Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Next Few Days

The drive south could have been a nightmare; the traffic was heavy and very slow moving all the way down to Birmingham but Brett had volunteered for the first shift of driving, so I napped through it and took over as the traffic cleared.  There was plenty of fog along the way but London was fairly empty of traffic as we came through.  It took us seven hours in the end.

Tuesday, we were home and all on leave.  Brett and I decided to take a run over to Bluewater.  I needed to change the belt I’d been given by my parents (they’d over-estimated my waist size!) and Brett wanted some cables from the Apple store and we both fancied a bit of window-shopping.

The drive wasn’t bad but I was a bit concerned when we discovered the queue on the A2 to get into Bluewater was probably a mile or so long.  Unlike the lemmings though, rather than join the queue, I took the second lane and managed to avoid the congestion.  The car parks were all full though – even the one right out back by House of Fraser which I always use and is always empty.  Finding a parking space was like swimming with sharks; lots of cars cruising the lanes, all looking for that one elusive vacant spot. In the end we stalked a couple leaving the centre all the way back to their car and nabbed their space.

After the difficulty parking, I was expecting to find Lord of the Flies in the centre itself, but while it was busy and there were chavs galore, it wasn’t really overcrowded and everyone seemed to be in a reasonably good mood.   We were both surprised by the fifty-yard queue to get into Hollisters!  Clearly it’s the new teen sensation… Abercrombie & Fitch being just so older generation! We did the things we needed, had a coffee and came home again.

This evening we were over in Eltham for Patrick S’s almost-New-Year’s-Eve party.  There were a selection of Chorus boys there and plenty of mulled wine.  I apparently proved my butchness by being able to set up a chocolate fountain.  Go figure how fey the rest of them must have been!

This morning I was more hungover than I felt I ought to be and it took a while to get moving.  Brett was at work today and Rosie didn’t feel like doing much, so I trekked into town and took in the Moctezuma exhibition at the British Museum.  The museum was busier than Bluewater but fortunately the exhibition wasn’t overcrowded and it was an interesting insight into the life and beliefs of the Mexica.  (They believed they were God’s chosen people and, so long as they did what he told them, they were destined for greatness.  I really must discuss that with Mikey!)

Once I was done, I meandered back down Shaftesbury Avenue to have a coffee in Waterstones (and ogle the Sony eReader) whilst waiting for Brett to finish work.  We had tickets for Full Monty at the New Players Theatre.  It was directed by the same guy who’d done the Rent at Catford Broadway earlier this year that we’d loved.  Sadly this wasn’t quite as spellbinding; a passable performance from most of the main characters, but let down by the lead’s acting which just didn’t convince.

Caught the train back to Catford and had a chicken kebab wrap on the way home.  No idea why I felt the urge for that.  Maybe I’m pregnant.  Hmm.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 2009

Had dinner with Rod & Jess at the Wimbledon Wagamamas before we went to see Avatar.  Rod’s finally doing the job that he wanted and that they wanted him to do, but which they kept on not appointing him to because of HR cock-ups.  Jess has also got another inter-parliamentary job which sounds like it’s going to get her a pile more travel.  The flip-side however is that it’s probably put the kybosh on the holiday in Memphis that we’d tentatively planned for later this year.

The movie was good but it was nearly three hours long, so we didn't get away from Wimbledon until about 23:30.  Although I was still feeling pretty shabby the drive was quite good; no traffic, no delays and no especially bad weather.  We made it to St. Helens around 03:45 and headed straight to bed.

Christmas Eve was largely a write-off for me; lethargy and over-sensitive skin and eyeballs, mostly spent in front of the TV after we emerged from our beds around lunchtime.  We stayed up until midnight though, watching some 100-best clip show about Christmas.  Brett called home before we went to bed and we had a chat with his family, who were only just gathering at Susan’s for their Christmas Eve present-giving.

Christmas Day, I was feeling only marginally better, so resorted to drugs.

We opened our presents first thing.  Rosie, Brett & I took a stroll out around the park after breakfast and I got a few decent photos of young swans, ducks and gulls on the ice on the lake, as well as tobogganists on the hill.  Auntie Pauline had arrived when we got back.

