christmas - 2/3 -

A few words before I leave home

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It kinda hit tonight.
In the past few days, I’ve been in a haze of busyness, running around and putting everything movable into large boxes, readying them for the move to Guildford. Plans (well, “ideas” at any rate) have been formed for the first few days in our new house, and companies have been informed of the new address. All, in short, is sorted, and tomorrow is the big day.
But as I look around me tonight – at all my worldly possessions, piled high and battling to escape from their cardboard prisons – it’s suddenly sunk in. I’m leaving behind my formative years with my parents – the happy childhood, the uninhibited teenage years and the challenging responsibility of the last half-decade. No longer will my mother wish me goodnight, hoping “that the bugs don’t bite”. No longer will I see my dad come home full of the joys of life, making us laugh despite the rocky road life has dealt him and my mum in recent times. Never again will my mother be able to fuss over and protect me – and never again will my dad try his best to show me the way of life over a lavish meal cooked as only my mother can.
These and many, many others, are the things I shall miss. But I have a load of memories of life growing up. I distinctly remember one Christmas Eve, I was eagerly waiting for Santa to appear. My mum had helped me fill the sherry glasses by the chimney (for some reason, Santa needed a lot of sherry) and I had crept into bed, losing the will to stay awake a few minutes later. The morning came, and miraculously the huge Christmas stocking was by the end of the bed, full of presents. I woke my parents up and rushed downstairs to find something that made me more excited than ever – several perfect snowy footprints leading from the chimney to the stairs, all expertly formed and evidently from Santa’s snowy foot. Although I now know the effort dad had gone to the create the perfect Christmas – the snow was in fact polystyrene, can you believe – the moment made that and many further Christmasses all the more real and magical for me.
Another time, I was looking for a cricket ball and my dad had an idea. He had won a special cricket ball at his school, which had been given for some magnificent cricketing feat and he was very proud of it, keeping it up until that day. And yet here he was, prising off the plaque commemorating his great feat – just so that his son could play cricket for the day.
And all the while, in amongst these many amazing memories of my dad, I have countless wonderful memories of my mother, comforting and caring, being the mum she was born to be, while my dad was out earning a crust. She managed to have an in-built common sense that allowed me to always be looked after and sent in the right direction. After I left home for the first time to go to boarding school, she cried for three days, wishing I could come home but knowing it was for the best. Even to this day, it seems as if she has so much love to give, but not enough time to give it. She really was born to be a mother, and I couldn’t have wished for more.
I suppose all children think that their parents are the best in the world – but despite the ups and the downs, I can safely say that my parents, to me, are the best in the world. There are so many more memories that I could describe, but I’d be here for a goodly while. I know that they have always done their best for me, put me first, worried, comforted and helped – even if as a rebellious teenager I couldn’t always see it.
So this post is for my parents. Thank you both for everything. I know that in moving away to an exciting new stage in my life things will be different – but I shall always be there to help, as you have helped me.
And, let’s face it, I’ll only be 26 miles down the road…

And another year passes by…

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“A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.”

