/cough/bleurgh has made me deafer than usual!! Mind you, I do feel a lot better than I did a few days ago when I curled up in bed with the cat (not Phoebe, but Muffin - one of Mum and Dad's cats!!) and persuaded people to bring me cups of tea!!

It is quite strange here at work though as there is usually more than one library staff member around, but we are working on a skeleton staff basis at the moment - all will be back to normal on Wednesday. It still feels odd though not having other people to talk to, I wonder what it is like elsewhere in the building!! I expect that some departments are busier than others and all the office staff are looking forward to having tomorrow off work!

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Christmas Day!!

Well, that was it!! Today is now practically over, my niece is in bed and my nephew is just about to go to bed!!

We have all had a very good day, Mum, Dad, Matt and I stayed at a local Bed and Breakfast as there really isn't enough room at the house. It is a very nice B&B, so nice that for breakfast we also had Christmas crackers and presents!! How thoughtful of them!

Anyway, by the time we got to Andy's house, my nephew was just about climbing the walls as he wanted to begin opening the presents and he had been told that he couldn't until we had arrived!!

There have been presents and fun aplenty today Everybody seems to have had the presents that they would like! Andy has been deep into the book that I gave him - An utterly impartial history of Britain by John O'Farrell and he is now playing his Godfather computer game!! Mum is reading her cookbook for Grannies by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, Matt is half asleep on the sofa as he has not been feeling too good since yesterday. :-( But he did get a few DVDs that he wanted, such as the boxset of Futurama!

I certainly have had some lovely presents - a lovely ZPM washbag for my trip to Australia, an amber necklace, and a gorgeous wooden jewellery box - I am certainly looking forward to sorting out my jewellery now as it badly needs doing!! Andy and Marielle definitely struck inspiration there as I have been wanting one for a while!!

I hope you have all been as successful and have had a lovely day!

Monday, 24 December 2007

By the way....

...if you want to find out where Santa has got to...you can track him via the NORAD website!!

Last time I checked he was in Australia!!

In anycase I am now off to Cambridge for my Christmas!!

Am I ready?

I think that I am now ready for Christmas, although it was touch and go this morning when I had a few things to finish off before going to work!! That's what comes of going to London two days before Christmas, but never mind!!

I hope that I have packed everything I need for Christmas in Cambridge! At the very least, the presents are in the car, so I need not worry about that! I may need to do a bit of repair when I arrive this evening as I think that the wrapping has torn on one of the presents.

This morning was just crazy - I even made up some chocolate butter cream icing to put in a pot so that I could ice the yule log this evening as I didn't know what would be available in Marielle's kitchen! It is certainly cold enough outside that the icing should be ok - I will probably taste it just to make sure!! ;-)

Oh well, if I have forgotten anything, it will just have to remain forgotten! I would say that at least I have my wallet, but there will be very few shops open tomorrow if I have forgotten anything drastic! But I don't think that I have, it is just that I always feel this way when I am standing in the doorway to my house and rapidly go over everything in my mind - undies - check, socks - check, jeans - check, jumpers - check, and so it goes on!!!!

Anyway, I shall be leaving at 3pm this afternoon and with a quick stop on the way drop off a present for some friends, I should hopefully be in Cambridge by 7pm at the latest all ready to start Christmas!!

Merry Christmas to you all!

Thirty Christmas questions - part three!

Well, it is now Christmas Eve and here are the final set of questions that make up my set of Christmas questions!

21. Stockings before or after presents?
What a question - first thing in the morning before anything else of course!

22. Go to someone else's house or they come to you?
Well, I always go to someone else's house because I usually spend Christmas at my parents.

23. What is your favourite holiday smell?
I always associate cinnamon with Christmas, but I don't think that I have a particularly favourite fragrance that brings to mind the holiday.

24. Can you name all the reindeer?
Erm......Rudolph, Blitzen, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Cupid, Comet, Vixen - no, not without reverting the internet! And the rest of them are...well, to my surprise I have only missed out Donner according to Wikipedia!! (mind you, Rudolph, isn't actually one of the original reindeer as mentioned in The night before Christmas)

25. Do you bake biscuits?
Not specifically for Christmas, no.

26. Do you go caroling?
No, not in the sense that this question means anyway as I don't go caroling from door-to-door, but will go to a carol concert and join in the singing - very quietly I might add!!

27. Do you drive around and look at the Christmas lights?
No, not on purpose anyway, but I can see them on the way home from work!

28. Favourite Christmas tradition?
Nope, can't think of a favourite, I just enjoy the whole thing from start to finish!

29. What is your favourite Christmas memory?
I mentioned earlier that my most enduring Christmas memory (see my meme) is one of feeling the stocking lie on my feet first thing in the morning, but I would not say that this is my favourite. I can't actually pick out a favourite as I just love the whole thing!!

30. Christmas wish for this year?
Well, I don't know, I could be traditional and go for Peace on Earth!

And that's it, my Thirty Christmas Questions! I hope you enjoyed them!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Little Christmas Eve

I came across the above phrase the other day when I was reading The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder, it was what one of the characters called the day before Christmas Eve and I thought that it was rather nice!

Well, today is the Little Christmas Eve and I have just come back from London!! Ann, Trish and I had the day in London - we specifically went so that we could go to the Royal Albert Hall to see Carols by Candlelight - performance started at 4:30pm.

However, the cheapest train that we could find was at 10:41am, but that was ok cos we decided that we would go to London and have lunch and perhaps visit Harrods or something before going on to the Royal Albert Hall.

Well, we got to London ok, although I had a moments panic when I realised just how frozen my car was when I left the house - it was doubly frozen - apparently we'd had rain in the middle of the night and it was really quite difficult to scrape off the side windows, but like I have said before - thank goodness for heated windscreens!! (mind you, the frost did actually look quite pretty!!)

We got to London and after a moments indecision we decided to go and find lunch in Harrods (!). While I am sure that most of you know that Harrods takes up a whole block, did you also know that there are umpteen restaurants!! At least one on each floor, with, I think, four on the top floor!! Anyway, we felt that we weren't posh enough for the Dress Circle restaurant, so we walked up to the fourth floor and hunted down Mo's Diner.

And I really do mean "hunted down" - it was surprisingly difficult to find!! We managed to find it in the end though after getting a few directions!! And it was exactly what you might expect of an American diner! I had a hotdog with chips and a vanilla milkshake, Trish had a spicy chicken wrap and Ann had soup and potato wedges - it was very nice indeed.

By the time we finished lunch it was getting on for two o'clock, so we decided to wander around Harrods pretending to be swanky buyers!! ;-) I did actually get a couple of books and some chocolates, while Ann and Trish treated themselves to a pastry!

Anyway, we eventually had to leave to get to the Royal Albert Hall - it was only a short walk down the road, so that was ok. We got there in plenty of time for a cup of tea and then we settled down for an evening of carols!

I had never been in the Royal Albert Hall before, so that was quite something. It was odd, it looks both bigger and smaller than it does on the television - quite bizarre! In any case, we all enjoyed the music and joined in where audience participation was called for!!!

The train journey home was just as uneventful as the one in the morning and I dropped Ann and Trish off at home before heading home myself, so now I have fed the cat and am off to bed!!

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Dinner party!

Well, last night was the dinner party night! I cooked dinner for six people which includes my library staff and me! Fortunately, everyone was very patient as I vastly underestimated how long it would take me to prepare dinner!!

I had chosen Jamie Oliver's Chicken Breasts In A Bag recipe, mainly because it was simple - just throw a load of stuff into a foil bag and chuck it in the oven. Well, that was the theory anyway - it was not quite so simple!

The trouble was that the preparation was actually quite fiddly, for instance I had to do things like peel and slice two cloves of garlic, fold and create the foil bag, chop the 9oz of mushrooms, cook the pototoes and slice them, and then after all that, I had to carefully stuff the bag! (I had to make three bags too as each bag contained two chicken breasts, so for six people....)

In the end, instead of eating at 7:30 as I had planned (the invite was 7pm for 7:30pm!) we eventually sat down to eat at 8:30pm - whoops! Fortunately everybody alreadys knows everybody and so was quite happy to open the drinks and sit down to chat in the lounge.

The meal itself was very nice - the wine component was a bit too strong and the garlic came through quite strongly, but it was very nice - three plates were almost totally cleared and the other three less so, so I think that I can call that a success!!