The parents had laid on a lovely buffet lunch, so we ate and chatted a bit, then lounged around until dinner; fish terrine or coarse pâté followed by beef wellington. A choice of Christmas cake or Christmas Pudding Ice Cream for dessert.  All very tasty. I picked up another usable pair of cufflinks from the Christmas Crackers too.

Boxing day was a pretty much a repeat of Christmas Day, except we had Auntie Anne, Cousin Maria and her five year-old son, Jamie, visiting as well.  I was still under the weather and we had a ham instead of beef wellington on the menu.

Sunday was the first day I felt vaguely human.  We arranged to go over to Chris & Michelle’s and went down into town to watch Sherlock Holmes first; it was an enjoyable movie.  The only time I really cringed was at Hollywood's mucking about with London geography (one of the lead characters runs from the cellars of Parliament to the top of Tower Bridge in about thirty seconds!)

Chris and Michelle were well and we met the latest addition to their family, baby Charlotte.  Chris had managed to bugger up the web browser on one of his computers and wanted me to take a look at it.  Somehow his browser wasn’t reaching the Internet connection – which was connected and seemed to be working from a command line.  I was suspicious of his McAfee security suite, as those domestic products get their grubby fingers into all sorts of places, but ultimately couldn’t track down what was causing the problem with both IE and Firefox.  Recommended he stump up for a Win7 upgrade.

Back at the ranch, Steve & Steph and family had arrived, so we tucked into another festive buffet and chatted with them for a while until Kath & Iain came over with Rebecca, shortly followed by Pod & Jenny.  We spent a few hours catching up with them and Mikey called briefly from Cuba again to wish us a belated happy Christmas and discuss cigars.  We eventually headed to bed around 22:30.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Day After That

Tuesday was my last day in the office before the new year and it went perfectly. I got some useful stuff done, finished off a couple off issues that have been dragging for a while and had enough time left over to give my desk a proper tidy and clean. The only downside was an increasing feeling of malaise accompanied by a chesty cough. By the end of the day I was sure I’d picked up another cold.

Even so, the show must go on. Ian B (my former boss) was coming in for his leaving drinks at the nearby Slug and Lettuce so I toddled along and had a few shandies with him and his replacement as Financial Controller, Catherine C. The drinking was interrupted briefly by a call from Mikey in Havana. They are staying at an all-inclusive resort and apparently both the food and drink are appallingly bad.  Apart from that though he was enjoying Cuba but I think struggling a bit to get down to the exam revision that he needs to do while he’s away.  I was touched that he took the time to call though

After the drinks I still had to head down to the Festival Hall for the last of our three slots with Sandi Toksvig’s Christmas Cracker. I was feeling increasingly rough, but got through it okay. It is bizarre how we ended up spending more time waiting to go onto stage than we did actually on stage performing. Tonight they sent us on early and then we had to wait for Sky Arts (who were televising) to come out of an advert break. The houselights dimmed, the extra-bright stage lighting came up, we all shuffled into position... and waited. Nothing happened.

After a short while, nothing continued to happen and the audience started a slow handclap until Sandi came out and explained we were still waiting on clearance from Sky. Eventually we got it, Simon bounded on, we sang the numbers and filed off stage six minutes later. Oh, the high-life we lead!

Came home and went to bed.

Today has been half about me sleeping off whatever it is I’m suffering from an half about getting ready to go north for Christmas. The car has had a slow puncture in the front passenger-side tyre for a while which I wanted to get fixed before we did any motorway driving. Also the weather lately – particularly in the north – has been atrocious with lots of snow and ice, so I made a point of checking fluid levels and all the tyre pressures and we’ll take lots of supplies and winter woollies.

We’re driving late tonight after going to see Avatar with Rod & Jess in Wimbledon. Don’t expect to get in until the small hours.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Coasting Towards Christmas

Fairly quiet day today; the office is definitely winding-down for Christmas.  Did a bit of informal business planning ready for when the budget process kicks off in January, met up with our new Head of Finance to discuss our budget/spending and how the two teams (technology and finance) interact, which was all very productive.