The last couple of weeks have been a blur of parties, presents, turkey and trimmings.
There was my first office Christmas knees up since I started there, which went amazingly without embarrassment. There was in fact two parties – one traditional Christmas meal and one booze up in Guildford. My manager and I had tried for weeks beforehand to organise the booze up, and despite having to change the date we all managed to turn up and boogie until 3am on Saturday morning. Our chosen venue was the Voodoo Lounge and the cheesy music enabled me to bop until closing time. Limbs flailing and outrageously out of time, I felt it was only fair to apologise for my dancing to the rest of our group the following Monday. No matter though – all agreed it was good fun, and excuses are now being finalised to have another one…
And then there was Mel’s birthday meal at a pub in Fulham. Being so close to Christmas, it was compulsory to have turkey and trimmings, a fact that our stomachs were most pleased about. Jac, however, had promised his girlfriend that he would be round for Chistmas dinner with her that night, and late in the evening, after his second three course meal of the day, I got a text message: “I fell full. And bloated. And about to explode. I don’t think I can manage the eleventh After Eight of the evening…”
Christmas Day was the usual family-based affair, with the largest turkey I’ve ever laid eyes on sitting on the dining table at my grandmothers house. We tucked in, and barely made a dent. My presents were prolific and wonderful, and amongst many other things I am now the proud owner of a tie rack, a cocktail shaker, several DVDs, an XBOX game and a fibre optic light. Playing on my affection for elephants, I’m also now a proud sponsor of a newborn elephant called Tume, with a complementary ticket to go and see the little rascal. A trip to Whipsnade in the near future, I think…
Finally, there was New Year. My usual plan is to leave everything undecided until the last moment, and accept a party offer at the 11th hour. However, this year no-one seemed to have plans. And why, Michelle and I thought on the 30th December, should we go out, spend loads of money on virtually nothing and not remember a thing? As it happens, Jac and Debbie felt the same, so Michelle and I piled round to Jac’s farmhouse, to be presented with a magnificent 3 course meal on a fully laid up dinign table, complete with Winnie The Pooh christmas crackers. It was a grand effort, and 2005 came round with the greatest of ease.
So, there goes another zippedy fast year. I hope you all had a good Christmas!

Merry Christmas Everybody…

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The presents are wrapped, the weather is suitably nippy, I’m surrounded by chocolate and the roads are completely empty. It must be Christmas! Have a great few days, and if you’re looking for Santa, this form (pdf) may come in handy…

Chance meetings

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It’s always nice at this time of year to swallow various prides, put aside any differences and cessate any negative feelings. It’s Christmas, after all. And that was precisely my frame of mind as I entered the gym last night, bracing myself for a vigorous workout that usually leaves my legs wobbling festively.
As I ordered a couple of Lucozades over the counter, the man next to me stared. After a few seconds, he piped up, “Just like to say congratulations on your website.”
“What?” I blurted, as I stared at the barely familiar face of a man keen to shake me warmly by the hand.
“We’ve all had a look at your Harper post, and we thought it was spot on.”
I’ve been congratulated by email several times since the controversial post reared its head more than a year ago, but never in person, never from someone that knows the deep workings and views of the people involved and whose only tool of recognition for me was the various photos on this site. I explained that my views were never made on that post – and have never been made public before or since. I was quoting others, and others were commenting on those quotes. The private investigators that subsequently phoned and emailed were only carrying out their job for someone that had plainly decided that free speech was a privilege, not a right.
Still, it was nice that this mystery gym visitor took the effort to speak up in support of the cause. Michel Harper is plainly a man with a good business brain, someone that has generated a lot of income for himself and the town. I’ve heard both positive and negative things about him. It’s true that he puts on a good show – I myself was in his Voodoo Lounge last Friday, although you may think me hypocritical. For all I know, he could be a genuinely good egg, as my good friend is at pains to point out. But this chance meeting led me to think – if so many people are disenchanted with their working experience at those premises, is it likely that they are all in error – or more likely that the one man who is the focus of their palpable anger is at fault?
Mind you, it’s too festive for those thoughts to be swilling around. I hope all those presents are wrapped and under the tree and that you’re all in a suitably merry mood. Hell, send a Boriscard if you want…

Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas you lot!
As I reach over for yet another mince pie before I start on the mountain of shortbread I have beside me, I thought I’d sit down and write a little missive to you all. I probably won’t have time for posting inane stuff over the next week, so I’d like to thank you all for coming here – after all, without that little visitor counter at the bottom rocketing up, I’d have given this all up long ago. I’d like to thank bloggerheads for all the linkage, and the two invitations of a beer that I’ve had to turn down. Hell, I’ll even thank Michelle, for putting up with me being constantly glued to the computer screen. And mum and dad, for the same reason. And Jac and Nick for the constant flow of emails.
So, here’s to another year. I suspect the next few days will be a flurry of pints, presents and perfunctory fun. I hope you all have good Christmasses if I don’t see you, and have several sherries for me…

Poor Jac’s wallet

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“Money talks…but all mine ever says is good-bye.”
A message from Jac this morning, listing his reasons for being broke: “It is Christmas. I also have a girlfriend. I have also just bought shares in Renault and a new Hugo Boss suit (cursed mother). Credit card is in hospital recovering from repeated blows to its magnetic strip and the wallet is under medication for trauma”.
Poor boy.

