strange_complex: (Saturnalian Santa)
[personal profile] strange_complex
I have wanted to make this post for three days, but have been unable to do so until now because I could not load my LJ photo galleries. As multiple friends have noted, LJ has been shonky in a number of ways over the same period, and although it seems OK again now, the problems seem to be associated with a server move to Russia - and I must say I also feel very uncomfortable about relying on anything in Russia for the ongoing preservation of a journal I have been carefully curating for 13 years now. I've never felt so inclined to set up a Dreamwidth mirror... but then again something [livejournal.com profile] nwhyte said in an entry earlier today made me doubt that Dreamwidth has proper picture-hosting facilities at all. It's all sadly ironic that this should happen just when people are genuinely popping up on LJ again, thanks I understand to a FB LJ-nostalgia community.

Anyway, here's what I actually wanted to post - a few pictures of our Christmas. We booked a cottage in the Cotswolds village of Bourton-on-the-Water this year - 'we' in this case being me, my Dad, my sister and her husband and children. None of us had ever done Christmas this way before, but we decided to try it on the grounds that it would be healthier and cheerier to do something new and different this year, rather than try to re-create our normal family Christmas but with one person missing. It would also allow flexible levels of participation for each person, in that everyone could choose whether to hang out with the other cottage residents, go out for a walk or simply lie on their bed reading a book. And I'm glad to say it worked really well. We did remember Mum of course, and Dad had a couple of tearful moments. But for a first Christmas without her, it was actually really nice and enjoyable and nothing like as difficult as I suspect it would have been in the family home, or even my sister's home (where Mum had also been for Christmas day a couple of times in recent years).

We arrived in the afternoon of the 23rd, in pretty rotten weather, and got settled in. We had brought a LOT of food, which took quite a bit of unpacking and putting away, while Christophe admired the (fake) Christmas tree which the cottage owners had supplied, and Eloise enjoyed The Snow Dog.

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The next day, we explored the village a bit. It is quite literally 'on the water' in the sense of having a river running through it, where we found ducks and a Christmas tree on a stand which the ducks enjoyed perching on.

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This is what it began to look like as dusk fell:

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Santa's bounty later that night I have already captured in my last entry, along with the Vampire Santa I hoped would visit me personally. So we can skip ahead to the following morning:

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I know they woke up around 6:10am, as I could hear them, but somehow my sister heroically persuaded them to stay upstairs until about 6:50 - don't ask me how; that is epic parenting! By then, though, they couldn't wait any longer, so the half-slumbering grown-ups were fully awakened and they scampered downstairs to the tree! Christophe got dinosaurs, trucks, diggers and some magical sand which sticks to itself (sort of!).

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Eloise got lots of drawing and colouring things, various story books, the pyjama / onesie outfit she is seen modelling below (called a 'Roaster Toaster') and a proper real telescope (not pictured, but the source of much excitement).

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We also made dinner of course, with myself as the primary chef - though it must be recorded that I could not have done it without Dad's assistance as sous-chef. I followed Sainsburys' instructions about basting the turkey with butter, wrapping it in streaky bacon and putting an onion in the body cavity, and I must say it came out very nicely indeed. We also had our family-heirloom angel chimes from the '70s in the centre of the table, although they had an unfortunate encounter with Christophe (before they were lit), and ended up half-coated in prawn cocktail dressing for a while there.

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After dinner, Eloise and I curled up together to watch The Box of Delights, which I had brought on DVD, and which we had started the day before. I needed to gloss what was going on for her quite a lot, as it is a pretty complex story really - which is of course why I as an adult still like it. But she was gripped all the same, had lots of questions about what was going on, why people were doing things and what was going to happen, and consistently requested the next episode each time one finished. So I think we can count that a hit.

Finally, this is my own personal present haul, pictured after I got back to Leeds. Vampire Santa was clearly on the case, resulting in a strong theme amongst the presents I received:

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I have used the pattern on the carpet to demarcate the presents I received from [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan in particular, because I really was bowled over by how lovely and generous her gift was. Everything contained within the cream (sort of) semi-circle shape on the left-hand side of the picture was from her, all carefully packed with lots of purple, white and pink tissue-paper into a large shoe-box. I couldn't believe as I was unpacking it how many things were in there, and will certainly have a very enjoyable few weeks working my way through all the tasty treats and the book.

Anyway, here we are in the Festive Perineum (h/t [livejournal.com profile] inbetween_girl), which I found boring as a teenager, but has now become one of my favourite times of the year. The obligations of Christmas are all fulfilled, my work email account is blissfully free of people demanding things, and it is genuinely OK to sit around in my dressing-gown watching a Buffy marathon on SyFy and ordering the unpurchased items on my Amazon wish-list. I wondered about driving up to Allendale for their New Year's tar bar'l procession this year, as 2016 is a year which I feel pretty strongly could do with a good burning out. But the weather reports say it will be raining pretty heavily there right over midnight, so maybe not. I am open to other suggestions, if anyone has any?

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