Did various home chores as well… the car has a slow puncture in one of the front tyres, so I checked out local Kwik-Fits so I could get it fixed on Wednesday.  Also had a word with the managing agent for our building about a dodgy lock that needs replacing.  In the quiet of the late afternoon I spent a while toying Google Maps plotting out an itinerary for a US Road Trip that we’ve spoken about on a few occasions but never really knuckled-down to organising.  Maybe next year…

There was a sudden blizzard this afternoon too which closed all the stations for a while, but as I was back at the Festival Hall for the second of the three Sandi Toksvig gigs this evening,  I didn’t mind so much.  Sure enough, Charing Cross was open by the time we had done our two numbers and trudged through the slush across the river.  Quite a few people didn’t make it tonight though and it felt quite exposed on stage.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow and Shows

The lovely weekend actually started on Friday. Snow had been predicted and Mikey had suggested I take my camera up onto Hampstead Heath to get some Christmassy pictures. I arranged the morning off work (well, I told Rob that I wasn’t going to be in and he should call if anything came up!) and hopped on an early train into town. Both the train and the tubes were uncommonly empty – probably lots of people had planned to work from home because of the expected snow – and I reached Hampstead at about 08:30, did a couple of hours wandering around with my camera (the better results being here.) Mikey and I met up around 10:30 for coffee (he’s already broken up for Christmas) and strolled around some more before he had to head off for a singing lesson. I headed into work and had a quiet afternoon – everyone seems to be throttling back, ready for the break.

Friday evening was our team’s Christmas night out. Rather than the traditional over-priced turkey dinner at an over-packed London restaurant, I’d booked us all in to see La Clique, a burlesque circus act currently playing at The Roundhouse. It was a good choice – although the lady magician who stripped stark naked during her act (and still managed to make the handkerchief disappear!) was probably an unusual highlight. Mofida’s face when she took off her g-string was priceless; she couldn’t believe she’d actually done it!

After the show we wondered down towards Camden, with Gavin and Rob H snowballing each other along the way, and ended up in the Strada just up from the Jazz Café.  As we were finishing our pizzas, I got a text message from Brett asking if I wanted to come down to The Edge (where he was partying with the Chorus boys), so as soon as we’d paid up at the restaurant, I hopped the Northern Line down to Soho.

The party had been organised as a going-away do for Richard D, one of our younger First Tenors who’s off to Canada with his job for a while.  He’d decided to make it a transvestite party – where everyone dressed as the opposite sex.  Sadly(?), because I’d come from work I wasn’t in drag – in fact I still had my walking boots on and longjohns under my jeans from this morning on Hampstead Heath!  Brett had dragged-up however, as had a number of other Chorus boys and they were quite the sight to see!  I hung around, enjoyed the fun and had a few more beers until we all got thrown out as the bar closed.  Our journey home on the nightbus, although longer than it might have been, was remarkably uneventful considering I was travelling with Norma Desmond in a blue-sequinned beret!

Saturday was a lazy day.  We all went down to the Stage Door Café for a full-English then came home, fully intending to do lots of housework, but somehow all I managed to do was laundry and upload all my photographs from Friday.  Mikey had been meant to come down for a few beers but he never showed, so we had a quiet evening in catching up on Burn Notice on Sky+.

Sunday was all about the Chorus.  We had a 1pm call to be at the Royal Festival Hall for a quick rehearsal, followed by a tech-run for the Sandi Toksvig Christmas Cracker show.  We’d started off planning to do four songs but apparently the show had run so long on it’s earlier nights (it’s been running since last week with different guest choirs) that they were cutting as much as possible so in the end we only did two songs.

Before that gig though we had one of our own in the Clore Ballroom underneath the main auditorium, where we did almost all of the repertoire from the Cadogan Hall show back on the 4th/5th December.  Ping was there to see us (he’d been in KL when we did Cadogan) and he enjoyed it for the most part.  I personally feel that while we were musically quite tight, we didn’t quite have the sparkle in some of the numbers that we had for the big show.

We had an hour and a half between our set in the Ballroom and the call for Sandi’s show, so Brett, Ping and I had a hog-roast ciabatta from the stall in the farmers market and did some catching up before we went to report in.

In the end I think we spent more time on stage waiting to perform than we actually did performing, but that’s show business…