strange_complex: (Saturnalian Santa)
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.

Pictures start here )

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?

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Saturnalian Santa)
OK, last meme entry. And again, although Boxing Day was awful, thankfully Christmas Day itself was all right, so I can describe it fairly normally.

I actually began Christmas Day at my sister's house in Warwick, because she had invited me and her old sixth-form friend Duncan over for the evening to keep up our old tradition of toasting in Christmas together at midnight. We had a lovely evening of canapés, drinks and chat, and did our little toast together at midnight (me with raspbery and cranberry juice), even though we were all yawning by that stage. Then Duncan and I bid them goodnight and headed off in my car, under a bright starry sky and taking care to avoid the (very few) other cars and people whom we saw pursuing their own rather drunken-looking paths home. I crept quietly into my parents' house with the benefit of much practice acquired during my teenage clubbing years, and sank into bed.

The next morning, we all got up, had breakfast, got ready and headed back over again to my sister's house in Warwick for Christmas Day itself. We arrived around 11am, and sat down with a round of coffee while we showered Eloise with presents. She is one and a half now, and has very definitely become a little girl rather than a baby:

Eloise


She also genuinely manages to get even cuter every time I see her. The picture doesn't begin to capture that, because so much of it is about her lovely smiling animated face and her increasingly eloquent chatter, and nor does it even really show off the growing mass of blonde curls hiding at the back of her head. But I hope it gives some idea at least.

Eloise's presents )

Christmas dinner )

Adult presents and Christmas TV )

A decent day all told - and a jolly good thing too, given what followed. :-/

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Saturnalian Santa)
OK, so my Christmas experience this year may have been pretty miserable, but I answered 23 out of 25 questions on this meme before family dramas intervened, and now I am damned well going to finish it.

I've given some indication of my answer to this question in the post for Day 15, where I explained the religious element which Christmas has for me, through the syncretism between Santa Claus and Saturn. It feels important to have a midwinter festival to cheer up the dark days of winter.

Christmas is also important to me because it is important to so many other people around me. I like it for the same reasons as I like the monarchy, and in fact looking for past LJ posts in which I have explained my reasons for liking the monarchy, I find that I have actually drawn the comparison between it and Christmas before. Whether we like either or not, and however we choose to relate to them, all of us in the UK (and many of us beyond) have those things in common. I don't think that means we need to treat them as sacred cows, but I do think it is valuable and useful - for example by giving us all a central point around which to position ourselves in relation to the institution itself and the other people who also feel some sense of a relationship with it.

Finally, Christmas is important to me because it is something we do every year, in more or less the same way. That makes it comforting and familiar, and helps me to maintain a sense of connection with my own past. The last few Christmases may have been pretty grim, but they haven't all been like that, and I want to remember the ones which were good by continuing to celebrate the festival. Also, the unchanging and cyclical nature of a festival like Christmas helps to set off the gradual changes which take place between one iteration of it and the next. Sadly for me, what it has shown this year is a sharp reflection of how much and how badly things have changed in the life of my family since Mum became ill - but while that has been painful, I think it is something I needed to see.

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Saturnalian Santa)
I'm answering this for my parents' house in Birmingham, because that's where I have always usually spent Christmas Day - although in fact this year we won't be doing so, as we are going to my sister's house in Warwick instead. I don't normally decorate my own house, although I did buy a wreath for the door last year, and will probably put that up tomorrow.

We usually have a tree in the front hall, standing on top of a side-table which is there throughout the year. This gets set up and decorated by me and my sister on Christmas Eve, except in the years when we have hosted a Christmas party, when we set it up in time for that instead. On the same day, I go out into the garden to collect sprigs of holly, ivy and other ever-green shrubs or winter-flowering plants, and then slot them into holes drilled into a log for me by my Dad, which is then set up on top of the mantelpiece in the lounge to create a wintry display. As it happens, I took pictures of both our tree and the mantelpiece display in 2006, so can show you what those look like:


My Dad also has two sets of those Swedish candle bridge style light sets, which he likes to set up in the windows half-way up the stairs and on the upstairs landing, and which do a great deal to make the house look cheery and festive from the outside. The upstairs landing window doesn't actually have a proper sill for them to stand on, so this involves some quite elaborate jerry-rigging with string and blocks of wood to support them. But in all honesty, I think that inventing clever methods to get the lights to sit where he wants them to in defiance of the design of the house is half the fun of those lights for my Dad.