Pudding was just as successful - I had a raspberry meringue and a chocolate roulade (not made from scratch thankfully!) - thanks to Ann for whipping the cream and assembling the roulade! ;-)

After dinner we did the Secret Santa thing - all the presents were very nice - let me tell you them in the order that they were opened - Ann had a little pot of handcream and a manicure kit, Judith had a little red umbrella for her handbag, Nicola had a lovely set of minature jams, Bridget had a bag of handlotions and stuff, Trish had a new mug, and I had a drawstring travel washbag (just right for my trip to Australia!!) and I think that everybody was happy!

Friday, 21 December 2007

Nice people

Christmas always brings out the nice people!! In the library, we get to see those generous people who bring us some goodies to say thank you for all the work that have done for them over the year.

This year, we have had a box of biscuits from a Consultant, a box of chocolates from a Modern Matron (new, revamped NHS term!!) and another box of biscuits from a Sister; so we are feeling most appreciated here in the library!

Of course, it works both ways, we have given some chocolates to the lady who brings and collects our post every day, a box of biscuits to the IT department...after all, they are the ones that keep our computers going and put up with us when we telephone with yet another computer problem!!

The library notice board behind the duty desk is now covered in Christmas cards or posters printed out from emails sent from libraries around the region - it is looking very Christmassy!

Thirty Christmas questions - part two!

Here we go - part two of those questions that I started yesterday!!

11. Do you decorate the outside of your house?
No, but I love seeing what other people have done!

12. What is your favourite food at Christmas?
I don't think that I really have an absolute favourite, but I would be disappointed if sausages wrapped in bacon did not make an appearance or if the sausage rolls ran out!! ;-)

13. Have you started your Christmas shopping?
I should think so given that there are only a few days left!!

14. Have you finished your Christmas shopping?
Present-wise yes, but I am sure that I have a few other bits and pieces to get!

15. What's your favourite Christmas song?
Well, a few weeks ago, I said "We three kings of Orient", But it does depend on what I have in my car when you ask the question, and at the moment my favourite is "The Holly and the Ivy"!

16. Have you ever kissed under mistletoe?
Unfortunately no - any volunteers?!? ;-)

17. How early do you wake up on Christmas?
Not as early as I used to that's for sure! I think that 8am sounds about right.

18. Do you put up your own Christmas tree?
But of course!

19. Do you get a fake or real Christmas tree?
A fake one that I have had for a few years now, I would love to have a real tree, but it just seems a little too much bother!

20. Do you use homemade or store-bought ornaments?
Both, although the only homemade ones are white knitted (possibly crocheted) angels that were made by my Nana and I treasure them.

So endeth part two!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Thirty Christmas questions - part one!

I found this on the internet the other day, and while it isn't a meme, it looked like fun and was all about Christmas, so I thought that I'd answer the questions!! Fortunately I have chosen not to answer them all at once as thirty questions (plus assorted answers!) would make for a very very long post!!! I really wouldn't want to bore you too much before Christmas!!

1. Snow or no snow?
I love snow and would love to have a white Christmas one day!

2. Eggnog/hot chocolate/cider?
Cider? Do people offer cider as a particularly Christmassy drink? Have never had eggnog although I did have an eggnog flavoured latte (Starbucks!) the other day and didn't think much of it, so by elimination and utter personal choice it would have to be hot chocolate!

3. Naughty or nice?
Oh, nice of course!

4. Ham or Turkey?
Turkey - in particular I seem to just love Turkey gravy!

5. Star or angel?
I don't really have a preference for either, but do have an angel on my tree.

6. Blinking lights or still lights?
Still - they are more soothing.

7. White lights or coloured lights?
Either - I actually have both on my tree!

8. Give or receive?
Would have to say both!! I love to find the right present , but I also love getting presents!! (who doesn't?)

9. Favourite Christmas film?
It seems to change every year, but I like Santa Clause: the movie; Christmas Carol (in all variations!)

10. Do you like candy canes?
Erm - sort of - I have pretty glass ones that hang off my tree, but I don't think that I would buy them as sweeties.

So, there you go and it's a good job that these questions were not either/or so I could choose both!! Part one is done - parts two and three I will do sometime before Christmas - not long to go now!!!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

First sentences

There are a whole bunch of memes floating around at the moment and I want to do them all, but that would be silly as my blog is not about memes! However, I particularly like this one that I found here at the FreeRangeLibrarian and although I have not been blogging all that long, I thought that I would join in.

And why would not blogging that long make any difference? The reason being is because this meme is about First Sentences in that you have to list the first sentence of each post of each month for the last year...so I obviously haven't got a whole year to play with, but will certainly do what I can with what little I have!!

In reverse chronological order...

December Given how much I just love Christmas, I have decided to set up a meme of my own - all about Christmas!

November Murder committed last night!

October I have been having fun with Google maps!!

September I have just been going through some photos that I took lately and came across this one!

August Pinch punch and it's the first of the month and no returns!

July Hello and welcome to my blog.

Quite the little snapshot of my blog!! Anyway, if you'd like to do this one....consider yourself tagged!

Colleagues

How many of you get on well with your colleagues? Or if you are a manager - how many of you get on well with your staff?

There are six of us in the Library, me and four staff that I manage, plus one other that works in the library and is part of the team but is paid by the University rather than the hospital and she is not managed by me.

Anyway, we all get on very well and usually have a laugh!! It has been particularly funny this week - probably just the lead up to Christmas! I shall be naming no names here, but one of them (you know who you are!!) managed to get one over me on Monday!

I don't know why it came up, but I asked her to confirm that she would be working on the Thursday after Christmas and she looked at me with a very straight face and said no. I was quite horrified and thought that I had gotten it wrong and would need to redo the rota and find someone to work in the library on that day. Fortunately it didn't take long for me to twig that she was having me on!! (she said that it was very difficult to keep a straight face!!)

Yesterday, it was someone else that made me laugh - we got talking about her daughter's car and the number of times that someone else had bumped the car. She (again no names - but you know who you are!!) said that she'd heard that apparently silver cars get hit by other vehicles most...but then she followed that up with...but most cars are silver anyway; to which I said something like - if most cars are silver then most cars are going to be hit anyway!!! Statistically it just didn't work to prove her statement!!

Anyway, I am just so glad that we do all get on as well as we do, which is a good thing as we all work in the same office - no, I don't get to have a private office just because I am the boss!! I am also glad that we get on well because they are all coming to my house for dinner this Friday!!!

I think that this is the third year in a row that we will have had a Christmas get-together at my house. The last two occassions were more of a pot-luck, I think that we had jacket potatoes both times and everybody brought a bowl of toppings along!! This year, however, I have decided to do the meal myself!! And before you ask, no - it wont be sausages and mash!!

I have yet to buy the dessert - I was going to make one, but have simply run out of time!! I am sure that Sainsburys will come up trumps there!! As for the meal itself, I am going to go for chicken - one of those chicken in foil things that means that you can just bung it all in the oven and forget about it!! The potatoes will be roast (I hope!) and the veg will be steamed in my brand new steamer - so I think that I have got it all planned!!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Book Challenge - Dancing with Eva

This book was written by Alan Judd and for some reason I actually have his signature inside the book!! I know for certain that I did not go to a book signing or meet him in person. I do, however, have a vague recollection of buying this book at the Martello Bookshop in Rye and they often have books signed by the author.

Well, on with the review - this is the fourth book of my Book Challenge and it has been the most surprising so far as the end of the book has quite a twist! Naturally, I wont be mentioning any spoilers here as I think that there is nothing worse than reading spoilers (whether for books, film, theatre, whatever!) particularly if you weren't actively looking for them!

Dancing with Eva is a relatively short book and it gives you the conversation between two people over a day and a night - Eva and Hans are talking about what happened to them during the Second World War - in particular, it is Hans that wants to talk about this, Eva is somewhat reluctant.

The author skillfully builds up the story and maintains the mystery right up until the end, although as I was reading the book, I was not aware that there was a mystery to be had, which is part of what makes the book so good. All I was aware of was that Hans wanted to talk about the war but Eva didn't and the story covered Eva's suspicion of Hans and how he managed to get her talking about something that she had not spoken of for decades, indeed, Eva feels that the conversation is something of a catharsis even as she resents Hans' questions.

I certainly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone, I am just sorry that I left it on my shelf for longer than I should have done, but that just goes to show that you never know what you will find between the covers! I don't know why I sometimes hesitate to read a particular book, what I do find though is that once I have bought or borrowed a book, if I do not read it within the week, it tends to find its way onto my shelves and languish until I take pity on it!!! ;-) Or...as is more probable - I am desperate for something to read and just cannot find anything that I fancy right there and then!!

