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?

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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 canap├ęs, 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. :-/

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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!

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