Other than that, we put cards up on bookshelves, dressers and plate rails, occasionally put a wreath on the front door, and that's about it really. We did have some streamers and other paper decorations when I was a child, but those have long since outlived their natural lives, and I don't remember any member of the family protesting when they were quietly retired some ten or fifteen years ago.

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Lee as M.R. James)
Well, obviously this has varied between different stages of my life, but I can identify things which were typical in different periods.

As a child of course it was all about the excitement, finding myself shut out of rooms where parents were hastily wrapping presents, and not being able to get to sleep because I was too busy listening out for Father Christmas.

Later, from my mid-teens onwards, I quite often went out to pubs or clubs with friends on Christmas eve. This was a particular favourite activity of a guy I got together with shortly before Christmas in the year that I was 17. I think joining in on his typical Christmas eve out with his mates at the various rock pubs in the centre of Birmingham was one of our first or maybe second dates. By the next year, we'd broken up, but were still friends (occasionally with benefits), so I went along for the same thing - and at that age, something you've done twice already feels 'typical'.

I've pretty much lost touch with the guy since, but I've been out for drinks on Christmas eve at various other times since with different friends or my sister, so it was definitely reasonably typical for a while. I've always been mildly surprised by how few people seem to be out doing the same thing, but then again I haven't done it myself either for a fair few years now, so maybe more people have started going out on Christmas eve than I realise. Anyway, I always liked the feeling of liminal, non-standard time, with all normal activities on hold and a free rein to just sit around, drink and relax, and also the feeling of weaving my way home half-sozzled through the cold dark evening, ready to creep ever-so-quietly to bed and then wake up to Christmas in the morning.

In my mid-twenties, we began hosting family Christmas parties at my parents' house, at least one of which was on Christmas eve itself - though more often they ended up being held on the 23rd. Three got written up in my LJ, here, here and here, but they stopped in 2007 because shortly after that my Mum got cancer, and it became too much for us to manage after that. At least twice we also went to a carol service on Bournville village green on Christmas eve itself.

But in parallel with those traditions, and still continuing to this day, is the habit which my sister and I have developed of staying up until midnight on Christmas eve and toasting in Christmas together with a little drink of something. I'm not sure when we started this, but it has definitely become an annual fixture now. In fact, this year I will be driving all the way from Birmingham to Warwick and back on Christmas eve just to share it with her, in spite of the fact that I'll then be returning again the following day for Christmas itself (which we are holding at her house for the first time ever). But I think I will enjoy the epic journey through the still, cold wintry night as an experience in itself, and I am certainly looking forward to some (very restrained) toasting in front of her wood-burning stove. After all, Santa will just stay home if we don't raise a glass to him on his way around the world.