Funny money

We don't handle a great deal of money in the Library, but we do get some as we deal with money for photocopying, printing, interlibrary loans, old books for sale - that kind of thing!

Unfortunately we get a few foreign coins, even some that are no longer in circulation like the French Franc! Anyway - we had a rather mangled 20p coin other day - see this photo with a more normal one for comparison!

All of us in the library had a good look at it and could not work out whether someone had taken a a hammer to it or whether it was perhaps a forged coin!! Incidentally, the better looking coin is 1982 and the mangled one is 1983 so, surely, it cannot be like this due to simple wear and tear. Well, the only thing that will solve the issue is whether or not the cashiers will accept the coin when we bank the money!

By the way - this is actually my 100th post - yay!! (what a silly thing to get excited about!!)

Monday, 17 December 2007

SantaThing

The secret Santa scheme that I joined a few days ago through LibraryThing closed on Friday at 3am (10pm Eastern Time in the USA) and so I am now awaiting my surprise book (or two) - I don't know what you can get for just under £10 ($20).

On Thursday though, I discovered who I had picked to be the Secret Santa to - it was a woman from Houston in Texas and I was given a link to her LibraryThing profile and catalogue so that I could find out a little bit about her and what she liked to read. Her comment on the SecretSanta page said
my tastes run to just about anything between two covers. I especially enjoy fantasy and romance these days, but would enjoy a good nonfiction book too.
So....off I went, I had a look at her catalogue and was quite surprised to see how much we had in common when it comes to reading (I understand that the people at LibraryThing deliberately matched some people with similar tastes and some people with wildly varying tastes!) and so it was actually quite easy to find a few books that I thought my Santee would like.

Although I found it easy to pick the books, it was actually quite hard to find books that would fit under the limit of $20 and would be readily available via Amazon. I created all number of permutations until in the end I decided to go for The Villa by Nora Roberts and The Belgariad by David Eddings - this did come to 20 cents over my limit, but I hope that LibraryThing will be able to accept that. If not, I offered them the suggestion of replacing The Belgariad with A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay.

Of course, this all presumes that my Santee has not read any of these books - neither of them were in her LibraryThing catalogue. Personally, I have not listed EVERYTHING I have read (or owned) in my personal catalogue, yet it does give a good idea of what my tastes are like.

In any case, I hope that I have chosen well and that my Santee enjoys those books! It was rather enjoyable to pick out some books for someone that I know appreciates books. This whole idea by LibraryThing is a really good one - it manages to combine the virtual social network with reality in an intriguing way.

I think that there were just over 200 people taking part in this secret Santa and so I wonder how many people will be surprised (pleasantly or not!), how many will be introduced to unfamiliar authors, how many will be disappointed because they already have that book, how many will be worrying that they have chosen the wrong book(s)!!!

I am hoping that there will be a way to give some sort of feedback - I certainly think that someone will start a new chat topic going in the Talk section of LibraryThing - "what book did you get and did you like it?" If no-one does, then I will, but I would be most surprised if no-one started that conversation!

Parkinson

Well...the very last Parkinson show was on television last night. I don't normally watch Parkinson, but I certainly had to catch the very last one (although there is a round-up next week of the best of Parkinson) and wished that I had watched it more previously.

Anyway, Billy Connolly was on first and he had me in stitches!! I loved the image of the "bean-bagged" adult - where said adult is stranded on a bean-bag and just can't get up. Other guests on the show were David Attenborough, Michael Caine, David Beckham, Peter Kay (complete with party kit!), Dame Judy Dench and Dame Edna Everage, oh and Jamie Cullum played on piano.

I don't quite know why I didn't really watch Parkinson before, but then most chat shows don't really appeal to me. Then again, I think that Parkinson must be a class above all the usual stuff on the telly! Quite what old Parky will do now I don't know!! All I do know is that I think that for anyone else trying to do the same thing the show will be very hard to live up to!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Christmas Trees

As I said yesterday, I have some Christmas Trees to show you!! There are a bunch of photo's which is why I didn't add this topic to yesterdays post (besides, I wanted to leave something to talk about today!)

Anyway - at work, we are not allowed to pin/stick/fix anything to the walls, so we try and make do with what we have and when I first started at the library a few years ago, there was just one very teeny tiny tree - it looked like this.

Which I was never very impressed with, but it did the job! Then in 2006 my library merged with another and they brought with them a very respectable little tree, we decorated it in red and green this year....

We also acquired two additional trees this year - one because Asda was donating a bunch of red or gold trees to the hospital and we decided to snaffle a gold one if we could....
I also decided that we really need a big, relatively speaking, tree to go in the main part of the library....

Then I put up my own tree at home, and of course, this is the best one!!!

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Elf Yourself!

I was going to blog my Christmas Trees today (yes plural!), but then Mum sent me an email with a link to a little program of me and my brothers being "elfed"!!

This little program was first spotted by Marielle and that has made the rounds. If you have not come across this before, it is a program that allows you to put headshots of whomever you like onto the bodies of dancing elves - really rather funny - see us lot here!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Radio Times

I have just discovered that the Christmas Edition of the Radio Times is now available to buy!! I love the Christmas edition, it really seems to signal the fact that Christmas is not so far away now! (but then again it feels as though I have been saying that for ages now, so perhaps Christmas is further away than I think!!)

I shall certainly be buying it as soon as I can, although in recent years there just doesn't seem to be much on - nothing that I want to watch anyway!! Perhaps I am getting to be just that little bit more discriminating in what I watch on television, I will still get the RT though and see what is on, not that I have many channels myself - I still only have five channels!!

I certainly remember poring over the RT as a child and circling everything I wanted to watch, which probably amounted to several hours viewing each day!! In any case I never got round to watching everything as there was usually too many other, more exciting, things going on!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Frosty!

It has been rather cold lately, and although I clearly have nothing to complain about when compared with the freezing weather in America that is causing havoc at the moment, it is still cold! Yes, yes, I know it is winter and therefore should be cold, but I always seem to find that just how cold it is takes me by surprise!

When I leave for work in the morning, my car is sometimes all frozen and needs defrosting before I can go anywhere! Fortunately, I have a heated back AND front windscreen, so I just get in the car, turn all the blowers on and go back outside to scrape off the side windows and by the time I have done those, my back screen just needs a little scraping and I can use the wipers on the front!

Great eh!? I don't think that I will ever now consider a car if it does not have a heated front windscreen!! My neighbour gets his wife to boil some up some water and then that gets poured all over the car - I am not certain that this is good for the glass as I understand that sudden (and extreme!) temperature changes can shatter glass.

The downside of my car is that the knob on the gearstick is metal!! So, I have to wear gloves if I don't want cold hands! I don't suppose that there is ever a car that is just perfect, there is always something that niggles or isn't quite as it should be!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Book Challenge - Sword of God

While it's fresh in my mind, I want to comment on Sword of God by Chris Kuzneski.

I read it, but only really because I had to as I listed it as one of my book challenge books! I didn't feel gripped by it as I felt that the writing was a bit mechanical and formulaic, besides which, the story was very familiar - I am sure that I have read another book that is all about preventing a terrorist attack on Mecca.

Mind you, this book is the third one about the same characters - Payne and Jones, so perhaps I should have read the others before reading this one, but there wasn't any indication on the back of the book that it was the third one, otherwise I don't think that I would have picked it up in the first place!! I mean, why read the third book first!!!?

Anyway, the book wasn't a page-turner and nor has it induced me to want to dig up the others. I remember getting hooked on the Clive Cussler books about Dirk Pitt - those were page-turners and I think that I now have all of his books!!

Secret Santa Presents

How many of you take part in Secret Santa schemes? I would think that this is more typically done at work, particularly when there are a lot of people in the department. We are actually doing one where I work although I have to say that there aren't that many of us in the office!! But this was a good compromise between the two sets of staff that although we are now one group, we used to work for two different libraries and so had two different traditions.

Anyhow, that is not the Secret Santa that I really wanted to talk about! What I really wanted to talk about is a Secret Santa scheme that is being run by LibraryThing (if you haven't heard me mention LibraryThing - it's a place where you can catalogue your own book collection and socialise with other book lovers online!). I have been a member of LibraryThing for a while now, but am not very diligent in cataloguing my own books, but that is probably because I get enough of that at work!

And still, I digress, so...LibraryThing are running SantaThing!! Which is an online Secret Santa for book lovers! If you are a member of LibraryThing then you can join in, you can offer yourself up for participation or nominate another person to be the recipient; so basically you sign up and pay $25, closing date is 12 noon US Eastern Time on Thursday 13th December, so you'd better hurry up if you want to take part!

