Thursday, 23 December 2010

Then and now

Time was that by 23rd December I was knackered as a result of 23 days of parties, drinks dos, dinners, and theatre trips. December was a write off vis a vis sleep, and rest. Consequently, come 24th December, every year, I'd get sick, and spend Christmas day sniffling, and wheezing and dozing off.

This year I've spent December planning for and attending craft fairs, sitting up until the wee-small hours stringing beads until my eyes watered. I've been out, of course. I am not a girl who goes long without a glass of red in her hand. But it's not been the nightly occurrence that it was of Decembers a decade ago. Yet still I'm knackered. Still I only finished my Christmas shopping yesterday. Still I've only just wrapped everything. And STILL I'm now sniffling a bit and feeling a bit under the weather. Still, it's traditional I suppose.

Of course, the whole thing used to culminate in Christmas Eve drinks. The gang of terrific friends that I grew up with would all descend on the Beauty of Bath, the seediest pub in England, and drink wine out of a tap, and warm lager, and generally make merry, then all stumble back to one of our houses and see if we could catch Santa in the act of putting out the presents. We never did.

But these days, most of the gang live away, and the time in the home town for Christmas is precious. Plus they all have children, and apparently Christmas is all about them. Honestly. Kids are SO me, me, me. Pah! So the boozy night out doesn't happen now.

Back in the day when it should have been all about ME, I would fret. In retrospect, I was a nervous child. On Christmas Eve, when I was small, I would lie in bed for hours worrying about what presents I might have been bought. I don't mean that I worried that I would get what I wanted, but what if I was bought something that I really didn't want, and then I'd have to say I liked it, and it would have been a waste, and how would I pretend to like it, and ... and ... and ... Like I say, I was an anxious wee thing.

Now, I sleep like a log. All the time, actually (another post for another time, I think, on a theme of my semi-narcoleptic tendencies). The red wine helps, of course. But I don't worry so much about what I might or might not get any more. Nothing, after all, can be as hard to be positive about as the year I was bought a roll of draught excluder tape by my mother. I worry more that people will like what I've bought them. This year I think I've got Brother and Father Tooting sorted, but I suspect that Mother Tooting will upcycle my gifts to her. Again ...

And decorations used to be a big thing to us Tootings. They'd go up not the weekend RIGHT before Christmas, but the weekend before that. A tree that touched the ceiling, adorned with EVERY bauble in the box, including the ones we made at nursery, the ones that came free in Happy Meals, the ones that were broken, but still shiny. If you could still see tree, there wasn't enough on it. Then we'd hang streamers from the ceiling, and hook things over the pictures, and put a second small tree in the front window, and lights in the outside tree, and dangly things along the hall ceiling and a garland up the stairs and a wreath on the door and mistletoe in the doorway (x) and more besides.

My house is minimalist. There's no tree. I just think it'd be in the way, wherever it went. And absolutely no streamers. There's a garland on the stairs, and a six inch tall sparkly tree on the mantle piece, and the mistletoe, of course. And that's about it.

So tomorrow, I'm off to the Tooting country residence for a couple of happy family days; odd presents, giant mental tree, and all.

Happy Christmas to everyone in blogland. Have a good one!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

What did you do today?

I turned my lounge from this ...
... to this ...

And my dining room from this ...
... to this ...
All in the interests of the Handmade In Tooting Christmas Market.

Nine lovely creative friends have pulled together to turn my house into a two day market, selling our lovely wares, to lovely people in lovely surroundings (even if I do say so ...) listening to lovely music and drinking lovely mulled wine.

I've had a great day!

And I get to do it ALL again tomorrow!

If any of you are in the south west London area, and fancy dropping in, drop me a line and I'll send you directions.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A Tale of Dexterity, Co-Ordination and Social Grace

Today was our company Christmas party. In fact, I suspect that, for some, it's still ongoing. But I am an old and tired and a bit decrepit, so I sloped out early.

It's been fun though. A couple of hours at the pleasingly grubby Bloomsbury Lanes; an exercise which proved who had the mis-spent youth, then a quick drink in a seedy pub, before going to the frightfully sophisticated Charlotte Street Hotel for an aperitif, then a fancy Soho restaurant for dinner.

It is in the Charlotte Street Hotel bar that my tale unfolds.

It was busy when we arrived, but the ten of us battled through to the bar and, once there, realised that it was as good a place as any to set up camp. Over the course of our first half an hour, we were shunted around by the natural push and shuffle, and ended up at the action end of the bar. The end that the immaculately dressed, and frightfully efficient waiters were serving from. Every time one of them darted past us with a tray of drinks for the lucky buggers with a table, they had to dodge around us, mumbling their, "excuse me madam, excuse me sir." Not once did any of these charming people ask us to move. They just glided around us.

Meanwhile, largely oblivious to the fact that we were clearly in the way we mingled and gossipped and laughed and drank.