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Saturnalian Santa)
Oh, plural form of the word 'tradition' in this title, how I love thee! Because now I can just list all my favourite traditions without having to choose between them. Here goes:
  • Buying everyone candles to mark the Saturnalia, because I can, and people indulging me over it.
  • For the thirteen years that we did it, the annual Christmas dinner with my Bristol buddies.
  • Decorating the family tree with my sister while listening to CDs of cheesy Christmas music and trying to stop the cat chasing after all the decorations.
  • Going out into my parents' frosty, wintry garden to find sprigs of greenery, berries and winter-flowering plants, slot them into a log drilled with holes which my Dad made me for the purpose and make a winter display for the top of the fireplace.
  • Helping to host a Christmas party at my parents' house, including taking charge of the mulled wine, singing carols and enjoying getting all dressed up and into the festive spirit.
  • Staying up until midnight on Christmas eve to toast in Christmas with my sister.
  • Putting sherry and mince pies out for Santa, which I still do even though we stopped having stockings any more in 2005. I'll say more about why I do that when we get to day 15, 'Do you still believe in Santa Claus?'.
  • Bringing the presents from underneath the tree and into the lounge, sorting them out into piles according to who they're for, and then taking turns for each member of the family to open one present at a time, while sipping delicious coffee and eating chocolates.
  • Having angel chimes on the table during Christmas dinner.
  • Everything about the dinner itself.
  • Setting fire to the pudding! I'm not sure when this became 'my' job, but it is now, and I love doing it.
  • Sitting around afterwards with a roaring fire in the grate, drinking more coffee and playing with new presents.
  • Watching Doctor Who.
  • Staying up late after everyone else has gone to bed watching TV and catching up on other peoples' days, and opinions of Doctor Who via the internet.
  • Going to see my oldest friend Amy and her family on Boxing Day.

Now wouldn't it have been a pity to have to choose just one of those?

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Snape sneer)
Obviously, in context, this means 'favourite Christmas memory'. And as other people doing this meme have said earlier today, it's a difficult one to answer, because it is in the very character of Christmas that you repeat the same things every year. That repetition makes it difficult to distinguish specific individual memories, and distorts the picture by merging different years' experiences into one.

I've always enjoyed the parties which my parents have held on either Christmas Eve itself or the 23rd December, for example, but I think the memory of those which is now in my head is a sort of amalgamation of all the best bits of all the parties we ever hosted. Since that was a good five or six of them, I don't really want to nominate any individual one of those parties as my favourite Christmas memory, because I am far from sure that the experiences I'm remembering really belong to one individual party.

So I'll go for a distinct moment which I really can remember, in large part thanks to it being recorded on my LJ. It's a quiet one, featuring me on my own, sitting up late after everyone else had gone to bed and watching Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone while wrapped up in a quilt just in front of a television turned down as low as possible in order not to disturb my mother in the bedroom immediately upstairs, while the embers in the fire sank slowly into the grate and there were copious chocolates lying on the lounge floor around me, all within easy reach.

That might not seem like a very sociable memory, but I've chosen it not just for the moment itself, but for the fact that the reason I enjoyed that experience so much was because it came after a really lovely family Christmas day, and indeed several days of festive jollity with all sorts of different family and friends beforehand. Sitting up late by myself at the end of it all, surrounded by warmth, comfort and indulgence, gave me the chance to look back over the previous few days, hug the memories to myself and appreciate how good it had all been. I was wrapped not just in my quilt, but in a hearty dose of the Christmas spirit - and that is why that moment now stands in my memory as a place which I aspire to get to at the end of every Christmas.

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Anas Penelope)
I'm taking this to mean best Christmas gift ever given, rather than best gift of any kind ever given, but must admit that I'm struggling to remember very many of them in that case. I can only hope my presents have been slightly more memorable for the recipients!

I did give one gift last year which went down very well, though, and that was a clear plastic tube containing a stack of six different-coloured toy bath ducks for Eloise. It was only something I grabbed on a whim while in the queue for the tills in the Kirkstall branch of Dunnes Stores, because it looked brightly-coloured and exciting, and also included one purple and one black duck, so was a good excuse to sneakily start training up my new niece in the ways of Gothdom. ;-) But she has had so much fun out of them.

A couple of times since I gave them to her, I have been lucky enough to sit in on the bath-time ritual and watch her playing with them, and looking back over what type of play she has used them for during the last year tells a small but distinct story about how she has grown and changed since last Christmas. When she first got them, she was only about 6 months old, so she mainly liked to wave them about, bashing them on the side of her little baby bath and occasionally sucking on them. But already by this August, at the age of about one-and-a-third years, she was more into trying to line them up neatly along the side of the bath, and picking them up again with great concern if they fell down. Apparently, more recently she has become a bit of a nightmare about undertaking bath-time at all, but thankfully I have been spared witnessing that!

