So, by the time it had been clothed and sprinkled it was not obvious that the table consisted of our normal table plus four bits of MDF and the top of an old chest of drawers. Said construction relatively easily accommodated the twelve of us and just about thirteen when six month old nephew Are decided he wanted to have his high chair at the table and not just at one corner. It was also the first time we've sat at a table with both sets of parents (Zee's dad is normally resident in EnZee) since our wedding (though both sets did sit down at our table for Xmas lunch two years ago while we were in EnZee with Zee's step-mother and half brothers and sisters). Xmas day went pretty well with no arguments encountered into well into the drunken hours during a game of charades (isn't that why one plays charades?).
The rest of the household have gone to a panto this evening (oh yes they have). I have stayed at home to disassemble the table for another year. Say bye-bye big table.
Hope everyone else had as good a break as we all did.
Ooops, shoul have been yesterday as obviously 'tis the 23rd that is Leetle Xmas Eve. A Danish thing apparently that we've inherited via Zee's Danish grandmother. Anyway, a merry little time we had which included the first sampling of our homemade cassis made with blackcurrant's from a co-allotmenteers plot. It is absolutely sublime (and I'm not normally one for liqueurs. A lovely blackcurrant aroma and a silky smoothness combining with a pleasant warming sensation.
Little Xmas Eve also saw the crowning of this years almond Queen....step forward young Kay.
The starter for Danish Xmas meals, according to the folklore in this family, is an unsweetened rice pudding with cinamon sugar. One bowl has an almond hidden in it. Whoever ends up with the almond is crowned Almond King or Queen and gets a box of chox. I've always had my suspicions that it's rigged but this year by bringing several swaps into the serving we made sure it really was random. It was obvious as soon as we started eating that Kay had won as she nudged me and asked what you had to do if you had the almond whilst fervently denying that she had it. In celebration we've finally found a photo she's happy with (taken back in the summer in Corfu).
Incidentally, Zee's dad tells us that the rice pudding starter, which is just a small dish in our family, was orignally a large bowlful in an effort to fill you up before you got to the dead animal course which could consequently be smaller. I have no idea if any of this folklore really exists beyond the Maiden-Name family... ought to check I suppose.... but not right now.
I think the best thing one can hope for when photographing such well known landmarks as St.Paul's and the un-wobbly bridge is interesting light. Thus I was quite lucky on Tuesday... this was before the fog descended obviously. Can't see anything at all now :(
A dry run for the even-bigger-than-last- year table top this afternoon..... can you spot the extra panel? It's now 2.74 metres long and 1.22m wide. Just enough room to seat 12 big people for Xmas day lunch. Little 6 month old nephew will have to sit on a corner. There is no more room in the dining room to seat any more... as it is Zee will be sitting on a piano stool at one end and I may well be on a drum throne at the other.
'tis Kay's turn to decorate our Yule/Winterval/FOTCR tree this year. In preparation this morning, at her latest appointment with the orthodontist, she was offered some colour for her braces. She went, as you can see, for Pink.
"That's the most popular colour," said the Orthodontist,
"Well, amongst the girls anyway..... but quite a lot of boys too, as they say the girls like it."
What on earth is up with kids these days? In my day having braces would have marked you out as being of absolutely no interest to the opposite sex. I'd hoped this would still be the case and that Kay having braces would mean I wouldn't have to keep firing off the 12 bore at all the local oiks. Some hope!
..and so, last night, to Brixton where the Pogues are running through their now regular Winterval slot at the Academy (final showt tonight, probably too late for you now to go....).
The Pogues hold a special place in my musical museum for a multitude of reasons. "Rum, Sodomy and the Lash" remains one of my all time favourite albums but my first encounters were earlier still. Twenty something years ago when they were just starting out, I was living in sunny Brixton and my former flatmate, an erstwhile music journalist in the making, befriended a couple of the band. This,in turn, lead to them staying with him for a while. Though the music was undeniably exciting I have to admit I was somewhat scared of them... their drinking culture seemed a million miles from the drunken students I'd previously encountered. Those early live performances sometimes seemed to involve more alcohol than required to get any creative juices flowing...indeed possibly enough to let them spill all over the floor. They walked the fine line between an edgy and exciting band and one about to explode in a violent implosion. By this time they were starting to become a pretty popular act, always included in all those wonderful free GLC concerts that Ken used to arrange on Clapham Common every other weekend (my memory may be romantising a bit here). But their performance at the last one I recall (sometime between 1982 and '84?) was crap.... Shane didn't seem to know which song he was singing let alone what the tune was. Thus, though I continued to admire his songwriting and kept buying the albums I didn't bother going to see them again until 1991. I felt I'd lost something as fundementally this was always a live band, the songs gained so much more in the flesh... when not drowning in liquor, that is.