Sarah’s Party

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“No party is any fun unless seasoned with folly.”
Desiderius Erasmus
And Nick’s girlfriend Sarah’s pre-Christmas party was no exception. Last Friday night, we rocked up, got merry, played games, stripped off (ish), flung meringue, and had a lot of fun. Pictures are shown in the Photos section (click the link on the main menu), courtesy of a bald headed man whose name escapes me…

A Santa in Petersfield

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Petersfield was playing host to a Christmas extravaganza, complete with a grotto, two Father Christmas’s and a music stage. Previous years had been, frankly, dire, and something had to be done about it this year. It was a good turnout too – I had no idea there were so many people under 50 years old in the town.
I located one of the Father Christmas’s, walked over and marvelled at the magical effect he was having on the children. He certainly looked the part – covered in a big red suit, fatherly spectacles hanging on the end of his nose, shaking all the children’s hands and merrily booming “ho ho ho” at regular intervals. They wanted to hug him, talk to him, get presents for him, and he responded to them all, handing out gifts and making them smile and giving a little magic to their night on the town.
Father Christmas spotted me watching in admiration. I walked over, and smiled.
“Hello, dad,” I said.

Dad as Father Christmas

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The best news I’ve had in ages: My dad is going to be Petersfield’s Father Christmas! I’m immensely proud, and shall be there taking photos next Friday for the gallery.
Breaking News: My dad has just offered my mum as a reindeer…

Bloody Weather

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It was my weekly visit to Head Office, a 128 mile round trip from Guildford, and as I got ready for work, I was very pleased at my timekeeping. Regular readers will be aware of my struggle at getting to work on time – even the best planning can go wrong with the slightest error in my daily routine, or simply forgetting to charge my shaver the previous night. But happily all was going well this morning.
And then Mother Nature decided to throw in a googly.
The crunch under my feet signalled the start of my troubles. Snow simply refused to budge from its new home on my windscreen, and it completely confused my automatic windscreen sensors so much that the wipers seemed to have a vehicular fit every couple of minutes. Oh well, I thought as I slid my way through the blizzard along the main road towards the first major town on my journey, I’m half an hour early – it’ll be fine.
Thirty minutes later, I was 100 feet further along the road. Every car was straining to keep themselves on track. The queue for the M4, the motorway I needed, started 12 miles away from the junction, and I had handily started queueing just as a double decker bus careered into an innocent VW Golf. Then the local radio station summed up the situation: 21 schools had closed, the whole of Surrey was gridlocked, and every road I would be using waas declared an ice rink.
After 3 hours, I’d got 25 miles from Guildford. I passed the time by working out my average speed. 8.3 miles an hour. If things didn’t improve, I would arrive at Head Office at around 11pm. Terrific. Trying to raise anyone at Head Office was rather difficult – not only could many of them not get in, but many were still nursing the effects of the previous night’s Christmas party. It was when I saw people ahead pushing their cars up the hill that I took the immensely easy executive decision to head the hell home again. I phoned Nick; he was most amused by it all. As I write, he’s still battling home, having abandoned all hope of getting to his office.
I thought, as I imagine you do, that that would be the worst of it. It was while I was beginning to overcome severe drivers cramp and the frankly useless tyre grip that the thunder and lightning set in. Flashes arched across the sky, while snow fell, cars skidded across the road, and thunder rumbled through the clouds.
No sign of the locusts yet though.