As it happens, she also got very into ducks generally not long after I had given them to her, and in fact one of the first words she could securely say, at approaching the age of one, was 'duck'. She didn't enunciate the final consonant sound very distinctly, but from context that was very definitely what she was saying. What I found really amazing when she started this was that she would say it whether in the park looking at a real duck, at home looking at a picture in a book, or in the bath playing with the toy ducks - despite a huge range in colour, appearance and realism across the different contexts. I really didn't expect a baby who was under a year old to be able to recognise such disparate items as belonging to the same category, even with adult prompting and affirmation, and it was an incredible insight into the capacities of the human brain for me to realise that she could.

Anyway, babies and young children are very easy to please with presents, so having Eloise around should hopefully guarantee a good few more years of Christmas present hits. Apparently this year, she is all about elephants, helicopters and action play-sets which she can take pieces in and out of. So I guess the ideal present would be a toy helicopter with removable elephant pilots? Well, it's a bit unlikely, isn't it, but I'll see what I can do!

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Me as a child)
I'm pretty sure I'll never be more excited about a Christmas present than I was in the year (1985, I think) that my sister and I jointly received a My Little Pony Dream Castle from our paternal grandparents. This was at the height of the My Little Pony craze in the UK, and Dream Castle was the ultimate, top-of-the-range, much-coveted playset. Though we could buy individual ponies ourselves after a few weeks of patient saving up, Dream Castle was well beyond our wildest pocket-money dreams - so of course we had pined after it for weeks and could barely contain ourselves at the thought of actually owning it. And as our collection at that time was fairly small, consisting of perhaps 3-4 ponies each, receiving this huge exciting playset that was every MLP-loving little girl's fondest dream really did make a huge difference to the number of little characters we had to play with and the environments we could put them in.


It is of course symptomatic of what an expensive playset it was that even as a Christmas present it had to be shared between the two of us rather than given to either of us individually. I can report to our credit, though, that even though I was only 9 years old and my sister only 4, we did actually share it between us very fairly and politely, taking a week at a time to alternately 'own' the pony Majesty who came with it and her little pet dragon Spike. As an adult I suppose I could say that part of the reason I still remember that gift so fondly is that its shared nature symbolised what was really best of all about our My Little Pony play - that it made for a very successful bridge between two sisters who were quite far apart in age on a childhood scale, allowing us to come together in imaginative story-making and role-play, building cardboard houses, making clothes etc. But honestly as a child it was just all about owning the magic, and perhaps also having the prestige amongst our peers which came from having what was widely recognised as the coolest MLP playset on the market. If we had to share with each other in order to get that, then that was just a price worth paying.

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Lee as M.R. James)
It's hard to be entirely sure, of course, because there were so many childhood ones which have all blurred into one now, but looking back through my LJ it seems that Christmas 2004 was pretty much everything I could possibly ask for. I was in the middle of my year working at Queen's University Belfast at the time, and had had a gruelling first term there, but the Christmas vacation meant a welcome respite from that, and the general warm feeling of a return to the comforts of the childhood home. It also seems to have brought a perfect combination of Christmas activities and events as follows, which I really enjoyed throwing myself into:

I guess it fell in that precious window when my sister and I were both grown-up enough to be participating in Christmas as full adults, and yet with few enough responsibilities for it to be an extended festive period rather than a few snatched days, while my parents were still both in full health and we had no reason to believe that that wouldn't continue to be the case for many years to come. Not, as it turned out, entirely true, but I am glad that we had such Christmases while we could.

