Sunday, 27 December 2015

Surviving Christmas - the figures.

These are the rules I established for my own survival four years ago, (see post below in Dec 2011).

1. Cut everything you eat by 50%
2. Cut everything you say by 50%
3. Remember that everything can be mended. (But this was subject to doubt).

A new rule has emerged over the last year:


I have found that even a few sips of champagne loosen my tongue to such an extent that I become the party bore (and that's if I avoid indiscreet remarks).

A couple of weeks before Christmas, we opened a bottle of cheap fizz, and two hours later I was attacking my husband over an argument about coats hanging up in the hall.  I tried to hit him, but fortunately we both burst out laughing and got over it.

Yesterday I studiously kept off the wine at lunch, and was amused to see that even hub's sister, (never known her to lose her patience while on our premises, in over thirty years) was a trifle testy with hub during the following exchange:

General conflab:  "You can't serve pannacotta to vegetarians because of the gelatine".
Hub:                      "But there is such a thing as vegetarian gelatine."
Hub's sister:           "What's that?"
Hub:                       "Vegetarian gelatine".
Sister:    testily       "I KNOW.  But what IS it?"

A bit later on, the same wine provoked my mother-in-law, who usually knows better than to offer advice on how we should run our home, to declare that we should put some pictures up in the  dining room.

Me (to hub):          "Can we discuss this at another time, please."
                               (Code for, this is going to be a big one, as you well know.)

Hub:                      Rolls eyes and sighs, acknowledging the above code.

Mother-in-law:      (Speaking of her best friend, who's 95) - "Well, B******' second husband wouldn't have pictures and as soon as he died, B****** put up pictures."

Me:                         (heroically biting back words to the effect that if waiting for me to die is too long, I'm quite happy to get divorced and we can have pictures or no pictures in our individual houses).   Managing to say nothing. "Mmmmm".

Mother-in-law:      (casting eyes to the ceiling as if to say, - what my son has had to put up with all these years!)   "Well no pictures is no good.  It looks like you've just moved in."

Me:                        (Still silent, thinking, thank god I didn't have any alcohol,)  "Mmmmm."

Today I had to go and hide in a locked bathroom for several minutes to calm down after I was overruled by my husband, who had that manic glint in his eye which appears after a beer followed by champagne.  He insisted on opening a second bottle of the fizz, and downed both his own glasses, plus my mother-in-law's, while pouring a third for my daughter's partner who would be driving 125 miles later in the afternoon (and had also had a beer).  I had to take deep breaths and put my head between my knees, and keep telling myself, "It's not about you" until I was sufficiently calm to go and hide in the kitchen while doing the washing up.

Second rule is also subject to revision.   It is now "Cut everything you say by 80%.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Black Mail

Blackness encroaches

Windows 10.

Every link I've tried to post (even to commercial journalism reviews) has been refused.  I find this sinister.

My first inkling of Windows 10 was a nasty, sinister little black box which kept popping up on my laptop and blocking my access to various things until I bowed to pressure and clicked on it.  Then it started downloading Windows 10.  I realised I could stop it by clicking the red "X" so kept doing this.

A further sinister development was literally Black Mail.  Unable to get its way with me by bullying  little black boxes the next step was big black boxes -  the whole screen going black when I opened my email screen.  It was (and is) very annoying.

After discussing with personnel at John Lewis, (supplier of my laptop) I decided to download Windows 10. It was horrible.  First it took hours.  Second it removed permanently some security devices built into the laptop (after asking permission, which of course one gives to continue with the process).

Third, it completely changed the look of my email, and the way it signs off (taking its own decisions without consulting me).

Fourth all my favourites disappeared. After discussing with helpful John Lewis, I found out that I could download each one individually (it would take days) or I could upload as an extra the Microsoft Explorer browser, which will then show one's favourites bar as before.   I tried this and it worked, but seemed to negate the whole purpose of upgrading to the new MS "Edge" browser.

Fifth, it placed very heavy emphasis on apps, games, videos and music,  None of which do I use on my laptop, and I mean none.  I am not a teenager.  I am old, and I like being old.  I don't want apps, games, videos or music.  And how does anyone ever get any work done with all this stuff popping up unasked all the time?

Sixth, and worst of all, the new "Edge" browser is not compatible with Norton, which I have paid good money for, and which I trust.  Surprising myself, I worked out how to revert to Explorer as the default browser, (not as an optional tab as per paragraph five above).  This definitely negated the purpose of upgrading, and resulted in a very poor, jumpy, wobbly screen presence. 

Finally, I called dear John Lewis yet again (they should be running the NHS, they are so responsive and helpful!).  They talked me through the process of uninstalling Windows 10 and reverting to Windows 7.1.  Things are not as good as they were before (I think Windows is upset, and taking it out on me).  My laptop runs more slowly, and the black screen still appears on my mail account, but generally I am where I was before and much happier.

I think if this sort of thing goes on, I might transfer my custom to Apple.  Or my Kindle, which I am told works on "Android", not Windows.  I hate the way Windows, by exerting relentless pressure,  tries to take over my life, my choices, and my data. 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

No time like the present

Is this the naffest gift ever?

Why is it that unasked for gifts, from people who are not one's friends, are so awful?
Because they are bought without thought, from an online menu, ready wrapped, with a pre-printed unsigned tag.  This one came from a commercial organisation, and ticks all those boxes.

What are the gifts that mean most?  A carefully selected book, even if it is from a charity shop.  A hand-made item of any sort, even if it is from a charity shop.  A candle, some hand-cream. 

What would I like most for a gift?  Peace, charity, goodwill, friends, and the gift of keeping my mouth shut more of the time.

What are the other gifts I should be glad of possessing? 

As I steam into my sixties, I am uncomfortably aware that life is not going to go on for ever.

So the wonderful quote on the exterior wall of the British Library, as you approach from St Pancras Station, is apt:

"Today is a Gift, That's Why They Call it the Present".

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Unintended Consequences

German Stamps from The Period of Hyper Inflation during the 1920's 


It cost 60,000 Marks to send a letter from Hamburg to Bradford

Turning out cupboards and drawers as part of a house-cleaning exercise, I found my late father-in-law's stamp albums.  "Grandpa", as he is still affectionately known in this house, was a classic, if geeky, little boy.  He loved steam engines, stamp collections and chess, passions which have descended to later generations, hence the presence in our house of these memorabilia.

The memories of school history lessons came into my mind.  This was like holding history in my hands, dangerous, frightening history.

This period of hyper-inflation, following on the devastation of the First World War, undermined the stability of German society.  People could not afford to buy food.  Middle-class families saw their entire savings wiped out.

It was into the vacuum of confidence and security thus created, that Hitler stepped.  He found an "enemy" to blame. The Jews.