By 1991 I was a responsible-(ish) newly married career microbiologist (heh, heh) living, for some strange reason, in arse-end of Essex Whitham-on-A12. There was feck, feck all to do in Whitham and so, when I noticed the latest Pogues tour was coming to Cambridge and that Shane had been temporarily replaced by my all time hero Joe Strummer, I felt it was time to reacquaint myself with The Pogues live.
'twas Zee's first ever "pop" concert. Somehow she'd managed to miss punk....her excuse that "we lived in Manchester and they didn't have punk" doesn't really wash but that's by the by. It was an excellent gig, the Pogues were musically much tighter than I'd seen previously but whilst still maintaining a slightly dangerous feeling in Strummer they had a front man able to get through the show without pouring pints of alcohol down his throat and over the stage. Add to that a couple of Clash numbers and it really was a great night out.
If you'd asked me back then which of the two men who'd fronted the Pogues would be dead within 15 years I'd have staked a lot on it being Mcg and not Strummer. Then again if, after the first release of the truly beautiful "Fairytale of New York City", you'd told me one of the singers would be dead within the next 15 years I'd have staked a lot on that being Shane too and not the lovely Kirsty MacColl. It was, we were informed last night, exactly six years ago that Kirsty was killed whilst scuba diving in an "accident" involving a speedboat in an area set aside for scuba diving. The Justice for Kirsty Campaign strives to unearth the truth of the incident and to bring those responsible to justice. All power to them.
Then a couple of months ago at his fiftieth birthday party, Zee's cousin mentioned he was going to see the Pogues this Christmas. Zee and I thought it would be worth giving them another go live... and about time the girls saw some decent live music. So last night we found ourselves in sexually delineated queues to get into the Brixton Academy... the dangerous females of the family had their chewing gum and water confiscated but I managed to get mine in. And upstairs. I'd never ben upstairs at the Academy before... downstairs many times but never up. And we weren't the only family up there either... there were much younger kids than the girls there (and on a school night!!! tut-tut!!).
Shane lasted three songs before stumbling off glass in hand....incidentally, that little thing that looks like a bird table by his mic stand was for his drinks, fags and ash tray. Not something I think I've ever seen on stage before.
His singing had been better than I'd been expecting, somewhat slurred but at least he had remained upright. The inter-song discourse was unintelligible bar the odd expletive. The rest of the band did a couple of songs without him... I wonder whether his exit was at a planned point of the set or if they just had a fluid set list to allow other members to fill in as and when Shane departed? His coming and going continued throughout the night but each time he came back he seemed somehow better than before... indeed this was Shane more in command than I've ever seen him (still thoroughly pissed) and the rest of the band too were tighter than I'd previously imagined. The wonderful set included nearly every Pogues song I would have wanted with the exception of"Fairytale.." much to the girls' disappointment.
"There'll be an encore, " I assured them.
It was excellent but still no "Fairytale...". Shane really looked like he was not coming back after the encore.... but he did finally re-appear for a second encore and further excellent entertainment. Then they introduced Ella Finer, daughter of banjo player Jem and we all knew what was coming.
And it was wonderful... Ella is no Kirsty MacColl but she did the song a great service. Her final waltz through the falling artificial snow with Shane brought tears to my eyes.
Lovely. A wonderful evening....and we all got home happily ever after.
NB: Pictures courtesy not of the usual trusty Canon but the slightly less well specced camera phone.... in case you hadn't guessed.
And so, to paraphrase Mark of the Knopffflers today found us with Skates on, On our feet (find that lyric if you dare). Down we trekked to Greenwich where there is one of these winterval skating rinks that seem to have been popping up here, there and everywhere in recent years en Londres. A lovely setting for one this though between two of the towers of the Old Royal Naval College and this morning a beautiful blue sky to boot. Somehow I haven't actually been ice skating for thirty years or so when we used to go down Streatham (though not on the bus, Mr Jones).
Amazingly I didn't fall over.
Neither did Zee, Kay or her friend who are all much better skaters than me. Though Kay and her friend are probably sk8ters anyway. Happy Winterval people!
...and this is how Ladybirds survive the winter. They gather together in sheltered spots... or on our fencepost. Nicely spotted by Zee and young Kay this morning so that the neighbours could wonder why on earth I was taking close-up shots of a concrete ball. Anyway, they (the ladybirds, not the neighbours) are aptly named Orange Ladybirds or Halyzia 16 guttata for the latins amongst you.
Excellent short programme on BBC4 last night about Survivors, the best TV series ever. Set in a post apocalyptic world it rode high on the self-sufficiency ideas that were in vogue at the time and maybe that's what started my interest in such things. Bearing this in mind it was amusing to learn in last night's documentary that the Volvo estate they drove in the early episodes was the same car as owned by Margo and Gerry in the self-sufficiency sit-com The Good Life. It even kept the same number plate for both shows. A shame there weren't any other cross-overs... it would have been good to see Margo cope in Survivors.
Good to see the three main characters talking about the series and how they looked today (older but still recognisable). Don't you just love blogs telling you about programmes on last night... or even thirty years ago?