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Rory the Roman)
Well, Christmas was lovely. We did our usual stuff - a leisurely breakfast, presents in front of the fire, a buffet-style grab-whatever-you-fancy lunch, dinner prep, Doctor Who and then the dinner itself in the evening. I got some great presents, including two Doctor Who DVDs (The Time Meddler and New Who season 3), various books which will get reviewed here eventually, two boxes of chocolates and some vouchers for Next and Marks and Spencer. And the presents I got for other people seemed to go down well, too. I gave Charlotte some posh tea-cups and a huge pampering lotions & potions set; Mum a voucher for concerts at the Town Hall and Symphony Hall in Birmingham and a waterproof radio which you can listen to in the shower; and Dad two jazz CD sets which he wanted. Plus a general package of chocolates, a Lindt Santa and a Saturnalian beeswax candle for each person.

A Christmas Carol took us to a different kind of Christmas )

Overall impression and favourite bits )

TV screens and meta-referentiality )

Blurring the line between recording and reality )

Obviously you can't actually have Matt Smith popping up for real in every living room up and down the country, even on such a magical day as Christmas. But showing him within the story flipping back and forth between being a recording and a reality at least gave the boundary between the two a good old shake-up, and helped to create a thrilling little frisson of the feeling that, after all, he might just tumble down our chimneys too. That sort of stuff is at the absolute heart of why I like Doctor Who so much, and I was very happy to get a good hefty helping of it before tucking into my turkey.

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Nennig musicians)
I spent the weekend in Birmingham on a parental visit, vaguely structured around going to a concert in Warwick on the Sunday afternoon. Mum is looking slimmer and stronger every time I see her now that she has come off the steroids, though she is still slow and wobbly compared to how she was before she became ill. She likes going for walks around the neighbourhood to build up her strength, so on Saturday afternoon we walked along the local part of the Rea valley trail past playing-fields, dog-walkers and children on bicycles, while on Sunday morning we went up into Bournbrook to have a look at the massive demolition, river-culverting and road-construction works which are under way with the aim of completely changing the course of the main traffic flow through that area. It will definitely alter the landscape of my child-hood – but less so than I'd thought from what I'd heard about the project. In fact, as we walked around we passed my old piano-teacher's house, my old Brownie hall and even the row of purportedly-temporary huts on the University campus where my mother used to take me for the Mothers and Toddlers club when I was all of one year old. So I don't think I need to get too concerned about having my past erased.

The concert in Warwick is described under here )

Meanwhile, being in Warwick gave us a chance to drop in on Charlotte and Nicolas after the concert, which was great because I haven't seen their new house since the day they moved in. It's now looking a lot more cosy, with a lovely big soft sofa in the front room, a nice antique-looking coffee table and an iron-framed bed upstairs. We were also able to have a quick look through their wedding photo album, which our cousins (who did the photos) finally got round to putting together last month – only six months after the wedding. ;-) It's lovely, though – there are some absolutely gorgeous photos of Charlotte looking like someone out of a bridal magazine, all the standard shots you would expect of people processing out of the church and standing in groups, but also lots of lovely 'behind-the-scenes' shots of people who didn't know they were being photographed, laughing and smiling and playing silly jokes. It really captures the day very nicely, and I think was worth waiting for.

Click here to view this entry with minimal formatting.

strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
Firstly, thanks to everyone for their comments on my last post. 'Cathartic' would be an understatement.

But secondly, because not everything is about doom and gloom, I have some lovely pictures to share. They are from two publications of the 1930s, and both were found in the family archive last weekend, where they'd obviously been preserved by my step-grandmother.

The first ones come from a page of the Daily Mirror, published on Monday September 17th 1934. It's the women's page (page 23), which she had torn out and kept, though we're not quite sure why. Anyway, it's an absolutely brilliant snapshot of feminine life in the 1930s. You've got recipes, fashion reports, household tips and (best of all) an article about Meg Lemonier, a 'charming little French actress' who is also a male impersonator. I've scanned it in four over-lapping parts, so that every article can be read in its entirety on at least one of the scans.