In the course of the mingling, I wound up chatting to our newest recruit; a lovely young graduate trainee by the name of JW. (I'm not abbreviating his name in the interests of poetic licence. His name is actually JW. No ... I don't understand it either. Still, he is a lovely young man). Throughout our conversation, I was aware of JW's eyes darting over my shoulder. Something had his attention, but as I half turned to see what it was, his hand shot out and grabbed my arm. "Don't look!" he hissed. The impertinence of youth! Pah!

He leaned in, and gestured for me to do the same. "I think I know the bloke sitting behind you," he whispered, followed by another, "DON'T look," through gritted teeth. "I think I went to school with him. But I'm not entirely sure. I don't want to say hello in case it's not him and I'm just a tosser saying hello to strangers in a bar."

I was sympathetic, obviously. "Just say hello. We won't laugh if it's not him. Honest ..." JW didn't buy it.

Discretely, I made him switch places with me so that I could look at the bloke in question. Well. I say discretely. I was on my second gin cocktail, so who knows. The table now behind JW had three people sitting at it. Two were middle aged women, unmistakably sisters. The third was a lad about JW's age, and presumably the son of one of the two women. As I looked on, his eyes flicked our way a couple of times. He appeared to be working out whether he knew JW too. The two of them edged around one another, not quite making eye contact. But the mood at the table was frosty. The two women snipped a little at one another, and the lad was largely mute. Something had occurred, and the cool mood lingered.

The conversation in our group, meanwhile sprinted on, and turned to anecdotes about school friends, mistaken identity, Facebook, and more. We were just finishing our drinks when the boss caught my eye to say it was time to go.

Still talking as we pulled our coats on, none of us really noticed one of the super-slick waiter heading for the end of the bar. We didn't notice him slalom his way through our group. We didn't notice the tray of empty glasses that he carried.

Then two things happened at the same time. JW said, "it is him. I'm sure of it. I'm going to say hello." Simultaneously, I put my left arm into the sleeve of my coat, and stretched it out, and in doing so, swiped the underside of the passing waiter's tray. His dexterity being superior to my own, he managed to adjust his balance, and keep all the empty glasses upright. Only one glass ... the one full of water ... teetered. For a moment, it hung on the edge of the tray at a precarious angle, and then, in slow motion, tipped.

It fell down the back of the chair of one of the two middle aged women, upside down ,spilling the water down her back. Her white blouse was instantly transparent, and she was left sitting in a pool of water. The glass then bounced off the chair and onto the floor, smashing into a million tiny pieces.

There are occasions when you say sorry, and know that it doesn't come close. And on those occasions, the best thing to do is to leave. So that's what we did.

But not before JW went to say hello to his friend. In spite of the fact that his new colleague had just attempted to drown his mother, JW leaned over and said, "Ryan, hi! How's it going?"

And it turned out, it wasn't Ryan at all. It was a stranger. A total stranger. Boy did JW look like a tosser.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Detoots Guide To Modern Manners

Do you ever find the palm of your hand itching with the effort of not smacking total strangers who behave badly in your presence?

I do.

Today, as I sat in the caff enjoying a coffee and a danish, I realised that my teeth were grinding due to the behaviour of a girl at the next table.

She was enjoying a full English breakfast, and, whilst she chewed, she banged her cutlery on her plate in time with her chomping jaw. The energy that it took to not swing around and pound my fists on her table was sufficient to power several eco-unfriendly light bulbs.

Then I went into Sainsburys, where I was barged out of the way by an old lady to get a shopping trolley, stood in front of, walked into, rammed, ignored, and queue-jumped. By the time I got back in the car, I was fizzing. Then the same thing happened again, on the roads of Tooting.

Is it too much to think that people might be a little bit, just a weeny bit, socially aware? Too much to hope that some people would acknowledge that everyone on the bus doesn't need to hear them shout into their phone? Too much to hope that, once in a while, someone might say, "no, no REALLY, after you..."? Too much to hope for a simple "please" and "thank you" once in a while?

On my way home, I swung 'round to a friend's house, and arrived as her two young sons were finishing their lunch. Georgie, aged five, asked, "Mummy, can I have a biscuit?" "Can you have a biscuit what?" Dutifully, he replied, "can I have a biscuit please?" The biscuit was handed over. Isaac, aged two, learning from his brother's mistake, simply held his hand out and said, "please". He's a smart kid. He knows that only one word matters.

So tell me this. At what age do you stop telling people that they need to be polite? Should I have turned around to the twenty-something cutlery banger in the caff, and said, "do we bang our cutlery? No we do not!" Should I have said to the pushy old lady, "please don't push. It's not polite." Would it be wrong to say to the shouty girl on the bus, "Shhhh. Everyone doesn't want to hear." Is this the answer? Should I simply treat them the way I would an unruly five year old?

Or is it ok to satisfy the itchy palm, and just smack anyone who's rude to me in public?