Once you find out who you are being the Secret Santa for (by the way, I should say that all identifying detail is only held by LibraryThing and is not revealed to others) you can then have a look at their personal catalogue and try and find a book for up to $20 (the other $5 of the $25 that you paid earlier is for delivery!) that they would appreciate and tell LibraryThing to order this through Amazon.

Unfortunately this is only open to American, Canadian or British LibraryThing members, but I am sure that the LibraryThing team will put their collective brains into organising something a bit more comprehensive for next year.

Well, as you might guess, I have decided to take part! I have paid my $25 and am now waiting to hear who I am to be Secret Santa for! I am also quite eager to see what kind of book might land on my doorstep, hopefully before Christmas!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Bruges in pictures!

I mentioned that I had some pictures didn't I? Well, here are a few - a very few!

An ice-wizard....


An ice-elf (?)....


On board the ice-ship....


Buying some chocolate!....


Didn't I say that the ice-sculptures were amazing!! And those pictures are just a very tiny part of the whole display!

By the way - you see that pile of boxes to the left of Mum - don't worry, she wasn't buying that much!! Those are just the display boxes so that people can see what sizes the boxes are. There is a nice story to this chocolate shop though...Mum had just four Euros left and so she plonked those on the counter and asked what she could get for that! The man asked Mum what she wanted and she said anything...so he duly picked a selection and started weighing it up.

At first the bag came to just over six Euros, so he took one or two out, and then it came to just over five Euros and he shrugged and with a wink said that he couldn't be bothered to take any more out!! Good value for money there!!

Monday, 10 December 2007

Book Challenge - Woman in White

(see my earlier post about the Book challenge if you want to know what a Book Challenge is all about!!)

If you have never read the Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, then I strongly recommend that you do so! I am not a fan of the classics as I find them quite hard going; even though I do feel that I should read more of the classics rather than the modern novels that I prefer! This book was definitely the exception and I really did enjoy it.

Woman in White...well...what can I say; it is a mystery that is written from the viewpoint of several of the characters (not in a jumpy and confusing way) and really gives you a full sense of what is going on without revealing the mystery until the author is ready to let you in on it!!

I found this a very engaging and enjoyable book and am very pleased that I have read it!! All the characters are well portrayed in that I could really imagine what they were like. What did wind me up about the book though was the occasional portrayal of the "weaker sex" and it did drive me mad, but then you have to remember that this book was published in 1860 when women were expected to defer to their menfolk (!) and so this attitude is understandable, but it still drives me mad!

I am now reading the third book in my challenge - Sword of God - I should be posting about it by the end of this week.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Second Advent Sunday

Christmas is getting closer!!!!

Today, Mum and I are having a quiet day after yesterdays travelling - it is still quite a nasty day outside - all bluster and rain, so we have decided to simply stay indoors and enjoy a nice warm Sunday at home!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Bruges

It has been one very long day today!! Mum and I have only just got back from Bruges, yes you read that right! We were in Belgium today! One of Mum's colleagues organises a regular Christmas shopping trip every year and last year they went to Bruges, and clearly they went to Bruges again this year!

Unfortunately the weather was somewhat against us as it was very wet, we all got rather soaked, but nevertheless we had a great time. The day started with us having to get up before 6am in order to make sure that we were in time for the coach, which left at 6:45pm and everybody was advised that coach would NOT wait.

The journey there and back went very well indeed, we made our trains and were not held up anywhere by traffic, so that was all very smooth, we stopped at a supermarket in France and bought far too much wine!

Bruges isn't all that far away, much to my surprise! We arrived just after 12 noon and then had the whole of the afternoon (until the coach picked us up at 4:30pm) to explore the town. Like I said, it was a rather wet and horrible day, so we weren't really able to see as much as we would have liked, but Bruges is most definitely worth a second, longer visit.

The first thing that we did once we got off the coach was to go and see the Ice Sculptures - this is apparently an annual display of ice carving. And - wow - it was just amazing (will post some photos when I download them!) - there were hedgehogs, toadstools, the most enormous carvings of wizards and other fantastic beings. There were even two slides!! One within the shell of a snail (for children) and one much larger one for anyone who dared and I did! It was actually a slide-tunnel, so as you were sliding down you were totally surrounded by ice - it was just incredible.

It was very very cold though, so Mum and I didn't stay that long. We headed for the town centre and found some lunch in what we'd call a simple cafe and would perhaps be rather looked down on if it was in the UK, but there is a very different cafe style on the continent and this little cafe was clearly very popular with the locals and Mum and I had a Belgian beer and a simple meal.

Thus fortified we then set off to explore the town as much as we could in the little time we had and the horrible rain. Needless to say, we didn't see that much, but I am definitely going back again - for a long weekend next year perhaps.

However, we did make sure that we bought plenty of chocolate!! I also bought some Christmas decorations and a lovely candle holder, so I am very satisfied with the trip! We were extremely tired when we got home though!!

So....I am now off to bed!!

Friday, 7 December 2007

Cookies and quizzes

I was reading a blog this morning and found that this particular blogger had done one of the many daft quizzes that you find on the internet and discovered that she was a Chocolate Chip Cookie!! Of course, I had to take this quiz and I have found that I am......

A Jam Cookie

On the outside, you project a straight-laced, innocent vibe.
But on the inside, you're complex, exotic, and full of flavor.


Hmmmmmmm - I wonder how seriously I should be taking this!! ha ha. I am quite sure that Freud (et al!) would have a field day with all these internet quizzes, just what would they think of them!! There are ones that say which character you are in a television drama (done that one - see earlier post!!) , ones that say which book you are (should do that one at some point!), that say which sweetie, animal, furniture - you name it, I bet it's out there!

And by the way - Happy Birthday to my Mum!!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Advent blogging

Well, I seem to have written something every day so far this Advent, I wonder if I can keep this up!! I am reasonably confident that I'll find something to say every day even if it ends up being just pure waffle!!

And today is no exception!! Would you believe that there is apparently some discussion regarding Santa's weight? Apparently he should slim down in order to set a good example to children!! There are a couple of people blogging about this here and here, so I wont go into any great detail, except to say "oh for goodness sake!" He just wouldn't be Santa Claus if weren't all cuddly! The next thing I know is that they will be saying that Santa really shouldn't leave presents under the tree because that would be breaking and entering!!!

Anyway, speaking of presents....is everybody stumped when they get the question "what would you like for Christmas?" I always struggle to think of something that I would really like and yet I ask the same question of others!! Some people are quite happy with the same theme year in and year out - I am thinking of you and your trains Dad!!! ;-)

But, what does one say when faced with that question? Immediately list all the things that they would really really like but no-one can afford? Or simply fall back on the staple answer, you know the one - "surprise me!" The thing is that I would really rather be surprised as if I knew what I wanted then I am really quite likely to go and get it for myself if I want it that badly!!

Then again, perhaps I wouldn't buy it for myself if it is a little bit extravagant, and by that I mean not necessarily expensive, but something that you wouldn't buy for yourself but would love as a gift. And, wouldn't you know it, I can't think of a single example!!!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Shake-awake!

I think that I have now cracked the problem (as far as it is possible to crack!) of oversleeping in the morning!

I had been without my shake-awake (S-A) alarm clock for the last few weeks as I had managed to leave it at my brothers house and have been relying on the Lumie clock plus my bedside light timer to wake me up.

Which did work, but then my shake-awake turned up yesterday (Thanks Marielle!) and so I used it this morning, in combination with the Lumie and the bedside light (sledgehammer to crack a nut perhaps!?).

The thing is that the light wakes me up gradually, and the S-A goes off at a particular time (with a snooze button of eight minutes) and I have discovered that what it is is that the S-A is slightly more violent and demands that I get up, plus with the Lumie I wake up so gradually that I don't really have any idea what time it is. I know when the S-A goes off because I set that time and then I know that when it goes off again, it is eight minutes later - which I think wakes me up better because I am far more aware of what time it is and how much time I have left to do all the things I need to do before leaving the house!

Did any of that make sense!!? It did to me when I was thinking about it this morning!

By the way, anyone that doesn't know what a Shake-awake is (and why on earth doesn't she get an alarm clock like all normal people!?) - it is an alarm clock that goes under the pillow and vibrates to wake me up. As I sleep without my hearing aids I have great trouble hearing ANYTHING during the night, which is how Phoebe managed to cause havoc in the house a few weeks ago when she brought a bird in!!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Infestation of lights!

Christmas lights are gradually taking over the village!! First they appear in one window and then another; and before you know it, the whole street is infested!!! ;-)

I do love it though - it really does brighten up that dark and gloomy drive home from work in the dark!

Some houses are quite restrained and just have a single set of lights, whether that's a set of candles in the window, a single Santa on the roof, or some icicles hanging from the eaves. But others....well...there is one just round the corner from me...and they have taken up every single bit of space that they could possibly find.

The house is covered in red, blue, yellow, green (and all the rest of it!) and it does look very colourful, if a little bit ostentatious. When you come round the corner you just cannot miss this blazing tribute to Christmas, I just wonder what their electricity bill will look like in January!

I don't put lights on the outside of my house, but I usually put a stand of 'candles' in the window and set that on a timer so that they are on by the time I come home. It really is quite uplifting to come home to house that it lit from within - very welcoming.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Card making

You should have seen my lounge yesterday!! It looked as though a craft shop had set up stall - there was stuff all over the place! Stamps on the table, punches on the coffee table, pens on the floor, paper on just about every surface available!

And this wasn't even for my own Christmas cards!! A friend of mine had been having trouble finding Christmas cards that she liked, so she asked if I would make some. Well, that was a few weeks ago, and as I am busy next weekend, I thought that I had better get on and make some!!

Now that I have a digital camera, I can keep a record of the cards that I make which saves me from having to keep one card as a template for future cards! Unfortunately I have not uploaded the photos yet, so I can't show you any of them (besides, you might be getting one of them, so perhaps I wont put them up at all!!)

I only actually made five cards; but found about 10 others in my Christmas box that I remembered at the last minute, so Bridget will have plenty to choose from. The reason that I only made five....? It's not the lack of equipment, but the lack of inspiration!! I subscribe to two card making magazines, but still seem unable to pick one or two ideas and just go with them.

Having said that, I am very out of practice at this business of card-making, I haven't made any new ones for about a year I think. I really must get back into this hobby as it is great fun, but I find that the ideas flow only when I am actively involved, as my creative side just stalls otherwise!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

complicated!!

Why oh why do things have to make life difficult!! I was all chuffed with myself cos I was actually up, washed and dressed by 10am - on a Sunday too!! Then I had to go to the bank to put a cheque in - I had deliberately left it until Sunday because I didn't want to go to town Saturday (and face all those shoppers!?).

So, I walked to the High Street and tried to put the cheque in via the hole-in-the-wall, but there was no option to do that, which surprised me as you used to be able to do that. Anyway, I did my Sainsburys shopping then went home and hopped in the car to go into town proper and put it in the big branch, cos I remembered seeing that they had specific machines that would accept money coming in.

Then my troubles started!! I got to the bank, filled in a form and went to pay the money in. The first machine was out-of-order, but the second was fine so I went through the rigmarole required only to find that I had to put the cheque and form in an envelope first. But could I find an envelope....? I looked all round the bank (it's one of those where you can get into the lobby area) and could not find anything. A kindly lady said that she had trouble finding one too, but that the shop next door had a pile of envelopes (I presume that this must have happened before), so I went into the shop on the left - no envelopes, so I went into the shop on the right - no envelopes!!!

Finally, I went to Smiths and bought packet of envelopes that I really have no need of, stuffed the form and cheque into one of them and went back to the machine and finally got rid of it!!!! But dearie me - what a pain in the neck!! And I was all calm this morning! I will try and regain some of that calm and enjoy the rest of the day!

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Christmas Meme

Given how much I just love Christmas, I have decided to set up a meme of my own - all about Christmas! There are five questions to this meme (random number I suppose!!)

1. What is your most enduring Christmas memory? (Note that this could be either good or bad!!) I think that there is no particular moment of Christmas that stands out for me, but if pushed, I would have to say it is that childhood moment when I woke up (after taking what felt like ages to fall asleep) and then felt around the bottom of my bed with my feet to feel the reassuring weight of the stocking lying on top of my duvet.

2. Do you have a favourite piece of Christmas music? I am already starting to listen to my collection of Christmas CDs - they range from children's song to classical music to Christmas carols, not to mention those crooners like Bing Crosby! How can I pick a favorite?! I think that this would have to be "We three kings of Orient..." I love the rhyme and rhythm of this song.

3. Do you stick to the old family traditions? Well, I think that our traditions have evolved over the years, for instance, we used to open our presents after the breakfast table was cleared up, washed up and put away, then as we got older we decided that we could be a bit more restrained and would wait until the Grand Dinner had been dispensed with (of course, this meant that Mum could take part in the Christmas present opening without having to dash back and forth to the kitchen!). So...on thinking about it, I don't think that we have any traditions that, if dropped, I'd cry foul! If anything - we are creating new ones - I now make Christmas Crackers (or bombs - given the weight of them!) and I am sure that we continue to create new ones as the youngest of the family grow up!

4. What makes your mouth water at Christmas time!? For me, this would have to be turkey gravy!! Of course, all the other goodies always get me going, let me list them (!) sausages in bacon, marzipan, chocolate on the tree, chocolate coins - any more chocolate!?!? I actually think that is rather a sedate list - what does yours look like!?

5. How soon do you put the Christmas tree up and when do you take it down? There is a neighbour across the road that put their tree up about a week ago, which I think is too soon, but then I would not leave it until Christmas Eve either - I need to have some time to enjoy the tree! This year, though, I think that I will be putting it up on the weekend of the Third Advent (14th-15th) and then I expect that I will take it down either New Years Day or the weekend after that. (As long as it comes down by the twelfth day of Christmas!!)

So, there you - my first meme of my very own! I don't quite know to 'tag' people, so apologies if I have done it wrong, but I have chosen to tag the following people because I like their blogs!
  1. Santa (of course!)
  2. Matt at My Indecision is Final
  3. Melody at Mel's Reading Corner
  4. Margaret at BooksPlease
  5. Kimberley at CraftyMe

And of course, anyone else that would like take part in this meme - feel free!! Just let me know that you are doing this so that I can find out all about you and your Christmas; you can either put your answers in your blog or just add your answers to my blog via the comments bit!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Book Challenge - Hemingway's Chair

Now that I am taking part in the Book challenge (see earlier post) I feel as though I should be reviewing the books that I am reading.

So...I have finished one - Hemingway's Chair. I have been reading it during work breaks as it is the only way I can get myself to read something that perhaps I am not that keen on as if I have nothing else to read then I HAVE to read what I have got. Of course, if I get into it, then I read it at home too (usually just before bed so that I end up turning the lights out too late!).

Anyway - I am not sure that I enjoyed Hemingway's Chair. It was an intriguing read, that's for sure, if I hadn't liked it at all then I would not have even finished it!

Michael Palin tells the fictional story of an assistant postmaster with a bit of a fixation on Hemingway and if you are expecting a bit of a funny story from Michael Palin then you are looking in the wrong place as this little book is not humourous at all.

Instead we get to see what happens when the Post Office management is replaced and the assistant gets involved in all sorts of shenanigans, revealing the depth of his connection with Hemingway. I wont give away any detail, but the ending of the story was somewhat strange, the whole build up to the conclusion of the story seemed a bit contrived to me, which is why I didn't really enjoy the book.

If nothing else, the story does show that Palin himself knows quite a bit about Hemingway, in fact, he wrote another book - Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure - which is a travelogue following in the footsteps of Hemingway. (I haven't read this, but get the feeling that I would enjoy this more than the book that I have just read!)

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Meme!

When I first started blogging I was quite unaware of the meme phenomenon on the internet. This is not quite the same as the idea of a meme as coined by Richard Dawkins in that it is something that is almost naturally picked up by everyone, for instance - a catchy tune that everyone picks up from the last person that hummed it!

But anyway, the meme thing on the internet is different, particularly in connection with blogging. Here it starts with someone listing, say, their five favourite animals and then asking five people to list their favourite animals and listing (or linking to) on the original blog that started it all. Some people just open it up to anyone who reads the blog, others ask certain people.

Of course, the memes themselves have grown into something a bit more complex in that some people are asking questions and then sending those questions out into the ether! I think that is it a good way of getting to dig a bit deeper into just who the person behind the blog is!

There are so many memes out there that I think that I will start doing a monthly meme, I will find one I fancy and then jump on the bandwagon!! If nothing else, it will probably fill a gap where I think that I have done absolutely nothing and therefore have absolutely nothing to say!!

This month's meme I found at Melody's Reading Corner and it's all about reading! So, here goes - it is probably going to make this the longest post I have done so far!!

1. Do you remember learning to read? How old were you? I don't actually remember NOT reading! I must have been taught somewhen, but either my early memory is a bit holey or I am just so very much a reader that "not reading" just does not occur to me!!

2. What do you find most challenging to read? I would love to read the classics, but just do not find them at all appealing. I keep thinking that my reading should be a bit more erudite, but give me a novel any day!

3. What are your library habits? It comes and goes, I can go for months without visiting the public library (I would started to say "library" - but that would mean that I don't go to work!! ha ha!) and then I suddenly decide to go to the library and usually end up getting about eight books out at any one time and then eventually get to a point when the stock in the library no longer appeals (it boggles the mind that some days I seem incapable of finding anything to read in a room FULL of books!).

4. Have your library habits changed since you were younger? I don't think so....I remember visiting the library as a child and getting lots of books out, as a teenager it wasn't quite so important, like I said above - it comes and goes!

5. How has blogging changed your reading life? It didn't at first, but the more I blog and the more I search out other blogs, the more I get ideas for reading - just today I joined the "From the Stacks" challenge (see post below!). I have also come across other blogs like Melody's Reading Corner and BooksPlease that give me lots of ideas and impetus to read books that I would not normally read. So, I am hoping that blogging will continue to change my reading life!

6. What percentage of your books do you get from: new book stores, second hand book stores, the library, online exchange sites, online retailers, other? Heck what a question, do you want precise percentages?! ;-) As much as my bank manager would rather not know - I buy most of my books from new book stores (70%) , but I also use charity shops a lot (10%), the library (10%), online retailers (5%) and other (5%) and I have to say that those figures are totally guesstimates, so....shrugs!? I never use online exchange sites - I do have a membership (somewhere) of BookCrossing, but I just can't bring myself to abandon a book of mine! Even when it comes to charity shops, I only tend to give back what I originally bought from there!

7. How often do you read a book and NOT review it in your blog? What are your reasons for not blogging about books? ALWAYS - I never write reviews, if only because it has not occurred to me to do so! If I think about it, what would I say? I have never reviewed a fiction book (have reviewed a couple of non-fiction for my professional journal) and am not quite sure how I'd go about it!

8. What are your pet peeves about ways people abuse books? Dogearing pages? Reading in the bath? I am afraid that I do all of the above (have yet to drop a book in the bath though!) I am terrible - will even crack the spine in order to hold the book and read into the corners, will leave the book facedown! So, I don't think that I can really get snooty about what other people do! I am off the opinion that if they are your books than you can do what you like, however, working in a library as I do, it does annoy me when I find that people have written inside books, particularly when they have filled in answers to revision books!! As we are a lending library, other people need the benefit of those books too!!

9. Do you ever read for pleasure at work? Yes, at lunch time, if, on the rare occasions, I forget to bring a book, I get twitchy and have to go and buy a magazine (the books in my library are not exactly for pleasure!) as I just cannot not have something to read!

10. When you give people books as gifts, how do you decide what to give them? Now that I think about it, I rarely give fiction for gifts, but will often give non-fiction according to what they are interested in. I think that part of the pleasure of reading is choosing what to read, so giving a book seems to me to take some of that away.

So, there you go - ten questions on reading!! And if you would like to do these questions yourself - duly consider yourself tagged and go and do the questions, but do let me know about them so that I can see what your answers are!!

Book Challenge

Anyone who knows me will know that I read far far too much, although I would argue that this is just not possible! ;-)

However, I do occasionally find that I have piles of books waiting to be read, generally because I have forgotten that I have them, or because if I don't read them as soon as I have bought them, they get consigned to the shelves to languish until I decide that perhaps I had better read them!

Well - no more - I have just joined a reading challenge - you can find out more about it the "From the Stacks" challenge here. The point is to pick five books that you have bought and have just never gotten around to reading, then you have to read them between the 1st November and 30th January.

Anyhow my list is as follows:
  1. Sword of God by Chris Kuzneski blogged it here

  2. Dancing with Eva by Alan Judd blogged it here

  3. Hemingway's Chair by Michael Palin blogged it here

  4. Woman in White by Wilkie Collins blogged it here

  5. A wedding in December by Anita Shreve blogged it here

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Blogs

Blogs abound, there are simply thousands of them on the internet, but I want to talk about one, just one....I found it the other day and it suits my Christmas mania very nicely.

It is Santa's blog! Yes, believe it or not, he blogs! Santa is relatively new to blogs as he has only been blogging for just over two years - this will be his third Christmas; and I strongly recommend that you take it a look and make sure that you are on the right side of the naughty and nice list!

However Santa is having problems this year - the Elves are on strike - does this sound familiar?! It clearly seems to be the year for striking, although I am sure that Santa will do his best to make sure that we all get our presents!!

Smile

I bet this lorry driver doesn't know how many people he made smile this morning!!

The flat-trailer of his lorry was empty so you actually see the back of the cab and it had something written on it, it said something like this
429 horses pull this lorry, plus one wonkey donkey

I am still smiling now! ;-)

Monday, 19 November 2007

Winter

Winter nights always make me think of the way Pops used to start a story "it was a dark and stormy night..." It makes me smile even now as I always used to fall for his sneaky joke! It goes something like this

"It was a dark and stormy night, and there were three men in a cave; one man turned to the other and said .....It was a dark and stormy night...."

I fell for it every single time because I was always keen to hear another story from Pops as he was a good story teller. In the end though, I got wise to him!!

Anyway, that wasn't actually the point of this post, the point was to complain about how dark it gets, I was driving along the road at about 4:30pm and wondering just when did it get dark before 5pm!! It's no wonder people get depressed in the winter with dark morning and darker evenings!

Having said that, for the most part I quite like dark evenings as I can draw the curtains, light the candles (away from the curtains mind you!), make a cup of tea and just snuggle up with the cat - preferably with a good book in my hand!! And that was precisely what I did yesterday - I even had the TV turned off and Clannad playing in the background - it was bliss.

Of course, Dad will say that the best evenings are when we have come home from walking the dog and the wind is beginning to get up, but we are snug in the house with the fire going and lots of tea and toast to be had. (it goes without saying that the wet and somewhat smelly dog stays in the kitchen!!)

The best thing about winter though, has to be Christmas! As you may have gathered from previous posts, I am a bit of a Christmas nutter! I love the whole thing - the run up to Christmas with the present buying (although that can get a bit stressful!), making Christmas cards, making crackers, putting up the tree and all the rest of it.

I never tire of it, I do get a bit fed up when I start seeing Christmas stuff in the shops in August, but I get into the swing of it all by the end of November when I have usually already got a few presents tucked away in the house and am beginning to think about what design to use for my Christmas cards. I even begin to work out which Carol concerts or services I can go do; and this year I am going to a doozy of a concert - this one is Carols by Candlelight at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Ann, Trish and I are going on Sunday 23rd December, as near as Christmas as we could get it!! I have never been to a concert at the Albert Hall and so I am really looking forward to it, if I am not in the mood for Christmas by then (unlikely I know!) then this should do it for me!! ;-)

Friday, 16 November 2007

Patience

What is it about days like today...I feel as though I have left my patience at home with the cat (who actually happens to be roaming the neighbourhood today!).

Every little thing is rubbing me up the wrong way today, it feels as though everything is going wrong - photocopier jams, printer jams, stapler jams, student can't upload her essay, IT can't fix a "page not displayed" message and I am just waiting for the next thing to make me go ARRRGHHHH.

It is odd how sometimes all those problems just roll off my back and I am bouncing from one thing to the next quite determined to fix it all so that everything runs as smoothly as it can. Unfortunately today is not one of those days, I will be happier when I get home and shut the door on everything tonight!! Light a few candles, pick up a good book and curl up with the cat when she decides to come in from the cold, which, knowing her will be as soon as I get home.

Still at least it is Friday, and I must just tell myself to get a grip! ;-)

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

$%?*!

Blooming petrol! I have just filled my car - about two years (or even a year) ago it cost me about £24 to fill the tank, now it takes me £30!

I am quite certain that the tank hasn't suddenly expanded to give me more space to put petrol in, but I didn't think that it would get quite so expensive; and the thing is that my car has a fairly small tank, so goodness knows how much it costs to fill up a bigger car!!

Yes, yes, I know that I should take the bus or use my bike perhaps, but it would take me an hour by bike to get to work; and the buses aren't ideal either as I'd have to take one into town and then one back out again! It's true - the car is simply far more convenient, I can pop to the shops on the way home, drop a colleague home if they need a lift, collect that Christmas present from the depot, and all manner of things!

I suppose that if I'd never had a car then I would simply be used to the alternative methods of transport, but as I do have a car, I do take it for granted and just don't know how I'd manage without it!!

It's a silly idea, but I can quite see that as oil reserves run out and if we can't find suitable methods of powering cars then we'd all start using the horse and buggy again! You know it makes sense! ;-)

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

As useful as....

....a chocolate teapot! I am quite sure that many of you have heard of this particular witty statement!

Well...just how useful is a chocolate teapot?

Someone has actually carried out research!! Visit plokta online to find out more!

It is a rather amusing post that goes to show that a chocolate teapot is, as expected, quite useless!! ;-)

Yes, I do realise that the information is about six years old and that someone may have carried out further research, but it just goes to show that you never quite know what is lurking within the depths of the internet, indeed, there is a particular website that I have enjoyed browsing and is called Pimp That Snack where people create extra large versions of the real thing and is quite funny - again a perfect example of the weird and wonderful things that abound!!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Gloves!

I need to dig up my driving gloves from whichever pile I have consigned them to - it was COLD this morning!

Anyway, the reason that I couldn't go to Montezuma's last weekend is because I was in Cambridgeshire visiting people! Namely, Andy, Marielle and my rambunctious nephew Tom and gorgeous niece Emily!

It was a very nice, family, weekend; and by that I mean, we didn't do anything out of the ordinary, just enjoyed the weekend - Andy and I took the children to Tesco's while Marielle blitzed the house, we all went to the park on Saturday afternoon, drove to a forest on Sunday afternoon and just enjoyed. Marielle was out babysitting on Saturday evening, so Andy and I watched The Brother's Grimm once Tom and Emily were in bed - like I said, just a simple weekend.

I got another birthday present though! It is a biscuit barrel in the shape of a bus! Andy did say that it was a funky gift! I already have a biscuit tin, so I am going to use this for sweeties!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Christmas!

Clearly it is way too early to begin talking about Christmas and I apologise to those who would rather not start thinking about Christmas until Christmas Eve!! ;-)

But, I had to tell you all about my day in London. I have just got back from a rather long day at the Spirit of Christmas fair that is held every year in Olympia. It is quite a nice fair - a real mix of stalls that hold clothes, smellies, toys, decorations, food, etc, etc! I don't go every year because it can get expensive, but I went this year and had a good time just browsing amongst the stalls.

Dad turned up too! He had said that he might come and that we'd try and meet for a cup of tea if he did, but as Dad had left to the last minute, I was not sure that he would arrive. Well, I was standing at a stall buying some candles when my phone buzzed, so I checked it for messages, only to see that Dad was calling...because I don't use the phone as most people might, I thought that Dad had made a mistake and so I cut him off!!! About two minutes later, he was calling again, so I grabbed the nearest nice looking lady and asked her to translate for me!!

To cut a short story shorter, he was in Olympia and looking for me! So, we met, I told him off for calling me, and we went and had a cup of tea! As it turned out, he didn't text me because of the way his phone ask's you to tick a persons name before sending the message, which isn't particularly intuitive, so I let him off!! ;-)

We had a nice day, just wandering around. Unfortunately I did not buy any christmas presents! Which kind of defeats the point of such a day, but I did get a few things for meself! A lovely pair of gorgeously smelling candles, a funky spotty hen doorstop, a purple canvas bag that seems to hold everything, and finally, an advent calendar from Montezuma's - my absolute favourite chocolate shop in Chichester that I was pleased to spot at the fair!! (I have just discovered that they now have a shop in Newbury - a mere half an hour from me!! Guess where I am going the weekend after next!!)

Unfortanately, the end of the day wasn't quite so good. I duly managed to get myself to Paddington in plenty of time to catch the train home, but there were lots of delays and cancellations! The ironic thing is that the electronic display boards now tell you why a train may be late or cancelled. The train that I had a reservation on was cancelled due to a mechanical fault and the train that I eventually caught was delayed because they were waiting for a member of staff!!! Anyway, I did eventually get home and am now about to go to bed!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Birthday!

Yay! It's my birthday!
It is a shame really that birthdays just don't have the same level of excitement as they did when we were children! It is almost just another day when you still have to get up and go to work, although I am not working this evening so I will be able to put my feet up!

I suppose I could have taken the day off, but I am saving all my leave for March when I go to Australia, so I think that is a very good reason for not having the day off. Even though much of the excitement has gone, it doesn't mean I can't still enjoy the presents! I remember writing thank you letters as a child and the letter would usually include a list of presents received. Now that I think about it, it seems such a show-off thing to do - "look at all the presents I got, aren't I lucky!"

Nevertheless, I shall list the presents that I got this year!! A pair of heeled brown boots from Mum and Dad, an audiobook of the first Harry Potter book from Matt, a Ravensburger Christmas jigsaw from Ben (I am NOT an old biddy thank you!), some bath smellies from Trish (plus a Librarian peanut!), some lovely vanilla candles and holders from Ann, Nicola and Bridget! Thanks to everybody of course!

Monday, 5 November 2007

Parental visit!

My folk visited me this weekend and as usual, I had a frantic few hours of making sure that the house was spick and span! It seems to me that there are a few hotspots in the house that never stay tidy - you'd think that it would be easy to stay nice and tidy, but no, I am one of those people that have to work at it!

Anyway, we had a nice weekend - there was a bit of sticky moment though when Mum and Dad gave me my birthday present! Mum said that she loved it, but thought that I might not as it was one of those things that really does depend on individual taste! It was a little figurine of a country girl and.....I am afraid that it was just not to my taste! Fortunately Mum and Dad were kind enough to agree that Mum would have the figurine and they'd get me another present! Thanks Mum and Dad!

Present giving is nearly always wrought with tension - will they like it? - will it fit? - is it suitable? - will it end up in the nearest charity shop? Obviously there are times when you just can't go wrong - usually when the recipient has been quite specific about what they want! Still, for the most part present hunting can be enjoyable - I have a few ideas for this Christmas!

Anyway, Mum, Dad and I had a good weekend - we went shopping on Saturday at the nearest outlet centre! Got some boots for a present! Bought some DVDs, bought a steamer thing - we tried it out on Sunday - it did chicken, potatoes, carrots and broccoli very well!

Saturday evening was a bit of an adventure! I should explain - I won a £50 voucher for an Italian restaurant and so we had booked a table! You never quite know what a restaurant is going to be like do you! I am pleased to say that our fears were groundless - we had a slap-up three course meal for £20 - I had garlic bread, pepperoni pizza, and profiteroles - all very typical of me!! Mum had a salad, a risotto, and creme brule; Dad had king prawns, tagliatelle, and a typical Italian ice-cream that I just can't think of the name for.

Sunday was nice and quiet, Mum and Dad left at about 3pm after our dinner from the steamer, I was impressed with it and will be using it again, particularly it was so easy. I then spent the afternoon watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Johnny Depp version), which was rather peculiar - quite dark film for all that it is meant to be for children! Although it is quite dark film, some people believe that is closer to the intent of the book than the earlier film made in 1971. Still, I thought it was an odd film. Anyhow, I have written enough today, so I shall stop!!

Friday, 2 November 2007

Traffic control

On the motorway there is nothing more effective at traffic control than a police car cruising along quite happily in the slow lane!! There was one on the M4 this morning and I just have to admit that I do find it quite amusing to see the moment when a whole bunch of drivers have just spotted this police car - all the brake lights come on!!

Then everyone sits there doing the speed limit that they should be doing, but as soon as the police car starts flashing blue lights and speeds off to wherever it needs to go, everyone pretty quickly starts to speed up again!!

It just goes to show that if people think that they can get away with something then they will certainly try, but as soon as they think that they might get caught then they pretend that they are as good as gold and would never even dream of going faster than they should! ;-)

If you've never seen that police car = brake lights phenomenon then it is worth looking out for - it makes me smile every time!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Carnage

Murder committed last night! Oh the horror! It would appear that the cat had some fun last night.

When I woke up this morning, I had no inkling of the carnage that awaited me downstairs! There were feathers all over the hallway, not to mention all the other unsavoury bits that come with ornithologicide, or would that be ornithicide - I shouldn't really be making up words now!

It was not pleasant, still I suppose that it is one of the hazards of cat ownership. So as you might guess, I was cleaning up early this morning - ewgh! I think that my nose will remain all wrinkled in disgust for quite some time!