Daily Mirror, 1934 )

The other side of the page is sporting news, but apart from a few pictures of very 1930s-looking rugby-players, it's nothing like so exciting. Teams win and teams lose in every era, and unless you're invested in their fortunes, it's pretty dull to read about.

Meanwhile, my second find was a souvenir programme printed to commemorate the centenary of the City of Birmingham being awarded a royal charter in 1938. The official content is again kind of dull - there's a great deal of stuff about centenary committees and awards, and a bit of stuff about decorations, floodlights and pageants put on to mark the occasion. Best of all by far, though, are the period adverts, which take up about 50% of the booklet. Click on each one to go to the gallery, and then again for the full-size version.

Vintage ads ahoy! )

Click here to view this entry with minimal formatting.

Christmas '08

Thursday, 25 December 2008 22:11
strange_complex: (Saturnalian Santa)
So - we did it. In spite of everything, we had an absolutely lovely Christmas. There were presents, and dinner, and the Doctor Who Christmas special. And there were not tears, or arguments, or even too much gloominess about the future. Obviously it wasn't the same as most years. Mum had to take a back seat while the rest of us handled all the food preparation and so on, and even then the day clearly tired her out quite a lot. But she enjoyed it, and so did we, and that's what counts.

And as for Doctor Who? )

Click here to view this entry with minimal formatting.

strange_complex: (Me Art Deco)
On Saturday, I reached the grand old age of thirty-two, and went on an outing to Castle Howard to celebrate. I had [livejournal.com profile] redkitty23 and her partner, Vincent, as house-guests for the weekend (en route to a Primatology conference in Edinburgh), so we were able to pile into Anna's cute little retro-style Fiat 500, swoop [livejournal.com profile] big_daz up from Wortley, and head off out into the countryside.

At first, we were guided on our way by 'Ken', the Australian voice on Anna's Tom Tom, but he unfortunately let us down by taking us straight into an all-but-stationary traffic jam going past York. Luckily, however, we had an alternative Yorkshire navigation system available to us: Daz Daz, armed with Local Knowledge and a road atlas. And so it was that we found ourselves bowling through Georgian brick-built villages and along sunlit country lanes, listening to The Cure while our hair whipped around in an invigorating breeze, and only got to Castle Howard half an hour later than Ken had said we would. [livejournal.com profile] snapesbabe and [livejournal.com profile] matgb, alas, were not so lucky, and despite gallant efforts to join us were eventually forced to turn back before they had even arrived. :-(

And this was a great pity, not only because it deprived me of the opportunity to lust over their new purple Ka, but also because Castle Howard is ace! It really is a stately home par excellence, with expansive grounds, beautiful formal gardens, fountains, peacocks, endless opulent drawing rooms, rococo furniture, plutocratic portraits and so on. But I think what I liked best about it was the extensive collections of Classical sculpture (which seemed to go on and on in every hallway and corridor), and the answering neo-Classicism of the building itself and the works of art which adorned it. It began to feel as though you couldn't turn a corner without seeing something Classical or Classically-inspired: which is quite frankly exactly how I think the world should be. ;-)

Anyway, a day like that is probably best told in pictures, rather than words, so here are some of my favourite photos from our outing )

... and if you liked those, you can see the full gallery here.

As we left in the late afternoon (Ken still relegated to the boot in favour of Daz Daz), Anna suggested that we should eat out in the evening. I'd planned to cook us a casserole, but who would cook on their birthday when friends were offering to take them out instead, eh? So we ended up at Jino's, where we guzzled delicious Thai food, and the waiters put a candle in my ice-cream when Anna told them it was my birthday, and then returned home to mine for frighteningly potent cocktails.

Presents were mainly books from my family, but Anna got me a beautiful orchid, while Daz (who clearly knows me far too well) got me an enamel K-9 pendant like the ones shown below (just one, though!), and my parents got me a Tiffany floor lamp to go in my dining-room:

Presenty goodness )

So, all told, an excellent day, and some nice mementos of it to take away with me. So far, I'm enjoying being 32. It feels like a nice solid, self-confident age to be - properly into my 30s, in contrast to 31, which felt a bit apologetic about it. It's also a multiple of eight, which I've always thought of as being 'my' number - not necessarily my lucky number, but just the number that signifies me. As being born on the 2nd of the 8th and growing up in a house with the number 82 will tend to make you think...

Here's to my thirty-secondthird year on this planet, then. I intend to make the most of it.

strange_complex: (Lee as M.R. James)
This is a rather odd review to be writing, because the subject of this book is my step-great-great-grandfather, and its author is my mother. But, then again, I did finish reading it two nights ago, and I am blogging all my leisure reading again this year. So I guess I kind of have to, really!

Of course, the book itself, now that it has finally emerged into the world, is only the culmination of a project which I've been intimately aware of for many years. Origins )

My own reading experience )

A man of his time )

Naturally, I'm bound to conclude by saying that this book was brilliant, and that everyone should rush out and buy a copy. ;-) But I really did get a lot out of it, and not solely because it concerned a (step-)ancestor, or allowed me to get closer to the subject my mother has been working on for so many years. West's life gives us a genuine window into the world of a typical Victorian medic - and in this book I think my mother has done a great job of helping us to see through it. I'm deeply, fiercely proud of her achievement.

Meanwhile, in a brilliant stroke of timing, this seems like the perfect opportunity to plug once more the serialisation of West's last diary which I am undertaking to celebrate the publication of this book over at [livejournal.com profile] jamesfraserwest. The first entry will in fact appear on Friday, since West for some reason did not start writing in his 1883 diary until January 11th (more details here). I know a lot of you have friended the diary already - but if you kind of meant to take a look last time I mentioned it and never quite got round to it, or thought you'd wait until it started up properly, now is the time to get over there and hit that add button! It's very much worth reading, and since it runs out in April when West enters his final illness, it really is a case of add now or miss out. Hope to see you there! :-)

strange_complex: (Cicero history)
Right. It is time for me to introduce you all to a Great Project. It's the culmination of something which I have been working on since the summer, and which my mother has been working on for over five years now.

See, in 1991, my step-grandmother died, and left to my mother an archive of family documents. Amongst them was the last diary of her grandfather - James Fitzjames Fraser West, a Victorian surgeon who worked at Queen's Hospital, Birmingham from 1854-83, and had an extensive private practice of his own. We quickly realised the incredible interest of both diary and archive, and, around the year 2000, my mother started work on a full-scale biography of West. In September of this year, that biography was published, under the title A Victorian Surgeon. A Biography of James Fitzjames Fraser West 1833-83, Birmingham Surgeon.

The diary itself is published in full as an appendix at the end of the biography. But, as a regular reader of [livejournal.com profile] pepysdiary, I knew that it had far greater potential than that. And so I have set up [livejournal.com profile] jamesfraserwest - West's own home in cyberspace, where his final diary will be serialised, complete with pictures and annotations for the people and places mentioned in it, starting from January 2008.

And this is where you come in.

I firmly believe that this diary will be of enormous interest to huge numbers of people. Those who like reading [livejournal.com profile] pepysdiary, for a start. Those who enjoy Victorian history, medical history, or simply like reading other people's journals, to boot. And there are special treats in store, too, for those who like travel writing, since West undertook a month-long excursion around France and Italy with his wife during March and April 1883, visiting historical sites, churches and local hospitals as he did so. (That's my personal favourite bit, and I had a lot of fun helping Mum make sense of West's visits to archaeological sites in Rome and Pompeii while we were transcribing the diary). Just check out the 'taster entries' I have put on the journal's profile page if you want a sense of why this is great reading material.

But, unlike Samuel Pepys, only four months' worth of West's final diary survive. So people really need to know about it now if they're going to get in on the action before it's all over. The boon which I crave from you, then, is this - help me spread the word.