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

New alarm clock

Some of you may remember an earlier post where I mentioned the horrors of getting up in the morning! I don't think that I mentioned it, but I have an alarm clock that vibrates and goes underneath my pillow (handy for those that cant, or wont, hear the alarm clock!).

But this vibrating alarm clock was not really enough to get me up, particularly if it was dark outside and too warm under the duvet! ;-) So, what I did was I set a timer on my bedside light and that would snap to full brightness at about the time I thought I should be awake.

However, that bright light is just a bit too much of a shock to the system, in the end all I did was make sure that I was under the duvet just before it turned on or immediately flang the duvet over my head as soon as the light came on. Which clearly wasn't helping!

Yet....I had an ace up my sleeve! I had heard of an alarm system called the bodyclock, made by a firm called Lumie. (they do a lot of lights for SAD people - and I don't mean it in quite that way!). After doing a bit of research, I decided that it would be worth getting one, so I bought one last weekend and have been using it for the last few days.

The premise is that you set the time for getting up and the light will gradually lighten until it gets to a suitable brightness for getting up (not mega bright, but a good light). So it is a nice and gradual waking up instead of a violent jerk into awareness when the bedside light turns on!

And I have to say, so far so good! Of course, I still don't want to get up, but I am more awake in the mornings and actually get up slightly earlier! A rather nice function that is has is that you can also set it to do a sunset, it is a bit unecessary though, but it is quite soothing to turn the main light out and then set the sunset going and gently drift off to sleep!

Halloween!!

Why on earth do people like to be scared silly!!? The Times published a list of most scary movie moments, of course, this is a very subjective exercise as we all find different things frightening.

But that takes me back to my original point - why watch something that is going to give you nightmares!? A few years ago, I watched Event Horizon and I actually had to pause the video twice, if not three times, in order to regain my equilibrium - it was horrifying. Not in an obvious way as some of those slasher films are, but in a far more subtle way - plays on your imagination and the thought of "what's round the corner"!

These days, I just wont watch a horror/scary/slasher type film as I just can't handle it, and if that makes me a wimp so what!! The interesting thing is that I quite like ghost or supernatural stories - if I am ever on holiday somewhere I will try and find a book about local ghosts.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Dark forces!

We currently have a dead computer in the library! Not an uncommon occurrence here, but I have been communicating with the IT chap by email and asking him how on earth a system registry file can just go missing and whether someone can actually delete that by mistake and he replied with a great quote that I just had to share with you...

the registry is protected from users so it can only become
corrupt by other faults, blips, gremlins and dark forces
that haunt libraries

What a great quote, and eminently suitable for tomorrow's Halloween!

Sadly, I am forced to agree with him as it does sometimes seem as though we are haunted by the ghosts of former disgruntled computers! They seem determined to throw obstacles in our path! It drives us all mad and naturally as library staff we are the first port of call for anyone using our computers, which does make sense except that our knowledge can only go so far as we are not techies! ;-)

Monday, 29 October 2007

Four Fires

Have just begun to read Four Fires by Bryce Courtenay. I have not read any of his stuff for a long time, I am newly reminded of how damn good he is!

Four Fires is a novel, it is not real, it does not have any basis in fact...and yet I keep sympathising with various people and situations in the book and thinking things like "it's disgraceful how the refugees are kept out of the life of the town" or "poor Sarah, how is she going to cope?" and then I have to remind myself that I am reading a NOVEL not a biography of any kind!

This is going to be a good book, I can tell! If it is anything like The Power of One, this is going be a very good book - absoloodle! Read The Power of One to see what I am going on about! I do like good books, I read too much rubbish as it is!!

There are very few books that have made some impression on me. In fact, I can't even think of any right now! Most of what I read are kind of in and out of my mind pretty much immediately, having said that - Courtenay's books are amongst those that have grabbed my attention.

Some people claim that certain books have changed their lives, but I don't subscribe to that view - how can a book change your life, it would certainly have to mean something truly profound to you, and given how much and how fast I read, I just can't see any book having that kind of effect on me!

In fact, I do sometimes wish that I didn't read quite so fast! If a book is very good then I wish that I could read slower in order to enjoy it for longer, but I just don't seem able to slow down! Hopefully I am about to try a self-imposed experiment though - I have requested an audio-book of the first Harry Potter book from my youngest brother for my birthday, and I intend to sit down with the book in both my hands and my ears and try to read along with Stephen Fry and just enjoy the book at a (far more) relaxed pace! I shall have you let you all know how I get on!

Dartmoor Photos

Hi all - I said that I would post some photos from Dartmoor when I had a chance. Well, I totally forgot and now I am not going to get the opportunity until the weekend to turn my home pc on to upload a few photos, so I have stolen a couple of Mum's photos and posted those below!!

Dad and I, plus dog, are on top of Bellever Tor.

My successful attempt not to fall into the river at Dartmeet!

Friday, 26 October 2007

Adelaide Arts Festival

I am getting all excited about Australia again. The inital excitement, or as some might say - hysteria, had worn off and the amount of time doing research had diminished quite a bit!

But now I am all hyped up again because the programme for the Adelaide Festival of Arts has just been released!! I have yet to look at the Fringe website, but I am sure that that will be just as exciting.

My biggest trouble is that I only have about five days in Adelaide, and this includes the wedding!! Still, at least I wont ever be stuck for things to do whilst in Adelaide, as well as the fee-paying performances there are also several free things such as light shows that are projected on the major buildings in Adelaide (I hope that I have good blackout curtains in my hotel!).

Woohoo, only four months to go! P.S. Have just realised that while the Festival programme has been released, the Fringe programme does not get released until January!

Friday!

Thank goodness it's Friday! I always really really anticipate Fridays - the beginning of the weekend - yay! ;-) I haven't got much planned for this weekend - a bit of shopping perhaps and a visit to the craft fair at the Science Museum in Wroughton.

Anyway, I have just finished The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes - all about the transportation system and the beginnings of Australia as we know it. It took me longer to read than a fiction book as I was only reading it during work breaks, non-fiction books nearly always take me longer to read because I can't just dive into them and read them in one sitting!

The Fatal Shore was certainly very interesting and yet quite horrific at the same time, in a stretch of about a hundred years there was only one man who tried rehabilitation instead of punishment. Yet, he was shouted down by the people who wanted to make Australia and Van Dieman's Land a deterrent and so made it all very very horrible with floggings, hard labour and short rations.

I am now waiting for a delivery of three more books - 30 days in Sydney (an irreverent look at the city!); The Explorers (an anthology of first hand accounts of Australian exploration!); and The Dig Tree (the story of a particularly ill-fated exploration into the Bush). So, I expect to be fully clued up by the time I land in Sydney. Oh, by coincidence, I happened to pick up a novel a few months ago and left it sitting on my "to read pile" - Four Fires by Bryce Courtenay - set in early Australia. This book is now in my bag for me to start reading this lunch time!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Now....

....I've seen it all!!

I drove onto campus (the home of strange cyclists) and saw someone on skis! Clearly they weren't real skis as we have had no sudden and totally unexpected snow fall. They were short skis on wheels and I suppose he was practicing in the absence of snow, but he had ski-poles and all, which must have caused a few double-takes.

Certainly it was a bit risky trying to steer the car around him as he was flinging his ski-poles all over the place - he obviously needs a bit more practice!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Accreditation

Well, I said yesterday that today was a big day for me....it was the end of a lot of preparation for the Accreditation visit to our Library! Every NHS Library gets visited by assessors every three years and our three years was up today!

A lot of work goes into preparing for this as we have to submit a workbook with lots of evidence about what we are doing and basically have to self assess ourselves and then the assessors visit and meet with the library staff, my line manager, the Chief Executive and some library users. They also get a tour of the Library and the chance to fire lots of questions at me!

It was a tiring and somewhat stressful day, but I am so glad that it is over. The way that it works is that at the end of the day they decide on what Stage Accreditation we should be awarded and then the official report with recommendations will get written and sent to us in about a months time.

Well, I am sure that you are now agog to hear what we got!? There are four stages to the accreditation:

0 - big fat failure
1 - basic accreditation - need improvement
2 - good accreditation with some areas of excellence
3 - excellent accreditation

I knew that we couldn't get a 3, but was hoping for a 2 and that's what we got!! I am so very very pleased, it is due to the hardwork of my staff and their support of me that we have been able to achieve this, so I am very proud of them. (Of course, I am proud of myself too!)