Friend the diary yourself. If you already read [livejournal.com profile] pepysdiary (and if you don't, you should!), I guarantee you will love it. And of course you'll also be ensuring that it gets on a lot of friendsfriends pages in the process! ;-)

Tell your friends. And tell them to tell their friends. Don't hold back - let's get a snowball rolling here. Basically, it would be hard for anyone who is already into blogs and blogging not to enjoy this. So tell them - and point them either here or directly at [livejournal.com profile] jamesfraserwest if you want to tell them why.

And let me know if you think there are any communities besides [livejournal.com profile] history, [livejournal.com profile] 19th_century and [livejournal.com profile] medical_geeks where I could be plugging this.

For any or all of the above, my heartiest thanks and gratitude. I'm really excited about this project, and I think you'll see why when you take a look at what we've put online so far. Help me give it the kick off the ground it deserves, and I'll look forward to sharing the diary entries with you when they start in January!

Holiday snaps

Wednesday, 5 September 2007 15:19
strange_complex: (Hastings camera)
Right - it's time we had this canal holiday in pictures, then.

Warning - there are 86 of them )

strange_complex: (Me Half Age party)
Well, that was an absolutely lovely birthday.

I spent the morning loafing around in my dressing gown, opening presents, responding to LJ comments and setting up a Scrabble game on Facebook. My sister had sent me a Porpora CD from my Amazon wish-list that I'd wanted for ages, so I'm really happy about that although I haven't listened to it yet, as well as a brilliant book on Art Deco houses, which wasn't on my wish-list, but was a really excellent choice. I spent ages sitting on the sofa, poring over it wonder and awe, and occasionally getting to say things like, "Ooh, my window catches are like that!" It's great, and will be a very handy guide to choosing the right sorts of rugs, light-shades and so on.

Mum and Dad had also sent me a couple of CDs, but they weren't my 'real' present - just copies they'd made, in fact. No, my real present is this lamp:

Pic under here )

It's stood for years in a pub in the centre of Birmingham, where my Dad likes to go on a Saturday afternoon to mark people's PhD theses, and whose landlady he has become good chums with over the years. So of course he told her about my new house, and she'd already said that if he ever wanted any of the nick-nacks in the pub, he just had to make an offer. And he did! It's not here yet, but it looks like Dad will be making another visit late next week to help me sort my curtains out, so he will probably bring it with him then.

After lunch, I finally got dressed, and headed into town for some Serious Shopping. Two pairs of shoes, innumerable hair accessories and biscuits and a large roll of fabric later, I arrived in the Swan so laden down with packages I was having trouble getting through doors, to be joined by no less than six lovely friends. And since I'd only decided to do anything on my actual birthday at 1pm that day, I was touched beyond belief that so many people were willing to come out and join me with only 4 hours' notice. I think that's a real sign of being properly settled in here now, if I have friends who'll do that.

Finally headed home at about 7pm, and then just whiled away the rest of the evening eating my dinner, watching House and working out how to use the staple-gun I've bought in order to re-cover my dining chairs. Just perfect, really.

I has a sofa!

Wednesday, 25 July 2007 19:41
strange_complex: (Chrestomanci slacking in style)
Those were a busy few days, then. My ever-generous parents have been here since Sunday morning, lending their driving and DIY skills to another round of house-sorting-out. Since they arrived, we have done all this! )

In the middle of it all, [livejournal.com profile] kernowgirl visited, with husband R and friend G, who had always wanted to live in one of these houses. They were given the obligatory tour of the house, sat on the new sofa, and met Cheeky (whose real name I now know to be Dexter - and am going to ignore because 'Cheeky' is better). It probably all seemed somewhat chaotic to the three of them, but it is less chaotic each day, and I think will be looking quite passable by the time my house-warming party comes round.

*satisfied sigh*

Profile

strange_complex: (Default)
strange_complex

April 2017

M T W T F S S
     12
3456789
101112131415 16
17181920212223
24252627282930

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Friday, 23 June 2017 08:24
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios